Where are the Visionary Politicians?

On March 16th, my club, The Explorer’s Club of New York, held its annual Gala dinner as we celebrated 8 of the remaining Apollo astronauts who attended our event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Moon Landing.

Since this is The Explorer’s Club, before the evening really got started, we were treated to the usual gourmet selection of “invertebrate” hors d’oeuvres like these lollipops of scorpions and tarantulas.

Once we got the “bugs” out of our system, we kicked off the evening festivities as we watched the famous clip of President John Kennedy saying,

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space…

As each astronaut on stage related a never before told personal story of space travel, it was impossible not to feel nostalgic for a time when national politicians made bold statements and commitments to the future.  Rather than an intrepid plan to shape the next decade for a common, national goal of scientific advancement, our politicians of today bring us government shutdowns.  Where have the visionary politicians gone?

We elect local politicians to keep government running, as if they were the CEO of the town.  Any mayor that allowed garbage to pile up or the police to be on strike or the sewer system to clog up for 35 days would not survive long in politics.  Yet, national leaders are lauded for bringing the federal government to its knees for 35 days.

  • Rather than expecting these politicians to act as the CEO, we seem to pick federal leaders to reflect our collective national emotion.
  • Or is it the other way around?
  • Do national leaders set the tone for the mood of the country?
  • Do visionary leaders bring the country along for the ride or do we get the politicians we deserve?
  • Will the next president be that visionary leader, taking the country through a decade of advances where cancer becomes extinct or climate change is tamed?

The answer to these questions is why I believe so many of us are drawn to the Houston Foresight Program.  Politicians either lead change or are swept up by it but as futurists, we hope to anticipate change, of any variety, sooner than most.  Personally, nostalgically, after being enthralled by the stories of those 8 heroes of exploration, the change I would love to anticipate would be again to hear the soaring rhetoric that propelled the US into a decade of scientific wonder and discovery. — Karen Rosenthal

Alum Anne Boysen to teach Data Mining for Houston Foresight

One of the challenges in leading the foresight program is keeping up with new tools and approaches to supplement the core curriculum. Perhaps no topic is receiving more buzz than big data and analytics and how they might influence the practice of foresight. At last year’s Spring Gathering “Scanning the Fringe,” our very own alum Anne Boysen gave an outstanding presentation on Data Analytics for Scanning. I was sold, and asked Anne if she’d be willing to put together a summer course on the broader topic, and I’m so pleased to announce that she will be teaching a “Data Mining” course this summer. Among the many juicy topics are:

  • Using Rapidminer & R
  • Data mining in exponential times
  • Decision Trees
  • Neural Networks
  • Text Mining and NLP
  • Foresight in Machine Learning

Check out “How Data Science Enhances Foresight” at Futurist.com.

This is sure to be a very valuable course. And it’s so great to find someone in the Houston Foresight community who can do the job for us! — Andy Hines

New Uses for Wood: Biomimicry, 3D Printing & Metallic Wood

We all know that wood has been used for centuries as fuel, building materials, tools, weapons, furniture, musical instruments and paper. What is not as commonly known is what the different parts of trees can be used for. For example, cellulose, a fiber found in the stems, stalks and leaves, is used to make an alternative source of biofuel—more energy efficient and less expensive than ethanol from other sources.  Nanocellulose, or cellulose nanofibers, is made from wood pulp and can be used in toys, pharmaceuticals, food and medical industries as well as for cleaning oil spills (more info).  It also increases absorbency in products such as napkins and incontinence products An emerging area of innovation that may inspire even more innovation is biomimicry: using nature to inspire and model innovations, such as the Shinkansen bullet train, whale wind turbines, Velcro, and in our case mimicking leaves for artificial photosynthesis. (Image credit: Altenergymag.com)

An article in Medical Design Briefs, “3D Printed Implants Created from Biodegradable Material,” discusses the use of cellulose nanocrystals, “shaped together with other biopolymers, into complex three-three-dimensional structures using a 3-D printer” with an objective to ultimately produce biomedical implants such as replacement cartilage for knees.  They have already printed an ear made out of nanocrystals and a biopolymer.

There also is something called “metallic wood” which is comprised of nickel and nanopores, and developed by teams from University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Cambridge. This material, which is strong, light and porous, is described as having “natural, wood-like properties” with pockets that could be used to transport liquids or ions.  [Image to  right: A microscopic sample of the researchers’ “metallic wood.” Its porous structure is responsible for its high strength-to-weight ratio, and makes it more akin to natural materials, like wood. (Image Credit: UPenn)]

So, once again, nature’s designs are used to make technology more efficient. — Lloyd Chesley

Lesia Fejer is Foresight Jeopardy Champ 2019

This year’s Foresight Jeopardy champion is Lesia Fejer, a Master’s student currently with the UK Science & Innovation Network. After a slow start in Round One, she came roaring back with a strong Round Two and held on in Final Jeopardy for a close victory.  

We play Foresight Jeopardy as the conclusion of the Foresight “field” module in our capstone Professional Seminar class. The module explores the field that the students are about to enter. We use that material as the basis for the game, with categories including: futurists (past and present), books (past and present), foresight organizations, and movies about the future.

We think it’s important for students to know something about the field they are about to enter, even in the age of Google. In a practical sense, information networking conversations can often turn to the past, and if the student/new grad has no clue….well, not a good thing!

So, congrats to Lesia for joining our Jeopardy Hall of Fame with prior champs:

  • 2018 Tim Morgan
  • 2017 Craig Perry
  • 2016 Jason Crabtree
  • 2015 Adam Cowart
  • 2014 Karl Irish

Spring 2019 Foresight Certificate Seminar Filling up Fast

Registration for the 2019 Spring Foresight Certificate Boot Camp is open and filling up fast!

The five-day courses will take place April 29-May 3, 2019 at the Hilton hotel right on the campus of the University of Houston. We’ve been teaching the future in Houston since 1975. Peter Bishop kicked off the certificate program in 2009 and we’ve had over 600 aspiring futurists graduate. It is affectionately known as “boot camp,” as we cover an abridged version of our “Introduction to Foresight” course in 5 jam-packed days. Participants come from a wide range of constituencies: corporations, government agencies, NGOS, non-profits, education, consultancies….pretty much from anywhere. Most participants have some type of foresight role – or are about to begin one — and need an immersion in the basics.That’s just what you’ll get! Hope you can join us!

Info & Sign up

Email Andy (ahines@uh.edu) with questions about registration or content of the course.

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” April 13 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