FUTURES THINKING 06/1
A New Covenant?
C. Trotter, in a special lecture, reprinted NZ Political Review, Autumn 05,argues that terming the Treaty of Waitangi “a founding document” and basis for New Zealand’s constitutional framework works against national integrity. The Treaty provided the Maori, through their signatory chiefs, with the British protection from internal civil strife and external threat, but it did not build a nation. The latter began as the colony became self-governing 1852. Thereafter the Maori were faced with finding their own place in a developing Settler society, whose self-confidence, based on social and technological progress, as “Better Britons” survived even the Great Depression years. The later 20th century has seen revision of the Settler myths, by the now urbanised Maori, by women, the disabled and others. For the future, the Minister of Treaty Settlements, a law professor, has declared that “constitutionalism founded on the western, democratic, liberal government must accommodate cultural diversity in accordance with the conventions of recognition, consent and cultural continuity”, that is, a system which recognises and enshrines the political beliefs of traditional Maori culture, which was rigidly hierarchical and sexually exclusive. The Waitangi Tribunal has taken upon itself to construct an entire alternative mythology to that of the Settler nation, “the delineation of a past which did not occur but might have, in a retrospective utopia”. Trotter proposes an alternative. A nation that understands and accepts its past, a bold, often tragic, occasionally immoral but ultimately successful exercise in nation-building. Pakeha NZers are not “Europeans”, nor are the Maori of today those who lived here in 1840. A new covenant, a constitution is needed, for all who are full and equal citizens of Aotearoa- New Zealand.
Shell Global Scenarios to 0 5. The Future Business Environment: Trends, Trade-offs and Choices, Shell Centre, 05, www.shell.co.scenarios. Three scenarios:- Low Trust Globalisation, Open Doors, Flags. Each with an analysis of market and state, economic policies, forces for economic fragmentation and integration, economic growth and “the energy scene”.
Crossroads for Planet Earth, Special Issue, Scientific American, Sept 05. Three great transitions of the past two centuries are reaching culmination:- the global population is stabilising, extreme poverty is receding and humanity is pressing against the Planet’s limits. The outlines of a comprehensive action plan are covered in eight parts:- understand the changes: achieve the development goals; preserve crucial habitats; wean off fossil fuels; provide cheap irrigation; improve the health system; brace for slower growth; prioritise more rationally. Is there the will for this way?
FUTURES THINKING 05/4
M. Duncan, A. Leigh, et al, Imagining Australia: Ideas For Our Future, Allen & Unwin ,04, focuses on big challenges and offers practical policy proposals. A. Leigh, Australian Journal of Public Administration, March, 05, outlines four. Firstly, a real debate about income inequality is needed, because this matters for a more ordered society with less political polarisation. Ideologies should give way to modest reformers. Secondly, lasting reconciliation with the nationâs original inhabitants, based on hope and promise, using symbolism and programmes is needed. Thirdly, the reformed public service needs reinvigorating, with more flexible permeation between it, academia and the public sector. Fourthly, the level of citizen participation and the level of public debate needs overhaul. New voices in the media, a national convention every decade to assess the Constitution, and even an annual national deliberation day could be explored.
Restructuring Australia: Regionalism, Republicanism and Reform of the Nation-state, W. Hudson, A. J. Brown, eds, Federation Press, 04, offers a mix of perspectives:- theoretical, realist, expert and general, including a section on the implications of globalisation for the Australian governmental system, with comment about the growing inequalities.
A. Aslan, M. A. Oner, Futures Oct.04, use a checklist based on the integrated foresight model, to compare eight national foresight studies including NZ. Three ‘generations’ or levels of foresight have developed and the outlines of fourth may be discerned.
R. Slaughter, Futures Oct 04, disuses the principles, structure and achievement of the Australian Foresight Institute, since its inception 1999. Experiences from the past have been applied but new integrated approaches are utilised in the studies. A series of useful monographs have been published, including No 4 , J. Voros, Reframing Environmental Scanning http://www.swin.edu.au/afi
Shaping the Future, S. W. Popper et al, Scientific American, April 05. Decision making under uncertainty can be so frustrating that wrong or no decisions are made. An alternative framework is proposed focused on flexibility: finding, testing and implementing policies that work regardless. Policies have built-in mechanisms to change with circumstances.
Catastrophe: Risk and Response, R. A. Posner, O.U.P, 04. Wildcards, with low probability but very high impact are subjected to a finely reasoned discussion by a US Federal judge who provides a valuable alternative perspective to the scientific or cost-benefit approach, though considering both.
FUTURES THINKING 05/2
Thinking … Dangerously
Foreign Policy, Sept-Oct 04, offers eight invited contributions on Dangerous Ideas to provoke refl ection. The War on Evil; Undermining Free Will (Paul Davies); Business as Usual at the UN; Spreading Democracy; Tranhumanism, which seeks to liberate humanity from physical constraints (Francis Fukayama); Religious Intolerance; Free Money (chronic in the world’s largest economy); Hating America (Fareed Zakaria).
