Recently in Misc Category

Bye for now

I’m going to stop posting things here. When I started up again a few months ago I had a fair amount of free time but I’ve realised I can’t keep it up.

Wrong Tomorrow

It’s getting linked to from many places today but that’s no reason not to mention it here… Wrong Tomorrow is a site on which you can record the predictions made by pundits about the future in order to look back and see which came true.

Futures conferences

I’ve created a page for a calendar of relevant conferences and events. Futures, emerging technology, long-term thinking, etc. There are several conferences from 2008 that don’t yet have dates for 2009 so things are a bit blank but hopefully it will fill up.

James May's Big Ideas

I’d glanced at James May’s Big Ideas in the TV schedules but hadn’t realised it was quite so futury. It looks like the series has finished now but if you’re in the UK the three hour-long episodes are still on iPlayer for the next six days:

Failing to predict the future

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Nicolas Nova has an interesting presentation called ‘Inflated deflated future(s) or… why futurists fail to predict futures’ which he delivered at Design Engaged 2008:

Two things here. First, Mapping the Global Future, a report on a project geared toward looking at the world in 2020. The full document is available free as web pages or a PDF and is lengthy, solid and pretty detailed. It includes four possible scenarios, which it emphasises aren't exhaustive or mutually exclusive:

Tackling Tomorrow Today

Next spring a four volume set of books for US high school students will be published, called Tackling Tomorrow Today. Not only does it sound a fantastic idea generally, teaching kids how to think long-term, one of the volumes will contain a version of a project (PDF) I and four fellow students wrote in Houston back in 2000, describing the social and political systems at work on an imagined Mars colony. So in a few months I'll be a published futurist! Or, at least, a fifth of one. (Thanks for sorting it all out Glenn.)

Transportation Futuristics

In clearing up some backlogged links, I've come across this "virtual exhibition" of images depicting past and present visions of future vehicles: commuter helicopters; in-car "pagers"; monorails, etc.

The Guardian's 2020 supplements


This seems like a wholly pointless entry, but... The Guardian is two parts into its three week series of Saturday supplements about life in 2020. Unfortunately I haven't had time to read the first two yet, and I can't find anything on their site to point to so you can get on with it.

In the Long Run conference

If Pop!Tech and Accelerating Change aren't enough conference for you this autumn, In the Long Run happens in Berlin on October 18-19, run by Z_punkt. As the tag describes, it's about "long-term thinking in business: corporate foresight and global change" and features speakers from large blue-chip companies (Volkswagen, Philips, Shell, Boeing, etc). Take your suit.

A month ago Ian Miles posted a useful comment on a previous posting here which I thought would be worth posting as an entry in its own right. It's hard to get to grips with what's actually happening in the world of practical foresight and future studies, but Ian's collection of blogs looks like a good place to start. Anyway, over to him, with a few added links:

A couple of interesting books

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Over where I keep my notes I've just posted a lengthy paraphrase of a London Review of Books review of two futures-relevant books: Profiles, Probabilities and Stereotypes by Frederick Schauer (general rules often work better than individual discretion) and The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few by James Surowiecki (a group's average decisions are often better than an individual's).

Two future-oriented conferences

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Sometimes I should write about things rather than let the URLs clutter my desktop, and this is one such occasion. Two interesting-looking conferences coming up this autumn, in the US, as ever:

Update: This post was called "University of Houston closes its future studies course" but the course is now alive and well and I wanted to stop the misleading title appearing prominently in related Google searches. The course has moved to the main University of Houston campus and appears to be much invigorated. Read more about it. (20 April 2006)

I'm guessing that the future must have seemed a more viable prospect in the past. This week it was announced that the University of Houston - Clear Lake is to wind up its Future Studies masters degree, which was founded in 1975, just up the road from NASA's Johnson Space Center.

4 2 Explore on the future

4 2 Explore is a site that aims to help people learn about topics by providing links to further reading. They have a decent collection of futures links. I'm not sure the first four links are necessarily the most important or interesting, but it's a good page nonetheless.

