Mack Report: Can We “Pin Down” the Future?
Extrapolating the trends of the past is a simple, but treacherous, way to envision the future, suggests Tim Mack, AAI Foresight managing principal, in his latest article for the Foresight Signals blog.
“Very few of us would argue that the future could ever be a mirror image of the past, simply because it never has been,” he writes. “The simplified image of calendar pages flipping over, one much like the other, misses the incredible increase in the levels of change in our modern world and the awesome challenge of ‘pinning down’ the future.”
A more useful image of the trajectories of complex and interacting trends is that of “rising spirals of growth and progress, or perhaps the swirling dynamics of often-chaotic world weather systems,” Mack says. But anyone striving to pin down this “shimmering and ephemeral” future will learn one lesson quickly: humility.
Read “Searching for the Future” by Timothy C. Mack, AAI Foresight Signals blog (October 12, 2020).
Here Come the Bees
Baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials. Marketers, scholars, and other cultural trend watchers use such generational labels to track and forecast longitudinal changes in society. So far, we’ve gotten up to Gen Z—whom some lately have renamed zoomers—but what about the children and grandchildren today’s cohorts will eventually produce?
“A few journos are starting to talk about generation Alpha, still young kids now,” note ID Pearson, Tracey Follows, and Brownwyn Williams in an article for Timeguide, but naming the next generation poses a challenge. “Generation Beta? No of course not. Nobody wants to be beta.”
As an alternative, the authors recommend naming the children of zoomers Generation Bee (2028−2044). “Not quite superhuman yet, though with a few minor IT-enabled brain enhancements and smart drugs improving capabilities during their development.”
Following Gen Bee will be Generation See (2045−2061), as opposed to C, “appropriate to their superhuman senses and capabilities offered by their bio-enhanced & hybrid AI brains.”
Read “Generation Bee” by ID Pearson, Tracey Follows, and Brownwyn Williams, Timeguide (October 23, 2020).
News from the Field
- World Futures Review has appointed John A. Sweeney and Nur Anisah Abdullah co-editors in chief, succeeding James Dator. Sweeney is currently a visiting professor and senior research fellow at Westminster International University in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Anisah teaches at the University of Strathclyde’s business school. Joining the WFR team as associate editors are Leah Zaidi, senior associate at the Future Today Institute; Alessandro Fergnani, a PhD candidate in management and organization at NUS Business School (Singapore); and Lavonne Leong, master’s degree candidate in futures studies at the University of Houston. [Learn more]
- The Public Sector Foresight Network, co-founded by Nancy Donovan, has launched a new website: www.publicsectorforesight.org. The group’s network activities and presentations were previously hosted by the Institute for Alternative Futures, which has now closed. PSFN membership currently is free, open to government officials involved in foresight and those who work with them. [Learn more]
Help Wanted: Futurists
- The Center for Innovation Systems Policy at the Austrian Institute of Technology seeks an expert in strategic foresight and/or innovation systems and policy. AIT is an international player in applied research for innovative infrastructure solutions. The position, based in Vienna, calls for theoretical and practical knowledge and the ability to develop future scenarios, deal with ethical and legal implications of new technology, formulate forward-looking policy recommendations, and communicate them to decision makers and stakeholders. [Learn more]
- Vox Media is hiring a deputy editor for its Future Perfect section to take the lead in assigning and editing articles, podcasts, video, and special series or packages. The focus is on factory farming, animal welfare, future of meat, and other adjacent issues, but assignments will also cover a wide range of topics. [Learn more]
- Teach the Future seeks a volunteer social media enthusiast to help grow its network, creating content for its social media channels. [Download the vacancy]
Mark Your Calendar: High-Level Futures Literacy Summit
December 8-12 (online): UNESCO is sponsoring a High-Level Futures Literacy Summit, which will showcase how having futures literacy can affect what people see and do, from “high ranking leaders in the public and private sector to activists, artists, students and professors.”