Emerging Risks in the 21st Century: An Agenda for Action, OECD, 2003. With a focus on the vulnerability of major systems to the scale of the emerging risks, the responses need to be systemic, especially at the international level. Thirteen recommendations:- for a broader view of risk; for consistent policy across all risk areas; for improved coherence of risk management; for improved public and private sector synergy with right incentives; for enhanced role for the private sector; for promotion of diversity and co-operation to address the increasing scale; for development of risk awareness among stakeholders and general public, with enhanced dialogue and trust; for improved knowledge and technology sharing across countries; for enhancement of international surveillance and monitoring systems; for creation of cooperative frameworks; for OECD to improve support for promising technologies, and development of tools to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.
The UK Sustainable Development Commission report, Shows Promise, But Must Try Harder, 04, recommends some radical changes to the national sustainability strategy, established in 1994. Since 1999 there have been annual reports on the fi fteen headline indicators, in response to which the government has committed to action. The latest report has found limited action in two key areas, waste and climate change. The radical change focuses on the fourth of the objectives of the strategy ‘..maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment’. Its demand for rethinking the role of the economy involves strengthening only those kinds of growth which support employment (but in a qualitative manner linked to well-being, not growth), social progress and prudent resource use.
e.nz , March/April 05, Lean Green Engineering, D. Sheppard reports on the discussion paper from the Presidential Task Force, IPENZ (Institute of Professional Engineers, NZ). If sustainability is the focus for human long-term survival, then engineers have a crucial role to play in the choices made and their implementation. Paradigm shifts in design technology and production economics are called for.
Futures, March 04, special issue, Coping With the Future: Developing Organizational Foresightfulness, Eds H. Tsoukas, J. Shepherd, comes from professionals and a conference, University of Strathclyde, a major centre for organisational futures work. Seven contributions:- K. van der Heijden, scenarios expert, considers their role in improving organisational foresight; R. B. MacKay, P. McKiernan examine the foresight-hindsight relationship; M. L. Nathan explores this relationship in crisis conditions; S. Mendonca et al consider wild cards, weak signals and organisational improvisation; L. A. Constanzo looks at foresight in the high-speed environment; D. M. Reid, S. C. Zyglidopoulos relate the causes and consequences of lack of strategic foresight for multinationals entering China; and D. A. Blackman, S. Henderson highlight the role of doubting as foresight leads to unseen futures.
FUTURES THINKING 05/1
On the Art of FT
Futures Beyond Dystopia: Creating Social Foresight, R. A. Slaughter, RoutledgeFalmer, 04, offers wide ranging assessments of the state of the art, its techniques and some of its leading exponents, with strong criticism of the dominant US thinking which is projected upon the wider world. This Australian perspective from a major thinker and practitioner may be more in line with views outside the US. Major sections cover aspects of futures enquiry, for the 21st century, leading away from the t e c h n o l o g i c a l l y – d o m i n a t e d , “dystopian”; techniques and perspectives which offer a more balanced and wider futures thinking frame of reference, such as critical and layered approaches; different ways of knowing, and much more.
Matters of Consequence: Creating a Meaningful Life and a World That Works, C. Macdonald, Big Ideas Press, 04. A very readable Canadian perspective, offering in response to the Dystopia (above), the need for deep understanding, where broadlybased contextual knowledge is integrated with self-knowledge. Contributions from many futures thinkers are integrated, with a useful appendix of relevant organisations and resources.
Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another, P. Ball, Heinemann, 04, is readable history of research into human collective behaviour, a fundamentally statistical study which is valid for very large groups. Modern computer power has provided data for rapid advance in understanding of human behaviour, social economic and political, valuable for futures work.
Technological Change, Industry Structure and The Environment, P. Derwick et al, Futures, April 04, contributes towards a method to assess the long-term impact of pervasive technologies on the environment, illustrated from information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Effects on greenhouse gas emissions are included.
Futures, May 04 is devoted to Futures of Transdisciplinarity, with an international range of contributors on theoretical and practical aspects. Guest editors.
R. Lawrence, C. Despres note that this development differs from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Since it largely focuses on the people-environment relationship, architecture and planning are fertile domains. It deals with problems which are complex and heterogeneous and it accepts local contexts and uncertainty. In research and practice close and continuous collaboration are necessary.
Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life, J. Gribben, Allen Lane, 04. A master science writer uses the interdependence of order and chaos to explain the beginnings of life. The application of the mathematical concept of chaos is widespread in our understanding of many complex, but fundamentally self-organising systems, and important in thinking about our futures.
Our Past and Our Futures
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, B. Fagan, Granta/Basic Books, 04, is a clearly explained account of our past 15,000 years, the natural environmental and associated climates, showing how the distant past is relevant to current concerns. Adjustment to the flux of the changes in the environment has challenged human societies, but the present one is more vulnerable to larger catastrophes because of urbanisation, population growth and industrialisation.
