Governing AI's Future, Honoring Young Futurists, and Futurism as a Career

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Volume 4,
Number 4
April 9, 2018

Hot Topic: Governing the Future of Artificial Intelligence

At the March 29 Artificial Intelligence Summit, AI For Humanity, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the establishment of “a national program for artificial intelligence coordinated by INRIA [the French National Institute for computer science and applied mathematics], in conjunction with other partner research organizations and related universities.”

This new PRAIRIE Institute (PaRis Artificial Intelligence Research InstitutE) will be a network of academic, public, and private sector entities pursuing research and development in AI and related disciplines, such as robotics, where progress will create disruptions and demand an integrated framework for coordinated response among stakeholders.

Though promoted as a French initiative, PRAIRIE will forge international partnerships “with centres of AI excellence to promote exchanges and leverage its impact.” Participants include New York University’s Center for Data Science; the artificial intelligence laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley; the Robotics Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh; Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms; the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, Germany; the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics; and the Turing Institute in London. Other participants include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Naver Labs, Nokia Bell Labs, PSA Group, SUEZ, and Valeo.

The PRAIRIE institute will be inaugurated this spring. Learn more at INRIA.

Meanwhile, The Future Society at Harvard University’s Kennedy School has just completed a six-month global dialogue on AI among futurists. The online discussion, Governing the Rise of Artificial Intelligence, boasted more than 600 participants.

Among the concerns of the participating futurists were the need to reinvent the human-machine relationship, focus on safety and security issues and possible risks to humanity, establish frameworks for governance, adapt the workforce for the age of AI, and develop ways to drive AI for the public good. Learn more about The Future Society’s Civic Debate on the Governance of AI.

Mark Your Calendar: FutureFest

July 6-7, London: Nesta’s FutureFest will take place at London’s Tobacco Dock. Nesta is a global innovation foundation that backs new ideas to tackle challenges such as population aging, overstretched public services, and the fast-changing jobs market. The festival is Nesta’s flagship event, designed to explore radical alternative future visions. This year’s branding theme is Occupy the Future. Expect music and food, speakers and discussions, exhibits and experiences.

Inspiring Minds: The Root Honors Young Futurists

The Root’s 2018 class of Young Futurist honorees recognizes 25 African Americans ages 15 to 22 who are already making their mark and changing the world. The award honors individual achievement in five categories: social justice and activism, arts and culture, enterprise and corporate innovation, science and technology, and green innovation. Among this year’s honorees are:

* Olympian Maame Biney, 18, who, when told she was too fast to be a figure skater, became a speedskater instead. She also plans to become a chemical engineer.

* Artist Myles Loftin, 19, launched a photo project called Hooded to break stereotypes about young black men.

* Entrepreneur Zandra Cunningham, 17, started her own natural skin-care products company, Zandra Beauty, as well as a foundation to encourage girls to pursue career paths in health, wellness, STEM, and other areas.

* Food and nutrition advocate La’Taijah Powell, 21, fights against unhealthy choices in “food deserts.” She works with Appetite for Change, a food-justice organization co-founded by her mother, La’Tasha, that trains community members about fresh foods.

* Howard University senior Ashanti Martinez, 21, is running for Maryland’s House of Delegates. “Time’s up for legacy leaders and gatekeepers because our country can’t afford to continue business as usual,” he told The Root.

Read “Young Futurists 2018: These Are the Leaders This Country So Desperately Needs,” The Root.

Futurist Opportunities and Moves in the Field

The Future Society at Harvard Kennedy School is seeking a Research Associate to work on developing innovative policy answers for the Society’s global dialogues on disruptive technology. Responsibilities include strategizing and planning, laying out the research agenda, desk and press research, gathering primary data, developing articles and reports, and engaging material for key target groups. To learn more or apply, send a “short letter of motivation,” CV, and references to

London-based Trilateral Research is seeking one or more Research Analyst/Senior Research Analyst–Foresight. Candidates should have a “sound understanding of the issues arising from artificial intelligence and big data analytics and ... expertise in foresight techniques, notably scenario construction and Delphis.” Learn more or apply at Trilateral Research.

South Korean futurist Youngsook Park has joined mobile engagement company MobileBridge as Korea director for the company’s blockchain-based platform, Momentum. Park specializes in the combination of artificial intelligence and blockchain, and she assesses the impact the technologies will have on our futures. She also has a background in diplomacy and academia and serves as chair of The Millennium Project’s Korea Node.

“Futurist Wanted” (Commentary)

In several recent issues of Foresight Signals we’ve featured job openings, internships, and other opportunities for career futurists. The sources for these leads are often members of the foresight community attached to organizations with a foresight gap to fill.

We’ve also gone the (now) traditional job-seeking route, which is to search (the Amazon of job boards) using terms like futurist, foresight consultant, and strategic or scenario planner. The job openings that come up are rarely what a career futurist would consider an opportunity to apply his or her unique skills. But what we’re seeing here is a high demand for futuristic thinking. For example, recent job descriptions or requirements include:

* “Creative mind and inquisitive, and futurist mind-set.”
* “Serve as a futurist and a trusted advisor.”
* “An innovative futurist, a creative thinker, … a self-motivated team player.”
* “Professionals who have a futurist view, think on their feet, and focus their efforts on strategic programs.”
* “An applications expert and futurist for both senior leadership and project teams.”
* “Our Futurists are endlessly curious and on a constant quest to find transformative solutions for our clients.” (In case this one intrigues you, it’s for a position as senior visual designer at Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve.)

The actual jobs here are for data scientists, architects, designers, human resources executives, and marketing professionals. (Facebook is looking for a Network Planner, by the way.) Traits that these positions value include teamwork, communications, and imagination, but the skills they’re hiring “futurists” for are often highly specialized. Generalists can always use a specialty, and specialists will open more opportunities for themselves if they can generalize. —CGW