ABC News: Interview on Wikileaks and the future

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Yesterday I did an interview on ABC News about Wikileaks and its implications.

A few of the points I discuss are:

* The extraordinary social polarization emerging from the Wikileaks debate

* How many people feel strongly enough about the issues to provide support to the cyber-attacks defending Wikileaks, a first for hacker attacks

* The existing long-term trends to transparency have finally crystallized in Wikileaks and the political and social response of today

* Wikileaks cannot be closed down and new platforms for distribution will emerge

* This broad dissemination of information is a reality that will not be reversed

I will write in more detail about the broad implications of Wikileaks soon.

Future Minds: the map of how screen culture is changing how we think

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My colleague Richard Watson, building on the success of his book Future Files, has now launched Future Minds, which explores how screen culture is changing the way we think today, and how it will shape our future.

When I read the Contents and Overture to Future Minds, my first thought was that Richard and I should organize a public debate. In contrast to Richard’s tone of caution I think there are immense opportunities in having our brains shaped by digital culture (though certainly also things to be wary of).

Here is the map that Richard has created to acccompany the book. I saw early drafts of this as long as a year ago, so this has definitely not been cribbed from other recent maps with a similar look and feel.

FutureMindsMap.jpg

Click on map to view as full-size pdf

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Why Crowdsourcing is the future of EVERYTHING (including 12 key areas (with just 3 exceptions))

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The theme of Future of Crowdsourcing Summit, coming up soon in San Francisco and Sydney, is how crowdsourcing (applying the minds of many) is the future of everything.

It’s a big claim, though to be frank I can’t think of many things it’s not the future of. Anything of human creation, which is most of what we know, has in some ways a crowdsourced future. There are probably three categories of things that will NOT be fundamentally shaped by crowdsourcing:

* Things in our environment that humans don’t impact (possibly volcanic activity and asteroid impact, though even those might not be immune)

* Individual creativity (important but historically overrated to an extraordinary degree)

* Aspects of our humanity that are intrinsic and we do not shape (sex (perhaps) and actually not much else given our increasing powers over our genetic destiny)

Let’s look at some of the things that crowdsourcing most definitely will shape:

Work. Unquestionably work of all kinds is being rapidly distributed across organizational and national boundaries and increasingly broken down into components with structures suitable for crowds to address. The nature of work for many individuals is likely to change dramatically in coming decades.

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Is our propensity for social media part of our design – so humans are stepping stones to the creation of a global brain?

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Back when I wrote Living Networks in 2002 the idea that we were all part of a global brain was hardly mainstream, though a community of people were actively engaged with the idea.

Today the idea of the global brain seems to be very much alive. I received a tremendous response when I recently resurrected the buried introduction to Living Networks in which I described how connectivity was literally creating a new lifeform. That helped me discover Tiffany Shlain’s forthcoming film Connected which describes the implications of a nascent global brain.

Now Robert Wright, to me best known as author of the fabulous book Nonzero, has written a couple of articles on the global brain in the New York Times – the public response to the first one meriting another column. These are rich philosophical discussions, delving into some of the many issues that we are in fact all beginning to engage with.

In the first column titled Building One Big Brain, beginning by commenting on Kevin Kelly’s forthcoming book What Technology Wants, Wright writes:

I personally don’t think it’s outlandish to talk about us being, increasingly, neurons in a giant superorganism; certainly an observer from outer space, watching the emergence of the Internet, could be excused for looking at us that way.

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We are as gods – the cycle swings back to techno-optimism and neo-psychedelia

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The opening words of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 were: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

Indeed, the late 1960s were a time of vast optimism for many, based not just on the belief that ancient social strictures could be thrown off, but also that by use of new technologies we could liberate ourselves. The 1970s and then 1980s disabused people of the notion that revolution had truly arrived, as so little of the potential seen in the full flowering of new ideas seemed to have come to pass.

Then in the 1990s there was a smaller renaissance of techno-optimism, I think best captured in Douglas Rushkoff’s book Cyberia (now fully downloadable), which talked of designer reality and technoshamanism. By then Timothy Leary had reinvented himself as a digital apostle, in Chaos and Cyberculture (the full text is here though it doesn’t do justice to what is a highly visual book) describing how computers and connectivity were now the tools of enlightenment.

Today, after a decade of financial greed and excesses analogous to the 1980s, techno-optimism and neo-psychedelia are coming back with a vengeance. A strong indicator is the forthcoming documentary Turning into Gods by Jason Silva – the trailer is below.

