Welcome to our first Futurescape newsletter of the New Year. We hope you had a fantastic festive season and are well prepared for the challenges in the year ahead. Special greetings and wishes to our clients and partners in Asia who have recently celebrated the Chinese New Year.

In this edition we include:

1.    A summary of the first event we organised in 2014 – an excellent futurist gathering with guest speaker Jim Clark, the Founder of the World Technology Association.

2.    Examples of  successful social businesses.

3.    An event announcement about Anticipating 2025 – a London Futurists Conference that will take place in March 2014 in London.

4.    Crucial Conversations for 2014 – we are including this content  from our December 21st mailing for the benefit of our readers who  reported that they didn’t receive that newsletter.

Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your contacts and networks. As always we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics.

Regards

Rohit Talwar
CEO
Fast Future
rohit@fastfuture.com
Tel +44 (0)7973 405145

Skype fastrohit

www.fastfuture.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/fastfuture
Blog http://widerhorizons.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/talwar
Signup for our newsletters / Download past editions at www.fastfuture.com
Watch a short video of Rohit at http://www.travelmole.tv/watch_vdo.php?id=14300

 1. Manifesto for a New Civilisation

WTNLast Tuesday, January 28th, Fast Future organised a gathering for London-based futurists, change agents, big system thinkers and innovation enthusiasts to hear Jim Clark, the Founder of the World Technology Association (WTN).

Jim delivered a thought-provoking talk outlining his ‘Manifesto for a New Civilisation’, challenging the audience to rethink the fundamental principles our civilisation is based on. Jim described the unprecedented level of change we are about to experience in the coming decade. He suggested that the current path we are on  is utterly unsustainable and morally indefensible and proposed his  high level ideas on a framework that he believes could help us create a new and better civilisation.

As we have been highlighting, the pace of technological change  we are witnessing is extraordinary and is likely to continue to increase in the coming decades. Some observers believe more technological change is likely to happen in the next 20 years than in the last 200 years. For example, advances in science and technology could enable us to prevent and cure disease through genetic manipulation, enhance our brains or even upload and download a human mind. Indeed, research on life extension enables us to envision a day when we will be able to say that we may never die.

Jim argued that despite the big opportunities being created by scientific and technological advances, our civilisation is heading down a morally indefensible and unsustainable path. He highlighted that millions of people suffer in tremendous poverty and our entire ecosystem is at risk. Even the most moderate of UN consumption scenarios suggest that it takes 1.6 years to regenerate what we use in a year and the expectation is that this ratio could double by 2030. Clark went on to suggest that our capitalist system is an unsustainable house of cards. In his view, political systems around the world are also failing the majority of the population and education is still not accessible for millions of people around the world.

Jim argued that we need to leave behind 19th century thinking frameworks which are no longer adequate for the challenges of the 21st century. He proposed a framework for his view of a different and better civilisation based on a decagon consisting of 10 interconnected facets:

Jim argued that because civilisation is an ecosystem, the facets of the decagon should be perceived as interrelated. He suggested that in this framework we need to look at each aspect of society through the lens of the other aspects and that it is no longer sustainable to focus on one aspect only without taking the others into account. In Clark’s view, by following this framework, we could make a transition to a new, sustainable and better civilisation. Some aspects of the new civilisation, as outlined by Jim, include:

At the end, Jim urged us to remember that if we are not directly involved in building the new civilisation, we are perpetuating the old one. Everyone could make a step – either big or small – and help us move towards the new civilisation and the more people who want to join forces, the better.

Clark’s presentation inspired, agitated and irritated the audience in equal measure. There then followed heated and impassioned discussion about the power and viability of Jim’s manifesto and the need for roadmaps and practical approaches to driving change. Repeating themes were the challenge of creating the governance frameworks and mindset shifts to scale up from experiments to widespread action and the extent to which grand ideas from the West could translate across the globe to variety of different cultural, social and economic contexts.

2.  Successful Social Businesses

Following on from Jim’s talk we wanted to share some practical examples that illustrate how individuals, small businesses, big corporations, and other organisations are taking concrete steps to make a positive impact on local communities.  In this newsletter, we feature Recyclebank and the Learning Farm.

recycling-banksRecyclebank is a company headquartered in New  York City with offices in Philadelphia and Houston.  CEO Javier Flaim says that the goal of the company  is to help people live more sustainably because  individual actions, such as increasing recycling or  learning about greener ways to purchase, consume  or dispose of products, can add up to a big impact  for the planet.

