The Futurist Community's Year in Review, 2019

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Volume 6,
Number 1
January 10, 2020

Futurists around the world kept busy with a variety of projects in 2019; we’ve summarized a few highlights below. We encourage all foresight professionals to share their work, insights, and news throughout the year. Please forward your “foresight signals” to AAI Foresight’s consulting editor at CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.

Association of Professional Futurists

Throughout 2019, the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) highlighted the work of its professional members and publicized futures-oriented events its members sponsor, including conferences, podcasts, webinars, and more. Members also shared book reviews, career moves, job openings, publications, and other news of interest to fellow members.

APF honored the year’s most-significant professional futures work that either advanced futures methodology, analyzed a significant future issue, or illuminated the future through literary or artistic work. It also honored student futures work conducted by individuals and groups at the Ph.D., master’s, and undergraduate degree levels.

A highlight of the year was the Future Festival on the theme Radical Transformations, videos from which APF will release during the first quarter of 2020. APF’s next global gathering will be October 1-3 in Toronto and will focus on the Future of Experience. [Learn more]

The Millennium Project

In 2019, The Millennium Project (TMP) released its report Work/Technology 2050: Scenarios and Actions, along with several translations of its executive summary. The report provides three detailed scenarios and assessments of nearly 100 proposed actions, based on workshops held in 20 countries.

Also in 2019, TMP welcomed Iceland as its 66th Node, hosted its sixth annual World Future Day 24-hour Round-the-World Conversation, and posted videos of the 15 Global Challenges the organization has long been tracking.

Throughout the year, TMP CEO and co-founder Jerome C. Glenn provided “mini reports” of his global engagements, including:

  • Several trips to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, primarily to work with the Dubai Future Council on Transportation.
  • Blockchain for Sustainable Development Goals conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January.
  • Global Baku Forum and the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) roundtable on Global Leadership in the 21st Century in Baku, Azerbaijan, in March.
  • The Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea, in May, as well as the Global Leadership Forum in November.
  • The Future of Organizations: Work and Creativity conference in May.
  • The IEEE Sensors conference in Montreal in October.
  • The Organization of American States and and CONCYTEC (Peru’s national council for science, technology, and innovation) meetings in Lima, Peru, in October.

Keep up with TMP here.

New Futures Institutes Open

  • Argentina: The Faculty of Technology and Applied Sciences of the National University of Catamarca (UNCA) created a new Entrepreneurship, Prospective and Innovation Unit (UNEPI) “to institutionalize the study of the future in Catamarca,” according to UNEPI advisory council member Pablo Andrés Curarello of TMP’s Catamarca Node.

    In September, UNEPI organized the first Catamarca Innovation Rally, with participants competing to solve problems in the categories of best technological innovation and best innovation with social impact. And in December, Curarello and Javier Vitale organized a conference titled “Prospective: a tool for the construction of the future” to discuss planning and prospective, territorial development, anticipatory skills, social construction of futures, long-term policies, and strategic intelligence. For more information, contact Curarello at curarello.pablo@inta.gob.ar. [Edited January 29, 2020, to correct Curarello's role with UNEPI.]

  • Saudi Arabia: In November, the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF) participated in the opening of the new Centre for Futuristic Studies (Futures Studies) at the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (PMU) in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

    During the opening, WFSF President Dr. Erik F. Øverland gave a guest lecture, took part in a roundtable discussion, and met with PMU Principal Dr. Issa H. Al Ansari, Vice Rector Dr. Faisal Yousif Alanezi, and other prominent leaders of the university. [Learn more]

The Futures School—Professional Foresight Certification
Submitted by Nicole Baker Rosa
 
The Futures School publicly launched Professional Foresight Certification in Natural Foresight®—a practical and proven approach to applying strategic foresight in organizational and personal contexts. Professional Foresight Certification is endorsed by the Global Foresight Advisory Council (GFAC), an international group of visionaries that are redefining their industries and intrinsically guided by an innate futurist mindset. The certification pathway includes Certified Foresight Practitioner, Certified Foresight Influencer, Certified Foresight Trainer, and Certified Foresight Vanguard. Learn more at The Futures School or Kedge

Strategic Foresight Group, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service
Submitted by David Bengston

The Strategic Foresight Group has been active in 2019 conducting futures research, publishing that research, presenting at conferences and professional meetings, and conducting foresight workshops to natural resource professionals and other stakeholders.

