Written by an outsider to the foresight community, an MIT Professor of Digital Media, The Future takes a very interesting approach to its subject. While author Nick Montfort considers the works of futurists, he also examines the works of artists, inventors, and designers and how they have imagined the future. Montfort takes a broad view of the future, but one skeptical of the forecasting mode as the only pathway to visioning. Instead, he examines an increasingly popular approach to social, economic, and political change—i.e., what he (and others) have called future making.
Tim Mack's blog
Book review by Timothy C. Mack. When Verso Books in London released a new edition of More’s Utopia nearly 500 years after its first publication, it produced a bit of cultural shock. For many, the term utopia has come into some disrepute as a reactionary or even a delusional social goal, while among others, especially the technocracy of Silicon Valley, it is viewed as just another easily achieved social building project—all it would take is their unlimited funds.
The trouble with virtual reality (VR) is that science fiction and other popular media have so raised expectations that people are always disappointed, because they all think that fully functional VR is already here. But what VR is really good at is storytelling, simulator games, and training of all sorts.
Wool is one of man’s oldest materials. It’s been in use for at least 3,400 years, but it was not effectively utilized until selective breeding reduced the hard outer layer (known as kemp) that protects the usable fleece. While the industrial uses for this material have grown over the years, the potential now is rapidly expanding. Wool is both water retentive and water repellant, fire resistant up to 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit (and does not melt, unlike synthetics).
Much has been said about clean coal, and how it is a “wave of the future.” Clean coal refers to reducing or neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions at the burn point, but regardless of China’s continuing commitment to coal-powered electrical plants, the United States has a natural gas glut and increasingly cost-competitive wind and solar power. As well, mountaintop leveling, destructive chemical processing, and byproduct disposal challenges continue to complicate any solutions that billion-dollar U.S. projects such as the recently canceled FutureGen might have produced.
It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the globe in 2030 on a country-by-country basis, but one dramatic shift in employment opportunities is likely to center on the continent of Africa. Between now and 2030, population growth rates in Africa will be greater than for any other country, including China (which has in fact reversed its growth trends through its political one-child policies). Africa is expected to quadruple in population over the next 90 years, with its greatest economic and political growth likely in North Africa.
Older workers are a burden and a salvation for the economic future. We are all aware that the graying populations in developed countries now, followed by developing countries, are a demographic force whose impacts will be felt over the next 50 years.
Problems such as poverty, global health, basic education, and environmental quality are systemic in nature, have both political and technical dimensions, and tend to require cross-sector and cross-profession collaboration. But there is a knowledge gap in developing and implementing viable solutions.
During my last year as president of the World Future Society, I had a very interesting experience concerning people’s feelings about the future. I had been asked to talk about the future of communications technology to a group of senior corporate vice presidents, largely U.S. based. After delivering what I thought was a rather effective (and well received) analysis on the growth of “white noise” in modern society and response strategies, we came to the Q&A discussion, which turned out to be 20 minutes or more.
It has long been a given that the Chinese commitment to saving 40 percent or even more of gross family income would be a continuing element of that nation’s economic profile. While consumer spending is skyrocketing in many developing countries, Chinese citizens have tended to tie their wealth up in savings and real estate, in part because of the lack of social safety nets that are offered by many developed countries.