Russ Volckmann

Top Ten Forecasts for 2009 and Beyond, FUTURIST/topTen.htm

futurist coverEach year since 1985, the editors of THE FUTURISThave selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine to go into our annual Outlook report. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, and the end of the Cold War.

Here are the editors’ top 10 forecasts from Outlook 2009:

1. Everything you say and do will be recorded by 2030. By the late 2010s, ubiquitous, unseen nanodevices will provide seamless communication and surveillance among all people everywhere. Humans will have nanoimplants, facilitating interaction in an omnipresent network. Everyone will have a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. Since nano storage capacity is almost limitless, all conversation and activity will be recorded and recoverable. -Gene Stephens, “Cybercrime in the Year 2025,” July-Aug 2008, p. 34

2. Bioviolence will become a greater threat as the technology becomes more accessible. Emerging scientific disciplines (notably genomics, nanotechnology, and other microsciences) could pave the way for a bioattack. Bacteria and viruses could be altered to increase their lethality or to evade antibiotic treatment. Another long-term risk comes from nanopollution fallout from warfare. Nanoparticles could potentially cause new diseases with unusual and difficult-to-treat symptoms, and they will inflict damage far beyond the traditional battlefield, even affecting future generations. -Barry Kellman, “Bioviolence: A Growing Threat,” May-June 2008, p. 25 et seq.; Antonietta M. Gatti and Stefano Montanari, “Nanopollution: The Invisible Fog of Future Wars,” May-June 2008, p. 32

3. The car’s days as king of the road may soon be over. More powerful wireless communication that reduces demand for travel, flying delivery drones to replace trucks, and policies to restrict the number of vehicles owned in each household are among the developments that could thwart the automobile’s historic dominance on the environment and culture. If current trends were to continue, the world would have to make way for a total of 3 billion vehicles on the road by 2025. -Thomas J. Frey, “Disrupting the Automobile’s Future,” Sep-Oct 2008, p. 39 et seq.

4. Careers, and the college majors for preparing for them, are becoming more specialized. An increase in unusual college majors may foretell the growth of unique new career specialties. Instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Other unusual majors that are capturing students’ imaginations: neuroscience and nanotechnology, computer and digital forensics, and comic book art. Scoff not: The market for comic books and graphic novels in the United States has grown 12% since 2006. -World Trends & Forecasts, Sep-Oct 2008, p. 8

5. There may not be world law in the foreseeable future, but the world’s legal systems will be networked. The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a database of local and national laws for more than 50 participating countries, will grow to include more than 100 counties by 2010. The database will lay the groundwork for a more universal understanding of the diversity of laws between nations and will create new opportunities for peace and international partnership. -Joseph N. Pelton, “Toward a Global Rule of Law: A Practical Step Toward World Peace,” Nov-Dec 2007, p. 25

6. Professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it’s acquired. An individual’s professional knowledge is becoming outdated at a much faster rate than ever before. Most professions will require continuous instruction and retraining. Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker. At any given moment, a substantial portion of the labor force will be in job retraining programs. -Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, “Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World, Part Two,” May-June 2008, p 41

7. The race for biomedical and genetic enhancement will-in the twenty-first century-be what the space race was in the previous century. Humanity is ready to pursue biomedical and genetic enhancement, says UCLA professor Gregory Stock, the money is already being invested, but, he says, “We’ll also fret about these things-because we’re human, and it’s what we do.” -Gregory Stock quoted in “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, Living Personally,” Nov-Dec 2007, p. 57

8. Urbanization will hit 60% by 2030. As more of the world’s population lives in cities, rapid development to accommodate them will make existing environmental and socioeconomic problems worse. Epidemics will be more common due to crowded dwelling units and poor sanitation. Global warming may accelerate due to higher carbon dioxide output and loss of carbon-absorbing plants. -Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies, “Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World, Part One,” Mar-Apr 2008, p. 52