With the addition of social scientist Dr. Lynne Westphal and Jason Crabtree, a former futurist at The Walt Disney Company and a graduate of the University of Houston foresight program, we’ve added a two-day foresight “boot camp” that Jason developed before joining the Strategic Foresight Group. Several boot camps have been well-received by forestry professionals. We’ve also adapted a foresight board game called “IMPACT: Forestry Edition” that has been played by a growing number of forestry managers, planners, and policy makers.

Some of our 2019 publications include a report with Prof. Andy Hines on our ongoing Forest Futures Horizon Scanning Project, a review of futures research methods, a futures wheel exploration of a possible “coming age of wood,” and an article on the future of Arboriculture based on our horizon scanning.

Much more is underway or planned for 2020! Please contact us for further details about our work: david.bengston@usda.govLynne.Westphal@usda.govcrabtree@umn.edu

Institute for the Future

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) builds practical long-term visions and futures thinking skills in every sector of society. In 2019, IFTF has worked to safeguard elections in the digital future, developed a new social compact for future workers in California, mapped four alternative futures for immigration, envisioned more empowering futures for African Americans in the community, and developed a future-informed toolkit for creating affordable nutrition.

IFTF’s goal for 2020 and beyond is to build a broad base of futures thinking literacy. To that end, it has launched a public Futures Thinking training on Coursera and expanded its Foresight Essentials training around the world.

For the year ahead and beyond, IFTF plans to grow its “global impact as a civic futures organization—to build a society that is future-ready and inoculated against the devastating effects of short-termism.”[Learn more]

Center for Future Consciousness

Thomas Lombardo, executive director of the Center for Future Consciousness and director of The Wisdom Page, published a new book, The Pursuit of Virtue: The Path to a Good Future, in February 2019. Over the last year, two new essays on the Singularity Hub showcased Lombardo’s work on future consciousness and the wise cyborg, and he participated in more than half a dozen interviews about his book Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future—Volume One: Prometheus to the Martians, including one on Mark Sackler’s podcast Seeking Delphi. Other activities include:

  • Two new articlespublished in Human Futures.
  • An essay accepted for the anthology After Shock.*
  • Three presentations at the World Futures Studies Federation’s world conference in Mexico City.
  • A new ongoing YouTube dialogue series (seven episodes to date) with WFSF director Victor Motti on science fiction and related futurist topics, such as the future of education.
  • The near completion of the next two volumes in his book series on Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future.

Conctact Lombardo at tlombardo1@cox.net.

* Editor’s note: After Shock: The World’s Foremost Futurists Reflect on 50 Years of Future Shock—and Look Ahead to the Next 50 (John August Media, February 4, 2020), is an anthology marking the 50-year anniversary of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. Foreword by Deborah Westphal, Toffler Associates board chair. Other futurist contributors include David Brin, Thomas Frey, Jerome C. Glenn, Sohail Inayatullah, Alan Kay, Ray Kurzweil, Jane McGonigal, Martin Rees, Gray Scott, and Richard Yonck.

Education Futures

In December, Education Futures launched its new Evolving Learning podcast. The first episode is “Unintended consequences in Utah and Florida.”

“What is your vision of the future of education?” ask principals and podcast hosts John and Kelly Moravec. “What stories do you have to share? What great examples and practices already exist? In this podcast, we share what we have learned, connect with others, and interview thought leaders who provoke us to think differently in education and human development.” John and Kelly invite your participation: Email your stories to info@educationfutures.com.

