Welcome to the latest issue of FutureScape – the newsletter of Fast Future Research.
In this issue we explore some of the implications of rapidly advancing and converging technologies for life, schooling, work and death. We also discuss the future of cities and include guest contributions from Jim Lee and Igor Petrusky. Finally we have a variety of reader discount offers for forthcoming futures events.
Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your contacts and networks. As always we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics.
CEO Fast Future
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1. New York Visit June 13th – 17th
Rohit will be in New York to attend the GF2045 conference and conduct a workshop (see below) and series of meetings. If you’d like to meet with Rohit during this trip please email email@example.com
2. Fast Future Emerging Technologies Workshop New York City June 14th 12.00-13.30
As a reminder, Rohit is running a free workshop exploring emerging technologies and their impact on business and the legal profession over the next decade. The workshop is being held in New York City on June 14th 2013 from 12.00-13.30 – for details and event registration, please visit: http://www.iltanet.org/MainMenuCategory/Meetings/RegionalEvents/REG-NYC-061413-1621023.html
3. Disrupted Development – Preparing for Transformational Change
Friday June 7th saw the launch of Fast Future’s occasional series of workshops on major issues with our guest expert – Global Futurist Jose Cordeiro – leading a diverse and highly engaged audience on an exploration of Human Enhancement, Technology of the Future and the Future of Technology. Jose came prepared with at least a week’s work of material to tackle literally any topic that might have arisen and delivered a phenomenal set of insights and highly provocative views on how science and technology advances would transform our world out of all recognition within 30 years. We will provide a more detailed overview of the event in a future newsletter, but five of the most interesting talking points raised were:
The end of humanity – Jose argued that the acceleration and convergence of developments in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and the cognitive sciences would see the emergence of new transhuman and entirely synthetic lifeforms – with humanity as we know it dying out in the next 30 years.
The death of death – Jose reported that experiments in life extension have delivered a three-fold increase in the life expectancy of mice and a sixfold increase for certain worms. At the same time Dmitry Itsov’s four stage 2045 Avatar project (see graphic) – which we covered in previous issues – has set out ambitious goals of ensuring immortality.
These and other advances are combining to suggest that, if they are successful, the concept of death as we know it could be completely overturned. The debate explored how we might conduct a life if we thought we might live for 120 years or more, what the impact might be societal and family structures and how we would spend our time in a world where ‘work’ is increasingly automated or conducted by robots and artificially intelligent devices.
Jobless Progress? The new industries on which many economies are pinning their future hopes are predicated on the growth of key knowledge based sectors such mobile communications, biotechnology, 3D manufacture and robotics. However, these sectors are becoming ever-more automated and usually require less low skilled workers than the sectors they are replacing in the industrial order. Examples cited included:
- Foxconn’s 2011 announcement that it was buying 1 million robots over three years to replace humans in its workforce http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/30/c_131018764.ht
- The emergence of a new generation of smarter, safe, flexible and highly functional industrial robots could work alongside humans or replace many of the tasks previously performed by low skilled workers http://www.technologyreview.com/view/513761/will-robots-create-new-jobs-when-they-take-over-existing-ones/
The question then arose as to where the new jobs would come from to fill the gap and should we be worried or could we rely on science and technology to generate those new ‘job creating sectors’ which were not currently on anyone’s radar.
Delivering the wake-up call –There was a lot of debate about how to get leaders, middle managers and professionals from doctors to lawyers and accountants to understand the transformative potential of these accelerating scientific and technological developments. Jose argued that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in particular could simply eliminate a lot of professional roles as we currently understand them. In most cases, the feeling amongst participants was that the recipients wanted the insights translated into more immediate short term implications with clear action imperatives and solutions. The more radical ideas are typically seen as ‘bigger than a brainful’ and considered so complicated and far reaching in their impact that it was difficult to know what a lawyer might do with the knowledge that in 15-20 years time contracts, disputes and even takeover negotiations might be resolved “machine to machine” with little or no human intervention.
