The Consciousness Debate

The AI and consciousness discussion was bound to emerge in the media at some point – and here we are. The debate in my mind is hindered by how we define consciousness. Nonetheless, the debate continues. Watch the video and see where you land on the question. Take the quick poll below to provide your thoughts.

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The Energy Transition

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. These transitions represent the most impactful periods in human history. At the heart of this transition lies renewable energy.

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Digital Resurrection

In a post from 2020 I asked readers if they would digitally reconnect with a lost loved one. I explored advances in affective computing, a field of computer science that is dedicated to building systems that encroach on tasks that require our affective capabilities, our capacity for feelings and emotions. There are systems, for example, that can look at a person’s face and tell whether they are happy, confused, surprised, or delighted. In that post, I shared a video that brings this form of computing to life. On February 6, 2020, a Korean TV show called Meeting You, which focuses on lost family, reunited a mother with her deceased child in the virtual world. The mom was strapped in a VR headset and brought into a massive green room. She was provided touch-sensitive gloves. This allowed her to move around and even interact with her daughter.

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The Future Of Autonomous Driving And Logistics

Uber Freight and Waymo Via just announced a long-term strategic partnership to connect their technologies and deploy autonomous trucks at scale on the Uber Freight network. According to the announcement, carriers that purchase trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver in the future will be able to opt-in to Uber Freight’s marketplace to seamlessly deploy their autonomous assets on the Uber Freight network. This announcement informs two often asked about possible futures: autonomous driving and logistics.

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The Redesign Of Cities

Yesterday I wrote about endless possibilities. In thinking about the topic, I pointed to the  2022 Trends Report launched by the Future Today Institute. My post focused on a number of scenarios that represent possibilities. Here is another example of a possibility from the report – new city designs. Post-Industrial Revolution designs focused on cars and roads versus people, but that focus is likely to change. Future communities will be built around nature, not over it. As described by this article, THE LINE is an example of that change.

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An Endless Possibility Space

In times of significant change, society has followed two distinct paths that represent the Opposing Forces of Innovation. This subway diagram focuses on these two paths: one that enhances human development (green), and one that diminishes it (red). The station stops are the major impacted domains in either direction – but we could add several other stations based on the number of Building Blocks available to society. Click on the visual to expand it.

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That Point In History Where Our Standard Of Living Improved

The third period, in which we all live, is characterized by an unprecedented phenomenon: sustained economic growth. Quality of life went from improving very gradually if at all for the vast majority of human history to improving very, very quickly.

Dylan Matthews – About 200 years ago, the world started getting rich. Why?

That quote comes from a recent article that summarizes the thinking from a book titled How the World Became Rich. As readers of my Blog know, I believe this look at history helps us understand possible futures. In this case, what history tells us about our potential to further advance human development. Another recent book titled The Journey Of Humanity took a similar look at history and attempted to explain this path to standard of living improvement. The earlier book makes it clear – the world has changed considerably in the last 200 years:

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A Reimagining The Future Presentation

I have the pleasure of speaking in various forums about the future. It is a fascinating time to be focused on illuminating the path forward, as the pace, uncertainty, and complexity of our times makes it very challenging. This short three-minute video describes my reimagining the future presentation.

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Challenging The Structures Of The Current Era

With technological change comes social change and a shift in the organizing systems that oversee how our communities are governed

LYDIA KOSTOPOULOS – Emerging Domains of Conflict in the 21st Century

It has long been my belief that the structures supporting this current era have experienced diminished effectiveness and are reaching end of life. When I would share these thoughts back in 2012, I remember getting strange looks – but fast forward ten years and it’s not so strange anymore. That quote above comes from a recent article that identifies five emerging domains of conflict. Taken together with an exploding number of additional factors, it is easy to see why our organizing system is on the verge of dramatic change.

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The Future Of Homes With Alexandra Whittington

Futurist Alexandra Whittington recently joined our efforts to reimagine the future. One of her areas of passion and research is the future of homes. She joined fellow Futurist Kevin Benedict in this episode on the topic. Kevin and Alex addressed the following questions:

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Resisting Change

Historical signals are very instructive, a premise that makes me a big believer in learning from the lessons of history. There are several historical signals that help us understand the drivers of prior transformative periods. The first is a period of great invention. The cumulative effect of invention and knowledge gain has led us to our current modern society. However, it was the early days of the industrial revolution that represent the greatest period of invention. The second signal is convergence. When human action converges with invention, societies transform. A third and critical signal is related to the second, where catalysts throughout history have driven convergence.

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A Focus On “What If?” Versus “What Now?”