Futurist.com

In February, founder Glen Hiemstra announced the addition of Anne Boysen to Futurist.com’s Think Tank associates, joining Brenda Cooper, Cindy Frewen, Robert Jacobson, Rickard Kadzis, Ramez Naam, Jared Nichols, and Richard Yonck. Anne is a professional futurist with a master’s of science degree in strategic foresight from the University of Houston and Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics. She has extensive training in data mining and predictive modeling from Colorado State and Penn State universities. Anne is available for presentations, interviews, and consulting. [Learn more]

Institute for Alternative Futures Announces Its Closing

In December, the Institute of Alternative Futures sent the following message to its networks:

The Institute for Alternative Futures, after four decades of promoting foresight and anticipatory democracy, will close at the end of 2019.  

IAF has worked with over 700 organizations, including communities, governments, corporations, and non-profit groups on six continents; with large and small corporations; governors, legislatures, and court systems; and in health from the World Health Organization and largest U.S. health care systems to local community health centers.   

We created approaches to developing alternative futures—sets of scenarios that considered differing paths in future space. In the process we developed our Aspirational Futures approach that focuses on developing visions and preferred futures as well as scenario sets that explore expectable, challenging, and visionary alternatives.  

Perhaps our greatest contribution to more hopeful futures will be through the many young people who have come through the Institute as interns, researchers, and professional futurists. Through them and our teaching at colleges and universities we have engaged several generations in foresight. A number of people have become professional futurists and many others have told us that we changed their thinking when they entered their chosen fields of law, business, medicine, and public health.  

Over the years we have made public, on IAF’s website http://www.altfutures.org, virtually all of our scenarios, reports, presentations, and “toolkits” that guide organizations and individuals through stepping into a set of scenarios, considering the implications and enhancing their vision. After IAF closes, the entire content of our website will remain perpetually available on the Internet Archive.

IAF was founded in 1977, by Alvin Toffler, Jim Dator, and Clem Bezold, originally as part of Antioch University, and became an independent non-profit in 1979.  

IAF’s two leaders Jonathan Peck and Clem Bezold are stepping back from full-time work. Jonathan will take a year for reflection and then determine what he may do during retirement. He can be reached at jonathan.c.peck@gmail.com.

Clem, while semi-retired, will continue to promote anticipatory democracy and foresight, particularly tracking the transformation of economics and work, “equity rising,” and technology’s contribution to equity and sustainability (“abundance advances”). He can be reached at clembezold@gmail.com.

Both Clem and Jonathan are deeply grateful for having been able to work as futurists with so many wonderful colleagues and clients over the decades. We especially thank Sandra Tinter for her 34 years working at IAF. Many colleagues and clients started journeying with us into alternative futures and became friends along the way. We are grateful to those who continue to this day to pursue visionary futures. As more organizations and futurists seek to use our Aspirational Futures approach, we will be available to advise on those efforts. We have known from the beginning that we were working for generations to come and we hope we have served them well.

Comment from AAI Foresight Managing Principal Tim Mack: I had the good fortune to share the same Alexandria, Virginia, office building with IAF for several years and attended a wide range of their D.C. presentations on issues critical to the U.S. Congress. In all cases their vision was far to the front of the field and both provocative in thinking and inspirational in benchmarking best practices that could be followed (but seldom were at the present). They were always generous in sharing what IAF materials could be shared with the public, with insights that would always prove useful across a range of contexts. They will be missed!

In Memoriam: Syd Mead

Influential science-fiction artist Syd Mead, who began his career as an automobile designer for Ford, died December 30, 2019, at the age of 86. Best known for designing the futuristic sets of the 1982 film Blade Runner, Mead also created visions for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), TRON (1982), and Aliens (1986). He was the subject of a 2006 documentary by Joaquin Montalvan, Visual Futurist: The Art and Life of Syd Mead. [Read more at New York Times]