Forbes suggests that Recyclebank’s service is similar  to a frequent traveller rewards program. Instead of  getting points for miles travelled, customers receive  incentives or coupons for local businesses in exchange for participating actively in a recycling program. Recyclebank tracks the activity of households with the help of chips embedded into recycling containers which are read by the mechanical arm retrofitted onto recycling trucks. The more people recycle, the more rewards they get.

The rewards, however, are not only for the environmentally-conscious customers. Municipalities that are partnering with Recyclebank also benefit. For example, Bridgeport in Connecticut reported that the city’s recycling participation rate increased by 67% compared with the pervious two-year period. The city achieved this remarkable result thanks to its expanded partnership with Recyclebank’s rewards program as well as its new single-stream recycling scheme.

The city of Bridgeport pays $70 per ton to dispose of waste in landfills, but gets about $20 for every ton of rubbish collected for recycling. Since September 2011, Bridgeport has avoided about $130,000 in tipping fees and earned about $100,000 from this new revenue source.

Currently, Recycle Bank has more than 4 million members across the US, 300+ communities in all 50 states, and 4,000+ reward partners.

Recyclebank is a company headquartered in New  York City with offices in Philadelphia and Houston.  CEO Javier Flaim says that the goal of the company  is to help people live more sustainably because  individual actions, such as increasing recycling or  learning about greener ways to purchase, consume  or dispose of products, can add up to a big impact  for the planet.

Forbes suggests that Recyclebank’s service is similar  to a frequent traveller rewards program. Instead of  getting points for miles travelled, customers receive  incentives or coupons for local businesses in exchange for participating actively in a recycling program. Recyclebank tracks the activity of households with the help of chips embedded into recycling containers which are read by the mechanical arm retrofitted onto recycling trucks. The more people recycle, the more rewards they get.

The rewards, however, are not only for the environmentally-conscious customers. Municipalities that are partnering with Recyclebank also benefit. For example, Bridgeport in Connecticut reported that the city’s recycling participation rate increased by 67% compared with the previous two-year period. The city achieved this remarkable result thanks to its expanded partnership with Recyclebank’s rewards program as well as its new single-stream recycling scheme.

The city of Bridgeport pays $70 per ton to dispose of waste in landfills, but gets about $20 for every ton of rubbish collected for recycling. Since September 2011, Bridgeport has avoided about $130,000 in tipping fees and earned about $100,000 from this new revenue source.

Currently, Recycle Bank has more than 4 million members across the US, 300+ communities in all 50 states, and 4,000+ reward partners.

The Learning Farm

The Learning Farm is another interesting example we  came across. Established by the Boston-based World  Education, the Learning Farm aims to address the lack of  skills, opportunities, and hope amongst vulnerable youth  across Indonesia.

Males under the age of 30 comprise 60% of the  unemployed in Indonesia. Research has shown that  disproportionate unemployment rates for young male lead  to increased criminality in society. The youths are also  vulnerable to religious radicalisation, drugs and HIV/AIDS.

The Learning Farm aims to change all this by providing young people, both boys and girls between 16 and 24 with opportunities to find self-reliant lives. Most of the young adults come to the Learning Farm through a referral system from other organizations who work with street children. At the farm they participate in a 15 weeks program of life skills, vocational and entrepreneurial training activities with the emphasis on obtaining a basic understanding of organic farming (Phase One). At the end of the 15 weeks, the young people decide whether to seek employment with other organic farm enterprises or stay at the farm for Phase Two. This phase lasts further 15 weeks during which the participants widen and deepen the knowledge and skills gained during their initial training period at the farm.  The young adults work on entrepreneurship related organic farming, leadership and supervision, or outreach and social skills where they engage in interaction with the numerous visitors to the Learning Farm and present various business plans.

So far, the Learning Farm has welcomed youths from the streets of Jakarta, Yogyakarta, in Central Java, Lampung in Sumatra as well as peri-urban and rural areas like Karawang, Bogor, Bandung, West Java, as well as from the eastern part of Indonesia – Timor, Ambon and Sulawesi.

The Learning Farm has begun discussions with the Four Seasons Hotel and major supermarkets in Indonesia hoping to become the major organic supplier for such clients in order to spread awareness and interest in organic farming and sustain the farm’s activities.

