Ross Schott’s work with Singularity University featured in The Telegraph

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 2.16.39 PMRoss Shott, managing director of the graduate studies program at Singularity University is an alumni of the Houston Foresight program. Singularity University, a small unaccredited institute in northern California, is a Futures education initiative co-founded by futurist Ray Kurzweil. Its mission is to help solve some of the planet’s greatest humanitarian problems, such as famine and climate change. The Telegraph recently published an article about the exciting work happening at the institute with an accompanying video that leads off with words from Ross himself.

In addition to running the graduate studies program at Singularity University, Ross also teaches a course in the Foresight department at UH titled Advanced Strategies for Futures Planning. Ross has an excellent business background as outlined with his work with Psyphers Group where he does strategic consulting, executive coaching, and leading-edge research into human potential. Ross is concurrently completing a doctorate in the psychology of human performance at University of the Rockies.  Ross knows how to innovate, plan, and implement change and we are delighted that we will be sharing strategies for doing so with students in the Houston Foresight program this spring.

Laura, Jim, Katie, Omar and Andy travel to Indianapolis to present Student Needs project

Kaite, Laura, and Andy right before beginning our presentation at the Lumina Foundation.

Kaite, Laura, and Andy right before beginning our presentation at the Lumina Foundation.

On September 26th, Foresight students Laura Schlehuber, Katie King, Omar Sahi, and Jim Breaux (now also a faculty member in the program) along with Professor Andy Hines travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana to present the Student Needs project to the Lumina Foundation. The presentation included key findings from the two dozen strong group of faculty, alums, and students who gathered to research and discuss emerging student needs in terms of living, learning, working, playing, connecting, and participating in the year 2025 and beyond.

The student team and Andy engaged in some role playing which included a mock focus group as a means to interact with the audience and deliver the content. The presentation came together beautifully and generated some very useful discussion around our student-centric research and how it intersects with the goals of the Lumina Foundation.

Heather Schlegel’s work on the reputation economy featured on CNN

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.00.32 PMHeather Schlegel, a student of the Foresight program has been busy speaking, producing a TV series, and hosting a Podcast on the future of money, identity, relationships and humanity. She recently completed a report on reputation currencies commissioned by the Institute of Customer Experience. An excerpt from the report was featured in the Future Finance section of CNN.

Heather makes a case for why reputation is crucial to the new ‘Sharing Economy’. Airbnb, Uber and eBay all use reviews and referrals to create a system of trust between users in their communities. To read the full article and learn more about why reputation is the currency of the future, click here. 

 

Ten Books for Prospective Futurists

If you had to suggest ten books that a prospective futurist should read – starting from a tabula rasa (limited or no previous exposure), what would be on your list? It’s hard to do, and I cheated a little bit, by offering other suggestions and grouping them under loose categories or types.

1.Introductory Overviews

  • Ed Cornish, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, World Future Society, 2003 (Update of the 1977 Study of the Future)
  • Wendell Bell, Foundations of Futures Studies: Human Science for a New Era: History, Purposes, and Knowledge, Volumes I and II, Transaction, 1996. (A description of the emerging discipline of futures studies. Volume I covers forecasting and Volume II is about values.)
  • John Smart is working on a Foresight Guide that should be out soon and promised to be quite useful

2. Conceptual deep dives

  • Bertrand de Jouvenel, The Art of Conjecture, Basic Books, 1967. (Explores how ideas about what may happen in the future can influence deciding what actions to take in the present)
  • Willis Harman, An Incomplete Guide to the Future, San Francisco Book Company, 1976. (Describes ways to think about the future)

3. Classics (my favorite)

  • Fred Polak, The Image of the Future, Elsevier, 1973. (The role of images of the future throughout history and in the present)

4. Classics (other)

  • Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1984. (One of the most influential books ever written on the future. It argued that the pace of change was outstripping human capacity to deal with it.)
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Harper & Row, 1933. (A dystopian novel of genetic engineering and pharmaceuticals)
  • Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887, Signet, 2002. (A utopian novel about a 19th century Bostonian being transported to the future)
  • Yoneji Masuda, The Information Society As Post-Industrial Society, World Future Society, 1981. (Prescient preview of the information society)

5. Applications

  • Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, Doubleday, 1996. (Business book with lots of stories how scenarios impact organizations.)
  • Kees Van Der Heijden, The Sixth Sense: Accelerating Organizational Learning with Scenarios, John Wiley & Sons, 2002. (More theoretical approach to the practice and benefits of scenario thinking)

6. How-to

  • Andy Hines, & Peter Bishop, Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight, Social Technologies, 2007. (Guidelines on how to do strategic foresight from leading practitioners)