9. The Middle East will become more secular while religious influence in China will grow. Popular support for religious government is declining in places like Iraq, according to a University of Michigan study. The researchers report that in 2004 only one-fourth of respondents polled believed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated. By 2007, that proportion was one-third. Separate reports indicate that religion in China will likely increase as an indirect result of economic activity and globalization. -World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2007, p. 10

10. Access to electricity will reach 83% of the world by 2030. Electrification has expanded around the world, from 40% connected in 1970 to 73% in 2000, and may reach 83% of the world’s people by 2030. Electricity is fundamental to raising living standards and access to the world’s products and services. Impoverished areas such as sub-Saharan Africa still have low rates of electrification; for instance, Uganda is just 3.7% electrified. -Andy Hines, “Global Trends in Culture, Infrastructure, and Values,” Sep-Oct 2008, p. 20

All of these forecasts plus dozens more were included in the report that scanned the best writing and research from THE FUTURIST magazine over the course of the previous year. The Society hopes this report, covering developments in business and economics, demography, energy, the environment, health and medicine, resources, society and values, and technology, will assist its readers in preparing for the challenges and opportunities in 2009 and beyond.

The Outlook 2009 report was released as part of the November-December 2008 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine. An individual report can be obtained from the World Future Society for $5 in both print and in PDF. Information on subscriptions can be obtained from the World Future Society, publisher of THE FUTURIST.

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integral world logoTom Murray, “On Joining the Integral Community: My Journey to the First Integral Theory Conference, August 2008,”

Tom Murray provides a noteworthy set of observations about the Integral Theory Conference. I particularly appreciated the following:

“What integral theories create, over and above the particulars of the many disciplines that they try to integrate, are ways of seeing or sense-making, ways of interpreting diverse claims, questions, and methods in relationship with each other. As such integral theories are, for the most part, not things that can be empirically validated. Integral theories point to empirical claims, and members of the integral community engage in empirical research, for which standard empirical methods of validation easily apply. The main claims of integral theory are not empirical; they are more philosophical. Yet, as an emerging (or potential) discipline integral theory is more pragmatic, while still more elusive, than philosophy. It shares many methodological problems with disciplines like political science and cultural theory, which can be seen as disgorging an endless sequence of impossible-to-validate theories (in faddish waves of over-confidence). To move forward with clarity and confidence as a community we need to be able to bracket questions of the “truth” or empirical validity of claims, and evaluate validity in terms of the potential for meaning-generation or sense making. This is a tall order that no discipline has accomplished to date.”

Go to the link above for more.

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liberating voices coverDouglas Schuler. Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.

I became intrigued with Pattern Language when Don Benson called my attention to Chirstopher Alexander’s work and the fact that there are groups meeting to discuss its application to the challenges facing the world today. Here is a book that shows how some people have been thinking about this. In his preface, Shuler introduces us to the idea of pattern language, which originated with the work of architect and urban planner, Christopher Alexander. Shuler states:

“A pattern is a concise discussion of a solution to a problem in some area of focus, which in our case is information and communication for social change. A pattern contains suggestions about how to think about solving the problem and about how to take action to alleviate the problem…A pattern language is an organized collection of patterns that together express a broad coherent response to a large number of related problems.” [x]

He (and the others in this volume) are motivated to apply “nonviolent and just principles to help build a world that works for all…” [xii] The book is “dedicated to a radical orientation in which ordinary people assert their rights, and their responsibilities, as citizens of the world. It is my contention that the collective intelligence of the world’s citizens, built on values, creativity, and courage, is also desperately needed now.” [1] The battle for equality and justice is played out in the arena of communications. (Perhaps this is healthy green.) This involves the three worlds of

(1) The physical and measurable,
(2) Individual and social communication, including interpretation, and
(3) The knowledge created and recreated collectively over time (“theories, disciplines, data, language, policies, institutions, laws, and taboos”). [2-3]

This descriptive and prescriptive approach of pattern language:

