The Gupta Option 2019 – Superstruct field report from the DCAR of the future

May 18, 2009

Vinay Gupta just forwarded us this lovely report from the future of the DCAR, produced as part of the brilliant Superstruct online futuring game (curated by the Institute for the Future, by the way, whose latest 10 year forecast we have been profiling here).

This is a wonderful piece of future theatre, synthesizing issues of electronic democracy, internally displaced peoples, state failure, and global pandemics.  Scenario planning exercises should all be this fun.

Thanks Vinay!


IFTF 10 year forecast: Civil Society, New Commons

May 5, 2009

newcommons

We continue our series reviewing key themes from The Institute for the Future’s latest 10 year forecast.  In this post, Civil Society: New Commons

The next theme we will be reviewing from the IFTF’s new 10 year forecast is that of culture.  The IFTF writes,

Even as our natural commons seem on the verge of collapse, a host of new commons offer an alternative look at capitalism: a new set of principles for organizing resources to meet the needs of human society in the 21st century.  Geographically agnostic, digitally supported, new commons are emerging as institutional forms that may well provide the resilience necessary for adapting our rapidly changing ecologies.

The IFTF goes on.  “New commons are shared resources that are managed from the bottom up to create new platforms for generating wealth and value – in the spaces between private and public, social and economic, digital and physical.”

Detailed topics include:

  • Identity commons: identity commons provide the tools for individuals to manage their online identities as a publicly accessible but privately maintained resource – freeing personal virtual identities from private Web sites.
  • Learning commons: learning commons generate sustainable resources, such as open-source curricula, open academic journals, and open databases – in response to failing public and private institutions.
  • Money commons: money commons pool financial resources using peer-to-peer strategies as alternative to traditional, more constrained financial instruments.
  • Infrastructure commons: peer-to-peer structures combine with new and old technologies to provide infrastructures that are communally shared and collectively managed.
  • Urban commons: urban commons layer information, media, and networks on the built environment to create new collectively maintained urban civic and cultural spaces.
  • Policy commons: policy commons leverage tools for electronic democracy as well as open-source social solutions platforms to provide richer policy discussions – and options.
  • Food commons: locally supported food production systems focus on biodiversity and genetic variability as a means of fostering sustainable food webs.
  • Biocommons: shared repositories of bio-information, from open pharmacy platforms to genetic genealogy and ethnobotanical databases, provide alternatives to patenting and privatisation of basic forms of life.
  • Health commons: health commons leverage the collective value of health and health care – from health and wellness “mobs” to bottom-up databases of treatment outcomes – to reinvigorate the global health infrastructure.

The Forecasts also includes two examples; Children’s Health Commons and Open Health.  The latter is quite interesting.

Open health is a paradigm shift in the global health economy, drawing on open innovation platforms, new health commons, and new forms of cross-institutional cooperation to create new health strategies and better outcomes at less expense.

From an HFP perspective the latter is particularly interesting.  Concepts such as the “Food commons” and “Infrastructure commons” seem somewhat rosy-eyed and overly optimistic.  Then we reflect on the very real and very “commons”, open sourced nature of projects such as the Appropedia, an open-source wiki for sustainable and appropriate technologies in development.  Appropedia is bottom-up, open sourced, and indeed a smashing example of “Infrastructure commons”.

Might other nascent examples of concepts in this theme already be found amongst us?  Might this not be so rosy-eyed after all?

Next in the series, Politics: Open Source Warfare.


IFTF 10 year forecast: Economics, Islamic Influence

April 30, 2009

economics_islamWe continue our series reviewing key themes from The Institute for the Future’s latest 10 year forecast.  In this post, Economics: Islamic Influence

The Forecast writes, “financial innovation creates new financial instruments – new kinds of mortgages, bonds, insurance, or even currencies, for example – as well as new kinds of capital.”