P.R., A. H. Erlich, explore the tensions between human societies and environmental limitations, One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption and the Human Future, Island Press, 04. Ours may not be the fate of Nineveh, we have more technological capability and greater global reach, but a new evolutionary step is required, a conscious cultural revolution. Valuable bibliographic resource appended.
End of World Population Growth in the 21st Century: New Challenges to Human Capital Formation and Sustainable Development, Eds W. Lutz et al, Earthscan, 04. We are at the crossroads between a world which was growing and one that is aging, with regional variations. This study from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis used models to explore likely outcomes. There is a 60% chance that global population will exceed 10 billion by 2100 and about 15% chance that it will be smaller in 2100 than it was in 2000. Technical.
More advanced and speculative thinking from Foundation for the Future, 03, Future Human: Workshop Proceedings . A select number of experts, mostly US and male and scientific, discuss their vision of the next1000- year evolution of the human species. The present initial steps in our mastery of our genetic makeup could lead some 40 generations ahead to new human species, but clearly the process is not going to be smooth or certain. The value of a long-term view lies in assessing some of the critical stages in such development, beyond the immediate steps.
Limits to Growth Revisited: The 30- Year Update, D. Meadows et al, Chelsea Green Publishing, 04. This follows the twenty year update 1992, whose major finding was that humanity had already overshot Earth’s support capacity. Applying the recently developed “ecological footprint”, the findings indicate a grimmer picture, with 30 years largely wasted. Covers a wide range of issues and concepts, including overshoot (with charts projected to 2100), processes for coming down to sustainable levels either through nature or managed processes, the limits of sources and sinks, and more. The tools for transition to sustainability include: – visioning, networking, truth-telling, learning and loving.
FUTURES THINKING 04/3
Thinkers On and Of Our Times
Educational policy academic (Glasgow/ Auckland Univs.) M. Peters examines the meaning of identity and citizenship in globalisation, N.Z Sociology, Vol 18/2, 03, through two recent conceptions. UK politician R. Cooper (02) proposes a new imperialism, exemplified by a postmodern European state system based on transparency, interdependence and mutual surveillance, upholding human rights values. M. Hardt, A. Negri (00) draw on Marx and Deleuze for a new sovereignty called”Empire”, a postmodern, single, but decentralized system of global rule. Both globalisation and citizenship are crucial to the free movement of peoples, from skilled workers to refugees, in a world both fragmenting and integrating, with increasing inequalities between nations and regions. Most debates on citizenship accept the nation state boundaries, but at some UN levels it is being used as a metaphor for social protection and reconstruction of solidarity. Cooper’s approach is Eurocentric, dividing the international system into Premodern or almost non-existent state power; Modern; and Post modern, where a new governance system is evolving which dissolves the domestic and foreign affairs boundaries, permits mutual interference in domestic affairs and mutual surveillance, and uses codified rules of conduct as alternatives to forceful dispute resolution. While Japan and Canada also accept this position the US operates in a form of defensive modernism. For the post modern states, external methods to cope with militant rogue states may require acceptance of double standards. Citizenship in this system is understood still in the national framework.
“Empire” has no boundaries, it rules the entire “civilized” world. It has no history but is eternally fixed, and it operates at all levels of the social world. It is dedicated to peace, though the practice may be violent and it is embodied in networks of institutions, states, military forces and corporate powers. Participants in this system are called ‘multitude’, whose political programme is based on global citizenship, where workers and capital migrate freely. The battle for global democracy is underway though it has no democratic institutional mechanisms for representation, no elections. But it is not anti-globalisation. Both forms retain the traditional sense of citizenship based on the nation state. The left’s concern for both nation building and fostering a sense of community and local identity is necessary to sustain social rights and to counter the impacts of globalisation of social and welfare policy.
Ed J Cowley, New Statesman and Society, 14 July, 03 presents short introductions by independent writers on Twelve Great Thinkers of Our Times. J. Lovelock reconceptualised Earth as a self-sustaining system. E. O. Wilson’s research highlighted the animal roots of human societies. M. Nussbaum, a multidisciplinary academic, is a lawyer for the powerless everywhere. Li Hongzhi founded the Falun Gong. P. Singer expounds the utilitarian philosophy that actions should aim to maximise the greatest happiness for the greatest number of individuals, including animals. N. Chomsky is the master thinker of the origins of language and cognitive science, and is also a major social critic. M. S. Abul-Ala Maududi, expounded an Islamic vision of social reform based on cells of pious individuals, which led to the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic organization). J. Derrida conceived deconstructionism, a critique of text and systems which examines the forces contributing to their making. K. Millet researched and publicized the politics of sex. J. Baudrillard expounded ideas of simulation and hyper reality, where images replace or distort objective truth. A. Negri practiced a theory of constituent power, where the democratic forces of revolutionary innovation, workers, rebels, the poor, demand response from capital and central authority. J. Maynard Smith researched and expounded evolutionary biology and other insights into complexities of life.