7. Science Fiction

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer, Ace Books, 1984. (Pioneering cyberpunk novel)
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Spectra, 1993. (Story on the founding a colony on Mars)
  • Bruce Sterling, Heavy Weather, Bantam, 1994. (Story about a world with drastically altered climate and weather)
  • Iain Banks’ Culture novels (Space operas in distance future w/ thoughtful treatments of advanced AI)

8. Tech-driven future

  • Ray Kurzweil , The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Viking 2005. (How exponential growth in information technology is leading us toward a “singularity” in which life as we know it is unrecognizable on the other side)

9. Environment-driven future

  • Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind, Universe Publications, 1972. (Classic projection of exceeding planetary capacity derived from a systems model; See also the 20- and 30-year updates confirming initial model)
  • Richard Slaughter, Biggest Wakeup Call in History, Foresight International, 2010. (Comprehensive, thorough and integrally-informed analysis of the pending environmental disaster if action is not taken)

 10. Futurist profiles

  • Joseph Coates, & Jennifer Jarratt , What Futurists Believe, World Future Society, 1987. (Interviews with 17 leading futurists of the time with analysis and summary)

– Andy Hines

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Student Needs 2025+ project in the Daily Cougar

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 1.44.37 PMThe Student Needs project is in the news again! The Daily Cougar recently published an article which includes commentary from students and alumni who participated in the project. The article discusses why the report was commissioned, and specifically why a student-centric perspective was made a priority when conducting research.

As Andy mentions in the article, “Our research was not aimed at suggesting what universities should do — our purpose was to paint a picture of what students and their needs looked like.”

 

Amir Bar Presentes at the Systems Thinking & Dynamic Modeling Conference for K-12 Education

Dr. Peter Senge presenting at STDM conference

Dr. Peter Senge presenting at STDM conference

Amir Bar, an alumni of  the Human Resources Development program at UH developed a tool to help students learn concepts from the Systems Thinking course in the Foresight program. He recently had the opportunity to present the flashcards he developed at the Systems Thinking and Dynamic Modeling for K-12 conference in Boston, MA.

In a recent correspondance, Amir reflected on his experience.

“My presentation focused on a project I created while taking a special topics course with Dr. Peter Bishop in 2012. As a graduate student in the HRD program and a Systems Thinking Course student, I was looking to create a mobile learning product that would help students master key terms in Systems Thinking. The outcome was a set of 31 “SmartCards” in which each card offers printed information on a term along with a QR code with access to an online module, including among other things a two-minute video of Dr. Bishop introducing the term.

I received very positive feedback at the conference, and I was asked by many to bring the SmartCards to market and make them available for teachers. I am currently working with Dr. Bishop on increasing the deck to 45 terms, and we hope to make them available by the end of the year.”

system

An example from the deck of flashcards Amir Developed.

Save the Date: Spring Gathering 2015 on “Technology Acceleration”

Houston Foresight Spring Gathering 2015: Technology Acceleration
April 17-18, 2015
University of Houston, Cameron Building

salon 110We have seen astounding changes in technology in the last century. What’s more, several types of technological change have accelerated over this time period, particularly those associated with digital and nanotechnologies. Some say accelerating scientific and technological change have in turn become the prime drivers and accelerators of business and social change.

No one is better qualified than futurist John Smart (and friends) to lead us in a discussion of this emerging future on Saturday April 18th. It’s a sneak preview of a foresight elective course that John has agreed to teach for us this summer. John asks: Please come to the Spring Gathering, we need your collective friendship, humor, and intelligence to accelerate this course into the catalog!” We’ll look at technology acceleration from several complementary perspectives.

Universal Acceleration

Is technology acceleration the next “substrate” in a multi-billion year history of accelerating universal complexity development?

Technology, Wealth, and Social Acceleration.

We’ll look at digital and nanotechnology acceleration, how those drive accelerating trends in wealth production, entrepreneurship and digital social actions (sharing, collaboration, and activism), and ways these accelerating trends and actions impact the world’s great problems.

Quantification, Simulation and Foresight Acceleration

As Big Data, social sharing, sensors, maps, simulations, and algorithms proliferate, many new collective and machine intelligence foresight tools and methods are emerging: predictive analytics, statistical models, crowdsourcing/funding, ideation, innovation and prediction markets. How do we evaluate and use the best of these for our clients?

Globalization and Societal Convergence and Deceleration

As technology-enabled globalization and wealth production accelerates, developed economies are demonstrating many convergent economic, environmental, security, and political processes, and decelerating on several measures (population growth, conflict and crime, individual energy use), and in speed- and cost-to-capability in many areas (from health care to law to defense), making some social futures more regulated and predictable than ever before.