One in five people in the world is Muslim. Following the laws of Islam, Muslims eschew interest and avoid risk. But Muslim societies are entering into a global economy through new financial products and instruments – sukuk and takaful – that are designed to provide economic opportunities to Muslims in keeping with their faith. For a world in which many financial instruments have recently proven excessively risky, these products may also point to reforms that reach well beyond the Muslim world – and suggest new strategies for economic development worldwide.

The summary goes on to explore the following aspects of financial innovation:

  1. Islamic finance: innovation in Islamic financial instruments opens the global economy to the Muslim population – and also models possible financial reforms for non-Muslim investors.
  2. Alternative currencies: in online worlds as well as local communities, people experiment with leveraging alternative currencies to generate new wealth – and new exchanges with official currencies.
  3. Health as wealth: health becomes an investment and risk-management strategy for boomers as they strive to manage financial uncertainty and diminished assets.
  4. Health credits trading markets: personal health investments formalised and traded like personal carbon credits as people leverage health as a social good.

HFP has already seen examples of alternative currencies in play in local Transition Town economies.  The concept of health credits, combined with more stable fiscal influence, is a compelling alternative to current currency markets.

Next in the series we review,”Culture: New Commons.”


Special series on the Institute for the Future’s new 10 year forecast

April 24, 2009

The Institute for the Future is one of the oldest and best futures think tanks around.  They recently published their “10 year forecast“, which integrates a variety of key trends and drivers into a beautiful framework.

From the executive summary:

As we look out from 2008 over the next decade, we see a planet in which the ecologies of life are dissolving before our eyes.  Their constituents are disappearing, or migrating, reconstituting themselves anew.  We see this process mimicked in our own social and institutional systems, as the familiar forms in our landscape also begin to dissolve – to be replaced by something that may be hard to recognize if we look for well-known structure and recognizable boundaries.  This year’s forecasts point us beyond these shifting structures to what may be the emerging life forms.

The forecast touches on a variety of important themes and trends.  Among the themes are:

  1. New Diasporas
  2. Financial Innovation
  3. New Commons
  4. Open-Source Warfare
  5. Food Webs
  6. The Blue Economy
  7. Innovation: Enabled!
  8. Pervasive Eco-Monitoring
  9. Neuro-Futures

    Heady, powerful, and innovative stuff with profound consequences for humanity in general, and humanitarianism in particular.  

    We will be excerpting a trend per day for the following few days here on the HFP blog, giving time for adequate digestion of each one.  We hope you enjoy this series of posts and, as always, look forward to your comments on and off the blog.


    Kim Stanley Robinson on valuing the future to avoid catastrophic collapse

    March 31, 2009

    future

    “Am I saying that capitalism is going to have to change or else we will have an environmental catastrophe? Yes, I am.”

    Author Kim Stanley Robinson argues here that capitalism is a “multi-generational Ponzi scheme” that is ruining the planet and has to change if human civilization is to survive.  

    Taking a futures perspective, Robinson writes, “the main reason I believe capitalism is not up to the challenge is that it improperly and systemically undervalues the future.”  On the longer scale, resources (including carbon) are underpriced, causing us to charge less for them than what they cost (an argument presented well by Buckminster Fuller, who calculated the true cost of oil based on the time of production at over a billion dollars per barrel).  “When this is done deliberately to kill off an economic competitor,” he writes, “it’s called predatory dumping; you could say that the victims of our predation are the generations to come, which are at a decided disadvantage in any competition with the present.”

    …the promise of capitalism was always that of class mobility—the idea that a working-class family could bootstrap their children into the middle class. With the right policies, over time, the whole world could do the same. There’s a problem with this, though. For everyone on Earth to live at Western levels of consumption, we would need two or three Earths. Looking at it this way, capitalism has become a kind of multigenerational Ponzi scheme, in which future generations are left holding the empty bag.

    You could say we are that moment now. 

    Robinson argues that instead of trying to produce a “pyramid of wealth”, we should aim for a more broad-based economy of productivity that reduces inequality and accurately prices the cost of materials based on their unavailability to future generations.

    Believe in science.”

