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Archive: January 2013

January 30th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in New at Futurist.com | Comments Off

The Future in 50 Years, 100 Years, 200 Years

On January 9, 2013 Discovery Channel Canada broadcast a short interview with me on the show Daily Planet. The questions had to do with developments that I see in 50 years, 100 years, 200 years. I did a lot of thinking prior to the interview about these time frames, and I’ll be summarizing these ideas in blogs to come, perhaps one grand article.

One question was, “what will be a breakthrough similar to the Internet in 50 and 100 and 200 years?” My thoughts began with the idea of the disappearance in 50 years of the boundary between what we now think of as the online and offline (or real) worlds. In 50 years, devices we carry or imbed will have so completely integrated these two worlds that there will only be “the world” and that world will combine the real and the virtual in a seemless and constant way.

For now, link to the 3 minute video interview here. Discovery uses some nice graphics to illustrate our conversation.

Glen Hiemstra Interviewed on Daily Planet, Discovery Channel Canada 2013

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January 30th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 10-3

This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 3 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Ten – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

It seems like we always want what we can’t have. We’re always chasing after something, right? No one has it all. There’s no such thing. The economy is tough. Everyone seems to feel as if they’re walking on egg shells.

People feel insecure about their jobs and with good reason. Apple assembles iPhones in southern China, outsourcing to a company called Foxconn who employs 230,000 workers. The Foxconn campus is referred to as “iPod City.” Do the math. The average manufacturing wage in China has been $2.00 an hour, a small fraction of American wages. That’s why we haven’t produced iPhones here.

But that may be changing. Companies, including Apple are waking up to the fact that issues of quality, higher energy costs, and delivery and systems management delays can eat into the savings from low wages (which are rising in China and other low wage countries anyway). Manufacturing offshore works when products don’t change much, but the most valuable products these days have short life cycles for features and models, necessitating constant change. A movement is beginning to shift some of the lost manufacturing back to the U.S. There will be fewer manufacturing jobs in more automated factories, but this is an important shift.

Still, we are not about to put tens of thousands of workers in rows and rows assembling some tech item. This is probably not your idea of a preferred future anyway. In ten years robotic machines will see, hear, move and manipulate objects at less than the cost of an average car. Robots are as inevitable as airplanes. That’s not so bad thing if you think people shouldn’t be doing repetitive and boring tasks.

But even if some manufacturing returns, we could still face a future where an unacceptable percentage of the American workforce is unemployed. Think about it. Where will the jobs come from?

All of us are going to spend the rest of our lives in the future. We can do nothing to change the past, but we have enormous power to shape the future. Between a hyper-competitive global economy and massive outsourcing, the world has changed. Many people will change jobs five or six times, the new “stint-based” style of working. If we don’t embrace a more innovative future, life could easily become an emotional rollercoaster.

“Transition Towns” are one global development through which people are coping with the changed world. The movement came out of the UK and has grown in countries around the world. People with foresight will find themselves thinking more about self-sufficiency and working cooperatively with nature and with each other. Some of these forward thinkers may look for ways to resolve global sustainability and justice. They might event decide that – if the planet makes it through the next 50 years – it will be because of some kind of Transition Town process.

Foresight tells some of us that the high-consumption, unsustainable road we’re on has a dead-end. We’re looking for the exit off to a low-growth or even zero-growth economy, a way to participatory democracy, away from an affluent society to one that isn’t driven purely by the desire to gain in material possessions. Foresight is looking for a simpler way that focusses on what’s best for cities and towns, rather than on what’s best for a few competing individuals. But foresight suggests we must be willing to live more simply, not in hardship but seeking a good quality of life. If we can do that, we will have built a new economy under the old one.

In the unlikely event that the old economy collapses completely, we would still be able to provide for ourselves from local resources and systems. Frankly, some of us don’t have that much to lose and a lot to gain. It’s happening already. All over the world, groups of people from all walks of life are coming together to search for ways forward. In time, resource scarcity may come looking for us all. Cities around the world know it. They’re in transition, doing all sorts of good things to make themselves great. Community gardens, food co-ops, recycling centers, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture are all part of the transition.

This is not a call for revolution. But, with or without us, the more this trend continues the more likely it is to create a new society within and around our cities. It’s up to you, but in the words of the Rolling Stones; “We can’t always get what we want … But if we try real hard, we might just get what we need.”
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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January 25th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society | Comments Off

Are tiny houses part of the future?

