Winter is Coming, and so is UH Foresight Certificate boot camp registration deadline!

Everyone gets very busy this time of year, as the days start to get colder. We just want to let you know that there is still time to sign up for our January 15-19, 2018 Foresight Certificate seminar held at the Hilton hotel right on the University of Houston main campus. We have a few slots left. You can still register through December 15th.

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 diverse backgrounds: corporations, government agencies, NGOS, non-profits, education, consultancies… pretty much from anywhere. Most have some type of foresight role – or are about to begin one — and need a solid immersion in the basics. That’s just what you’ll get!

Can’t make the January boot camp? You can get a head start on the New Year by signing-up now for the April 30-May 4 session.

Email Andy Hines (ahines@uh.edu) or Tim Morgan (tnmorgan@uh.edu) with any questions about registration or content of the course.

Sign up here. Your future awaits.

Futurists and Speakers Bureaus

In my first blog, I mentioned that several other career fields began around the same time as futurist, and I queried why they might be considered more erudite than futures studies. Why do we never see these professionals referred to (with scare quotes) as “engineer”, or “physicist” or “social scientist”? Initially, my thoughts were that articles using scare quotes would all be negative, but then I realized that sometimes these quotes are used for emphasis, or perhaps because the journalist doesn’t understand that futurist is an actual career field.

One of the fields we use in this Futurists in Media study is whether the article is positive, neutral or negative. I have struggled with this a bit as I’ve been getting acclimated with the process. There have been few articles that I considered to be really negative, but then I had to figure out neutral versus positive. Many of the neutral articles seem positive because the author is really being objective. Of the 862 articles in the study so far, 454 are +/positive; 238 are neutral and 46 are -/negative. I’m not sure how to really analyze these other than numbers. With several people adding to the database, I’m sure we do not all view the articles in the same way, and something I put down as neutral, someone else may have judged to be positive. [Andy’s note: my anecdotal observation is that percentage of negative articles has been steadily going down.

Recently there was an article about the National Speaker’s Bureau. So I thought it would be interesting to see how many are members of the APF (Association of Professional Futurists). Of the 69 speakers in Technology and Future, there were only two: Glen Hiemstra and Rebecca Ryan (0.029% of APF members).

This got me thinking about other speakers bureaus — a sample of the front page revealed:

  • Big Speak – I went through 176 (about half) of the available speakers and four are APF members (Lisa Bodell, Glen Hiemstra, Rebecca Ryan, Thomas Frey) (0.023%)
  • Premier Speakers Bureau – Of the 64 in the category of futurist, three (David Smith, Lisa Bodell, Joel Barker) are APF members. (0.047%)
  • American Speakers Bureau – lists three futurists, none of whom are in the APF.
  • And lastly I went through the Washington Speakers Bureau, which has 46 futurists. The delightfully ubiquitous Lisa Bodell is the sole APF member. (0.022%)

How do we either get more APF members in the news, or get more professional futurists to become members of APF? Should we invite the more prolific speakers to apply? If so, how do we vet their bona fides before inviting them? Should we ask APF members of various speakers bureaus to include in their speaker’s bio that they have APF membership? Do we start providing swag to inspire new members to join?  So, happy hunting to everyone, go out there and make us proud. — Lloyd Chesley

The Vertical Forest

First we had vertical farms, and now….vertical forests! The Forest Futures scanning team found the following scanning hit: Forest in the sky: Residential tower blocks covered in 800 trees and 15,000 plants help combat global warming in Milan. The Boeri Studio in Milan Italy designed the project to help combat global warming and pollution. The towers, in Central Milan, host more than 800 trees – a sample image below is from the author’s site (the article has additional images).

This innovation adds a new dimension to the idea of urban forestry by integrating the forest more deeply into the fiber of the city. Given that more than 50% of the world — and more than 80% of the US – is now urban, it is a huge opportunity to bring forestry more front-and-center in daily life. Indeed, data suggests fewer folks are going to nature, thus bringing nature to the people may be an effective way to raise awareness about the critical important of forests in combating climate change by acting as CO2 sinks.

The Boeri website notes the following additional benefits: (1) increases biodiversity (2)  helps to build a micro-climate and to improve air quality (2) is an anti-sprawl measure which aims to control and reduce urban expansion (4) aiding understanding architectural projects and garden system, and (4) it’s a landmark in the city. – Andy Hines

FIM October Highlights

Alida Draudt had a piece in Slate that piece observing that futurists industry are overwhelmingly white and male. It caused a stir on the APF listserv and some questioned the numbers — I was not able to come up with the same numbers – and noted that the heads of APF and WFSF were women…but clearly the issue exists. It makes one wonder why and what can be done about it.