    Robinson’s first recommendation for change include actually believing, and valuing, what our scientists are telling us.  

    “We need to trust our science. We do this every time we fly in a jet or rush to the doctor in hope of relief from illness…  Science is telling us that if we keep living the way we do, we will trigger an unstoppable and irreversible climate change that may de-ice the planet and acidify the oceans, causing mass extinction.

    His main point is that the we are talking about the end of the world here.  There can be nothing more serious.

    “It took tens of millions of years for Earth to recover from previous mass extinctions,” he argues, and despite our technological power and ever increasing intelligence, we are rapidly approaching the point where human society could be destroyed by climate change.  We need to start acting like it.

    Seeing in a new way

    Robinson’s point is well presented.  He concludes with a firmly futures-oriented question.  “Does the word postcapitalism look odd to you? It should, because you hardly ever see it. We have a blank spot in our vision of the future.”  This is the core message of scenario planning and futures work.  You can’t see the future because you don’t want to see it; your beliefs and morals prohibit you from seeing what you don’t want to see, leaving your surprised and disturbed when things don’t go the way you expect.

    Choosing not to study a successor system to capitalism is an example of another kind of denial…  We have persistently ignored and devalued the future—as if our actions are not creating that future for our children, as if things never change. But everything evolves. With a catastrophe bearing down on us, we need to evolve at nearly revolutionary speed. So some study of what could improve and replace our society’s current structure and systems is in order. If we don’t take such steps, the consequences will be intolerable. On the other hand, successfully dealing with this situation could lead to a sustainable civilization that would be truly exciting in its human potential.

    Well said KSR.  The future is in our hands, but only if we look beyond what we want to see, acknowledge that we are creating our own grave, and that in order to survive we must change the system; belief systems, social systems, economic systems, and organisational systems.  Otherwise we are well and truly doomed.

    Full article here.


    Beddington: World faces perfect storm in 2030

    March 25, 2009

    In a statement which has already gotten much press elsewhere, the UK’s chief scientist Prof. John Beddington suggests we face a “perfect storm”of crisis drivers by 2030.

    The Guardian reports, 

    A “perfect storm” of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions, the UK government’s chief scientist will warn tomorrow.

    “We head into a perfect storm in 2030, because all of these things are operating on the same time frame,” Beddington told the Guardian.

    “If we don’t address this, we can expect major destabilisation, an increase in rioting and potentially significant problems with international migration, as people move out to avoid food and water shortages,” he added.

    It is music to our ears to hear such well placed politicians and scientists reflecting the realities of tomorrow’s complex, interlinked and massively vulnerable world.

     


    Bruce Sterling (and others) on trends in 2009 (and beyond)

    January 8, 2009

    One of HFP’s favourite future thinkers and design critic Bruce Sterling is hosting a two week long discussion about global change in 2009 that has several relevant threads for HFP stakeholders and collaborators.

    We will be pulling out a few quotes from this rather free form and irreverent conversation as relevant, possibly discussing them here in the future.   In the mean time, please enjoy some of the more interesting excerpts below, organized by relevant themes for humanitarian workers and disaster strategists.

    On rapid change and our ability to forecast them:

    When you can’t imagine how things are going to change, that doesn’t mean that nothing will change. It means that things will change in ways that are unimaginable.

    On specialization and change:

    …systems over-adapted to an artificial stability can’t keep up.

    On ambiguity and change:

    … abstractions and analogies aren’t as helpful when you’re into new territory without a map. And I dn’t think we’re talking about “mere credit collapse” – that’s just one piece of an entire complex unraveling.

    On technology and urbanism:

    Let’s just predict that in 2009 we’re gonna see a whole lot of contemporary urbanism going on. Digital cities. Cities There For You to Use. Software for cities. Googleable cities. Cities with green power campaigns. Location-aware cities. Urban co-ops. “Informal housing.”
    “Architecture fiction.” The ruins of the unsustainable as the new frontier.

    More to come in the future as the conversation unfolds. Track the conversation live here


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