Biologically-Inspired AI, Intelligent Agents, and the Singularity Hypothesis

New AI paradigms like Deep Learning are making great strides in language understanding, machine vision, analysis, and pattern recognition. Trustable machine intelligence might emerge in our cars, robots, digital platforms, and personal intelligent agents in coming years.

Social Challenges and Failure States

There are many social challenges and failure states we might see in a world of continuing technological acceleration, including increasing digital and income inequality, erosion of democracy and privacy, terrorism and conflict, pandemic, failing education, addiction and dependency, resource scarcity, and global warming and other environmental catastrophes. How can better foresight help us and our clients achieve the best and avoid the worst of what may happen in an ever faster future?

And, of course, we’ll have the usual fun and social activities with dinner and margaritas on Friday night and the annual pool party on Saturday after the conference. Details will be coming soon. For now, save the date and come for some fellowship and fun this spring! Andy Hines

 

Introducing Omar Sahi as the new GA

omarThe baton has passed to a new GA this fall – introducing Omar Sahi!

Omar is a full-time student in his second year in the Foresight program. He has conducted research on the future of personal photography and the future of news media thus far in the program. He was also a member of the Student Needs 2025 team, doing research as well as some design. He has a background in the Fine Arts with a BFA from the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Still recovering from a nomadic childhood spent between Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada and The United States, Omar spends most of his time speculating about the future, identity, art, and sapience.

Omar succeeds April Koury, who is graduating this fall after doing an internship with Andspace Consulting. Please join me in welcoming Omar to this important role for the Foresight Program. Andy Hines

Future of Education: Goodbye, Summer Vacation

vacation

I squeezed onto CNBC yesterday with  a few comments as part of “Will the college bubble burst: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101985258 ; this is the written version: Sharon Epperson, “A higher-ed bubble even bigger than student loans, Sept 11, 2014, Redesign of the Traditional Classroom

Now, for the stuff that didn’t get aired. Here are some of the note I made in prepping for the appearance:

  1. Goodbye, Summer (Vacation)The current push to lengthen the school year beyond the 180 days that is typical in the U.S. will become reality by 2040. Already, the President and lawmakers are calling for a longer school year, pointing to other countries that are more competitive.

[My response] I would be surprised if it took that long. A major theme we found in our recent research on students needs in 2025 that we did for Lumina Foundation was that the whole notion of dedicated schedules is increasingly being called into question. The larger social trend behind this is the Death of the Schedule. It’s really a move into an on-demand and just-in-time world where we use technology to do things when we want, and are less restricted by when things are available according to some schedule that no longer makes sense in today’s world.

The simple example is watching television, where on-demand programming means people watch their program at their convenience, not according to a network schedule. This is bleeding into education, higher education first — where online learning/distance education makes it possible for students to learn at their convenience, not only when a class is offered in a 3 hour time slot once a week. The vast bulk of learning activities can be conducted asynchronously, or at the student’s convenience, and then f2f discussions or evaluations can be scheduled as needed and when it is mutually convenient.

This will create some interesting challenges for instructors. It’s obviously easier for us when all students are available at the same time and place, as opposed to having arrange individual meetings, but that is the evolution of the teaching role. Lectures can be recorded, so it’s less about that, and more about “coaching” and personalized instruction. It really changes the dynamic of being a teacher. It will take longer for this shift to happen in K-12 as the logistics of doing that are much more complicated. The fact that kids are in school during the day while parents are working is a convenient thing for parents. It’s really not necessary from a learning perspective for kids to sit in classrooms all day for standard amounts of time. University students are more responsible for their own time, so it works easier there.

We’ll put much more thought into when everyone needs to be there, rather than just require it “just because.” Students can do work that lends itself to alone time, and then come together in groups or a full class when it makes sense to do so. Andy Hines

Houston Chronicle interviews Andy Hines on Student Needs 2025+

Those who have been following our blog might be familiar with the Future Of Student Needs: 2025 and Beyond project. The Houston Foresight program recruited a team of students and alums to prepare a report which seeks to anticipate the needs of future students in order to increase college completion rates. After months of work, we are preparing to present the report to the Lumina Foundation later this month.Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle recently sat down with Andy Hines to discuss the report and share a little bit about what we have learned about the future of higher education in the process. The future continues to look promising for those taking the traditional path to college in the year 2025, but they may not be the ones Universities are primarily catering to! To read the interview click here.

You can also learn more about the project or read a draft version of the report.

— Omar Sahi