Think 10X, Not 10%

April 21 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

One of my favorite quotes comes from Kurt Yeager who once said: “In periods of profound change the most dangerous thing is to incrementalize yourself into the future.” I was reminded of this quote because although I often speak to businesses about the future of technology, I frequently encounter push back from executives who are mostly interested in identifying ways to incrementally improve their businesses or products. In short, they are looking for improvements in the range of 10%.

I constantly remind them, however, that we are no longer living in an era of linear growth – a 10% improvement might have been sufficient to keep them competitive in the past, but it is no strategy if they desire to be in business in 10 years. To achieve that goal, they must be on the lookout for how 10X improvements will transform their business. (Ray Kurzweil, in this excellent editorial , also emphasizes this point.)

To this end, I recently came across a couple of articles that highlight this point. The first addresses how a number of researchers are looking to increase data storage by “a factor of a hundred.” It is difficult to contemplate how a 100X improvement in data storage might transform education, media, advertising and even health care, but it is imperative that professionals in these fields start thinking along these lines immediately. (cont.)

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Stewart Brand on Cities and Time

April 18 2008 / by cyrusbryan / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9 Hot

As a response to Accel Rose’s post on the future of cities by Stewart Brand, I thought I would pass this along as a supplement. It’s a one-hour presentation on the “City-Planet”, a long-term trend barely noticed by anyone.

According to Brand, “The massive urbanization of the world now going on is changing everything, affecting economics, the environment, and global population—- most of it, in surprising ways, for the better. The more I delve into the subject, the more I find it packed with news which is not being widely reported or thought about.”

This is one of a monthly series of Seminars About Long-term Thinking, given every second Friday in San Francisco, CA, organized by The Long Now Foundation .

Here’s the google video of the Long Now talk:

Stewart Brand: Why squatter cities are a good thing

April 17 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

Futurist Stewart Brand explains that the global rise of squatter cities is a good thing because it enables people to connect with others and gain access to education. He points out that unemployment in squatter cities is generally near zero.

Check out his short and sweet presentation at TED:

Brand projects that the number of people living in squatter cities will grow three-fold to $3 billion over the coming decades. Makes me wonder if these regions will become the new hot-beds of innovation as technology rapidly lifts their inhabitants up the hierarchy of needs, provides cheaper connectivity and better education.

Architecturally Futuristic Museum Planned for Vilnius, Lithuania

April 14 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2011   Rating: 3 Hot

The Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius is about to embark on the construction of a new-age masterpiece. Designed by award-winning British Iraqi deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid, the new Guggenheim Hermitage Museum will be a museum and arts center that houses the St. Petersburg-based State Hermitage Museum and selected Guggenheim collections.

The pre-build research for the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum is slated for completion by 2008 and the building set to open in 2011. Check out the phenomenal photos of the design pictured below the fold.

Other remarkable projects by Zaha Hadid currently underway include the CMA CGM Tower in Marseille, France, the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain, the Kartal Urban Transformation in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Glasgow Transport Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.

Seeing such forward-thinking architecture cropping up in the small post-Soviet Baltic country of Lithuania, with a total population of only about 3.7 million, demonstrates just how high the bar has been set for futuristic architecture around the world. I wonder when such design will make its way into more expensive markets like NYC? (cont.)

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The Social Will to Accelerate

April 09 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 15 Hot

Exponential technology and information are poised to transform the world, but can the human species muster the social will to let that happen?

To date we’ve created amazingly fuel-efficient cars, robust water purifiers, revolutionary stem cell -based therapies, and better, cheaper light bulbs, all of which have met with great social and political resistance, greatly slowing the pace of their spread. This has caused many to scratch their heads in confusion, others to curse up at the sky, and some to chuckle at the naivete of their fellow meme-monkeys.

Take for example Dean Kamen, the Edison of our time who invented compact kidney dialysis, the Segway human transporter and most recently a water purifier that could save upwards of 5 million lives in under-developed nations if widely deployed. Kamen’s innovations have repeatedly encountered social barriers, causing him to proclaim that creating new technology is the easy part.

“I’m disappointed with every project I ever do. Because you work on something for years that you think should take hours. You finally get it done and you think, ‘Now the world’s going to be a better place,’ expressed Kamen in a recent Newsweek article, “Then you find out that as fast as technology moves, people move at the same slow, cautious pace they always did. If anything, people have gotten more cautious, more afraid of change, more skeptical, more cynical.”

Sloth-like technology diffusion is nothing new. The late great Everett Rogers taught us that all technologies except for Interactive Communication Technologies (ICTs) spread at an amazingly slow rate due to cultural barriers. Seasoned futurists all point out a consistent bias in favor of overly ambitious predictions and sternly warn their fellow prognosticators to avoid similar mistakes. And now Kamen has joined the ranks of those with enough experience to back up the notion. (cont.)

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Video: Alvin Toffler, Larry Smarr on Legacy of Arthur C. Clarke

April 03 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 2

“Sometimes I feel like the late Dr Frankenstein,” once said celebrated science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Although he was not being entirely serious, Clarke’s powerful predictions did release a sort of monster – one whose powerful memes penetrated many aspects of society and will continue to spiral out of control far into the future.

In the wake of his passing, Clarke’s predictions have been highlighted for their genius and accuracy. The following video, created for Ovation TV, is a great overview of some of his most exalted predictions, which include inventions like the videophone, email, space shuttles, laptop computers and cloning, and explains how he is “responsible for revolutionizing modern communications.” What follows this overview is commentary by renowned experts informing the weight of Clarke’s predictions.

Alvin Toffler, acclaimed futurist and author of Future Shock, said, “The future is not inevitable, it is made, to a considerable degree by human beings, and chance plays a role. Nevertheless, it is possible to see patterns that others haven’t seen. And I think that is certainly something that Arthur Clarke has done.”

Larry Smarr, Director of the National Centre for Super Computing, remarked the rarity and utility of Clarke’s work by saying, “We have incredible numbers of specialists, but how many people do we have that are synthesizing this knowledge and visioning the future?”

“Clark will emerge as one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century,” added Jeff Greenwald of Wired Magazine – I think it’s safe to say that even among the moderately informed, few would disagree with this statement about Clarke’s legacy.

Teenager Gets Fried in Electro-suit

April 02 2008 / by Cronos / In association with Future
Category: Economics   Year: 2015   Rating: 9

This Future Fiction piece was cross-posted from the blog Future Feeds.

TechnoTraveller, the Tokyo company that was making furor on the stock markets for the last months has recalled all of its 12 million Electro-suits after a teenager was found dead in a Tokyo park. The unfortunate youngster’s solar electro-suit, while powering his laptop, cell phone, iZune and Thermo-sweater malfunctioned and directed all the sun-powered energy to the Thermo-sweater. Built-in feedback systems that should have prevented such an event did not work appropriately and the Thermo-sweater function will from now on be disabled in the product, a TechnoTraveller spokesperson declared in a company press bulletin.

The company’s hot selling item was the driving force behind TechnoTraveller’s dethroning of Google as Wall Street’s darling finding a need for cheap power on the road to fuel all electronic portable devices and warming people in cold climates by using high-efficient solar fuel cells weaved into a suit. TechnoTraveller stocks plummeted by more than 55%. The press bulletin further stated that although the recall will decrease profits and losing the Thermo-sweater feature will impact sales, there is no need for panic by shareholders and the future of solar clothing is still looking bright. The Tokyo coroner performing the autopsy is still trying to establish whether the cause of death was sixth-degree burns or electrocution.

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'Cybertecture' Phenomenon Hitting Dubai in 2010

March 28 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2010   Rating: 7

One of the richest cities in the world, it’s no wonder architectural innovation is blossoming in Dubai. The latest of which is the Pixel Tower – a new-age, champagne-inspired state of the art residential building for the hip and filthy rich. Designed by James Law of James Law Cybertecture International, this 18-story beauty sits on Dubai’s waterfront and is designed specifically with sun exposure and seaside-viewing maximization in mind.

Not only an architectural sight to behold, Pixel Tower is also fully equipped the technology their target clientele is after. With security cameras that can be read from cell phones and PDAs and the ability to control one’s apartment remotely, its first residents will feel light-years ahead of any average young and trendy apartment dweller situated most anywhere else.

Check out more pictures of this architectural phenomenon scheduled for completion in 2010 below the fold. It is indeed, as Law put it, a “forerunner of building towards future living that embodies great design, efficiency, style and technology.”


