Congratulations Terrance Hunter! Winner of American Alliance of Museums Strategic Foresight Scholarship

The American Alliance of Museums has awarded its first ever Alliance Scholarship for Strategic Foresight to Terrance Hunter. Terrance is Project Manager at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. Terrance also serves as the History Section Chair for the Florida Association of Museums.

The scholarship was specifically established to promote one of the Alliance’s strategic goals: To influence and inspire action in the field by cultivating a cadre of museum futurists to foster thought leadership around long term strategies museums will need to thrive in coming decades.

As the Alliance’s 2019 Foresight Scholar, Terrance will be attending the April 29th – May 3rd 2019 Strategic Foresight Seminar at the University of Houston. Terrance will have the opportunity to earn a Certificate of Strategic Foresight, along with other professionals from around the world.

The Foresight certificate program is a 5-day, project-based, face-to-face workshop. Participants learn to anticipate disruptive change and work towards the creation of transformational change to influence the future of their organizations, companies and communities.

Congratulations Terrance! The University of Houston Foresight faculty and staff welcomes you to the certificate program!

Posted in Certificate Program by Tim Morgan. No Comments

Introducing the Future Draft Agenda

The 2019 Houston Foresight Spring Gathering is quickly approaching and we are working on the final planning details.

  1. Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) https://www.centerforhoustonsfuture.org) will host this year’s Saturday event, representing in many ways a symbolic connection between the venue and our theme of “Introducing the Future to People and Organizations”. CHF is conveniently located near Houston’s Discovery Green Park (https://www.discoverygreen.com), providing spring gathering attendees with an opportunity to see more of Houston and to engage more with Houston’s culture.
  2. Please send a RSVP to Andy Hines at ahines@uh.edu to confirm your participation for Friday, April 12, Saturday, April 13, or both. We’ll meet up Friday evening for dinner in or near Discovery Green Park (TBD) and reconnect Saturday morning at CHF for our day-long event. A light breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided during the event on Saturday as well as food and drink in the evening at the home of Jim and Marci Breaux. Each person is responsible for his/her own dinner Friday night.
  3. We will kick off Saturday’s event with an icebreaker in which we will share our personal 90-second elevator speech for introducing the future to people and organizations not familiar with foresight. So, please come prepared to share!
  4. We have negotiated a Courtesy Block of rooms (under “Houston Foresight” or the “University of Houston”) at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel at a discounted rate of $150 a night plus 17% tax (check in, April 12 and check out, April 14). The regular room rate for those dates is $254 per night, making this a really great deal. The hotel will create a personalized web page containing a link for the $150 room rate. Because this is a Courtesy Block, the rate will change (increase) as we get closer to the date of the event, so the sooner you can reserve your room, the better. If you think you might want to reserve a room at the Hilton Americas-Houston, please email Kimberly at drkrdani@gmail.com to receive a separate email containing the reservation web link, once it is created.

We look forward to seeing you in April!

Kimberly Daniels
Event Coordinator

 

Transhumanist Implications in a Post-Scarcity World

Houston Foresight alumni Natasha Vita-More published a book, “TRANSHUMANISM: What is it?” as an introduction to the transhumanist movement. While a worthy topic on its own, this post focuses on the aspects relevant to our “After Capitalism” research.

The combination of transhumanist technologies and large scale rapid automation could have major implications on our work patterns throughout life that would need to be addressed from a new political/economic/social perspective.  For example: “‘haves’ and ‘have nots’….may not be an issue we will have to deal with in the future.” (because we’ll be in a post-scarcity scenario). The implication is that the solution to global poverty is not in redistribution, but in technological growth. As Peter Diamandis would put it, the post-scarcity world would not consist of “haves” and “have nots” but of “haves” and “super-haves.” [NOTE: We have grouped transhumanism in with our “Tech-Led Abundance” visions.]

This tech-driven post-scarcity world is not without issues, such as potentially uneven access to transhumanist technology. In the best-case scenario, technology would become cheap enough for all, but the global elite of wealthy superhumans may not wish to lose their advantage over the masses.

One key change is improved longevity, which would in turn drive the need for more continuous lifelong learning. As the book states “Every day 10,000 baby boomers in the US turn 65 and will until approximately 2030. How are these people going to support themselves?” If many are willing and able to continue via improvements in biotechnology they certainly may, but there’s also the issue of not just job turnover, but career turnover.  If automation really does create enough jobs to maintain a high demand for skilled labor workers, it will likely require retraining on a somewhat regular basis. Periods between jobs require a greater safety net the longer and more common they become, but in a world of ever rising productivity that shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s not to say it won’t be, but there are many promising options. People could be paid for going back to school, there could be a universal basic income, national unemployment insurance, etc. If not enough new jobs are created we could return to the Keynesian promise of 15 hour work weeks, or we could at long last decouple wages from labor. Or as Kurzweil would say “Well, you’ll do something that you enjoy. That you have a passion for. Why don’t we just call that work?”  — Collin Sledge

