Really like the animated clips from the Megacities on the Move project from the Forum on the Future. I’ve used them with several groups and they’ve gotten a terrific reception. And also, a great strategic move in terms of thought leadership. It reinforces the value of communications in trying to get across ideas about the future, or as UH Futures Studies Emeritus Professor Oliver Markley recently reminded us, “we are in the business of trying to sell ideas whose time has not yet come.” It reminded me of the old Ideo “Shopping Cart” video that is still probably the best 20 minutes one can invest as an introduction to innovation. My undergrad classes on the Impact of Technology on Society have become enamored of “organ printing,” in part due to several great youtube videos. That said, it is not just the video or multimedia format per se, it’s about capturing a complex topic in a short period and maintaining the integrity of the message. No small feat! Andy Hines
Here’s my “Which Energy Future?”presentation that I developed using some material from my colleague Chris Carbone and friends at Innovaro. I gave this presentation for Harvey Nash, a global recruiting firm with a keen interest in the future. We are collaborating on a white paper on the future of energy which I hope will be out soon. Andy Hines
Back in 2003, the Association of Professional Futurists, in its inaugural Gathering, did a scenario planning workshop on the future of the field. The idea was that there was no better place to start thinking about the future of the association, than to first map out the potential landscape. The kind of thing we advise clients to do!
I recently reviewed these scenarios with my Seminar class at the University of Houston Futures Studies program. In most cases, we saw some progress in dealing with the four key uncertainties we identified:
For the first three, we agreed some positive progress could be cited. Foresight demand has increased in some industries and geographies. There has been some methodological innovation with Causal Layered Analysis and Integral Futures as examples. Futurists perhaps have earned a small degree of distinction or “cool” as more and more people are calling themselves futurists. Some progress, perhaps not overwhelming, or as great as hoped, but not bad overall.
We felt that the greatest progress was perhaps made in futurists working together more closely. The emergence of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is one example of professional futurists across the globe working together more closely. The APF list has developed a collegiality that commonly involves questions asking for the sharing of expertise that works in a reciprocal fashion and has helped build more formal. collaboration as well. Key longstanding organizations organizations such as the World Futures Studies Federation and World Future Society have been joined by The Millennium Project, which been building an increasingly robust global network from its non-profit platform, and Shaping Tomorrow, which has emerged as an important private sector network.
We saw a potential for even greater cooperation moving forward. It would be really interesting, we thought, to have something like a Summit of as many of the foresight-related organizations as practical. Hmmmm. Andy Hines
I am looking forward to my talk tomorrow for Livable Houston(details here)on two scenarios for the future of Houston. I’m slowly realizing that Houston is my home, after moving around so much, and taking an interest in its future. I have a scaffolding about the future of Houston that I previously shared with my new friends at Houston Tomorrow and that I plan to continue to build on in the years ahead, and report on here in this blog as new ideas emerge. Andy Hines
While we like to Think about the Future, we also need to talk about it. One of the challenges in talking about the future is that futures studies is a relatively new field, thus there is not yet agreement on vocabulary.
When we were doing our comprehensive review of scenario development a few years back – The Current State of Scenario Development — we confronted the question head-on. For instance, is it scenario development or scenario planning or just scenarios? And is it a method or a technique? Get the picture!
So we took a crack at defining some terms we use in doing futures work.
• The futures project is the largest unit of professional work. It includes the sum total of the objectives, the team, the resources and the methods employed in anticipating and influencing the future. Projects may be simple, involving just one product and technique, or complex, involving many steps each of which produces one or more products and uses one or more techniques.
• The approach is the process one employs in conducting a project. It consists of an ordered series of steps to accomplish the objectives of the project. Every project has an approach, whether it is explicitly articulated at the beginning or not. Some approaches are widely practiced, such as the approach to develop a strategic plan. A generic approach to a comprehensive foresight project is outlined in the six steps shown in Thinking about the Future: Framing, Scanning, Forecasting, Visioning, Planning, and Acting. In fact, most professional futurists and consultants use a favorite approach that they have honed over time.
• The deliverable is the one or more products or results that satisfy the objectives of the project. It is the final result of the work done in the approach – as a report, a database of trends, scenarios in various forms, a strategic plan and many more. Usually each step in the approach generates a product and together they form the deliverable from the project.
• A method or technique is the systematic means that a professional uses to generate a product. We found that method and technique are used rather interchangeably in the literature so it is hard to pick just one. Method carries a solid, organized, even an academic connotation where technique seems to relate more to style than to substance.
• A tool, another term often confused with method or technique, is more concrete. A tool is a device that provides a mechanical or mental advantage in accomplishing a task. Tools are things like video projectors, questionnaires, worksheets and software programs. By the same token, scenarios and plans are not tools.
• Finally, an exercise is a unit of activity within a lesson performed for the sake of practice and to acquire skill and knowledge. It may be, of course, that the skill or knowledge is applied right away in the same workshop as part of project work. Andy Hines
While I will rarely comment on current politics, I was moved and disappointed to see today’s “A Reversal on End-of-Life Planning. It is sad, troubling, fill-in-your-favorite descriptor to see that discussion around important future issues such as end-of-life planning has been effectively shut down. It reminded me of the roots of futures studies when Herman Kahn introduced scenario planning as a policy tool enabling the discussion of difficult issues, such as the various policy options for dealing with the possibility of nuclear annihilation, aka “thinking the unthinkable.” Today, it seems, rather than discuss difficult policy options, they are simply removed. Doubleplusbad. Andy Hines
I recently had the opportunity to spend a morning talking about the future of science and technology with some exchange students from China. I had them review some of the forecasts that my colleagues and I made in 2025: Scenarios of US and Global Society as Reshaped by Science and Technology that we wrote back in 1995, and I revisited last year in a piece “How Accurate Are Your Forecasts?” I noticed that they seemed to believe some of the developments I saw as breaking closer to 2025 were “already here.” Perhaps the optimism of students (or the pessimism of the professor) or perhaps the achievement orientation in China that is bullish on science and technology?
Another interesting aspect of the morning was their ranking of six proposed wildcards (low-probability, high-impact events) in terms of which seemed the most likely to occur, relatively speaking. They were given 100 poker chips to “bet” with. Here’s how the rankings turned out:
Super-Longevity. Average age could increase to 100….or beyond (385 )
Self-Assembling Nanotech. Could revolutionize manufacturing…..among other areas (313 )
The Singularity. Machine intelligence exceeds biological intelligence by about 2045 (237)
Global Pandemic. The world is overdue for a global pandemic, potentially coming from viruses (due to increased global travel) or the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, among others (225 )
Brain Enhancement. Advances in brain science could enable a wide range of new applications, from implants to mind reading to downloading consciousness. (155 )
Ecosystem Collapse. Many argue that humanity is using up resources faster than they can be replenished, presaging a “collapse.” (150 )
Pretty strong belief in the stretching life expectancy and in the prospects for nanotech — interestingly, both of these views were mirrored in my undergrad class of UH students. — Andy Hines