3. Anticipating 2025 – London Futurists Conference – March 22nd -23rd 2014

Rohit Talwar will be one of the headline speakers at ”Anticipating 2025′‘a two day conference being organised by London Futurists in London on 22-23 March. The conference tagline is “Paths to 2025: visions, nightmares, roadblocks, and plans”.

Eighteen futurist speakers are lined up, who will be giving their own views on the transformations in thinking and lifestyle that are likely between now and 2025, in fields such as healthcare, education, economics, politics, spirituality, and philosophy. They will also be debating:

The speakers will include:

Rohit Talwar, Global Futurist and Founder of Fast Future Research

David Woodsmartphone pioneer and Chair, London Futurists

Sonia Contera, co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology

David Levy, President of the International Computer Games Association

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University

Maneesh Juneja, Digital Health Futurist and Health 2.0 London Chapter Leader

Mark Stevenson, Author: An Optimists Tour of the Future

Andrew Vladimirov, information security expert and DIY brain hacker

Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer and co-Founder, SENS Research Foundation

For a full list, see http://anticipating2025.com/

The conference will take place at the Lecture theatre B01 of Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College. You can register here: http://anticipating2025.com/registration/ 

4. Content from December 21st Mailing

10 Crucial Conversations for 2014

There have been a lot of fascinating predictions for 2014 circulating across the digiverse over the last couple of weeks and we will share a selection of those that most excite us in the new year. For our own input, we have highlighted below ten key strategic conversations that we think our clients and friends in business, government and the non-profit world should be starting in 2014 – if they haven’t done so already.

1.    What are our plans B & C for alternative possible scenarios for the global and local economy?

economy Economic volatility, uncertainty and rapid global and local shifts are     likely  to characterise the environment in the year ahead.    Organisations of every  size can benefit from ‘rehearsing the future’,  considering a range of different  possible scenarios and developing  alternative options for a range of  possibilities rather than banking on  hope as a strategy. Who has  responsibility for defining alternative  scenarios and plans?

 2. What are we doing to build a thinking, open and curious  culture? As old assumptions and business models are disrupted,  organisations are beginning to learn the value of encouraging staff to  be  curious and aware of changes in the world around them. They are also  recognising that an open culture is essential if we are to encourage people to share information that could challenge current assumptions and strategies. Many are also beginning to recognise the value of clear and deep thinking about what best fits the purpose and ambitions of this organisation rather than simply following the herd. What leadership behaviours are required to reinforce our support for a thinking, open and curious culture?

3.  How can we develop tolerance of uncertainty as a core competence in leaders and managers?

wonder

In a world of constant and disruptive change, we increasingly have to act without perfect knowledge and prepare for a range of possibilities. For managers and leaders to act decisively and effectively, they have to believe they are supported and trusted to take risks and make intuitive decisions. How is uncertainty tolerant management being built into our business management approach and our leadership and management development programmes?

4.  Do we need an entity within the business that has a licence to think the unthinkable and generate new paradigms and possibilities? An increasing number of entities are recognising that their current ‘licence to operate’ is at threat because of changes happening around them. In response they are establishing units with a specific remit to think about and experiment with radically new concepts that could lead to total reinvention or dramatic course correction. What would the group’s remit be? Who should this entity report to? How can we encourage genuinely radical thinking and create a safe environment for thinking the unthinkable?

5.  What is our stance on crypto (digital) currencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin?

bitcoin

Cryptographically secure digital currencies are becoming more  popular  as an untraceable mechanism for procuring goods and  services. Because  each currency has a limited total supply that is  outside the control of  any government or banking authority,  their popularity is also increasing  as a speculative asset.  Governments and business alike are being  challenged to think  about how they should respond.Should we accept  them? Should  we look to trade in them? What are the legal and  accounting  implications? Could these lead to a rise in illegal trade and  growth of the informal economy?

6. What is our organisational policy on human enhancement? Rapid scientific advances are already yielding the potential for us to enhance human’s cognitive and physical capabilities. For example a variety of drugs intended for use by those with sleep disorders and attention deficit disorder are being used ‘off label’ to enhance concentration and focus for students and people working in a variety of environments.  In the longer term smart drugs, genetic modification and body part replacement offer the potential to bring about radical changes in human capability. With workers already experimenting with some of these augmentation approaches, organisations have to be clear on their policies. Who is looking at the issue in the organisation? Would we ever consider making such treatments available for our employees? How would we react if we knew employees were augmenting themselves – legally or illegally?