Repurposing the classroom – The discussion in the workshop mirrored one that had taken place earlier in the week at the HMC Deputy Heads’ Preparing for the Future Conference. In both events there was widespread agreement that the traditional role of the teacher as purveyor of information could all but disappear in less than ten years. Instead, emphasis would be placed on the other roles that schools and teachers would need to play in teaching children how to learn, conduct research, solve problems, navigate complexity, work under uncertainty and in nurturing their development as individuals, citizens and members of a global community. http://hmcpd.learningsource.co.uk/courses/36-hmcpd31-deputy-heads-conference-norton-park-hotel-winchester-24-june-2013
4. Smart Cities – Unlocking the Social and Economic Potential
Rohit is delivering a keynote address at the Intelligent Cities Conference in Leeds, England on June 19th. The theme of his talk has already generated a lot of interest and controversy – with a pre-conference interview appearing in the Yorkshire Post. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/business-news/uk-cities-are-being-left-behind-in-planning-for-the-long-term-1-5739888
The thrust of Rohit’s presentation is that most people talking about the intelligent or smart city are focusing on the relatively narrow aspects of ensuring widespread broadband provision. We would argue that, whilst it is an important enabler, broadband alone doesn’t make a smart city. We have to look beyond the technology to think about the kind of city we want to be. This means thinking about how we will create a truly sustainable, viable and vibrant environment – one which attracts business, has a strong creative and leisure sector, an energised academic community and positive prospects for families and individuals. This means thinking well beyond short term challenges to explore how we can evolve in rapidly evolving world where advances in science and technology are rapidly outpacing our ability to absorb their potential impact. (See previous article).
Smart planning means thinking about the world we are moving into, the skillsets our workforce will need and the changing ways in which our children need to be educated with the life skills and outlook to prepare them for a 100-year plus lifespan that could see them needing to work well into their eighties and potentially having five to ten careers in that period. With finances likely to remain under pressure across the public sector, we also need to be thinking in far more imaginative ways about how we use public buildings. Maybe our schools could become true community resources – housing the local library, community centre and doctor’s surgery, whilst also operating as both a magistrate’s court and conference and event centre in the evenings, at weekends and during the school holidays.
Smart thinking also means a joined-up approach to the development of local economic policy and inward investment. For example, recognizing that possibly the fastest way of accelerating the development of key future industries is to attract in the major national and international events in those sectors. Cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Vancouver are demonstrating the powerful impact of such an approach in bringing the industry to your doorstep. The proven and measurable long term benefits of such an approach include accelerating the learning of local players and researchers in the sector, generating export orders for local businesses, tapping into critical knowledge networks, attracting inward investment and securing research funding from the industry players attending the event.
The task of taking a truly holistic perspective on the future of our towns and cities is not an easy one. The risk is that we put the challenges into the ‘too difficult’ pile, focus on the technology roll out and hope that somehow faster broadband will solve our problems. As history reminds us, hope is not a strategy. http://www.nextgenevents.co.uk/events/intelligent-cities-conference
5. Guest Opinion Piece: Investing in Emerging Technologies – Riding the Gartner Hype Cycle by Jim Lee
At the recent Orlando gathering of the Association of Professional Futurists, investment manager and futurist Jim Lee gave a fascinating five minute ‘little big’ presentation on how technology investors could draw on the thinking behind the Gartner hype cycle to help inform their decision making about emerging technologies. Summarized below are the key ideas that Jim presented.
For investors deciding which technologies to back now or in the future, a key challenge is identifying whether a development has potential and establishing what’s hot and what’s not? A start point might be to take a look at the Gartner Hype Cycle, which follows the progress of new technologies. According to Gartner, emerging technologies typically move through phases of overenthusiasm and disillusionment before becoming commonplace reality. The most recent Hype Cycle Report revealed the following trends:
To use the Hype Cycle on a stand-alone basis for investment selection would be far too simplistic. It was never intended as a guide to buy, sell, or hold specific companies or industries. However, from the process perspective, the Hype Cycle may be useful as a means for evaluating the appropriate set of tools and time frames for investment.