When the new Blade Runner movie was released on 6 October, there was a fun spate of futurists who were broached to discuss the movie and what technology it accurately predicted. As a grad student, I’m behind on my own movie attendance, but was thrilled that futurists were interviewed, and will be on the lookout for other movie reviews that feature futurists.

This month’s “states” counted 20 futurists keynotes noted in the media.  The settings ranged from local civic organizations (e.g., Joe Arron speaking to a Rotary Club), to local political organizations (Jay Herson speaking about Carrol County) to specific countries (e.g., Thomas Frey speaking in Instanbul), to continent-focused organizations (e.g., Daniel Silke’s talk at Africa Oil Week).  The topics ranged from policy to space technology to entertainment.

Even though I’m a new student member of APF, I already have a soft spot for it, and I was disappointed that October saw only six postings about or by APF members. Perhaps they  are too busy to toot their own horns? Of course, a key purpose of the FIM project is to see who is being covered by the media about the future – very clearly it is not the professional futurists working quietly behind the scenes.  – Lloyd Chesley

The Coming Age of … Wood?!

On my bookshelf, surrounded by scores of futures books, is a 1949 volume published by Simon and Schuster and authored by Egon Glesinger. The book is titled The Coming Age of Wood. Glesinger was Chief of the Forest Products Branch of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and was decades ahead of his time. Most people think of wood as an archaic and low-tech material. But in 1949, Mr. Glesinger foresaw the “revolutionary role it would play in our future.”

Indicators of the coming age of wood can be found in the Forest Futures horizon scanning database, which includes links to many articles about significant innovations in wood products that could be game changers for forestry and forest products. Examples include:

  • Wood-based nanomaterials have been produced at a pilot plant at the USFS Forest Products Lab in Madison, WI for more than 5 years. Other pilot plants are in operation around the world. There are thousands of uses for this renewable and biodegradable material in everything from computer chips, flexible computer displays, car panels, replacement tendons, and coatings to keep food fresh longer.
  • Tall wood buildings or “plyscrapers” are sprouting up across the globe today, built with cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other “mass timber” technologies. CLT is made from layers of wood crisscrossed and held together by fire-resistant glue. It is as strong as structural steel, greatly speeds up construction, and has a much lower carbon footprint than steel and concrete buildings. Mass timber may be in the process of disrupting the construction and wood products industries.
  • 3D printing using cellulose from wood pulp is just beginning, but it could be cheaper, stronger and more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based polymers currently widely used. A large amount of plastics could be replaced with this renewable material.
  • Fabric made from wood fibers could revolutionize both the textile and forest industry. A company in Finland has developed a process that transforms wood fibers directly into yarn. It uses 99% less water and 80% less energy than producing cotton.
  • Wood nails offer many advantages over fasteners made of aluminum or steel. LignoLoc® nails are compressed with a resin to make them hard. Their mechanical properties allow the nails to be driven into solid structural timber without drilling pilot holes, using a pneumatic nail gun.
  • Transparent wood substitute for glass – A new process developed by Swedish scientists chemically removes lignin from natural wood fibers to produce clear windows and solar cells. This could be a cheaper substitute for traditional silica-based glass. The new process is thought to be particularly well-suited to large-scale applications and mass production.
  • Biodegradable electronics could be developed using graphene made from wood in a new process created by scientists at Rice University. Graphene is usually a sheet of carbon just one atom thick – not practical to work with in that structure. The Rice researchers developed a way to make a 3-dimensional graphene foam by heating a piece of pine with an industrial laser under very specific conditions. They believe that someday “wooden electronics” could help curb the problem of e-waste.

These and other innovations suggest that a revolution in wood products is getting underway. A recent report from Dovetail Partners characterized this as “The Once and Future Bioeconomy.” Several wood products experts and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe have declared that the 21st century could be the “century of wood.”

Implications of the coming age of wood could include:

  • Increased demand for wood, increased tree planting to meet the demand, and resulting increased absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide;
  • Development of markets for wood currently lacking market value, thinning of overgrown forests with high fuel loads to supply the markets, resulting in decreased wildfire risk.

Architect Anthony Thistleton has observed that “The 20th Century was the concrete age, it was all about the dominion of [humans] over nature.” If Egon Glesinger is right, the concrete age could be yielding to the “Coming Age of Wood” in which an ancient and renewable material takes center stage. — Dave Bengston

 

Welcome to our Fall 2017 New Foresight Students

Each semester UH welcomes students new to the Graduate Foresight program who come from differing backgrounds, life experiences, undergraduate and sometimes other graduate programs interested in using futures studies in ways unique to their ambitions. This fall semester is no exception. Whether enrolled as a candidate for the 12-credit hour certificate program or the 36-credit hour Masters program, each brings his or her own understanding of the world to engage with the faculty and other students about emergent changes that signal an expected future, and each gains research-driven practice in exploring possible alternative futures that guide and inform present-day strategy.

