Thinking about the future is a full time job, at least for
futurist and business consultant John Mahaffie. With “clarity,
context, and a focus on alternative futures” as a credo, he’s been
helping organizations stay at the leading-edge of their industries
since the mid-1980s. His consultancy, Leading Futurists LLC, focuses on workshops and exercises to build
a foresight mentality and keep innovative juices flowing. Past
clients have included Microsoft, GE, and Nokia, to name a few. He
also authors a blog, Foresight Culture, which offers
tasty nuggets of advice about the techniques and strategies that
can help organizations foster a “culture of foresight”.
Yesterday, John took some time out of his busy schedule to speak
with us about the meaning of foresight, some emerging trends that
may affect your life or business, and why input from a futurist is
never a bad thing.
“Foresight is the act of anticipating change and drawing meaning
from it. Though practices and purposes vary, there is a core set of
tools in foresight, including environmental scanning and scenario
building. Foresight is usually done at the front end of
organization planning processes,” Mahaffie explained, “I favor
working towards becoming a ‘foresight culture’ and devote a blog by
that name to discussing how people can do that.”
When considering the future, is it more important to focus on
the extinction risk posed by advancing technology or the massive
potential for social advancement enabled by the same?
Futurist blogger and core Lifeboat Foundation member Michael
Anissimov argues that calculating and combating existential
risk is the moral imperative of our time.
Anissimov writes, “In less
than a decade, humanity will likely develop weapons even more
deadly than nukes – synthetic life, and eventually, nanorobots and
self-improving AI. Even if we consider the likelihood of human
extinction in the next century to be small, say 1%, it still merits
attention due to the incredibly high stakes involved.”
Cascio, founder of worldchanging.com and a popular
futurist blogger in his own right, concurs that existential risk is
a most valid concern.
In a recent Nanotechnology
Now column he explains, “[S]ome technologies may enable
individuals or small groups to carry out attacks, on infrastructure
or people, at a scale that would have required the resources of an
army in decades past. This is not an outlandish concern by any
means; many proponents of the “super-empowered angry individual”
(SEAI) concept cite the September 11 attacks as a crude example of
how vulnerable modern society can be to these kinds of threats.
It’s not hard to imagine what a similar band of terrorists, or
groups like Aum Shinrikyo, might try to do with access to molecular
manufacturing or advanced bioengineering tools.”
But then Cascio turns things around a bit and points out that
“angry people aren’t the only ones who could be empowered by these
What does the future of energy look like in the 21st century? Which elements will remain the same? Which emerging technologies might reinvent how we look at energy? Most importantly, how quickly might things change?
Dear Future Blogger Readers,
In case you haven’t already clicked on the new button in our right-hand column, MemeBox.com, Your Forum for the Future, is proud to point you in the direction of The Energy Roadmap. Edited by energy industry futurist Garry Golden (who we’re thrilled to have officially join the MemeBox team), the new blog/site focuses on the most disruptive ideas poised to transform the energy industry over the next decade and beyond.
“The Energy Roadmap aims to bridge the gap between emerging energy technology and deeply rooted accelerating change,” says MemeBox CEO Jeff Hilford, “Garry’s professional background in energy and futures studies will open up new conversations on the future of energy. We are very pleased to add his unique voice to the mix.”
The sheer scale of the energy industry means that most changes will happen gradually, but the sector is not immune to the power of disruptive technologies, accelerating change and entrepreneurial business models. The Energy Roadmap seeks to place these dynamics into the proper context around some of the biggest ideas shaping the future:
- Role of carbon pricing schemes
- Impact of nanoscale materials science and engineering
- Role of biology in energy production and carbon utilization (e.g. algae biofuels)
- Energy storage and distributed power generation (e.g. micro-power, on-site power generation)
- Role of software and power management systems for ‘smart grids’
- Evolution of the Hydrocarbon Industry (coal, petroleum and natural gas)
- Next generation renewables, nuclear, wave, geothermal, and beyond
- Reducing energy intensity of industrial processes (e.g. chemicals, agriculture, materials manufacturing)
- Growing influence of venture capital and energy entrepreneurs
“Energy has become synonymous with the future,” points out Garry Golden, Editor of The Energy Roadmap, “Global demand for energy will double in only a few decades. Incremental improvements will simply not be enough to meet increasing expectations for clean and abundant energy. And we expect disruptive energy systems to emerge from the convergence of new science, technology and business models. The Energy Roadmap is the first blog explicitly devoted to this structured debate about the future of energy.
I wouldn't have predicted ABC News going all bleak futurist, but they did. Earth 2100 is a massive online roleplaying game that starts out with global turmoil and devastation. And they're going prime time with it.
The project is pretty ambitious, but considering the recent popularity of games like Superstruct and Second Life, there should be no doubt that participation will be high. To participate you need to record a short fictional video depicting something in 2015, then, based on those submissions, the ABC News people will design a scenario for 2050, then 2070 and finally 2100.
This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec