The Houston Futures extended family gathered for a weekend of futures fun on April 12 and 13. While a key purpose is to give students, prospective students, alums, faculty and friends a chance to socialize and network in person, there was also plenty of good discussion about the future. The topic theme on “city making” was curated by alum and Adjunct Faculty Dr. Cindy Frewen. Since Cindy and Dr. Bishop are putting on a summer course on Design Futures and design is an integral feature of city-making.
A great part of these events is getting to see familiar faces who we don’t get to see often enough. Professor Emeritus Oliver Markley kicked off the Saturday conference with a stellar presentation on “Alternative Images for Cities of the Future.” Among the points particularly catching my attention was a video (shareable future of cities) he showed from Alex Steffen of Worldchanging.com that raised the provocative notion that perhaps trying to making “clean energy” vehicles is a misdirected approach to clean, livable cities. Rather, he suggests, get rid of the vehicles altogether. He proceeded to demonstrated how make cities, or areas within cities, denser could effectively eliminate the need for vehicles. If everything is within walking distance, why drive? Brilliant!
Oliver was followed by new friend Todd Gentzel, Chief Strategist at Yaffe Deutser in Houston, who gave a brilliant presentation “Psychology and the Field of the Future.” Among his striking points was the introduction of Philip Zimbardo’s work on the psychology of time. Todd shared his framework of six time perspectives:
- · PAST NEGATIVE (ﬁxated on a difﬁcult past)
- · PAST POSITIVE (nostalgic for the good old days)
- · PRESENT FATALISM (resigned to the forces of fate)
- · PRESENT HEDONISM (living in and for the moment)
- · FUTURE (planning for a better tomorrow)
- · FUTURE TRANSCENDENTAL (anticipating the beyond)
Wonderful, such a handy framework in working with clients or audiences. Definitely something we need to work into our curriculum.
Rives Taylor, Director of Sustainable Design at Gensler, who is going to help out with the Design Futures course this summer, presented “Lessons from Houston: Infrastructure of a Resilient City.” I had to suppress a squeal of delight when Rives presented a slide on Integral Thinking for “Resilience Planning.” The use of the integral 2×2 also had my Alternative Perspectives students in the audience smiling as this was a topic we devoted significant class time to. It’s great to see the spread of sophisticated futures thinking spreading.
Finally, Cindy presented “Great Urban Divides” that addressed the issue of how can cities accommodate the influx of population coming in the emerging markets – with their growing levels of affluence threatening to put a great strain on urban capabilities. My greatest takeaway the sharp drops in population forecast for China and India beginning mid-century. Sure, my mental modeling surmised they would level off, but seeing the graph with the decline was somewhat jarring. Reminds us of the important of taking the long view, which, um, yeah, we’re supposed to be doing!
There was more, but those were some high-level personal highlights for me. Of course, putting a bunch of futurists and friends together for a day, I would expect nothing less. Andy Hines.