New to the program this year are: Lesia (pronounced “Lasha”) Fejer, Gregg Dunn, Jonathan Casiano, Hannah Kim, Collin Sledge, Yannis Kavounis and Tim Murphy. The snapshot profiles of some, presented below, provide a glimpse of the distinguishing résumés that characterize the newest members of our Houston Foresight community.

Lesia works for the British Government as a Science & Innovation Officer to build the stepping-stones for future scientific discovery and innovations for the benefit of the UK. Prior to working for the British Government, she studied a myriad of topics, in-depth, at Texas A&M University including biomedical sciences, anthropology, psychology, international development theory and science & technology policy. Having earned a Master of Art (MA) degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Lesia sees futures studies as the right opportunity for furthering her career pursuits. Growing up she played five different sports at an advanced/competitive level, and was given the opportunity to represent the USA in two different sports at the Junior Olympics. Although its been a while she she has competed, Lesia will not pass up a chance to play in the future or to go to a game.

Gregg has worked in the auto industry for 25 years, and has been a member of the United Auto Workers union the entire time. He believes the union is a good counterbalance to the auto company for which he works, and  continues to labor effectively alongside of union colleagues in good as well as hard times. Gregg has always been fascinated by the future, and presently is concerned with future implications of advances in technology and automation, pondering questions such as: “What might happen to our manufacturing base? How can we work to keep pace with the ever-changing world? What kind of jobs will be displaced by automation?  What kind of jobs will be created? How will humans fit into the changing work environment?” Gregg readily admits that he is not solely focused on the auto industry regarding the future; however, it encompasses a significant part of the work that he does.

Jonathan is a development writer for Baylor College of Medicine. Prior to his role at Baylor, Jonathan worked as a communications specialist and paralegal at the law firm of Bain and Barkley, and a copywriter for the Houston area marketing agency, DrumBeat Marketing. After obtaining a BA in Interpersonal Communication, he interned in the communications office of the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management before earning Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

 

Hannah is currently a Talent and Analytics Manager at Campbell Soup Company. She has over 10 years of cross-functional experience in Finance, HR, and Strategy across CPG, Retail, and Hospitality industries. With passion for learning, Hannah’s ultimate goal is to become a foresight strategist to help individuals and organization achieve their goals through a future-focused, measured approach. Hannah loves to challenge herself in marathons and travel around the world trying different cuisines and learning languages and cultures.

 

Collin is a recent UH graduate with a Bachelor of Art (BA) in Economics. He learned about the Foresight program as an undergraduate from Dr. Andy Hines (Andy) while pursuing a minor in Energy and Sustainability. Andy spoke about foresight and how it is being used and can be used in application to the energy sector. Collin was sold. He is particularly interested in the possibility or probability of new economic realities brought about by converging exponential technologies. Managing transition to the fourth industrial revolution is a fascinating economic challenge to Collin. As well, he is interested in the ways in which the world may respond to climate change and increased extreme weather instances, particularly in tropical developing nations.  His interests are basketball and stand up comedy, and his not-so-guilty pleasures are Kanye West albums and Tarantino movies.

 

We welcome our Fall 2017 new foresight students, and look forward to how they will help positively shape futures studies as a discipline and through foresight practice. — Kimberly Daniels

2018 Foresight Certificate Boot Camp Wants YOU!

Are you ready for January 2018 UH Foresight Certificate boot camp?

Your five-day journey through Foresight techniques will take place January 15-19, 2018 at the Hilton hotel right on the University of Houston main campus.

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 diverse backgrounds: corporations, government agencies, NGOS, non-profits, education, consultancies… pretty much from anywhere. Most have some type of foresight role – or are about to begin one — and need a solid immersion in the basics. That’s just what you’ll get!

Can’t make the January boot camp? You are in luck! You can sign-up now for the April 30-May 4 session.

Email Andy (ahines@uh.edu) or Tim Morgan (tnmorgan@gmail.com) with any questions about registration or content of the course.

Sign up here. Your future awaits.  –Tim Morgan

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Specialty Futurists

Having been working on this project with Dr. Hines for several months now, I thought I would discuss the articles that have really piqued my interest so far, what I’m calling “Specialty Futurists.”

In the retail space, Howard Saunders, a retail futurist, opines that people no longer want to see rows and rows of the same items on shelves, but want to have a “personal experience” while shopping.  Some of the follow-on experiences include making everything “tap-and-go” and eliminating the need for cards and cash. This, of course, is already pervasive with apps such as Venmo, Square Cash, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and TransferWise, to name just a few.  Stores already have the capability to track our cell phones as we move about, noting where we linger and what we bypass, and can send coupons or notifications based on our movements. And Corning Glass  is on the way to provide us mirrors that will show what we look like in various articles of clothing, without having to actually try them on.

