The past and current state of futurist associations around the world

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Recently, I wrote about the work that Ross Dawson and I have done researching government agencies/ projects around the world that use futures and foresight methods. We have also researched the many futurist associations around the world and have developed a list of associations that:

  1. Are specifically focused on futures and foresight methods
  2. Have a reasonable number of members
  3. Are formally organized
  4. Are currently active

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A sketch of science-fiction author Isaac Asimov by Zakeena.

The best futurists ever: How Isaac Asimov shaped robotics and space exploration and predicted the Internet

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Some futurists try to foresee the future. Others attempt to shape it. Yet prolific science-fiction author and biochemist Isaac Asimov did both.

Asimov not only invented the word “robotics,” his “Three Laws of Robotics,” first written as part of a short story in 1942, have had a massive impact on framing how people think about the development of artificial intelligence and the field of robotics itself.

Outside scientific domains, Asimov’s many writings have also inspired several popular movies including Bicentennial Man and I, Robot. His IMDb page shows contributions to various televisions series throughout his life, as well as a number of posthumous writing credits.

Perhaps most amazing are Asimov’s many accurate predictions on the Internet and what the world would look like in this decade. Several were in made a famous article published in The New York Times in 1964, which envisioned life in 2014.

Below are some of Isaac Asimov’s most accurate predictions.
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It is time to share more of myself

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I have recently substantially changed my activities so I am far more focused.

I have for too long had too many ventures. I desperately needed to limit the scope of what I was doing, which I have done. (More on that in another blog post soon.)

Focus on the future

This allows me to focus on being the futurist, thinking and communicating in multiple formats about the future and what we need to do now to create the future we want.

It also gives me that modicum of space to come back to the path of self-discovery that is at the heart of all our lives.
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Zen and the Art of Creating the Future

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I have been deeply interested in Zen since my late teens. When I moved to Japan in my late 20s, ultimately spending 3 ½ years there, the reasons included my fascination with Zen.

Soon after I arrived in Tokyo I found a Zen master, Nishijima-Sensei, who held weekly meditation sessions followed by lectures in English on Shobogenzo, the foundation text of Soto Zen.

Later I lived for a year in his Zen Dojo, commuting to my day job as a financial journalist, following the center’s principles of meditating twice a day and doing the daily chores that sustained the community, and taking the Soto Zen Buddhist precepts.

This time helped me resolve one of the issues I had grappled with since I had entered the workforce. Zen teaches us that the only thing that exists is the present. Yet if there is only the present, how and why should we work in the present to create the outcomes we desire in the future?

The answer is simple, though it took a long time for me to truly understand it.
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List of the world’s top female futurists (Update #3)

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[UPDATE: January 2018: We have added 9 additional futurists to the list for a total of 167. Thank you for your help building out the list!]

I find I am frequently asked where all the female futurists are. The discussion on why the profession of futurist appears to be so male-dominated has grown in recent years.

I know many outstanding female futurists, so whenever I am asked I point to a range of exceptional futurists to show that there are indeed many women in the field. However it is true that many are not as well known as they should be.

As such I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the world’s top female futurists, for those who are looking for diversity in their insights into the future. The following list, compiled with the help of my team member Vanessa Cartwright, provides a brief profile of 167 fabulous female futurists [up from 78 in the original list of September 2015, 143 in the update of November 2015, and 158 in the February 2017 revision].
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About getting predictions wrong as a futurist (and how to create the future you want)

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Over the years I have created a lot of content – books, reports, visual frameworks and far more – that has been very widely seen. From all this undoubtedly the one piece that has been the most visible globally is my Newspaper Extinction Timeline launched in October 2010, that predicted for each country in which year newspapers in their then-current form would become “insignificant”.

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Coverage in over 100 major publications from more than 30 countries helped to garner many, many millions of views, attract critics galore, and generate substantial debate.
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Just launched: The Commonwealth Bank jobs and skills of the future report

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The future of work has been a central theme of my work for many years. Work sits at the very center of society, the economy, and our individual and collective identities. It may well be the domain that is most disrupted by technological and social change in coming years. And education is at the heart of how we can make these shifts as positive as possible.

As such I was delighted to be commissioned by Commonwealth Bank to create a report in collaboration with their team: The Commonwealth Bank jobs and skills of the future report (12.4MB), to share useful insights for individuals, families and organisations what we can do today to shape a positive future of work for all Australians.

The report has been launched this morning and can be downloaded here (12.4MB).
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The evidence is in: we are all born to be futurists

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I believe that we all need to be our own futurists: in a rapidly changing world we need the skills and capabilities to think effectively about the future so we can act better today.

Perhaps humans are all in fact born to engage deeply in the future, it is simply a capacity we need to develop further.

Renowned positive psychology professor Martin Seligman, in a recent New York Times article prefacing his forthcoming book Homo Prospectus, says humans are intrinsically focused on the future.
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How to use a futurist to create value: shifting executive thinking

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Liz Alexander of Leading Thought has recently published an interesting free ebook titled How to Use a Futurist, which compiles examples of how 24 futurists have created value for clients.

