May 2002 Archives

I've been reading the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Environment Outlook 3 which was released last week. It looks at the state of our world right now and what it might be over the next thirty years (the summary is a 1.6MB PDF). As well as a lot of current information, it features a set of four detailed global scenarios over 80 pages (the scenario chapter is a 2.5MB PDF). Three scenarios could be described as a continuum from a world where profit comes first to where the environment comes first (the latter unfortunately sounding the least likely). The fourth scenario focuses on the possibility that wealthy parts of the globe will attempt to insulate themselves from the poorer, more volatile societies. While the descriptions avoid almost any mention of specific countries they are very detailed and include many pages of charts and maps showing the implications of each scenario on different regions. The scenarios mention that some future events have the "War on Terrorism" as their cause and part of me wonders whether it's a good idea to base such long-term thoughts on something still so new. But, as the report mentions, most of the decisions have already been made that will affect our environment over the next thirty years and we need to look beyond that.

The next hot jobs

An article at Smartmoney.com suggests some jobs that may see higher demand over the next decade and the reasons for this change. If you're planning ahead they also suggest what qualifications you need to get one of these "hot jobs" -- from various technical masters degrees (bioinformatician or wireless engineer) to, well, not a lot (adventure travel guide).

Futurist movies

I've a nagging feeling I've seen A futurist at the movies before, but it's fun and it'll give you something to look at while I attempt to get on to finding new things. Josh Calder looks at a variety of science fiction films and discusses the likelihood of their politics, cities, disasters, robots, etc. coming about. (via Haddock)

Quake in the real world

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A team at the University of South Australia's Wearable Computing Laboratory is working on integrating the Quake computer game with the real world. The ARQuake Project allows the user to walk around the campus wearing goggles and see computer-generated monsters overlaid on the real-world view. Because the campus has been modelled in the computer the creatures appear to move around the buildings. Looks like a fun combination of "first person shooter" arcade games and live paintball/LaserQuest games. It would also be interesting if players could be represented to other participants using their own avatars rather than their real selves. (via Haddock)

Emerging Tech conference

Last week's conference in Santa Clara, California, USA, is now over and the geeks are back in their pens. It focussed on all the bits of networking technology that enable individuals (and organisations) to do interesting things and to share stuff quickly. It's hard to be more specific, but the conference's tagline puts it as "Peer2Peer, Web Services, Wireless, and Beyond." Worth looking at for what's currently stimulating people to do new things. Given the nature of those attending, the web is now bulging with on-the-spot reports and post-event reflection. Andy Oram gathers a load of reports from the sessions together and Matt Webb is in the process of synthesizing his whole experience into one document.

Futures journal for librarians

Library Futures Quarterly ("Intelligence Reports for Library Strategists") is a journal of which I hadn't previously heard. It's a pay-for paper thing, but looks like it could be interesting and there are some free features including a small section of sporadically updated free articles and an occasional email newsletter. I like futures stuff that's tightly focussed on a single domain -- it's evidence there are people putting the techniques to use outside the little world of pure futurists.

Three Australian artists are experimenting with xenotransplantation, the transplanting of non-human biological materials on/into humans. It's interesting to see people toying with this kind of thing for reasons that aren't purely medicinal. Wings made from pig tissue powered by rat muscle; steak grown from a still-living sheep; and more crazy antics. Lots of links.

There's been a sharp rise in the number of Americans reporting "no religious preference" in the 1990s (up from 7% to 14% after decades of little change). Apparently this does not signal a doubling in the numbers of American athiests, however. The researchers claim the figures are due to more christians distancing themselves from the church, rather than people rejecting belief entirely. Even so, it's worth bearing in mind when current news is weighed down with religion-heavy stories.

Spotting the next Enron

Half a dozen signs that a company may be heading for a fall. Perhaps a little more short-term than most things here, and some points are a little obvious ("Watch stock sales by top company executives") but they're handy pointers to keep in mind all the same.

New, improved, Overmorgen

Finally, after hours of copying and pasting entries from my clunky self-written code to the swish and powerful Moveable Type, the new Overmorgen is ready. Biggest changes: a much cleaner design; the categories that were previously stored but hidden are now usable; you can comment on each entry. Let me know what you think. Even better, I hope to begin posting more frequently after months of dwindling enthusiasm. No flipping!

The APF has the aim of making the profession of futurism more recognised and providing services and development to its members. The board are mostly ex-UHCL graduates and hopefully this will be a more useful and relevant organisation than the clunky old WFS.

Distributed weather forecasting

ClimatePrediction.com plan to release software for making long-term weather predictions. Each client will run a climate simulation that will take 12-18 months to complete its 50-100 year forecast. Climateprediction.com will then compare the range of forecasts using a Monte Carlo procedure. Interesting, but whether these forecasts will be useful in the real world (rather than just the model) is another matter.

Long bets

Finally got round to the current issue of Wired which includes an interesting article about Long Bets, set up by Stewart Brand and co, which encourages people to make long-term forecasts and bet US$1,000+ on their argument. Money is kept by Long Bets with half the interest accrued going to charity, half to operating costs. Famous names and their posturing aside, it's pretty interesting. Wired also has an article on the history of betting on the future. (Readers who liked Long Bets also liked The Foresight Exchange.)

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