A Military Space Force, Work in 2050, Shakespeare’s Foresight, and more

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Volume 4,
Number 7
July 8, 2018

Hot Topic: “Space Force” (commentary)

In between other urgent headlines and tweets, the White House in June announced plans to create a new branch of the U.S. military to assure national security in space:

When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. So important. Very importantly, I’m here by directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement. Donald J. Trump, June 18, 2018

Though space is a commons, nations around the world compete to use the high frontier for vital infrastructure such as communications and GPS. Unlike NASA, a civil program, the Space Force would be charged with protecting U.S. interests from attacks that would interrupt everything from farming to banking to navigating. It could also prevent World War III, proponents say. (For an opposing viewpoint, see “Space Farce” by Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 21, 2018.)

Science fiction has a long tradition of depicting the militarization of space, primarily envisioning conflict with aliens. In a world where Earthlings increasingly view and treat each other as aliens, however, science fiction is not a bad place to start in assessing the Space Force’s prospects for achieving its goals. See, for example, “5 Space Forces From Sci-Fi and What We Can Learn From Them” by Joe Pappalardo on PopularMechanics.com (posted July 6, 2018). As Pappalardo observes, “When it comes to orbit, the global neighborhood is awfully small,” and one lesson from Star Trek is to focus on coalitions that keep peace with the neighbors by ensuring “that allies and other partners have a place at the table.”

What do you think? Should Congress authorize the creation and funding of a U.S. Space Force? Send your Yes or No vote and comments to the Foresight Signals editor at CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.


Absolutely NOT! The last thing our country ... or the world ... needs is another general or military organization! What we should have is a Secretary of the Future. A person independent of the political structure. Someone committed to the common good. Someone who can gather persons around rather than polarize them. Terrestrial and extra terrestrial alike! Peter F. Eder


Dangerous idea. And against international treaties. Can only lead to near-space full of junk and useless to everyone. Stephen Troutman

Highlights from the AAI Foresight Blog

Work and Technology in 2050: Culture Focus, Part 2 (excerpt)

By Lane Jennings

As previously reported, the Federal Foresight Community of Interest (FFCoI) and The Millennium Project held a workshop on April 25 to assess various prospects for global changes in the nature of work between now and the year 2050. … A follow-up workshop to further explore and refine ideas discussed at this April meeting took place on June 15 at the General Services Administration Building in downtown Washington D.C.

This second Future Work/Tech 2050 workshop closely followed the format of the first. Participants formed five thematic groups—Business and Labor, Science and Technology, Education, Government, and Culture. Each group explored how work and technology issues might be affected by developments in these areas between now and 2050. The groups each then reported on their progress, shared findings, and raised new questions. ...

As AAI Foresight’s reporter, I again spent the day as a member of the group focused on Culture and here report the discussions that took place within this group. … The group addressed three specific aspects of culture related to changes in work and technology:

- What is work? How can people change what they say and do about the work experience?
- Are we together? Will U.S. government policy on work evolve in sync with other nations?
- Whose work? Should our discussions focus more on work in the United States or work in general?

“The future of work,” this group agreed, is about assessing long-term prospects for existing jobs and careers, while “work of the future” is about examining the new jobs and careers just now emerging or about to come into existence from new technologies and shifting attitudes toward life goals and values. Business, not government, now provides most of the funding for innovative development in technology, but government should remain responsible for setting and enforcing technological standards. In addition, governments can ease the transition to new forms of work and new modes of life/work balance by funding federal and regional programs as well as local initiatives (such as zoning laws) that make innovating easier while avoiding needless over-regulation. …

The Culture focus group also observed that its own present-day biases could easily influence our recommendations for action. For example, were we right to assume that people’s sense of identity does and should come from their jobs? Are the incremental improvements in new technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, 3-D and 4-D printing, enhanced artificial intelligence, and so on) both inevitable and desirable? [Read more]

Lane Jennings worked as a writer and editor for the World Future Society for more than 30 years and retired in 2015 as managing editor of the World Future Review. He can be reached at lanejen@aol.com.

Emerging Technologies and Their Implications (excerpt)

By Dennis M. Bushnell

Starting in the middle of the last century, humanity embarked upon the largely serendipitous development of a wide spectrum of massively disruptive technologies, including information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, quantum computing, and energy technologies. These are projected to alter nearly everything, including precepts of the human existence theorem. …

One very disruptive technology is the combination of artificial intelligence and information technologies writ large. Machine intelligence and data availability have enabled the rise of big data and deep learning via neural nets, leading to AI at and beyond the human level in an increasing number of niches. Additionally, the many large human brain projects are projected to produce human brain “replicants” in another decade or so. Therefore, AI at or beyond human levels is no longer science fiction, and the initial steps to the Singularity are developing now. …

An additional disruption from AI and IT is the increasing digitization of nearly everything. AI and data analytics are giving us increasing power to make decisions on issues in ever more arenas. Yet this rapidly advancing data-based decision making has evoked an outcry over the consequent erosion of free will. … [Read more]

Dennis M. Bushnell is chief scientist at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He may be reached at dennis.m.bushnell@nasa.gov.

