October 2008 Archives

2008 Bioneers Conference

Another conference, also in the US: Bioneers has some interesting-sounding things although as this WorldChanging post says, “it was every bit as hippy as people say it is.”

Pop!Tech 2008

The Pop!Tech 2008 conference is underway and it sounds great. Summaries of many presentations are on their blog and you can also watch video. A shame (for me) that it’s in America but fantastic that anyone can watch it all for free.

Pop!Tech's new prediction market

Pop!Tech have just joined the throng of prediction markets by launching their own. It’s in association with Inkling which provides prediction market tools that other companies, like Pop!Tech, can brand as their own.

James May's Big Ideas

I’d glanced at James May’s Big Ideas in the TV schedules but hadn’t realised it was quite so futury. It looks like the series has finished now but if you’re in the UK the three hour-long episodes are still on iPlayer for the next six days:

After the credit crunch

On Newsnight on Friday Mark Urban had a segment looking ahead to what the aftermath of the current financial crisis could mean for international relations. With everything so volatile it’s a perilous time to make predictions but that also makes it more exciting to do so. It feels like anything could happen. Here’s a summary of what he said:

United States in 2028


There’s a new website from my alma mater, the University of Houston, which looks at the future of the USA in 2028, particularly in relation to the forthcoming presidential elections.

London Futures Symposium

I know very little about this but there’s a one day mini futures conference (also on Upcoming) in central London in November. There are four talks:

Failing to predict the future

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Nicolas Nova has an interesting presentation called ‘Inflated deflated future(s) or… why futurists fail to predict futures’ which he delivered at Design Engaged 2008:

Chuck Klosterman's 21st century

Journalist Chuck Klosterman has written an entertaining timeline of the 21st century for Esquire. Some of it is fun, some of it is scarily plausible, all of it is well worth a read.



On Monday 6th October the Institute for the Future’s forecasting game, Superstruct begins. I had to read the FAQ to find out what the game actually involves as everything else is so EXCITED that the actual mechanics are a bit lost.


I try to avoid posting too much science-fiction material here. The internet’s not short of places for that and given how much there is, the non-fiction posts would be drowned out. But occasionally there are items which are either extra interesting or have the potential to be more influential than usual.

A new TV show from US channel HBO at least fulfils the latter criteria, simply by being a nearish-future scenario on mainstream television. Hollywood Reporter has a piece on Americatown:

Set 25-40 years into the future when the precipitous decline of the US leads to a mass exodus of its citizens, Americatown takes place in a cluster of newly arrived American immigrants in a big foreign city.

“By presenting Americans as immigrants in the near future, as both underdog and hero in the drama of global dislocation, we substitute a mirror for the rancor that informs much of the partisan debates on immigration,” [writer Bradford] Winters said.

In his research for Americatown, Winters had explored possible nightmare scenarios that could bring the US to a collapse decades down the road, like the price of oil skyrocketing and natural disasters reaching catastrophic proportions. Then suddenly oil hovered near $150 a barrel this summer, floods hit the Midwest and the South and Wall Street crashed under the weight of the mortgage crisis.

If we were looking for precedents for this kind of thing I guess we could look at two ares. First, close-knit communities of other kinds of ex-pats/immigrants, such as Chinatown, which Hollywood Reporter cites.

Second would be the little bits of America exported to the foreign camps of US troops. The military has become experienced at creating enclaves of home comforts in the most hospitable conditions. For example, in 2006 the Telegraph described the al-Asad airbase in Iraq:

…get “inside the wire” and this stretch of desert increasingly resembles a slice of US suburbia rather than the front line in a war zone.

Its restaurants include a Subway and a fast food pizza shop. There is a coffee shop, football pitch and even a swimming pool.

A cinema shows the latest films while the camp’s main recreational centre offers special dance nights — hip hop on Friday, salsa on Saturday and country and western on Sunday.

Last month, red “Stop” signs — the ubiquitous feature of American street furniture — went up at all road junctions.

Welcome to Americatown! (Via Kottke.)

Challenging apartments