 

Houston Foresight Fall 2018 Newsletter

As we get ready for the start of 2019, let’s take a moment to look back on a few highlights from the Fall, as they were captured in the Fall 2018_HDCS Newsletter_FORESIGHT is put out by our Department. This issue includes:

  • Introducing the Fall 2018 New Foresight Students
  • Hines to Co-Edit Knowledge Base of Futures Studies 2020
  • Foresight 2018 Research Projects
  • Building Capacity for Transformation

— Andy Hines

Houston Foresight Spring 2018 Newsletter

In the spirit of better late than never, I just realized I neglected to post last Spring’s newsletter…sorry! The Spring 2018_HDCS Newsletter_FORESIGHT is put out by our Department. This issue includes:

  • Foresight Research Projects
  • Alumni Profile: Shupp to Schireson
  • Foresight Jeopardy 2018
  • Spring Gathering “Scans the Fringe”
  • A Foresight Certificate Participant’s perspective

— Andy Hines

Bes Baldwin Wins 2018 APF Student Recognition Competition

It is a great pleasure to announce that current Houston Foresight Master’s student Bes Baldwin won the Master’s category for the year’s APF Student Recognition Competition. She entered her Framework Foresight project on “How Do You Feel Now? An Exploratory Analysis of the Futures of Clinical Research Regulation.” The central question Bes considered was: “Can the regulatory systems for pharmaceutical research and development evolve quickly enough to accommodate the rapid changes occurring in drug development and clinical research?” Below is a snapshot of four scenarios she developed to aid her analysis:

Bes will receive a Certificate of Achievement from the Association of Professional Futurists. She also has a choice of:
(1) a two year Student Membership in APF, or
(2) the registration fee (excluding residency) for one APF meeting within two years of the award.

You can also view the other excellent Houston entries:

Perry & Hines on Integral Futures for Security

It seems that each time I teach Integral Futures as part of Alternative Perspectives class, at least one student really catches fire with it. A couple of years ago, it was Craig Perry, an intelligence analyst and retired Air Force colonel at the time. So when I was asked to contribute a chapter on the future of security, I thought of him. Our subsequent collaboration produced a chapter An Integral Futures lens on the future security issues that was part of “Security by Design” edited by Anthony Masys and published by Springer.

The figure shows how security can be viewed at a high level from an integral perspective. We summarized the argument as follows: Conventional analysis of security issues tends to take a disjointed approach through tightly focused tactical lenses. Increasingly, however, security issues are embedded in a wider and diverse range of factors that may escape conventional analysis. An integral futures perspective to exploring security issues is proposed that provides a wider lens by taking an integrated holistic approach that explores individual and collective aspects of emerging issues from both an interior (e.g., motivation, culture) and exterior (e.g., behavior, systems, and infrastructures) perspective. We believe the approach may provide a fresh approach to issue identification as well as more holistic explanatory framework.

It was particularly exciting for me to see a “new” (as far as I know) application area for the integral perspective. – Andy Hines

Long term management of California Wildfires

A Wired article recently featured some data with important implications on the short term outlook and long term management of wildfires in California. The elephant in the room of course is climate change: “Climate change didn’t invent wildfires, but according to the data, it’s making them worse… With global warming, though, the state is in a severe drying trend in the autumn.” Such a large scale problem requires global solutions.  Even a nationwide green new deal would be inadequate to truly slow it down, not to mention the issue of committed warming. All in all the issue is here to stay at least for the near future. So what can California do?

There are a few particular circumstances that if dealt with could at least reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires in California. Regulations like fire codes can help, but as the article states “fire codes only go so far. ‘One of the weaknesses is that it’s really difficult to actually enforce that,’ says Crystal Kolden, a fire scientist at the University of Idaho. ‘The enforcement falls on the local municipal agencies and fire departments, and oftentimes they simply don’t have the resources.’” There’s a certain amount of diffusion of responsibility, or outright denial among builders/owners in this regard that may be impossible to adequately address, especially in the short term.

Another issue the article addresses is the lack of controlled burns in the state.  For reference Southwestern United States given the same amount of land burns about 20x the acreage in controlled burns that California does. It’s true that they have different population densities and different vegetation, but such controlled burns can help mitigate and reduce the dangerous, unpredictable wildfires we’re seeing today. – “‘There’s really good scientific evidence that the tree density in the Sierra Nevada right now is much higher than it was in the pre-European settlement period,’ according to Kolden. ‘That’s very much a product of 100 years of fire suppression.’”

Firefighter training is also under a lot of stress.  In a perfect world, or even a world not long ago there was an effective division of labor. City firefighters knew how to respond to burning buildings, and wildland firefighters knew how to fight wildfires. Each situation requires completely different gear and training. In today’s California however, the fires are becoming one and the same and firefighters are forced to be increasingly out of their element. It should also be noted that some firefighters are prisoners earning as little as $2 per day for this dangerous work.