Futures of the Social Sciences, Futures, August, 03 , B. Tonn edits contributors on risk communication, psychology and longevity, the end of neo-liberal history, need for the social sciences? the structures of knowledge, the future in social sciences, a vision of the future of science, the future of futures decision making.
Inevitable Surprises; Thinking Ahead in a Time of Turbulence, P. Schwartz, Gotham Books, 03. For the corporate leaders and thinkers, a futures guru provides balanced perspectives, and informative insights which challenge assumptions. He offers basic tools for being prepared.
Creativity Inc. Building an Inventive Organisation, J. Mauzy, R. A. Harriman, Harvard Business School Press, 03. Systemic creativity encourages this quality throughout an organization but how to create it? Six essential understandings and plenty of practical advice.
Advocacy for Social Justice: A Global Action and Reflection Guide. D. Cohen et al, Kumarian Press, 01 offer lessons from the Advocacy Institute (Washington), on capacity building to influence and change public policy. What about the necessary independent research?.
FUTURES THINKING 04/1
D. Morgan, Futures, Nov-Dec, 02, examines the concept of images of the future as being fundamental to the definition of a particular era and culture, and the rise and fall of civilisations. This hardly applies to earlier historical periods but it does emerge with the European Rennaissance, with ideas of progress, natural law and utopian socialism, as it became a realizable, dynamic and living goal for humankind. This intensified as human optimism grew with the application of reason to the natural world in the Age of Enlightenment. Reason and faith fostered images of utopia- the Kingdom of God on Earth. In America, the rational middle class virtues crystalised into a way of life, American and later global. Progressive and Utopian images of the future suffered reversals in the post war era, reflected in the critiques by Existentialists.
The dynamic of these two modes constitutes a holistic image of the future with the progressive containing ideas of continuous and perpetual change, largely driven by science, technology and improving social organisation, while the utopian depicts a stable, perfected social order, with awareness of the need for reconstruction. The tensions between the two eventually produced the conflicts of the early 20th century. Lately the two modes have re-emerged; the progressive socialist has led to the globalisation movement, while the utopian emphasises sustainable development, systems theory, global consciousness etc.
Visions for/of NZ
V. Jayne examines real possibilities for a shared vision for New Zealand, Management, June 03, arising from a poll of 400 senior executives. While the majority supported such a development, many thought it should be a government initiative, and that it might also form the basis for a written constitution. Identifying descriptors ranged widely with equity, harmony, prosperity, the environment, honesty and innovation recurring readily. M. Menzies, NZ Futures Trust, identified four possible approaches as a starting point: the great leader, systematic, deep-end, and complex. The focus should be on creating processes and the media for strategic conversations to happen. Anew NZ is attempting one such initiative.
P. Matthews, The Listener, 18 Oct 03, p53, reflects on recent international recognition of NZ filmakers, their tenacity, determination and a singular vision which is apparent in both Lord of the Rings and Whale Rider, a land-mysticism, a sense that magic and goodness are vanishing, and need for messianic leadership.
A. Leigh, Harvard, examines this term, meaning policy development based on long-run scenario planning, and its applications in UK, USA and Australia. D. Adams, J. Wiseman, provide a detailed account and analysis of Growing Victoria Together, Australian Journal of Public Administration, June 03.
A number of expert commentaries from Futures: April, R.van Wynsberghe et al, examine the Georgia Basin Futures Project, B.C, and its methods of community engagement, using expert workshops and a computer based sustainability tool as the base for a larger process of community engagement. June, T. J. Chermack, L van der Merwe,
Examine the strong relevance of the constructivist approach to teaching and learning in the processes of scenario planning. Oct, BC sustainability academic J. Robinson enlarges on the use of backcasting in scenario analysis, applied in the Georgia Basin process above. Dec, G. Burt, K van der Heijden focus on the practical hurdles faced by scenario planners, especially developing a trusting relationship with clients and assisting mangers to a better understanding of what’s involved. C. Harries, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol 70, 03, pp 797-817, provides a framework for evaluation of scenario planning and other strategic decision making techniques. There are multiples uses for these process, depending upon the client, the operational environment and the techniques.
FUTURES THINKING 03/4
Islam, Postmodernism and Other Futures: a Ziauddin Sardar Reader, Eds S. Inayatullah, G. Boxwell, Pluto 03, is a comprehensive introduction to a major futurist and columnist, who has critiqued the dominant Western worldview while rethinking his Islamic heritage. Three parts:- Rethinking Islam, (the Sharišah, nationalism, IT, Muslim civilisation); postmodernism (the clash of worldviews over the next fifty years, Christian-Muslim relations, Walt Disney and history); Other futures, (western “colonisation” of futures, Asian cultures and futures, non-western views of chaos theory) and more. Valuable editorial introduction.
Futures, March 03, whole issue, examines Democracy Works: People Thinking About Futures. Peace researcher/futurist J. Galtung edits and discusses a 2000 re-examination of a massive, worldwide research study conducted in late 1960s on popular anticipations of 2000. Most of the 2 million+ respondents to the extensive questionnaire were under 40. Another study was conducted among experts.