For example, companies at the early stage of the Hype Cycle tend to have strongly negative cash flows, but abundant and positive media coverage. Traditional fundamental analysis just does not work here – revenues and earnings are often non-existent. However, stock prices do reflect perception quite accurately, and standard technical analysis tools such as moving averages, accumulation/distribution ratios, and relative strength can be very useful here in spotting when these companies are turning the corner into a period of disillusionment. I also find Google Trends to be a good tool for tracking levels of public interest.
Stocks at the first leg of the Hype Cycle are ideal for short-term speculative trading. These companies typically see the biggest price-movements on a day-to-day basis. By the time something hits the peak of inflated expectations, you typically find the firm’s shares trading at unrealistic multiples to both earnings (if they exist) and revenues. These companies and technologies have moved into the public conversation and often receive glowing coverage from mainstream media. These bubbles sometimes peak with high-profile IPOs in “the next big thing.”
Companies that are overpriced and experiencing negative momentum make excellent candidates for short-selling. Short-selling is a bit like making money in reverse – you borrow shares to sell them high, and then repurchase them for replacement at a lower price later (if your hunch is successful). As news coverage comes back to reality, companies sometimes get oversold. This may actually be a sweet spot for making long-term investments. It is the point when technologies are reaching acceptance, valuations are reasonable, and public perceptions are stabilizing. Everything starts to come together at the same time. This is a foundation for what I refer to as “convergence investing.” Companies which survive the trough of disillusionment sometimes have the most attractive risk/return profiles.
The Hype Cycle is a useful reality check when investing in the future – just one tool to help determine if you are on the right side of a trade. Your personal temperament and style may decide how you use it – speculating, shorting, or investing. Jim Lee is the founder of Strategic Foresight Investments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Guest Opinion Piece – Unlocking the Potential of 3D Printing by Igor R Petrusky (email@example.com)
What do the steam engine, computer and 3D printer have in common? The answer is the type of impact they have on humanity. The steam engine itself was a nice and useful invention; however, its biggest impact on industry was the other industries it supported. For example, railroads, cars and automated machinery would all not exist without the steam engine. We find computers very useful in our everyday lives, but the biggest impacts on humanity that the computer has had are all of the industries and innovations that were made possible due to engineers and scientists having access to this new tool.
3D printing has been ‘flashing’ in the news a lot lately, but, in my view, the media hype has the wrong target in its sites. I believe the 3D printing industry is neither new nor is it so revolutionary or valuable to a consumer that most people would have a use for one. For example a thermoplastic hot glue gun is a good 3D tool for prototyping conceptual parts; I have one humming away behind me right now building a prototype for work, but grandparents trying to fix their grandchild’s toy are not likely to find enough uses for one to justify spending the money on a 3D printer.
In my view, the impact of 3D printers is unlikely to be of similar magnitude to that of a steam engine or a computer. However, the type of impact that we should expect 3D advanced consumer printing will have on the world is the same type of impact that the steam engine and computer had. 3D printers are already spawning new industries. Medical bio-printing is one example of such an industry. Even if we were to master alternatives such as cloning and we could clone a replacement heart; it would still take a long time to grow, many things can go wrong during its growth and the organ could still be rejected by the recipient body. On the other hand, a 3D printed heart skeleton can be ‘blanketed’ in our stem cells at a much faster rate with a much more controlled and predictable outcome and a reduced chance of rejection.
7. Interesting Futures Related Kickstarter Projects
We’d like to draw your attention to two new Kickstarter projects which we are supporting as they could both prove to be valuable resources for those interested in the future.