On the plus side there are positive examples of places that when prepared properly were able to pull through relatively unscathed. The city of Montecito had been proactive, removing brush, and clearing defensible spaces around housing, and making information available to local firefighters. When the time came and their city was threatened they pulled through with minimal damage. However it’s important to note that Montecito is a small very wealthy city that had an aware and invested community in protecting their homes from wildfires. Larger and poorer cities could make adjustments of their own, but they’d likely have to do more with less resources, and a more apathetic community.

To sum up, the main problem isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s best we focus on what is in our power. Many proactive plans will be costly, but not when compared to the property damage they will certainly prevent. Another issue not really covered in this article is that if indeed higher populations are a contributing factor, would it not be cost effective to support the population movement away from highest wildfire potential areas before disaster strikes, as opposed to rehousing them after? Such measures will be tough to push through without broad popular support that may not yet exist, but may well develop if these events continue. — Collin Sledge

Richard Slaughter Lectures on Integral Futures

The “Godfather” of Integral Futures, Richard Slaughter, gave a brilliant overview of the topic for the Alternative Perspectives class on November 1st. We spend a couple of weeks in the course on Integral Futures each year, which features a heavy dose of works by Richard Slaughter. So I was thrilled that he agreed to join us from the Australian outback via Zoom.

Richard needs no introduction to futurists. He founded the very well-regarded Australian Foresight program in Melbourne (alas, it was recently discontinued). He hosted me for a ten-day visit many years ago that was a highlight of my career as a futurist. I was already a fan of his Integral Futures work then, but it was really cool to see how they incorporated into their curriculum. We also jointly presented on Integral Futures at a World Future Society General Assembly. He has continued to write on Integral (among other topics), including The Biggest Wake Up Call in History, which I reviewed for the journal Foresight.

Richard minces no words about the seriousness of the challenges ahead for humanity. In his view, an Integral analysis of the situation suggests that we have neglected the role of individual values in our search for solutions. He suggests that we have relied too heavily on technological fixes and that we must re-balance our approaches to account for values and worldviews. He also emphasized the importance of the personal development of futurists. Indeed, due to his influence, our program has been putting more emphasis on this, not only in Alternative Perspectives class, but we also had a terrific elective this summer on “Building Capacity for Transformation by Cecily Sommers.

Students were curious about his personal journey as a futurist and how he evolved to focusing on Integral Futures. He shared his key moments in his career, such as his early work on critical futures. His discovery of the work of Integral philosopher Ken Wilber launched his journey to bring this perspective into futures work. It was a captivating session and we are grateful to Richard for taking the time to share his personal journey with us! — Andy Hines

Minorities Most Vulnerable to Wildfires

Recently a study was featured in the New York Times that found that communities who are the most at risk when it comes to wildfires tended to be Native Americans: “over 29 million Americans live with significant potential for extreme wildfires, a majority of whom are white and socioeconomically secure. Within this segment, however, are 12 million socially vulnerable Americans for whom a wildfire event could be devastating.” And these 12 million are much more likely to be non white, and in particular to be Native American.

The study puts this statistic in the context of a worldwide trend of low income populations suffering the most severely from environmental disasters. For example in the last 20 years “more than three times the number of people died per disaster in low-income countries than in high-income countries”

The reasons for this rift can be three fold.

  • Firstly, environmental disasters can negatively affect a country’s economic development, therefore countries prone to disaster are likely to be underdeveloped.
  • Secondly, in a more general sense tropical countries are more likely to be hit with environmental disaster, are more likely to be underdeveloped, have poorer infrastructure, and have higher disease rates simply by virtue of their latitude. [NBER]
  • Thirdly, countries with low economic development will struggle the most when it comes to resources and when recovering from an environmental disaster.  

These reasons form a vicious cycle that can be very difficult to break out of particularly when considering the future of the world under the effects of climate change. The findings of this study are relevant because if we can understand why certain populations are more vulnerable than others “management can expand beyond technical fixes to socioeconomic and political solutions.”

The study noted that: :”We’re not saying that people who are not poor aren’t affected by wildfires….What we’re saying is, if you have the characteristics of a disadvantaged community, you’re much more likely to take longer to recover.”

The Study noted even simple issues like language barriers can lead to major failures in emergency response to wildfires. “in 2014, as a massive fire emerged in eastern Washington, language barriers prevented Hispanic farm-workers from receiving evacuation notification from authorities, and the only Spanish radio station in this region never received the emergency information”

In light of this data, any robust new strategy that hopes to reduce the serious negative consequences of wildfires should also address the social vulnerability factors that exacerbate them. To view the methodology of this study click here. — Collin Sledge