7. How should our strategy for end user technology evolve? 

headtech

End use technology is evolving rapidly and moving from an organisational provision to a consumer choice. This is being facilitated by the evolution from desktop solutions 10-15 years ago through portable to truly mobile and now the emergence of wearable devices such as smart goggles and watches. This category is expected  to explode over the next three years. The advent of smartphones and tablets has seen end users wanting increasingly bring or at least choose their own devices.

The evolution will not end with wearable. The next phase will see a growth in devices that are embedded in the human body – a process that has already started with pacemakers and cochlear implants. Knowing this likely evolutionary path, organisations are already moving to a stance of saying staff should choose the devices they use from a pre-approved list with either the individual or the employer funding the purchase. What is our strategy on end user technology? Do we have a policy for bring your own device (BYOD) or choose your own device (CYOD)? Could we ever envisage ourselves implanting technology in our staff?

8. How will we deal with the impact of the informal (shadow) economy on our organisation? Despite the increasing shift to electronic transactions, most estimates suggest that the informal or ‘shadow’ economy is growing. Some suggest that around 60-65% of all the global workforce have at best a distant relationship with the tax system.  This doesn’t include those involved in illegal activities such as narcotics, counterfeit goods and people trafficking. Legitimate organisations are increasingly finding themselves coming up against the informal economy – particularly in emerging nations. Do we have a due diligence process for vetting tax compliance of all new suppliers? What is our policy for procuring goods and services in heavily cash based economies?

9. What is our stance on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and the impact on the workforce? 

cyborg2

 

Technology is penetrating literally every sector and profession. For  example, work traditionally done by lawyers is being undertaken by artificial  intelligence (AI) programs. AI is also being used to mark the essay  submissions for students enrolled in open online courses for Harvard and  MIT. The prices of industrial and domestic robots is falling dramatically –  with firms such as the Chinese smartphone assembler Foxconn announcing  that it was installing 1 million robots across its production lines. As  organisations seek to compete in an ever-more cost focused environment,  the pressure and incentive to automate is increasing. In rapidly  industrialising nations the concern is that they automating rather than  educating. In developed and developing nations alike the question arises as  to where the jobs will come from to replace those being eliminated by  automation. Do organisations have any social or moral responsibility to maintain a certain level of employment?  If everyone is automating and new jobs are not being created at the same rate, where will the money come from for people to buy goods and services?

10. How can we help staff take responsibility for and prioritise lifelong learning? Automation is replacing the roles of professional, skilled and unskilled workers alike. Life expectancy is rising – suggesting that our working life spans will need to increase and potentially encompass multiple careers. In an increasingly tough competitive and employment environment, individuals will need to take greater responsibility for ensuring they have the skills to help them stand out from the crowd. A major shift is required in attitudes towards lifelong learning to ensure that individuals are encouraged and incentivised to learn how to learn and keep enhancing and adding to their skills. What are we doing to encourage staff to focus on lifelong learning? Should governments offer tax incentives to firms and individuals that invest in lifelong learning on the basis that they are reducing future potential social burdens on the state?    

 

Sources:

https://www.recyclebank.com/corporate-info/newsroom/in-the-news/382

http://www.forbes.com/sites/heatherclancy/2013/10/07/how-recyclebank-incents-communities-to-care-about-recycling/

http://thelearningfarm.com/index.php/about-us/programs

http://www.fastcompany.com/1720867/indonesias-organic-learning-farm-offers-street-kids-path-toward-jobs

Image sources:

http://cdn.fora.tv/thumbnails/12966_320_240.jpg

http://www.awarenessmonths.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/recycling-banks.jpg

http://www.awarenessmonths.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/recycling-banks.jpg

http://etfdailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/economy.jpg

http://www.freeenterprise.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/media/00_ECON_shutterstock_65096827_Uncertainty_800px.jpg?itok=Ge_k5Ol9

http://www.fbnstatic.com/static/managed/img/fb2/news/bitcoin.jpg

http://www.onukonuk.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/brain-upload.jpg

http://www.futurehumanevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/cyborg2.jpg