Futurist Karinna Nobbs, who has worked with several large clothing companies and is now a Senior Lecturer at the London School of Economics as well as working with a mixture of fashion and media brands, has spoken about wearable technology and the need to design them “fashion first”, addressing purpose, balance and visibility in this process.  Her goal, as a futurist in fashion, is to merge digital anthropology and data science to understand how fashion is affect consumers’ behavior.

In the government area, I was pleased to see that local governments, e.g., Carroll County, Maryland, are working with futurists).  Additionally, New York City has advertised for a futurist to help them “gather insights on possible cultural, economic and environmental changes”. Yes, both of these locations are in what are often considered cosmopolitan areas (Carrol County is outside Washington, DC), so it isn’t as much of a surprise as it would have been ten or even five years ago.

A third subset that also surprised me is the percentage of the futurists that Google finds who are members of the APF.  Of the 811 hits captured so far, 105 are listed as APF members, and of the 103 I have added, 11 are APF members.  The percentage is increasing from 7.5% before I began to 9.3% during my activity.  That’s a good thing! – Lloyd Chesley

 

“Scanning the Fringe” call for presenters

We are looking forward to seeing you at the 2018 Spring Gathering themed “Scanning the Fringe.” We will do our usual dinner and social on Friday, have meeting on Saturday, and a party on Saturday night. Right now, we are working on the agenda, and we’d like to hear from you, if you have a topic in mind that fits with this year’s theme. And it’s not too early to book your travel if you’re coming in from out of town. The Hilton on campus is very convenient (link) and some folks have used AirBnB (link).

A little bit on the “scanning the fringe” theme. As futurists in general and scanners in particular, we are increasingly challenged to find the weak signals of change. We suggest that one must “scan the fringe” to find these weak signals. That said, our instructions for where to find the fringe are, quite frankly, rather murky. We talk about art, fiction, science, fiction, fringe media, underground, blogs, notes, speeches, monographs, tech journals, etc., but how do we find these?

So we want to spend a day exploring the topic of the fringe and weak signals, and scanning. Some topics might include:

  • Tools for finding, collecting, and analyzing hits
  • Examples or mini-case studies where scanning has had an impact
  • How do you “find the fringe, or weak signals,” whether process or good sources, which might include sites, or maybe “field visits.”
  • Timing….making scanning more useful by providing more help on “timing the future.”
  • Role of sci fi
  • Crowdsourcing approaches
  • Role of biases
  • As a field, getting “credit” for identifying weak signals that end up having a big impact

We are looking for ideas for specific topics we might cover, as well as presenters. So, if you have a topic you’d like to see covered, or even better, if you’d like to present, please let us know (email Andy at ahines@uh.edu).    — Andy Hines

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First Impressions of our “Futurists in Media” Scanner

When I began this project of searching for mentions of futurist in the media, I was interested to see that there were no articles over the weekend. (I was also a bit relieved, frankly, as that gave me two days to focus on my other courses.) But why was that? Was it due to the search engine or was no one writing about futurists? Were futurists taking the weekend off? Were reporters taking the weekend off? I soon found out it was an anomaly and was only true the first couple weekends. So I thought I should see if I could find a pattern in looking at which day of the week articles were published. However, I did not find a trend; the number of pertinent articles was not evenly distributed, but there also was no clearly defined peak day.

What does this mean, and what can we learn from that? While I am happy to have only three or four articles to peruse most days (albeit there have been days with 11 articles), this does seem like a dearth of articles, especially with the amount of news now available online. Although it appears the number of articles has been steadily rising since this study began in 2015, there still are not an inordinate number. What we are getting is pretty easy to keep up with. We began with 24 pertinent articles in December 2015. This increased to 282 in 2016, and we have 76 pertinent articles for the six weeks I’ve been compiling in 2017. If we extrapolate 2017, presuming a steady number of pertinent articles, we could have in the vicinity of 600 pertinent articles for the year.

So, while I don’t want to overtax the people keeping track, is there something we can do proactively to increase the number of articles that refer to actual futurists? Should we start seeding reporters with information? Should reporters be invited to any and all events that include futurists? Should we author articles, for example news releases, and send them to news organizations? At a minimum, it would seem to me, technology reporters would be interested in futurists who are presenting, especially if the futurist is speaking at what is not typically considered a “futurist forum.” I’ve also seen a number of futurists quoted for science fiction movies (the new Blade Runner 2049 movie is an excellent example as three reviewers of the movie spoke with futurists in order to get their take on the movie).

Another thing to keep in mind is the search term itself. Right now, we search on just the word “futurist”. I presume there might be more articles that could be pertinent, but that do not use the term “futurist,” but our primary interest here is in how people who are called futurists are being portrayed. — Lloyd Chesley

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