“Futures literacy is an essential competency for the 21st century to overcome ‘poverty-of-the-imagination,’” says UNESCO Head of Foresight Riel Miller. The Summit will provide testimonials from around the world, presented as a hybrid event with virtual exhibitions and workshops; in-person attendance (Paris) is limited to permanent delegations to UNESCO. [Learn more]
COVID-19 Impacts, Scenarios, and Reports
- Tuberculosis cases could rise (World Health Organization): With its disruptions to health-care systems, the COVID-19 pandemic could reduce recent progress against tuberculosis, increasing the number of people developing TB by more than 1 million per year from 2020 to 2025, reports the World Health Organization. Though the social distancing practiced during the COVID-19 pandemic can reduce TB transmission, “this effect could be offset by longer durations of infectiousness, increased household exposure to TB infection, worsening treatment outcomes, and higher levels of poverty.” Read “Global Tuberculosis Report 2020,” WHO (October 14, 2020).
- The great reset (World Economic Forum): “For the sustainable development of the planet, it’s vital our recovery prioritizes new, greener ways to do business,” writes Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman. “The ‘Great Reset’ offers an opportunity to re-evaluate sacred cows of the pre-pandemic system but also defend long-held values.” Read “We must move on from neoliberalism in the post-COVID era,” World Economic Forum (October 12, 2020).
- Pandemics, risks, and change (Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies): “Pandemics are agents of creative destruction that expose the critical vulnerabilities and inequalities in society while also supercharging innovation through necessity. … This report examines the societal impacts of pandemics in a past-present-futures perspective and outlines how tools and capabilities like scenario planning, megatrend analysis, and futures literacy can be used to reimagine and chart out our post-pandemic trajectories.” Order the report “Pandemics: existential risks and enablers of change” by Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.
- Three scenarios for 2022 (The Millennium Project): Final report prepared for the American Red Cross offers three scenarios based on input from more than 250 medical doctors, public-health professionals, emergency relief staff, economists, and futurists. Read “Three Futures of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States January 1, 2022: Implications for All of Us” by The Millennium Project (October 2020). Listen to FuturePod conversation with the scenario authors, Jerome Glenn, Ted Gordon, and Paul Saffo.
- COVID-19 Reports (Security & Sustainability Guide): The latest update examines 66 reports written by scientists and other experts, covering data, scenarios, overviews, reopening strategies, warnings, and more. Read “COVID-19 Reports: What Experts Expect & Propose” by Michael Marien, Security & Sustainability Guide (October 10, 2020).
Inspirations: The World We Want
In honor of its 75th anniversary, the United Nations issued a worldwide call for photographs that illustrate visions of preferred futures, selecting the top 75 for an online exhibit, “The World We Want.”
The photographers hoped for a future that appreciates the many colors of the planet and of humanity, one that offers health, happiness, kindness, security, and justice for all. “I want a peaceful and safe world for our children, where they can look forward to their future with great expectation and joy regardless of their colour or nationality,” said María Azpiroz de Achaval of Argentina.
“At a time when the world faces a global pandemic and other formidable threats, we must join forces across borders and generations to work together for a better common future. This photo exhibition can help to inspire us for this collective task,” stated UN Secretary-General António Guterres. [View the exhibit]
- Steering Human Evolution: Eighteen Theses on Homo Sapiens Metamorphosis by Yehezkel Dror (Routledge, July 2020). To regulate emerging science and technology that may endanger the future of our species, we must develop “a novel humanity-craft,” redesign ideologies and institutions, limit national sovereignty, and select and support political leaders based on merit, says Dror, emeritus professor of political science and public administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. [Learn more]
- “From system shock to system change—time to transform: The Future of Sustainability Report 2020” by Forum for the Future’s Futures Centre (October 2020). The report focuses on meeting the challenges of current and emerging disruptions to planetary health and human well-being, outlining four scenarios: Compete & Retreat, Discipline, Transform, and Unsettled. (There might not ever be a “new normal.”) [Download PDF]
“There is little or no intellectual challenge or discipline involved in merely learning to adjust.” Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique