I read and watch a fair number of stories that suppose the Earth is in some kind of apocalypse. Even contemporary futurist thought is rife with societal collapse scenarios. Recently Jamais Cascio wrote a nice critique of these dystopian views. He simply points out that any future that assumes that people will not be resilient and fight back (against aliens, against tyranny, against plague, against climate change when it really bites, etc.) are missing the essential nature of human beings. Worth a read.
Yesterday I had a conversation with John Kenny of the draftFCB Agency. John and I met some time ago when co-presenting to an executive development program. We chatted about the future of marketing and advertising (hey, I’m a huge fan of Madmen). John mentioned that his global firm is moving away from persuasion-based marketing to something that can be called action marketing. That means, do something real, in the actual world, and let viral video do the rest. The example his firm was engaged with blew me away.
There is in Chile and Peru a coastal desert. I’ve been to Lima, which is in that desert. It rains an average of .5 inches a year though the city is next to the sea. The air is quite moist, however, because of the sea. People need clean drinking water, the water is in the air, but it does not fall out. What to do?
The answer came when a technical university, UTEC, needed a marketing campaign. You can read about the project here, but in simple terms what they did was design a highly technical billboard that precipitates and collects water out of the air, and delivers it to tanks built into the structure. Scores of families can obtain weekly drinking water simply by turning the tap a the base of the billboard. Wow. That is future thinking.
Thinking about the billions spent on security since 9/11 in America, including the recent revelations about PRISM and other data surveillance activities, I came across these interesting numbers from the Atlantic…
Since 9/11, the Brady Campaign tells us, there have been an estimated 334,168 gun deaths* in the United States, a figure that includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional shooting deaths. The total is 100 times larger than the toll of September 11, 2001.
And the Economist helpfully points out that the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack have been about 1 in 20 million since 9/11.
Our priorities are strange. We will spend a lot to prevent the unlikely, but little to deal with the obvious.
h/t to Digby
Today I searched the surprisingly niche Google topic “how online education improves healthy diets in the futureâ€. I came across several American and UK publications, but very few publications from other places around the globe. One related post I found talks about the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign. Its Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recognizes 54 children as winners who will attend a Kids’ “State Dinnerâ€ at the White House hosted by Mrs. Obama. The group will join The First Lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House kitchen garden. This seems to me like a very inspiring event- kids getting governmental encouragement to eat and cook healthy meals.
I then came across a blog from a Malaysian publication called The Star. The article talks about the importance of starting healthy eating at a young age, and it gives great tips to help parents implement a healthy diet for their children. I posted the article to my social media channels and realized I was surprised that this blog post was from Malaysia. Why? My search results, although unfiltered and open to any information on the internet, oftentimes come up with American, UK, and Canadian publications when I search for trends, innovative ideas and projects for the future. It’s hard to say if this is the internet’s fault, or foreign publications lacking presence online, but it got me thinking of how important it is to keep communication and ideas flowing openly on a global scale, and how it will only disadvantage us if we stick to reading and watching national news and publications.
Cross-posting blogs from different countries is a good thing. It promotes global communication. Here at Futurist.com we get visits from an average of 120 nations a month. We know that this promotes culture sharing, but at the same time know this could be expanded greatly if we could put our site out in multiple languages, or at least set up SEO so that it searches better in other languages and regions. One need only travel internationally once to discover how insulated and isolated we tend to be, despite the reach of the Internet, and so using the net to foster international dialogue is an excellent goal. And most importantly we can do more to promote learning and sharing innovative ideas that cure global issues and inspire new inventions. The world will have 8 billion people before too long, and to make that work will require an ever-increasing level of international learning, cooperation, and innovation, if we are to live in relative comfort and peace.
This is the month when annual summer reading recommendations come out. The other day I was scanning my Kindle homepage and realized that Futurist.com visitors might like to know what I’ve been reading. So here is a list, slightly annotated, that covers the last couple of years.
Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, by Lucas Mann. The story of one season of the Clinton (Iowa) Lumberjacks. While this Seattle Mariner farm team interests me from a sports perspective, the author’s terrific writing and poignant reflections on the losses of small town life, unions, and big business make this one of the best summer reads with lots of implications for the interplay of history and the future.
Transforming History, by William Irwin Thompson. A more recent work of one of the most insightful writers ever, on the subject of the future. I’d lost track of Thompson and it was nice to get reacquainted. His At the Edge of History, Darkness and Scattered Light, and Pacific Shift influence much of my early thinking about futuring.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My education missed this book, and when the recent movie appeared I thought it wise to read it first. It was startling how modern it felt, a commentary on our times, thus for all times.
The Future, by Al Gore. The former VP explores 6 trends shaping the future. No big surprises but a useful book for seeing the bigger picture.
A Serpent’s Tooth and The Longmire series by Craig Johnson. This several book series follows a Wyoming sheriff as he solves crimes and battles personal demons. When you’ve got some time for recreational reading, recommended. Start with the first book in the series though, and read in order as there is an ongoing narrative.
Blowout, by Byron Dorgan and David Hagberg. A thriller about how the powers that be try to delay change in the energy sphere. Not too believable but interesting take by a U.S. Senator.
Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut. Descendants of humans living a million years in the future remember when “big brainedâ€ people ran the show.
Salt, Sugar, Fat, by Michael Moss. An inside look at when and how the big food industry discovered how to use salt, sugar and fat to hit our consumer “bliss pointâ€ and the obesity epidemic really took off.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay, by Suzanne Collins. I wanted to know what the fuss was about as The Hunger Games movie came out, and I had missed the series. While clearly written for the young adult market, the series riveted me with its take on a future world in which people are controlled by an all-powerful state, and the effort to fight back begins. When I saw Donald Sutherland, an actor in the first movie, comment in the DVD extra’s that he thought this would become an important movie series in the early 21st Century I was intrigued. Recent revelations about the security state make it more relevant. Read the books first (and learn what the kids were excited about) then watch the first movie to see how well Jennifer Lawrence captured the main character. And think about the series as an allegory of our time, as Sutherland suggests.
Lord of Mountains, by S.M. Stirling. This the latest in the sprawling series, novels of the change, in which an unexplained event causes all machines to stop working, and the world is plunged back into medieval technology. Love this series (again, start at the beginning with Dies the Fire), perhaps in part because it is set primarily where I spent all my youth, in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Scenario Planning, by Thomas Chermack. Nice overview of scenario planning approaches and issues.
Winter of the World, by Ken Follett. Always one of my favorite authors, in this second of a three-part “Centuryâ€ series, Follett takes us from World War I to the end of World War II. A master of historical fiction, love his work.
Nexus, by Ramez Naam. This associate of Futurist.com makes his debut as a novelist, and it is a smash, can’t put it down thriller. Implantable nanotech enables brain-to-brain communication, and the international intrigue begins.
Existence, by David Brin. Eagerly awaited new novel by Brin, an alien artifact is found in orbit and suddenly similar artifacts seeded on earth activate – allowing a glimpse into other worlds and confronting Earth with a choice. Captivating. Brin is a master, by the way, of dropping in numerous forecasts of future technology as matter of fact observations on life.
The Creative Fire, by Brenda Cooper. Another associate of Futurist.com and long-time friend starts a new sci-fi series. This is a starship traveling the galaxy heading, it turns out, back home, to a changed world. But the action in this first book is about who controls the destiny of the people on board.
The Social Conquest of Earth, by Edward O. Wilson. Evolution explained by the master.
Tomorrow Now, by Bruce Sterling. I re-read this book recently. Sterling is one of the only must-read authors on the future, whether his fiction or in this case non-fiction. He is the best, period. Want to know what the future holds? Read Sterling. Read all of Sterling, any book.
Abundance, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. A believer in technology solutions to current problems takes us on a tour de force of how and why tech can indeed be the answer.
Infinite Progress, by Byron Reese. I actually read this in hard cover after meeting the Author in February 2013. A surprisingly persuasive case for why the Internet does indeed change everything and why the end of poverty, disease, war and hunger are nearer than you think. Worth consideration.
2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Probably my favorite science fiction writer, as a novelist and a person. Just a great guy. In this book, very highly recommended, humans have spread into the Solar System, living on Mars, moons of Jupiter, and even, as the book opens, on Mercury. To find out how, and how they move around in space, get this book.
Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Suppose that what actually happened was that Galileo was given the telescope by an advanced civilization and enabled to travel to the outer solar system. Learn a bit about the real story in this alternative history.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson. Riviting mysteries, violent, admirable heroin and hero. Wish they would find a way to do the next (American) movie.
Last Days of the Incas, by Kim MacQuarrie
Black Swan, by Bruce Sterling
Third Industrial Revolution, by Jeremy Rifkin
The New Rules of Retail, by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart
In the Garden of the Beasts, by Erik Larson
Storms of My Grandchildren, by James Hansen
Art of the Start, by Guy Kawasaki
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by
Peter F. Drucker
2030, by Albert Brooks
Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky
Fast Forward, by William Antholis and Strobe Talbott