This was my contribution to the ebook (5MB pdf):
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8 key insights into the Future of News: Making media relevant to a 21st century audience

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The news industry is undergoing radical transformation. It is also at the forefront of 21st century innovation. The convenience and hype around live video recording, social media, and a variety of new platforms and interfaces are helping ordinary people to become not only consumers of news, but also creators of news. What does this mean for the future of the news industry?

Leading futurist Ross Dawson gave some important insights on “Creating the Future of News” in his opening keynote to the 2015 International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress. Despite the challenges facing traditional printed news, Dawson pointed to our increasing demand for information. “Humans have an insatiable appetite for news and media, and that will continue to grow,” Dawson told the New York congress attendees. “News is exceptionally important for the future of individuals, for the future of companies, and for the future of humanity.”

Here are eight key insights into the future of news, drawn from Dawson’s talk at the INMA congress.

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1. Every organization needs to develop their media capabilities

We all thrive on the flow of news. The relationships between organizations and their customers are no exception. Today, “every organization is a media company,” Dawson observed. Consequently, organizations across diverse industries need to harness media capabilities. This involves creating an environment in which media skills can be developed and readily tapped. In fact, in the 21st century, most media is created for—and created by—everyone. The popularity of Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and many other platforms is turning individuals into news creators in widespread contexts.

2. News must be immediate, direct, and relevant

The decline of print media is becoming a hard fact in many parts of the world. Dawson is well known for his Newspaper Extinction Timeline that he created in 2010. Although the futurist believes predictions in general are unreliable, he created the Timeline to “wake up” people who were falling behind in the world of modern media.

The reality is, most people now expect news to be instantaneous. Recording functions on devices such as mobile phones and tablets mean that anything anywhere can be recorded and become part of the news. Open source intelligence is changing the news landscape as never before. As a result, timeliness and direct reporting are ever more important.

Relevance is also key. Technology is making it easier to customize news for audiences and individuals. Dawson showed how the social value of news flows into the industry value of news, with direct implications for the revenue of news organizations.

3. Boundaries are there to be transcended

Organizations must push the traditional boundaries of media if they are to survive in the competitive 21st century climate. In his keynote Dawson quoted Professor James Carse, the author of the influential book Finite and Infinite Games, saying: “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”

Dawson told the INMA audience that “[the concept of] journalism is a boundary which we need to transcend.” He cited recent developments in automated journalism as an example of this transcendence.

4. Engaging people’s senses and emotions is key

Visualization will be increasingly important to the future of news, as will interactive user experiences. Infographics, moving 3D charts and multi-format news are already on the rise. Media labs are now using emotion sensors to detect people’s reactions to interactive media. The proliferation of interfaces from smartphones to wearables to virtual reality is seeing new experiences such as Facebook’s immersive Oculus Rift headset, Microsoft’s HoloLens holographic computer, and Magic Leap’s 3D computer-generated imagery.

Applying new user experiences to create interactive news media has significant potential. As Dawson noted, the total global crowdfunding raised for film, theater and music was 100 times greater than the amount for stand-alone journalistic pursuits. This suggests the value people place on exciting, immersive experiences.

5. Organizations need intelligent platform strategies

The flow of news into the future will require platform expansion in order to create the multi-channel news and multi-party interactions appreciated by consumers. Consequently, organizations will need to build a structured method to understand how platforms develop relative to each other. Game theory can be applied to examine the trade-offs and contingencies of choosing particular platforms.

Another solution news organizations could consider is building their own platforms. With the right tools and expertise, this can create unique and compelling offers to attract users.

6. Inviting active participation reaps rewards

Nowadays, we are no longer mere recipients of media. We are participating in media. In some countries, people already spend more time on social media than on accessing formal news sources. News is mobile, and over the next five years, three billion more people will have access to smartphones and the Internet. In this context, news organizations need to consider the many benefits of inviting users to participate in news creation.

News organizations must understand that relying on their media professionals alone will no longer be sufficient. According to Dawson, successful companies will harness the power of crowds and automation to add value to their products and services. In his book Getting Results from Crowds, the futurist listed 12 applications of crowdsourcing in news, from iReport for reporting to Storify for story compilation to Cell Journalist (now ScribbleLive) for video. Dawson believes that organizations who pay their contributors—including the crowd—will attract a greater proportion of talented people than their competitors.

7. Aggregation is critical to entice subscribers

It seems logical that people are more likely to buy a subscription to a news source if it brings together most of the news that interests them. News aggregation is therefore critical to collating the types of individual, local, national and global news that appeal to an organization’s target audience. Furthermore, subscriber memberships will need to evolve to make members feel part of a community, with shared values.

8. Value creation flows between individuals, communities, and ecosystems

“True community is connection,” Dawson told the INMA audience. In line with this mantra, many newspapers aim to bring their readers together. Some, like The Guardian, even extend this to creating their own dating websites. Regardless of the method, the fact remains that in an open world, value creation occurs most beyond the organization, across ecosystems. The news organizations of the future will not simply create value for their participants, they will encourage them to create value in their own ecosystems. This cycle is crucial to the flow of innovation that media companies can mobilize to create an exciting and adaptive future.