Hey Daddy! Here are some questions that i need to ask you for my project.
1. What is your job in futures officially called?
My title depends on the organization that is paying me. I have been a freelance environmental scanning researcher, strategic planner, and futures facilitator. Right now I am a Senior Consultant for Impact of Future Technology at IBM.
2. What trainging did you have to take?
I have a Masters Degree in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. University of Houston is one of the few universities in the world with a degree in studying the future.To get my degree I had to successfully complete an internship and demonstrate my abilities. To keep my job as a futurist I always have to be training. If you want to stay at the leading edge of anything you have to learn continuously. School is never over.
3. When did you begin your job dealing with the future?
I started doing freelance futures work when I was still getting my degree. I have worked for a bunch of different organizations on a part time basis. My full time work started with IBM in April of 2006.
4. Can you give me a few stories (senarios) that you have made for countries?
This is a problem for me because I sell intellectual property. The work I do is owned by the people who pay me, so I can’t give to you what I did for them. I can give you a few descriptions if I don’t get too specific, though.
Futurists tell stories about what the future could be like, so I have told stories about:
Augmented reality. Virtual objects mixed up with real life objects so that, for instance, you can run around and “play” an online video game throughout the streets of your city with the game objects “overlaid” onto the buildings, cars, and people. For a major government in Southeast Asia, I told a story about a professional sports league in 2015 that competed in augmented reality stadiums and was a hit on the “YouTube” version of ESPN. The technology got so popular that it sparked a revolution in education.
Automated Swarms of Robots. I wrote a story for a military client that involved trained swarms of small robots called “MEMS” the size of dust mites that could “think” together and form the appearance of everyday objects to spy and search past enemy lines. So the swarm could infiltrate the enemy and pose as a water bottle while it records where they put their landmines and warn our troops. When one of them goes to grab the bottle, the swarm disperses and the bottle “disappears” to form somewhere else as another object. That was for the year 2032.
An Edible City. I told a story about a large city of millions of people covered in flowers, fruits, herbs, and food plants. Everywhere you went there were plants that were not only beautiful, but delicious. Almost every citizen grew plants in their homes and window boxes and the government helped connect them to people who wanted to buy what they grew. The City got a big environmental benefit from all of the plants, they sold the products from the plants to countries around the world, and the”Edible City” became a tourism sensation with the help of the Food Network. All the famous chefs wanted to open restaraunts there because the food was so fresh. Everyone was happy.
Sometimes it is the job of a futurist to tell stories that inspire people. People need a Vision that describes what they want to be in the future.
Sometimes the stories futurists tell are very dark and gloomy, kind of like a warning. Al Gore tells stories about Global Warming. These are stories that you don’t want to come true, but they could. I once told a story about a global plague that ended in humanity reverting to the stone age. I imagined that an oil-eating microbe developed to clean up oil spills mutated to eat plastic. Essentially it ate all the plastic and civilization collapsed. Can you immagine what would happen if all the plastics suddenly diappeared?
5. Could you give me a few predictions? (elaborate on what you told me in the car about everything being computerized ect.)
Okay, here’s an important thing about futurists — futurists don’t predict the future.
They look at trends (which are mostly about the recent past) and evidence in the present. They extrapolate (project) trends out into the future. From this you get the “most likely” or “baseline” future. But the farther you go out, the more uncertain any statement about the future becomes. It just so happens that the farther you go out, the more value a statement about the future can have because you have more time to act on it.
Another important thing futurists do is take the “most likely” future and then talk about how it could be different than you’d expect. Any futurist worth the money you pay him will talk about multiple futures instead of just “the future.”
But there are things we can say with reasonable certainty about the “most likely” future just because the evidence is overwhelming. It would take a pretty big surprise for the following not to happen eventually:
China or India will likely overtake the United States as the global superpower within 30 years. They each already have more honor students than the total number of children in the US. And they have children at greater rates than us. The numbers are against us.
Electronics will get increasingly intimate with humans, resulting in electronic devices woven into clothing and even implanted into the bodies of their owners.
Recent breakthroughs in imaging of the human brain will eventually lead to the ability to directly manipulate the contents of the brain. We’re talking about programming behaviors, editing memories, mind reading, direct learning, that kind of thing.
The ability to give every object the ability to compute and communicate using wireless technology will create an “internet of things.” Ordinary objects will talk to one another. Your milk bottle will be able to tell your refrigerator that its contents are about to go sour and your refigerator could then call you and tell you to pick up a new bottle on your way home. Your car will likely spy on you and to be able tell on you for speeding. But the upside is that you’ll never lose your keys — they will find you.
Biotechnology will be to this century what computer technology was to the 20th century. It’s hard to anticipate where genetic technology will take humanity, but you can be sure that it will take a while for our social systems to catch up to a world transformed by genetic technology. For instance, will it be fair to compete in school against richer students who can afford to augment themselves with genetic enhancements? Will they have special schools? And further down the line, will the “haves” split themselves off into a different, superior species to “regular” humans?
Potential wildcards — deal breakers that could change everything beyond recognition:
The collapse of the ecosystem of the world’s oceans (a real possibility with global warming)
A breakthrough in quantum computing that renders every computer on earth obsolete at once
Development of clean, abundant energy source using technologies such as zero point energy or cold fusion
Breakthrough in immortality research which extends ordinary human lifespans into the hundreds of years — Old age “cured” and people only die of diseases, murder, and accidents.
An acheivement in artificial intelligence yields living, conscious machines — this is called the “singularity” by many people.
6. Anything else you want to share with the class?
Most of you want to live to age eighty and beyond. Most of you have goals in life. To grow old and achieve your goals in life you need to have a vision for the future and work toward it over sixty years or more. That’s a long time to plan for and a lot of change to cover. Think how much has changed in just the last ten years. The Internet itself is barely over ten years old.
Most corporations only plan five years into the future. Whole governments plan maybe 30 years into the future. Ordinary individuals like you must be “extreme futurists” in order to survive and thrive in the world over the next sixty years. Learn to anticipate change and make it work for you instead of reacting all the time. Envision the future you want for yourself and work for it.