Book Review: The Future of Learning (excerpt)

By Timothy C. Mack

The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out by Katherine Prince, Andrea Saveri, and Jason Swanson from KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit focused on advancing personalized learning and partnering with schools and communities, is impressive in a number of subtle ways. Subtle because the forecast format is also an effective teaching document, focused on policy persuasion. In contrast to the relatively academic approach taken by most forecasters, it avoids technical language and is aimed at a broad popular audience. …

The book’s forecast describes how the K-12 sector will be moving away from postsecondary options that have not always adequately prepared students for the world of work. It strongly asserts that education at all levels of life will prepare learners to continuously resell and upskill and to learn how to partner cooperatively with machines.

The time horizon for the forecast is 2040, and it combines ethnographic research with short scenarios on the future of educational readiness in the rise of smart machines and the decline of full-time employees. The authors are candid enough to admit, “We do know that the rise of smart machines will impact work. We do not yet know the extent and nature of that impact.” In addition to the displacement of human workers, smart machines may also augment the contributions of people in the workplace, create new jobs, and refigure current work. Another outcome could be making current jobs safer, easier, and more interesting. … [Read more]

Timothy C. Mack is managing principal of AAI Foresight Inc. Contact him at tcmack333@gmail.com.

Mark Your Calendar

August 16-17, Chicago: WorldFuture 2018. The World Future Society’s annual meeting will feature “immersive sessions, facilitated conversations with experts, and guided workshops” on the topic of “From Dystopia to Eutopia: Creating a Future Too Good to Be True (But Isn’t).” Venue: The Ivy Room, 12 E. Ohio Street, Chicago. Learn more or register at worldfuture2018.org.

September 5-7, Oxon Hill, Maryland: D60: Breakthrough Technology Past, Present, and Future. DARPA marks its 60th anniversary with a symposium designed “to strengthen and expand DARPA’s innovation ecosystem (which includes academia, industry, and government partners), inform stakeholders about DARPA’s vision and priorities, and learn from the Agency’s ongoing record of achievements and experience in the challenges of rendering not-yet technology into here-now technology.” Venue: Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor Oxon Hill, Maryland. Learn more or register at DARPA.

The Play’s the Thing: A Kingdom for a Stage

By Tony Diggle

Two years ago, I wrote and produced a play about William Shakespeare coming back to London today, titled A Kingdom for a Stage. It was written in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and produced at the Chelsea Theatre, a fringe theatre in central London. It has now been published.

In the play, Shakespeare is dismayed to discover that the human condition doesn’t seem to have changed for the better in many ways since his time The first Elizabethan age that promised so much in terms of the arts and sciences led in fact to a society so divided (in Britain, at any rate) that it couldn’t escape a civil war in mid-seventeenth century, accompanied by other natural catastrophes.

At the end of the play, Shakespeare reminds the audience that the future of his age is now history, and he challenges them to do better with theirs. The frontispiece of the text quotes Hamlet:

Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused.
(Hamlet, IV, 4)

While naturally I am hoping that the play will get more productions, both amateur and professional, I think that the play also has general educational value. In some senses, the play asks what lessons we should learn today, and it could be used as a creative tool in developing futures thinking at secondary (high school) or undergraduate level.

A Kingdom for a Stage by Tony Diggle was published by Matador (an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd.), April 2018.

Tony Diggle is an associate of SAMI Consulting, a member of the UK Node of The Millennium Project, and a member of London Futurists. Contact him at kingdomforastage@gmail.com.

Moves in the Field

TechCast Global has named Makis Saridis its new president and chief technology officer. An information technology professional and futurist based in London, Saridis has been the IT research editor for TechCast Global since January 2017. His goals for the group include resolving website issues and working with clients and experts “to provide even more value for strategic planners.”

The World Resources Institute has named Daniel Lashof the new director of its work focused in the United States (WRI US), where he will make climate change a major focus. Expanding low-carbon electricity solutions and reducing water risk are also among his priorities. Lashof most recently was chief operating officer for NextGen Policy Center, and he previously was the director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Reluctant futurist” Mark Stevenson, author of We Do Things Differently, was the keynote speaker at the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling’s spring 2018 general assembly in Barcelona May 29. Educating the recyclers in what they called a highly entertaining and thought-provoking presentation, Stevenson emphasized that the word futurist implied prediction, whereas what we really do is focus was on the future “and what we can do about it.” Futurists thus try to help make clients “literate about the questions the future will ask.” With praise for the work that recyclers do, Stevenson observed that “companies which take the planet seriously constantly outperform the market.”

Futurist Opportunity: Virtual Interns

The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies seeks interns this fall for its Global Scanning Network. The group seeks “aspiring researchers and analysts with an interest in futures studies” to work in the network’s four research units: Society and Governance, Business and Economy, Consumers and Retail, and People and Well-being. The term is from September 1, 2018, to February 28, 2019; the work is virtual and is not remunerated. Read more about the opportunity here (PDF).

Interested students and graduates should submit a CV, a brief “motivation letter,” and two examples of previously written work to internship manager Nicklas Larsen at nl@cifs.dk. Deadline August 12. Learn more at CIFS.