A quote from a recent book The Genesis Machine captures the importance of focusing on the future. “If we encourage ‘what if?’ questions today, we can avoid ‘what now?’ questions in the future.” As far as I am concerned, that quote says it all. Rehearsing the future is complex, given the uncertainty and volatility of the environment. Signals emerge from multiple domains, and they converge in ways that shape futures. As we identify signals, ‘what if?’ questions help us explore the possibilities.

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An Impactful Era Is Emerging – And It Becomes More Evident Every Day

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. Every day another series of breakthroughs can be found in the media. This astounding level of innovation speaks to the reality of an energy transition that is at the leading edge of a shift from our current era to the next. It also highlights the role that catalysts play in creating the future. In the energy context, the situation in Ukraine is a catalyst that likely accelerates the transition. For example, Denmark wants to build what it calls ‘Energy Islands’ to free Europe from using Russian fuel. This article describes how these islands were part of Denmark’s transition towards renewable energy, but tensions with Russia (catalyst) both expanded and accelerated their vision.

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Healthspan Is As Important As Lifespan

I like the way Daniel Davis described the prospects of humans living both longer and healthier lives. In his article on the topic of ageing, he points to scientific advancements that are leading to life extension. At the same time, he underscores a key tenet of the journey: healthspan is just as important as lifespan. This lies at the heart of a key future scenario identified as healthy life extension. That one scenario has many thinking about a world where people live much longer, healthier lives. Imagine a key institution like retirement. As much as we believe that our lives have always been segmented into three dominant phases (education, work, retirement), those phases represent a small portion of human history. This is an example of the institutional change that lies ahead. Now imagine a scenario referred to as radical life extension.

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Is The Age Of Fire Over?

In January, I launched a poll that represented a form of rehearsing the future. Rehearsing versus predicting allows us to envision possible futures. Complex adaptive systems contain multiple intersecting building blocks behaving and interacting in ways that make prediction impossible. Although we can’t predict, we can inform our rehearsing with an ever-expanding amount of insight and foresight. In addition, technology now enables us to continuously probe and learn. Learning our way forward through continuous learning loops enables rehearsing. To that end, the poll looked ahead and asked if people believed that artificial intelligence would ultimately be more impactful than fire, electricity, or the Internet. The results were fascinating.

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The History Of Energy Transitions

Energy transitions throughout history have ushered in times of dramatic change. While energy may be the biggest piece of this emerging story, it is part of a bigger narrative in what increasingly looks like a phase transition. That notion of dramatic change is echoed by several prominent sources. For example, Alec Ross in his recent book The Raging 2020s speaks of a world that resembles the 1930s, a growing sentiment that maps to my research on the period beginning in 1920.

As the visual below illustrates, that 1930 date aligns with the energy transition. That period began the long transition towards our current fossil fuel era – representing a major transitory period for the world. This recent article reflects on the history of energy transitions and the drastic change in our sources of energy over the last 200 years.

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Disrupting The Way We Travel

Put bluntly: The infrastructure we have in one era isn’t the infrastructure we’ll need in the next.

Devin Liddell – A futurist predicts the 3 biggest disruptions to how we’ll travel

That quote from a recent article can be applied to anything. For example, the institutions created in one era are not suited for the next. In the article, Futurist Devin Liddell looks at what he believes are the three biggest disruptions coming to travel. He begins by looking at the transformative changes existing infrastructure will struggle to support. First, as mentioned in an earlier post on urbanization, seventy percent of the human population is projected to live in cities by 2050. Second, climate change is poised to wreak havoc on cities, ninety percent of which are coastal. Lastly, the phenomenon of blurring boundaries takes the world of physical infrastructure and merges it with the digital domain.

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Urbanization And The Rise Of Megacities

By 2050 it’s predicted that 68% of the world’s population will live in a major city — that’s 2 in 3 people. According to this recent article, less than 10% of people lived in urban areas in 1800. Today, more than 4.3 billion people or 55% of the world’s population live in urban settings.

This macro-level societal force will converge with forces from other domains to shape an uncertain future. One such domain is technology, where the rise of smart cities will coincide with the rise of megacities. What is a megacity?

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Science Fiction and The Future

Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist, futurist, and popularizer of science. He is a professor of theoretical physics in the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. In a recent article, he makes three predictions about the future. His first is his belief that humanity will become an interplanetary species.

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The Future Of Mobility

In one of my posts from a recent series titled A Journey through the Looking Glass, I focused on the complexity, uncertainty, and volatility of our current environment. Although this dynamic makes it difficult to envision possible futures, the “Future of” question is a growing focus among leaders around the world. While many themes have emerged, mobility is a common topic of discussion. Current conversations are dominated by electric vehicles, batteries, and charging infrastructure. However, the future of mobility is much bigger than our current focus.

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