The people were largely right about what they expected for 2000, but the experts were more often wrong. The overall anticipation was sombre: people expected what they did not hope for and hoped for what they did not expect. Core western countries were less accurate than those termed “periphery”, perhaps the latter understood more “where the shoe pinches”. There was a premonition of postmodern reality. The failure of experts may be ascribed to their narrow disciplinary thinking and their use of prediction.
The Singularity, J. J. Bell, The Futurist, May-June 03, see also Singularity watch (http://www.singularitywatch.com/) is a mathematical term for a point of departure from reality. R. Kurzweil applies this to technological change so rapid and profound it could create rupture in the very fabric of human history.” It could emerge in the later first quarter of this century-c.2030, as machine intelligence exceeds and merges with human, and convergence of technologies in bioscience, nanotech etc give rise to new definitions of life, nature and human. The Matrix gives some idea of the result. Trans- or post-humanists are its enthusiasts, while B. Joy, computer systems guru warns “We may be the last humans…. Knowledge alone will enable mass destruction.”
State of the World, 2003, Special 20th Annual Ed, Worldwatch, W.W.Norton, reports on progress toward building a sustainable society with succinct, well-documented essays:- History of our future: Watching birds disappear; Linking population, women and biodiversity; Charting a new energy future; Scrapping mining dependence; and of special interest:- Uniting divided cities; Engaging religion in the quest for a sustainable world; Malaria.
FUTURES THINKING 03/2
Thinking about Timespace .. Peace
C. Rank, A. Rigby, Eds, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Peace Review, Sept 02, see these as essential elements of peacemaking in societies as well as between people. A wide range of cultural and personal perspectives are presented, around the political dimension of forgiveness and reconciliation. Contributions and case studies range from Northern Ireland, Uganda, Korea, Cambodia, Middle East. The personal in the political is explored along with the need to acknowledge history in these processes. Forgiveness brings healing but it cannot be demanded from victims. Whereas forgiveness relates to the past, reconciliation relates to the future and sharing this. “The challenge facing those who seek to promote reconciliation between people who have been divided is to expand the space within which these values can be approached in a creative, future-oriented and forgiving manner”.
K. Terlouw, Review, Fernand Braudel Center, Vol XXV/1, 02 explores further the Wallenstein approach to Timespace in world systems analysis, including a third, the semi-periphery. This is a blurred category, an intermediate on an interregnum. Two types of exploitation are part of the core/periphery relationship. The core exploits the periphery, while the middle class exploits the labourers. In the core, the class conflicts are ameliorated by redistribution drawn from the (semi)-periphery working class. The semi-periphery has much stronger tensions because of the pressure of the exploitation by the core and greater ethnic tensions. Conflict within borders of semi-peripheral states is matched by external pressure which can be both developmental and destructive.
It is a dynamic part the word-system with some influence over the core, though requiring a greater need for smart, efficient processes. The semi-periphery has, over time been a region of development, some countries move into the core even though others decline. Some semi-peripheral regions eg N W Europe, Mesopotamia in Neolithic times, have a slight edge, which over a time period can feed major disparity. In Timespace, semi-peripheral areas can become the transforming developmental areas between world systems, especially during marked economic downswings as old core areas stagnate.
Are We Predictable?
J. Casti, New Scientist, 31 Aug, 02, pp29-31, argues that there are deeper patterns in our behaviour, reflecting those found elsewhere in nature. Among the various proposals which have been applied with mixed success to modelling and predicting, the most powerful yet combine a couple of old mathematical ideas. Elliot waves waves originated with studies of the Great Depression, identifying the financial market cycles as the product of human behaviour. Human emotions are rhythmical. Elliott waves are patterns of ups and downs, with a reaction following an action. The waves can be subdivided, usually into eight waves, and the wave principle is fractal, with each wave having component waves and itself being part of a larger wave. These can zoom in and out over short periods or centuries. Elliott waves also have close connection with a series of numbers called Fibonacci sequences where each number is the sum of two previous ones, 1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8,13, 21… Elliott waves form a total cycle following the Fibonacci sequence, which itself is found endlessly in nature, connecting this to all human behaviour.
What’s Next? Exploring the New Terrain for Business, E. Kelly et al, Perseus, 02. Members of the Global Business Network, practitioner, businesspeople and other thinkers, explore the new realities and challenges of the decade ahead. Their ideas are arranged in “The New Terrain Map” under four primary categories:- power; people; potential; planet. Eight subcategories offer with fresh ideas and insights, especially on thinking about issues.
Creating Better Futures: Scenario Planning as a Tool for a Better To-morrow, J. A. Ogilvy, OUP, 02. Global Business Network leader reflects on the foundational rethinking needed for the creation of better futures, from the thinking itself to the insight into trends and shifts in the postmodern age and the process of scenario planning.
