In 1984, political scientist Philip Tetlock observed at a meeting of the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on American Soviet Relationship how contradictory many authoritative predictions the participants held on the future of the Cold War. As well, he noted their dismissal of the opinions of equally qualified colleagues on the committee.
In Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (W.W. Norton, 2018), astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (with co-author Avis Lange, a research associate at the Hayden Planetarium) relates the history of the relationship between scientists who seek to expand our knowledge of the universe and the strategists who seek to expand their dominance of it.
Robotics has gotten a bad name in some circles from too many screen scenarios and “what if” thinking about manufacturing assembly lines that has often overreached actual development. However, robotics in medicine is seeing breakthroughs in post-stroke physical therapy and post-injury rehabilitation.
Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities (University of Chicago Press, 2015) has an unusual approach for a book on foresight. First, it is actually based in the discipline of architecture and spends a substantial amount of time looking at plans never built due to lack of funding, client change of heart, and catastrophes of all sorts.
Evolution and foresight are not usually considered in the same sentence, except in the area of conscious evolution, but both disciplines consider how things change and what forces shape that change. Classical evolution has long been seen as glacial and thus not especially relevant to humanity’s social, economic, or political dynamics. Darwin believed that natural selection was a very slow, almost imperceptible process, proceeding in evolutionary time.
Although we have had many decades of projections and warnings about climate change, it is only fairly recently that actual impacts have stirred serious societal interest in mitigation efforts. Such efforts will involve changes, and changes are always difficult. In fact, although renewable energy is a bedrock mitigation approach, they have been taken very seriously only as technology has reduced renewable costs below parity with fossil carbon. Renewable energy technologies are already producing some 25 percent of electricity worldwide and constitute some 65 percent of new generation.
Due to emerging technologies, most sectors of the economy are expected to undergo a transformation over the next several decades, and manufacturing is no exception. As a result, manufacturing executives will have to make costly and crucial decisions on how to invest in the manufacturing revolution for their own manufacturing facilities. This could be is great news for manufacturing executives’ bottom line depending on how they forecast the path to the new manufacturing paradigm and invest accordingly.
Upon his retirement after a nearly 40-year career in futures research and analysis, Bob Olson agreed to an “exit interview” with Foresight Signals. Olson’s career as a futurist began in 1979 as a project director with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).
In contrast to science fiction novels and short stories, movies have increasingly been a team effort. Accordingly, various futurists have been able to work in partnership with production staff, providing content and design advice for landmarks of science fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey had Arthur C. Clarke on board from the beginning, which produced a vision which continues to be quite persuasive 50 years after its release in 1968.
The first time I saw Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey—or rather, tried to watch it—was in college not too many years after it was released. I mostly slept through it, and by the end of the film I suspect others in the audience were as mesmerized by what they were smoking as by what they were watching. In the maybe half dozen times I’ve tried to watch it on TV since, I’ve made it through the film’s entirety just once. By that time, the graphics seemed dated, we still weren’t taking commercial flights to space stations or the Moon, and the placidly sinister mechanical voice of HAL is really all I remember.