The December issue of Wired carries an article by Hope Cristol boldly declaring 'Futurism is Dead'. Let's plunge right in...

Two interesting weblogs

A couple of fairly new weblogs I've been meaning to link to for a while:

Future Now
The Institute for the Future's weblog, mostly technology-oriented by the look of it.
Terra Nova
Edward Castronova (who I've mentioned before) and pals' fascinating weblog on multiple-player online gaming and "other realms of emergent collective reality."

World history map

Kevin Kelly posts about a great looking map of 5,000 years of world history on his excellent Recommendo weblog. I'd love to see a bigger image of the map but I can't see one on the linked to site. These kinds of things are great for getting some real perspective.

Pixar's offices

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I'm interested in ways companies organise themselves and their environments to encourage innovation, and this recent Salt Lake Tribune article describes the offices of Pixar, the company responsible for Toy Story. One interesting decision is to have a central location for communal resources such as toilets:

Fostering innovation at Nokia

An article at Fast Company about how Nokia keeps up its rate of innovation. The article is a bit waffly and doesn't contain much in the way of useful information unfortunately, but the scale of the company's R&D is impressive:

I was sent a flyer for this journal the other day (presumably thanks to the World Future Society selling their mailing list). I hadn't heard of World Futures before, but it's been around for a while. Despite the title it doesn't sound necessarily futures-oriented, describing itself as being "dedicated to the study of irreversible, nonlinear, system-structuring change in nature and society." I must confess, I haven't read any of the articles available in the free sample on the site, as I find it hard to concentrate on long texts on screen, but it looks like it could be interesting.

Talk on techno-utopianism

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Brian Dear points out a talk by Fred Turner of the Stanford Department of Communication entitled 'From Counterculture to Cyberculture: How The Whole Earth Catalog Brought Us "Virtual Community"' (abstract, Windows Media stream). I haven't watched the talk (the stream isn't Mac-friendly) but it sounds interesting and apparently kicks off by analysing Wired's 1997 Long Boom article.

Paul Morley 'About the Future'


If you're in the UK and you get BBC Four, there's a programme on tonight called Paul Morley's Matter of Fact and this edition (at both 7.30pm and 11.40pm) is 'About the Future'. (I'm assuming it's a series; it's hard to tell.) Could be interesting, and Paul Morley's always good for a sardonic laugh. Here's the blurb from that BBC page:

Accelerating the future with McLuhan

The Toronto International McLuhan Festival of the Future is a new one on me. The first event is in October, covering ten fields they deem to be important. Hard to tell what it will be like as there's little content there so far, but the description "the foremost forum for the world's biggest thinkers to share thoughts on how to accelerate the future" doesn't make it sound very objective. Accelerate what future? Why does it need to be accelerated? It all sounds a bit pop-science, "gee-whizz won't the future be cool" so far, but hopefully I'm wrong. (Thanks Matt)

Accelerating Change Conference

I don't think I've mentioned Singularity Watch before, but it's well worth a visit. They've just announced their Accelerating Change Conference, happening in San Francisco, USA, in July. There's also an email newsletter you can sign up for. John Smart, who is Singularity Watch, gave one of the few interesting presentations at the World Future Society's conference last year. I'm not saying it made much sense, but it was definitely interesting.

Sci-fi predicts the future

Via NTK, the London Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Festival kicks off next week, including The Douglas Adams Memorial Debate: Does science fiction predict the future?

Jared Diamond on getting rich

The author of Guns, Germs and Steel (UK, US) looks at why some industries are more successful than others in the long term. He draws parallels between pairings of Microsoft and IBM, US and German beer industries, and two islands off the coast of Australia, among other things. If you've read the book, it's more of the same, but that's no bad thing. (via Clay Shirky at Boing Boing)

Four futurists' predictions

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Wired's current issue has a little spot where four futurists (Jim Dator, Peter Schwartz, Glen Hiemstra and Gerald Celente) predict things. It's only small, a bit random and comes free with several pinches of salt, but it fills a couple of minutes.

