Highlights from the AAI Foresight Blog
In this issue, AAI Foresight managing principal Tim Mack and consulting editor Cindy Wagner review 2001: A Space Odyssey as an example of collaborative futuring and visual and textual storytelling.
By Timothy C. Mack
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. …
NASA’s Future Products Division handled the look and feel of the spacecraft and spacesuits, and while MIT’s Marvin Minsky was then exploring computer-generated graphics (now CGI), they were not even in what is now called the beta stage. However, a number of new techniques were created during filming (such as projecting painted screens onto the set), and this produced satisfactory results. …
In later years, the range of foresight talent available to advise movie makers had expanded. For Minority Report (2002), the development of matrix organizations like Global Business Network, the MIT Media Lab, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) allowed access to ideas that were not even in the conception stage when the details for 2001 were being developed. And with the accelerating rate of change in the new millennium, the production challenge became not how to look far enough ahead into the future, but how to dial down the imaginations of the advisory teams so that audiences would recognize and believe what they saw on the screen. Read more.
Timothy C. Mack is managing principal of AAI Foresight Inc. and former president of the World Future Society (2004-2014).
On Reading 2001 for the First Time
Review by Cindy Wagner
Recently I happened upon a vintage paperback edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey tucked in my bookcase and took it along for my daily subway commute. Arthur C. Clarke’s writing makes a case for a thousand words really being worth more than a picture. 2001 the novel is based on the screenplay that is credited to both Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, but the novel itself is solely Clarke’s creation, a perfect blend of scientific reason and artistic expression. …
As 2001’s protagonist David Bowman gets a view of space no human had ever seen, Clarke elevates travel writing to new poetic heights; yet, the fiction remains fully informed by science. For instance, his narrator observes, “As long ago as 1945, a British astronomer had pointed out that the rings [of Saturn] were ephemeral,” composed of orbiting ice. Clarke follows observation with imagination, showing what the sunset might look like, viewed from within those rings of ice:
As Discovery curved still closer toward Saturn, the Sun slowly descended toward the multiple arches of the rings. Now they had become a slim, silver bridge spanning the entire sky; though they were too tenuous to do more than dim the sunlight, their myriad of crystals refracted and scattered it in dazzling pyrotechnics. And as the Sun moved behind the thousand-mile-wide drifts of orbiting ice, pale ghosts of itself marched and merged across the sky, and the heavens were filled with shifting flares and flashes. Then the Sun sank below the rings, so that they framed it with their arches, and the celestial fireworks ceased.
One lesson for futurists and other creators of visions of the future is that the visions must not only be appealing in a sensory-overloaded cultural environment, but also grounded in science and expressed in ways audiences can understand. When you can turn a theory about orbiting ice into the mechanism for celestial pyrotechnics, I’d say you’ve got something. Read more
Cindy Wagner, AAI Foresight Inc.’s consulting editor, was an editor for The Futurist for more than 30 years. Reach her at CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.
Great reflections! And I agree with your “lesson for futurists.” I believe that given the burgeoning presence of hype and the ability to spread it around and intensify it through social media makes it even more challenging ... and necessary ... to be grounded in science and more objective opinions. Peter F. Eder
Resources: Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
The more than 17,500 entries in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, third edition—edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (emeritus), and Graham Sleight—are freely available online. The launch in July of this new version is much expanded from previous editions of the encyclopedia, first published in 1979, and it “is and always will be a work in progress,” the editors write in the introduction.
Search the Encyclopedia by author (e.g., art, author, editor, critic) , media (e.g., film, TV, game, comics), or theme (e.g., future histories, future war, futures studies, futurology). (The entry on futures studies, it should be noted, gives a lengthy, though incomplete, overview of the history of the field.)
Signal courtesy of Open Culture.
Barbara Marx Hubbard Speaks at Singularity University Global Summit
Pioneering futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, a founding board member of the World Future Society, was one of more than 100 speakers at the Singularity University’s Global Summit in August. The event drew 1,600 entrepreneurs, corporations, development organizations, governments, investors, and academic institutions from more than 64 countries to learn more about the application of rapidly accelerating technology to large-scale global issues.
In their session, Hubbard and co-author Mark Donohue, founder and CEO of LifeGuides, discussed ideas from their latest book, Living in Exponential Creativity: The Future of Entrepreneurship, which combines recurring evolutionary principles with the insightful visions of many leading entrepreneurs. Noting that society is now experiencing the greatest “tipping point” crisis in human history, Hubbard and Donahue pointed to the power that creators, leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionaries have to build solutions. They challenged their audience to consider these key questions:
- What is the meaning of this new power?
- What future do you choose?
- For what purpose did nature build you?
- Are you choosing evolution by choice, or by chance?
In a video message, Hubbard discusses the origin of her interest in the future, which “started when we dropped the first atomic bombs on Japan.” She speaks of reading the work of Teilhard de Chardin, who described evolution as a series of spirals, with a direction toward greater consciousness, greater freedom of choice, and more loving order to keep complex systems together. View the interview at PR Newswire.
Dutch Future Society Announces New Board Members
Also joining the board are Rosemarie Konijnenburg (secretary, focus on branding), Gerben Tijkken (treasurer, regional officer East), Chantal Verweij (board member, community officer), Saar van der Spek (board member, regional officer South, focus on external relations), Jacomine van Veen (board member, focus point external relations), and Leon Straathof (board member, regional officer West). Stepping down from the board are Peter van der Wel and Lieke Lamb.
Irvin Leads Business Thought at University of Louisville
The University of Louisville’s College of Business has named Nat Irvin II assistant dean of thought leadership and civic engagement. In a recent interview, Irvin described how he became a futurist and the initiatives he launched as an academic:
My interest in the future goes back to when I was a grade school student with a fascination for “what comes next?” In 1970, I read Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, and his writing, along with authors John Naisbitt and Peter Drucker, have made a profound impact on my thinking. As a young black American, I wanted to understand more about what happened in America beyond focusing on the narrow construct of race. Race has always had a major role in our American history but there had to be other factors that caused society to change. I wanted to explore factors that make an impact on the course of history. Factors like technology and other demographic shifts that affect society. I wanted to broaden the discussion in my community. Drucker’s article ‘The Age of Social Transformation’ convinced me to pursue the work of studying the future. To do this, I felt the need to leave my job as Vice Chancellor at Winston Salem State University and launch a Futurist think tank at Wake Forest.
In the early ’90s, the provost of Wake Forest invited me to take part in “Vision 2020” designed to help the city of Winston Salem figure out where it would be in the next 20 years and discuss trends that would affect the community. Since then, I have participated and moderated several other visioning sessions with business and community leaders around the world.
Read the full interview in the Spring 2018 newsletter of the University of Louisville College of Business (April 4, 2018).
Honors: Coating+ Wins Thought For Food Challenge
Coating+, a Nigerian biotech startup, has earned the top prize in the 2018 Thought for Food Challenge with its protein-based coating to extend the shelf life of fresh foods. The coating the team developed is a soy protein and chitosan product that also adds micronutrients to food to help combat hunger. Led by biochemists Albert Kure, Basheer Balogun, Lukman Abdulwahab, and Suleiman Alakanse, the team received a cash prize of $10,000. Read more.