Earth 2 Hub is a digital futures publishing venture looking to raise money via Kickstarter. If it can raise the money to maintain the production and editorial standards they have set themselves then I think this could be a very cool resource. This is how they describe themselves: “We’re a London-based start-up that brings together creatives, scientists and technologists to explore how new science and new technology could positively impact our future. We’re applying some of the skills and approaches used in science fiction to illustrate present and possible future science fact. The Earth 2 Hub App will provide a captivating and modern tool to share and spread inspiring and far-sighted visions, bringing together the science, technology and science fiction community.” http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/frankdasilva/earth-2-hub-help-us-create-e2h-app
Ascender is another potentiallyexciting digital magazine exploring futurist thought and innovation through ‘powerful, investigative journalism.’ This is how they describe themselves “The Ascender is a digital magazine using investigative, narrative journalism to explore futuristic thought and innovation across cultural genre. Through examining the innovative trends, people, places and ideas that forge the future, The Ascender will seek to answer the questions: What is the future? What does it hold for us? How can we create a better future for ourselves? Every two weeks, The Ascender will publish an average of five stories with classic magazine feature length (approximately 1800 – 2500 words) tied to our theme. Our goal is to provide futuristic insight with evocative, immersive stories in a sleek, efficient form.” http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1628571696/the-ascender-a-magazine-of-new-futurism?ref=live
8. Event Announcements
June 11th Apps for Good free Expert Talks and award programme – London
June 15th-16th 2013 – Reader Discount – Global Futures 2045 – International Congress – Lincoln Center, New York City www.gf2045.com
Key topics to be addressed will include Project Avatar, Android robotics, Anthropomorphic telepresence, Neuroscience, Mind theory, Neuroengineering, Brain-Computer Interfaces, Neuroprosthetics, Neurotransplantation, Long-range forecasting, Future evolution strategy, Evolutionary transhumanism, Ethics, Bionic prostheses, Cybernetic life-extension, Mid-century Singularity, Neo-humanity, Meta-intelligence, Cybernetic immortality, Consciousness, Spiritual development, Science and Spirituality. The world’s most lifelike robot is to be unveiled at the event. Further down this newsletter you can see an interview with Dmitry Itskov – founder of the GF2045 initiative and event.
Readers can now attend for the discounted rate of $399 (against a full price of $589) for the full conference booking code GF2045WDE. Discounted one day passes are also available. Saturday only tickets are $259 (full price $299) with code: GF2045DAY1. Sunday only tickets are $259 (full price $299) with code GF2045DAY2. You can register here https://www.thinkreg.com/coral/register.do?formId=NF1C3MU86KR6
If you are unable to attend but would like a briefing for your organisation on the key ideas, themes and issues arising from the event please contact Rohit@fastfuture.com
June 22nd London Futurists Seminar – ‘2045: Conscious avatars or wishful thinking?’–14.00-16.00 – Birkbeck College London – Cost £4 in advance/ £5 on the door http://www.meetup.com/London-Futurists/events/117117642/
June 26th-28th 2013 – Reader Discount – World Future Studies Federation (WFSF) Conference – Global Research and Social Innovation – Transforming Futures – Bucharest, Romania –www.wfsfconference.org
This conference will explore a range of futures themes including education, learning and childcare, economics & alternative currencies. culture & society, consciousness & the arts, health & wellbeing, mental health & active aging, youth, activism & social entrepreneurship, health of ecosystems & sustainable futures, social media & human-centred technologies, slow living & voluntary simplicity, leadership, governance & geopolitics and complex, integrative and holistic futures.
The organisers have kindly offered our readers a discount – enabling non-WFSF members to attend at the member rate of 300 Euros against a non-member rate of 350 Euros. To express interest in attending and claim the reduced rate for attendance please email the conference director Rakesh Kapoor, <director.wfsf@GMAIL.COM> with the following subject heading: WFSF Conference Code: “Fast Future Discount Registration”.
9. Reader Offer – 75% Discount on Read Smartly Executive Summaries of Latest Best Selling Business Books ($25 for a 1 year subscription worth $100). One of our readers has kindly offered our readers a 75% discount on a new weekly magazine dedicated to delivering summaries of top business books to busy managers and aspiring entrepreneurs and executives. For details and a free sample visit Read Smartly http://readsmartly.com/ . To take advantage of the 75% enter discount code Charles75
10. Rohit on the Road
In the next few months Rohit will be delivering speeches in Bangkok, Denver, Dubrovnik, Las Vegas, Leeds, London, New York, Oman, Oslo, Stockholm, Sydney, and Vilnius. Topics to be covered include human enhancement, the shadow economy, the future of professional services, the future of HR, transformational forces in business, global drivers of change, how smart businesses create the future, the future technology timeline, the future of travel and tourism, the future of airlines and airports and the future of education. If you would like to arrange a meeting with Rohit in one of these cities or are interested in arranging a presentation or workshop for your organisation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org