Betting on the news

NewsFutures is a virtual stock-trading site, where the stocks are predictions. For example, if you think "John-Paul II remains Pope until 2003" sounds likely then you can invest your virtual dollars in it. If it sounds familiar you may already have seen the long-running and less pretty Foresight Exchange which does exactly the same thing.

Two things I meant to post earlier... The good news is that University of Houston - Clear Lake's Masters in Future Studies has two courses available online for the coming academic year. Having done them in person I can recommend both Intro to Future Studies and Systems Thinking. I'm not sure how well studying online will work, but the benefits are that international students don't need a visa and no one has to live in Houston. I guess you'll need some of the application details.

Phenomenal cell phone growth rates

Last week Clay Shirky produced an interesting essay on the well-used phrase "Half the world has never made a phone call." He reminds us that the rate at which increasing numbers are making their first phone call is the statistic we should be most interested in. Particularly astounding are the rates at which cell phone use is increasing. He draws on Interntaional Telecommunications Union statistics, which show there were 689 million land lines in 1995 and over 1 billion in 2001.

When do we run out of future?

The Rapture Index keeps track of whether we're approaching the End Times by counting various indicating factors (Satanism, The False Prophet, Inflation, etc). Daft, but I love reducing important and complex things to a single number. And if the index rises we'll know that all our futures work may have been pointless after all! (via Boing Boing)

Advancing Futures: Future Studies in Higher Education looks like an interesting book (Amazon US, UK). An all-star cast of academic futurists on the state of future studies, corralled by Jim Dator, of the Hawaii Research Centre for Futures Studies. (via Futurist Update)

Every government online

I love obsessively huge collections of links on a single topic, and the Governments on the WWW site fits the bill. A handy resource with links to vast numbers of international, national and local governments, institutions, departments, embassies... there are 1166 entries for Great Britain and Northern Ireland alone! No updates in over a year though. (via Interconnected)

Futurist movies

I've a nagging feeling I've seen A futurist at the movies before, but it's fun and it'll give you something to look at while I attempt to get on to finding new things. Josh Calder looks at a variety of science fiction films and discusses the likelihood of their politics, cities, disasters, robots, etc. coming about. (via Haddock)

The APF has the aim of making the profession of futurism more recognised and providing services and development to its members. The board are mostly ex-UHCL graduates and hopefully this will be a more useful and relevant organisation than the clunky old WFS.

Distributed weather forecasting plan to release software for making long-term weather predictions. Each client will run a climate simulation that will take 12-18 months to complete its 50-100 year forecast. will then compare the range of forecasts using a Monte Carlo procedure. Interesting, but whether these forecasts will be useful in the real world (rather than just the model) is another matter.

This is quite something, possibly. What with the confusing interface and the sheer mountains of information here it's hard to tell exactly whether this is any use. However, it's still impressive, and great to browse around. A selection of large databases (some of which are free to use after registering), containing all sorts of odd stuff about the world. Try selecting the 'Word Problems-Issues' database and searching for something like 'future.' Then just browse among related issues and get horribly, totally lost. (via Futurist Update)

Looks like they do some interesting stuff. According to the WFS' Futurist Update they have a Successful Societies initiative, focussed on which factors indicate whether a society will be succesful. Sounds fascinating, but I can't find anything about this project on the site. (via Futurist Update)

Making the best of your future

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A comparative review of two new business-oriented but wide-ranging futures books: 'The Visionary's Handbook: Ten Paradoxes That Will Shape the Future of Your Business' by Watts Wacker, Jim Taylor, and Howard Means, and 'The Soul at Work: Listen, Respond, Let Go' by Roger Lewin and Birute Regine.

Global International Waters Assessment

Set up under the United Nation's Global Environmental Facility, this agency is charged with coming up with a plan to combat the increasing lack of fresh water on the planet. The site has information about the causes and issues of the freshwater shortage, and will include data about water around the world. (via BBC News)

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Bye for now
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