“…comprise patterns, and each pattern is an encapsulated, peaceful revolt. Each pattern contains within it a built-in confrontation with a problem, and the application of the pattern is intended to help us overcome the problem and bring us closer to a more humane existence. The problem described in each pattern contains features of the world that we think need changing…The last part of the pattern is the solution, which summarizes the ideas that people are using to confront the problem…A pattern, then, is a form of seed. It contains a reflection of current work and thinking, as well as the vision of a future in which the seeds have sprouted and borne fruit.” [3]

This involves the addition to traditional media ofnew forms, like the Internet, in which people can communicate and foster action related to the critical issues of our era. The impetus for this is the question, “What is the best way to live one’s life?” And to answer this question requires “Some understanding of personal and collective attributes such as environment, interests, talents, resources, opportunities, and aspirations as well as the environment in which one lives and works.” [12]

This more than 600 page volume has a fundamental purpose.

“The most important thing to know about this project (regardless of what a pattern language is exactly and why we adopted its form and structure for our purposes) is that we are trying to bring together a wide range of ideas (the patterns) that we believe can by used by themselves, but particularly in conjunction with each other, in innumerable ways that will be shaped by the people who use them and the situation that they are used in, to help bring forth a world that is more just, equitable and sustainable than the one we live in today.” [18]

The goal is to accomplish something any integrally informed or transdisciplinary explorer would applaud: bring together diverse disciplines and perspectives, “including economics, education, media, public health, and sociology.” The book encourages every individual to participate with the project, because—given the challenges we face—”an improved understanding of”(1) the world ‘out there’, (2) how we think and communicate, (3) what we know about (1) and (2) , as well as what we don’t know, “is required for humanity to make genuine progress.” [32] A pattern language can take all of these into account.

An aspect of what is considered here involves our historic experiences with “rapid transformation from one vast system that affected all facets of daily life to another quite different system.” [43] Citing the work of Immanuel Wallerstein there is “a provocative portfolio of evidence suggesting that capitalism’s days may be numbered as feudalism was before it.” Interesting in light of recent events since the publication of this book.

Their vision for the use of pattern language is about creating a better world “our vision focuses not on a specific end result but on our activities that are designed to move us incrementally closer to a better world.” [44] They wish to support cultures that encourage cooperation and collaborative problem solving. Lest this be seen by any reader as counter to our “survival of the fittest” evolutionary millstone, let me remind us of the work of David Loye on the later work of Darwin that focuses on human evolution and the central role of cooperation, as well as the ground breaking work of Loye’s wife, Riane Eisler, in promoting a partnership model. The authors continue,

“At the most general level, we would like our work here to highlight the positive ways that people are creating nonviolent and nonexploitive trajectories for humankind. We hope that our work will help strengthen the activities that we have identified, encourage more activities like them, and help set up conditions that engender new collaborative actions.” [44]

And to do this, one area they focus on is the advantages of transnational advocacy networks, which reminds me of the P2P network of Michel Bauwens. To deepen this they draw on communication and information as critical variables in generating such networks.

Alexander developed (with others) the concept of pattern language as “a viable approach to characterizing complex ensembles of knoweldge.” [50] Patterns are like principles that have utility and are descriptive of occurences that repeat themselves over time. Certain information is critical to the pattern; this information provides answers to questions about what, why, where, when, who and how information is used. The information is organized in categories of “title, problem, context, discussion, and solution” [50]. Patterns are linked to other patterns and are holistic, hence a relationship with integral approaches: thee show the linkages among all four quadrants.

The remainder of the book describes the Liberating Voices project, the patterns identified and its pattern language. It attends to theory, policy, community and organizational building, as well as self representation and projects. They provide 136 patterns related to such topics as

1. Civic Intelligence
2. Health as a Universal Right
3. Collective Decision Making
4. Linguistic Diversity
5. Fair Trade
6. Earth’s Vital Signs
7. Media Literacy
8. Designer Stance
9. Meaningful Maps
10. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
11. Community Currencies
12. Open Access Scholarly publishing
13. Appreciative Collaboration
14. Environmental Impact Remediation
15. Retreat and Reflection

Hopefully I have provided a sufficient foundation to take a look at this work and its potential.