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Make More Connections to the Future

March 27 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 8

By Jack Uldrich

Cross posted from

I recently finished reading James Burke’s excellent book, “Connections,” in which he explains how a myriad of seemingly unrelated advances in technology helped to create new technologies and how these technologies, in turn, often lead to changes in societal behavior. For anyone interested in the future, I highly recommend reading the book because if it teaches us anything—it is that the future will unfold in unexpected ways.

At the risk of sounding like a nitpicker, I would like to take objection with just one of Burke’s main points and that is his idea that the only way to look at the future is through the past. To this point, I’d offer two quotes from the book. The first is: “Anyways, there is nowhere else to look for the future but in the past” and the second is: “Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.”

In a general way, I agree with the sentiment and that is why I dedicated an entire chapter (“Back to the Future”) in my new book to this idea. (In fact, I am now contemplating writing an entire book on this theme).

Nevertheless, I don’t agree that the past is the only way to study and understand the future. I also believe that science fiction offers an alternative way to think about the future. Among the best thinkers of how new technologies will transform societal behavior are science fiction writers. This is because they are not merely obsessed with technology for technology’s sake, they seek to understand how it will also influence and change people’s thinking and behavior.

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eVolo Looks to the Future of Skyscrapers in 2008 Competition

March 26 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: Beyond   Rating: 12 Hot

Founded by a group of international architects in NYC in 2003, eVolo Architecture aims to set new standards for the future of architecture. Although it claims to act as a forum of discussion for the development of new ideas pertaining to architectural design, it effectively provides a forum for innovation and forward-thinkers to be as creative as they can be, and get a bit of credit for it.

The forward-looking group holds yearly international competitions for innovative architectural design with absolutely no height, shape, or other restrictions (besides being technologically feasible and environmentally responsible). Prizes for the most creative and innovative designs are awarded, incentivising forward-progress and some elegant roadmaps for the future of urban architectural development.

Below we’ve showcased five of the nine 2008 Skyscraper Competition winners’ amazing works of art.


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A Race for Our Future

March 24 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2008   Rating: 11

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-linked from

A few years back, I came across a quote that has really stuck with me: “You can’t incrementalize your way into the future.” With this quote in mind, I’d invite you to read this short article from Popular Mechanics discussing the new X-Prize to create an automobile that achieves 100 miles-per-gallon or more—and can be mass-produced.

What I like about the contest is that it is not trying to “incrementalize” the automobile industry into the future. In other words, the sponsors of the contest are not looking for a crappy 5 or 10 mile improvement in MPG performance from the automotive industry. They are looking for a 4X improvement.

I’m optimistic that the contest will succeed and that within a decade’s time many of us will be able to purchase a safe, stylish and comfortable car that can run more than a 100 miles on a single gallon of fuel. This is because by freeing researchers, scientists, hobbyists and tinkers from the constraints and paradigms that have so far mired the automotive industry in a century of un-innovative thinking; the sponsors have provided inventors a sufficient financial incentive – in the form of a $10 million prize – to approach the issue from a completely fresh perspective.

As an analogy consider the following: If you asked a high jumper to improve his jump by 5 to 10%, he would probably focus only improving his leg strength – so he could jump higher. If, however, you told him the goal was to “jump as high as possible” and that he would be rewarded for reaching the highest level, he would llikely look at a whole new set of tools with which to achieve the goal. To keep the analogy simple, he might consider using a pole vault – an advance which would effectively double the height he could jump.

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LED and Electro-Luminescent Signs Will Soon Be Worn By Obnoxious Children in Your Neighborhood

March 20 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2008   Rating: 5

Along the way to cheaper, energy-efficient Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) surfaces, there’s a window of opportunity for technologies like regular LED and Electro-Luminescent (EL) signage. If mega-rapper Kanye is any indicator, then the flashing LED suit that he wore at this year’s Grammy Awards will become all the rage as it drops in cost.

One company poised to take advantage this technology in the near-term is Australian LED and EL product manufacturer Ozibadge. They’re already selling dynamic EL signage, crazy LED belt buckles, and flashing EL t-shirts. Take a look at this promotional video to get a sense of the items just on the verge of exploding into the environment around you:

Get ready, because all of the obnoxious trend-setting children in your neighborhood will very soon be following in role-model Kanye’s footsteps.

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