FUTURES THINKING 03/1
Globalised Society – Threats, Hopes
UNESCO Courier, Dec, 01, pp 6-9, extracts from two earlier works on Racism and Culture, (1952, 1971) UNESCO published by eminent anthropologist C. Levi-Strauss. An experience of a cumulative history is characteristic of grouped societies, who develop a capacity to “get along together”, while static societies are isolated and vulnerable. A world civilisation essentially exhibits maximum possible diversities. Different cultures need to combine their respective stakes in the great game of history. Intolerant racism may be an ideological cover for antagonism based on the will to power and subjugation.
Hopes of equality and fraternity among human kind must also recognise that distinct individual and group values need to retain that distinctness to survive. There needs to be adequate communication to stimulate but not so intense as to overwhelm.
Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, L. E. Harrison, S. P. Huntingdon, Basic Books, 00, is notable for its optimistic assessments of culture in successful societies, especially when some cultures are more conducive to modernity. But can the unprogressive ones be refashioned?
Futures, Oct, 02, Whole Issue, Impaling the Future, Eds R. Kapoor, J. Serra, presents provocative explorations from the 2001 World Futures Studies Federation Conference, on implications of the Globalised Society. Four major threats to large sections of humanity could lead to violent or slow deaths:-ecological, politico-economic, cultural and biotechnological. Many peoples would have no choices in globalisation. The future of our species may be at stake, in B. van Steenbergen’s exploration of biomedical developments. L. Groff offers a holistic, creative approach on management and resolution of violent conflict. B. Tonn, E. Ogle explore a future citizenship ethic of concern for the future, based on community rather than individualistic concerns, while T. Stevenson, also S. Soderlund, T. Fuller offer two explorations of cyber-based community futures and IT impacts on academic learning and meta-level consciousness.
The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome, eminent Israeli futurist and political scientist, I. Dror, Frank Cass, 01, provides a detailed examination of the current weakness of governance faced with ongoing global transformations. Radical improvement in critical decision-making, reshaping the moral base and reshaping the architecture are explored in twelve detailed aspects.
Social Science and Futures
Sophisticated computer modelling and application of naturally occurring “power laws” on the exponential relationship between size and rank, are enabling more accurate interpretations of societies and their behaviour. J. Rauch, Atlantic Monthly, April, 02, explains how historic, present (including genocidal) and artificial societies can reveal consistencies in the patterns even allowing for differences. This also enable more accurate assessment of interventions, anticipations of trouble, small, workable policy changes that work as against large, ineffective ones.
“If social scientists thought harder about the future, this would make them focus their research into the present and the past more fruitfully, with more attention to the key predictors of change, argue Eds R. Cooper, R. Layard, What the Future Holds: Insights from Social Science, MIT Press, 02. Various methodologies are assessed, plus the need for more interdisciplinary interaction.
The Ingenuity Gap, T. Homer-Dixon, Alfred Knopf, 00, a lively examination with sound scholarship on the growing gap between the societies where ingenuity, in technologies, innovations, institutions and social arrangements is limited and others in over-abundance.
Vital Signs 2002: The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future, Worldwatch Institute, W.W. Norton, 02, covers 56 significant indicators (one third new), in this essential resource.
FUTURES THINKING 02/4
The Future of the Human Species
F. de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist, Basic Books, 01, takes a worldwide tour through animal behaviour to illuminate how humans and other animals are similar but different. Western dualism is uncomfortable with too close an understanding, which may mean an identity crisis in western, though not in eastern thinking.
Human themselves may be at the point of creating a new Homo species. The past evolutions each took two hundred thousand years, and homo sapiens arrived one hundred and thirty thousand years ago. G. Stock, Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future, Houghton Mifflin, 02, takes both a medical and a biological view of possibilities. Rather than cyborgs (bionic people with silicon implants in brain and body), he foresees “fyborgs”, functional cyborgs with extracorporeal electromechanical devices to enhance existing organs. The biological possibilities of human gametic engineering, cloning and genetic diagnosis before implantation will inevitably be developed through public pressure. F. Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 02, is more concerned with the social implications of human biological experimentation. There is something uniquely different in being human; in a moral sense and dignity which is fundamental to human rights, values (including capitalism). Many human qualities may now be understood in animals but still humans have a factor X, dignity, to be preserved from biotechnological intrusion. K. Malik comments on Fukuyama, New Statesman, 20 May, 02, pp 48-49, that human uniqueness lies in our ability to act as conscious agents. We are both objects and subjects of nature and our moral values arise from being conscious agents, which allows us to not only to follow nature but to amend it. The Economist, 25 May, 02, p 73-75, examines advances in brain science, with possibilities of human enhancement. Benign modification to impaired neurological conditions may be welcome, but free will is becoming a more debatable possibility, if mental decisions are merely the consequence of electromechanical interactions in the brain. Neurotechnolgy is already affecting human moral development, and could reduce the number of ways it is acceptable to be a person. Nature, 28 Feb, 02. p 963. Research biologists R. J. Aitken, J.A M. Groves comment on the desperate plight of the human spermatozoon, as species fecundity declines. Environmental impacts and technological interventions are both reducing the semen quality. Two main causes of germ-cell dysfunction are identified:- genetic deletions on the male sex-determining Y chromosome and oxidative stress.