I was alerted today by Sightline Daily to a really interesting article on how people are raising kids in very tiny houses, like 350-450 square feet. Check it out. When the people doing this say they never talk about money any more because it isn’t an issue, that has some appeal. Not for everyone, but I think a likely mini-trend of the future – mini houses a mini-trend.

www.futurist.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/tiny-houses.jpg

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January 25th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 10-2

This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 2 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Ten – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Yes, you are even if you haven’t seen it that way but it’s already shaping your values and how you know yourself. In a way, it’s not a new phenomenon. Every generation has had to define themselves but your quest for meaning is alive and well. Your sense of responsibility is impressive. You’re volunteering through the Youth Volunteer Corps and making a big difference at the food bank one day and at the homeless shelter the next. And you do that because you believe deeply in the power of individuals and collective action.

Look out your window. What do you see? If you don’t see a new day dawning, you should because it is happening. The future needs you. This is important. Don’t miss this. Crisis means opportunity. Conflicts, disasters and culture shocks are all showing us what needs to be done differently in order to achieve a better future. Cities must focus not only on what went wrong in the past but also on what needs to be happen in the future. We must undergo a revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society and you’re going to make that happen.

Of all of the people on our planet, it’s farmers who have always understood the importance of sustainability. You are the hope for our future and farming is something to believe in. The future is bright for American farmers. The thought of America becoming a land of many farmers once again is quite realistic and could bring back reverence for the land. Agriculture and gardening is back in the public consciousness.

Look again at what is happening in Detroit, where agriculture is considered to be a part of the future. That’s right farming right in the middle of the city that was once the industrial mecca of the age. Don’t think of farming with tractors. That’s old school. Think hydroponics; growing vegetables in water not soil), aeroponics air only growing systems and raising plants and fish in integrated systems. These new growing technologies compress space. They can grow very dense crops in much less space than it takes for tillage farming. No tractors and heavy, carbon producing gas guzzlers. How cool is that?

Think about it. It cost $30 Million to build 300-acre pods, a large scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise contained within city limits. This project could bring profits and jobs back to a city that was once on a slippery slope to a near death experience.

Farming might not be for you. But with the average farmer getting close to retirement, depleted resources, hunger and economic failure make the next generation of farming vital. It makes what’s happening in Detroit look pretty good: Locally available, affordable, healthy food.

What’s more, city farms could eventually occupy many of the 40 square miles of empty Detroit land laid bare through the aggressive and arguably necessary demolition of abandoned and dangerous buildings. You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Detroit is embracing an alternative future. It’s supply and demand capitalism all over again. Even the American Institute of Architects studied the city’s options only to state, not that the city needs more high rises and highways but that Detroit is particularly well suited to become a pioneer in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.

The way we have lived and done development is considered to be unsustainable. This crisis is an opportunity. Local farming may or may not be an option for you but for sustainability it beats industrial agriculture, powered by oil, phosphorus, nitrogen and water. New farming maximizes the productivity of limited acreage with far less fertilizers and fuel. The new generation of farmers is leading the way to a healthier, stronger and more prosperous global food system. These farmers are leaders for a sustainable future. The choice is up to you.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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January 24th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Science & Tech | Comments Off

Quantum Leaps in Digital Storage

Within the last 24-hours two rather amazing announcements have been made about proof of concept breakthroughs in the future of digital data storage. First, MIT announced a successful experiment with molecular storage using a “supramolecule” consisting of graphene (a substance we are going to be hearing more and more about in new materials) attached to zinc atoms. The resulting structure is made of molecules one nanometer in size, and capable of storing a terabyte of data per square inch, a 1000-times leap above today’s performance.

Graphene fragments attached to zinc atoms. Graphic by Christine Daniloff, MIT

At the same time, researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute announced success in using DNA to store digital data. In their approach, artificially created DNA has been programed to store data ranging from an mp3 of the Martin Luther King “Dream” speech, to jpeg photos, to a pdf of the Watson and Crick original paper on DNA, and then these kind of data have been successfully decoded from the DNA. The DNA with this material encoded looks like a bit of dust, say the researchers. Since, as the researchers point out, DNA is known to last in good form for thousands of years, this approach may provide a remarkably stable form of data storage, requiring no power, and only requiring a machine that can read DNA to decode, a technology that is likely to exist so long as humans do. DNA can also store huge amounts of data – a cup of DNA could store 100 million hours of high definition video.

The amount of data in the world in increasing rapidly, and people want and need ready access. Plus, the challenge of storing digital information for a long time is one that has not been solved yet and needs an urgent solution. Perhaps in these experiments we see pathways to the future of data storage.

Both developments were published the in Journal Nature; the links here are to primary announcement sources.

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