TURNING INTO GODS – ‘Concept Teaser’ from jason silva on Vimeo.

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Trend Blend: 4 Infographics showing the major global trends

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At the end of every year media call on futurists to ask them what to expect in coming years, reflecting the appetite from their audiences for future thinking. One of the best ways to feed this desire is with infographics, distilling ideas into an accessible visual representation.

For the last four years a Trend Blend has been produced to close out the year. Each year this has been driven by Richard Watson of NowandNext, with myself and Future Exploration Network participating in the creation of the first three of these.

Below is a compilation of the four Trend Blends. You will see some themes recurring, and other fresh trends emerging over the years. All are intended to be fun and provocative, used both for general entertainment and sometimes for stimulating new thinking in the course of more serious futures and strategy work.

Click on the maps to see the detailed versions.


Trend Blend 2007+ map
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Population growth, urbanization, and the future of regional centers

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On the weekend Australia’s freshly minted Prime Minister Julia Gillard said “I don’t believe in a big Australia,” in an about face from her predecessor Kevin Rudd’s vision of strong population growth for the country.

As a futurist I have been increasingly drawn into this discussion, given that immigration is one of the most fundamental levers shaping the future of countries. I have discussed the coming rise of gerontocracy, the uncertainties in Australia’s demographic future, and was interviewed on the social impact of population growth in ABC TV’s special series on Australia’s future.

I was interviewed this morning about Gillard’s comment on ABC Ballarat, a town which is the hub of one of the largest regional centers in Australia. Non-urban regions have a particularly interesting perspective on population growth.

On the one hand, in the face of the inexorable global trend of urbanization, regional areas are consistently losing their youth and talent to the allure of cities. Concerted efforts are being made to revitalize the economies and culture of regions.

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Six Radical Visions for the Future of Health (including Self-Serve Pharma)

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Today I gave the closing presentation at the National Medicine Symposium, rounding out deep discussion over several days on how to get better use of medicines. I developed six radical ideas that could be part of the future of health. The intention was to be provocative rather than rigorous, generating new ways of thinking about how healthcare may evolve.

Here are brief summaries of the six visions I presented:

1. Complete data.

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Image source: Toto

The amount of information that we have about the health of an individual could become comprensive, generating terabytes of data from just one person. Bathrooms that monitor not just what we excrete but also analyze our skin color and tone as we look in the mirror are just the beginning. Images and sensors could record everything we eat and all medicines we take, providing far better analysis on the effectiveness of drugs. Odor is a highly data-intensive yet effective way to identify maladies. We could build virtually complete data sets of our health on a second by second basis.

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7:30 Report: the social impact of the population boom and Australia’s future

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Last week the ABC’s 7:30 Report spent the entire week looking at the drivers of Australia’s long-term future. The fourth program, on The social impact of the population boom, was an excellent examination of the diverse issues and perspectives on the implications of rapid population growth, including interviews with a diverse range of politicians, demographers, analysts, and myself as the lone futurist.

It’s well worth seeing the video of the full program along with the transcript on the ABC’s website. A video of the program’s introduction and excerpts from my comments are below.

The program examined Australia’s demographic and social future, however the issues raised are absolutely relevant in all developed countries, where low immigration inevitably means a rapidly aging population, with all of the associated challenges.

Last December I wrote about the driving trends and uncertainties in Australia’s population growth, pointing to the recent dramatic increase in the 2050 forecast for Australia’s population from 28 million to 35 million. This revised forecast had a powerful impact, resulting in heated discussion about the social, ecological, and economic implications of what would be the fastest population growth of any developed country in the world.

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Trend map for 2010 and out to 2050

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For the last few years Richard Watson of NowandNext has created annual trend maps based on city subway maps. This year he has been more ambitious, creating a highly detailed map with five time zones, ranging from 2010-2015 out to 2035-2050.

For the previous three trend maps (shown at the bottom) I collaborated with Richard and we co-branded them with Future Exploration Network, however time pressures this year meant that I haven’t directly contributed to the 2010 map. It is still as rich and glorious as ever – spend some time delving into the trends ahead!

TrendsTimeline2010.jpg

MEGATRENDS OF THE TREND MAP

– Ageing

– Power shift Eastwards

– Globalisation

– Localisation

– Digitalisation

– Personalisation

– Volatility

– Individualism

– Environmental change

– Sustainability

– Debt

– Urbanisation

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