Club of Budapest member, E. Laszlo considers human evolution into the Third Millennium, Futures, September, 01. The dominant, extensive mode of the human species since the Neolithic period has been conquest, colonisation and consumption, which is now reaching a crisis in sustainability. A more desirable mode is intensive, with emphasis on connection, communication, consciousness. This exists now, but needs further development and application.
Predicting the Unpredictable, E. Bonabeau, Harvard Business Review, March 02. Ways by which the hitherto mysterious behaviour of people in crowds, in markets and organisations can be analysed and predicted.
FUTURES THINKING 02/3
Reflections on Elephants
The late D. Michael reflected on what, and how, we know about the human race and its future, which he likened to story of the blind men and the elephant. Now however, the storyteller is blind and there is no elephant. The human situation now is too complex, interconnected and dynamic to be comprehensible. Yet we need to keep trying.
Six mutually interacting characteristics result in the this blindness. Ignorance:- too much and too little information; a lack of shared value priorities; a dilemma of content- how much do we need to know to feel responsible for decisions and actions ? the limitations of spoken language which is too linear to deal with multiple factors simultaneously; the increasing and unavoidable absence of reliable boundaries; our self-amplifying, unpredictable acting out of the shadows in ourselves, the source of creativity but also of much that is destructive. These are the ignorance-maintaining aspects.
Seven helpful responses are:- being seekers of meaning, acknowledgment of our vulnerability and finiteness, of self and projects; living both pride and arrogance-poor; individually or as groups; living in hope, not optimism, recognising the challenges and moving forward; having tentative commitment, examining carefully, taking risks recognising that the pitfalls; being context alert, capable of understanding a few things very deeply yet engaging in the democratic process; becoming learners/ teachers in the wilderness, asking questions. Futures, March, 02.
M. Edelman, political scientist, Politics of Misinformation, Cambridge Univ Press, 01, notes “virtually all political groups and individuals benefit at times from misleading and inaccurate assumptions and accordingly have an incentive to disseminate such beliefs”. A shrewd examination of the ways by which individuals, groups and institutions go about this.
A New Intelligence
D. Zohar, I. Williams conduct a printed conversation about Spiritual Intelligence: the Ultimate Intelligence, Bloomsbury, 01, the third dimension with IQ and Emotional Intelligence. Our search for deep meaning takes us beyond the market-place assumptions, to the boundaries of what it means to be human, in a culture at the edge of chaos. It is not about religion; accessing deeper meaning and value in our lives may be linked to an inbuilt neurological characteristic of humans. Resulting personal qualities include:- a high degree of self-awareness, being vision and value led; resilience, facing and using adversity; a sense of the holistic; having the courage to stand alone; asking fundamental questions and seeking like answers; compassion and reluctance to cause unnecessary harm.
Lower Fraser Basin QUEST, Envision Sustainablity Tools Inc, Suite 302, Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4, 1999. An interactive systems CD-ROM approach to sustainable development planning, with three valuable areas for adaptation elsewhere:- systems modelling, alternative futures(scenario)development; and sustainable development. Version 1.0 QUEST and Manual available free- www.envisiontools.com/lfbquest
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After September 11
US farmer, poet, futurist W. Berry reflects. Unquestioning technological and economic optimism underlying the “new economy” has ended. The euphoria built on endless innovation was overridden by the unforeseen, that previous innovations have become deadly weapons. This also terminated the corollary that a complex global economy is protectable by “national defence”. We face inescapable choices:- to continue a global economic system of unlimited “free trade” among corporations linked by vulnerable communication and supply lines, whose expensive global protection will oversway privacy and freedom for all; or, to decentralise the global economy, focus on local self-sufficiency in vital goods, though still enabling international trade.
National self-righteousness is a weakness. America has long been part of warfare which held that civilian populations could be guilty and militarily punished. Peace speaking is hard, it arises, not from passivity but from peaceableness, an alert, informed, continuously practised and active state of being. Nations cannot be peaceable when the poor are exploited, yet their governments are armed with the newest means of war. Our present concept of education must change; young people need to order their lives by knowing which things are most important. In the Presence of Fear, Orion Society, 02, www.OrionOnline.org
H. Linstone, Editor, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol 68, pp 309-313, 01, applies the drivers of a fifth Kondratiev economic/technological upswing. 1. IT. Evolving warfare will require new, unique sensing and information processing for identification, intelligence analysis, simulations and insights from complexity science, plus molecular-scale manufacture, genetic applications. 2. Space Technology. This is re-energising the military-industrial-university complex; space becomes a virtual military theatre, IT satellites are targets, microwave guns and others develop space control technology. The cost may overstretch the US resources. 3. Influential Organisations. Power networks also now involve corporations, banks, media, crime and ideological groups, all vulnerable to terrorist hackers. The frustration of billions in the poor world (some of which is geographically part of the rich world) can explode, since it provides fertile ground for religious and ideological movements. 4. Privacy, Security and Technology. Balancing these needs is illustrated in the government-industry standoff over encryption technology, or personal identification cards, opposed in US, yet widely accepted overseas.
Environmental chemist P. J. Crutzen considers that the post 1780 era in terms of the Earth s history should be called the “Anthropcene”, since this is the human-dominated epoch. If 25% of the global human population have had such unprecedented impacts on earth, then mankind will become the major environmental force for many millennia. Nature, 3 Jan 02, p23.
Australian futurist R. Slaughter, President of the World Future Studies Federation, an international network, advocates the term “foresight”, as a comfortable term for many who prefer to live in the present. Foresight is a necessary practice in business to gain competitive edge, but it should be generally applied, provided we look at a wide range of options, then work towards a preferred goal. Sticks may drive us to look for alternatives to muddled drifting, but the carrots encourage us to create a better world by indepth examination of other views. We need to avoid the “having” mode, in favour of being: calm, centred, connected. Interview, New Scientist, 1 Dec 01.
A Brief History of Tomorrow: the Future, Past and Present, J. Margolis, Bloomsbury, 00. Bizarre ideas for the future may or may not come true, which makes looking back at past predictions a salutary exercise for present seers. The major hurdle to getting it right, is “the arrogance of the present”, especially if confined to one worldview.
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Three Perspectives on Cultures and Conflicts
R. Eisler, macro-historian of systems and cultural transformation, interviewed by LA Weekly, Vol 23/45, 28 Sept-4 Oct, 2001, considers that the key to all self-help starts in the family relationships. On terrorism and transformation, she comments that while the short-term strategy calls for stern measures against terrorism, the longer term must look at relationships in families, societies through to nations, across all cultures.
Terror and hate go deeply into structured relationships. They are part of a dominator model which exists and has existed in many places now and historically. These are rigid, top-down societies, with superior/inferior, in/out rankings, depending on force and terror to hold power. In such societies children learn that it is OK to force your will on others, never to express your pain. Resulting anger can be redirected on to out-groups. Dominator cultures exist as much in Western nations as in Islam, but the West has also used it economic power to cause enormous suffering in many countries. Repressive Islamic societies have two additional reasons to hate the West:- freedom for women and Western-style democracy, threaten power holders.
Cultural transformation addresses the foundations of violence to rebuild society on the partnership or respect model, where power is nurturing and empowering, with male and female having equal value. There are many in Islam as in the West who are doing this.
P. Watson, A Terrible Beauty: a History of Ideas that Shaped the Modern Mind, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, surveyed 150 scholars, leading specialists in their fields in Europe, America and Middle East and Asia, asking what were the three most important ideas of the 20th century in their disciplines. There was much agreement. Scholars from non-western cultures, many born in those other conditions, also concurred that in the modern world in the 20th century there were no non-western ideas of note, although there were important artists and writers. Watson notes the insight of black psychiatrist/writer, Franz Fanon, into the 1950s Algerian liberation struggle, that a creative extremism absorbed most of the creative energy of non-European Algerians. How far this has come was revealed in 2001. New Statesman, 29 Oct, 2001, p30-31.
S. American writer M. Vargas Lhosa considers that the 21st century will be less picturesque and full of diverse human cultures than its predecessor, due to modernisation. While this destroys many traditional lifestyles, it opens up new opportunities, for cultural identity historically is not a static process. It can be a dangerous, doubtful, artificial concept, politically threatening humanities most precious achievement: freedom. Even among archaic communities “collective identity” is an ideological fiction. Globalisation extends to all of us the possibility to construct our individual identities through voluntary action.
As for Latin America, its “cultural identity” is being polarised by the Hispanics and indigenes, neither of whom fits the continent s expansive diversity. The best defence of our cultures and languages is to promote them vigorously thoughout the world. New Statesman, 5 March, 2001, pp42-46.
Cities and Complexity: Making Intergovernmental Decisions, K. S. Christensen, Sage, 1999. Uncertainty is a very challenging for modern societies. Illustrated by case studies from the US governmental systems, the different dimensions of government structures are explored with particular reference to both the vertical, linkages between the federal and state levels, and the horizontal area of interests and time, how relations change over time. The later considerations, horizontal and time, are especially useful, since they clarify otherwise obscure and complex functional chains. Also valuable are considerations of ends and means, using a framework of variable policy elements to build four different strategies 1. Agreed goal, known technology. 2. Agreed goal unknown technology 3.Goal not agreed, known technology and 4. Goal not agreed unknown technology.
Ubiquity: the Science of History…or Why the World is Simpler than We Think, Weidenfeld & Nicholson,2000. Imagine a pile of rice building up gradually. Avalanches slide down as stresses accumulate slowly then release in sudden, spontaneous bursts. Studying the variation between the larger and smaller avalanches, scientists have found that while one grain may trigger a minor slide, as the pile accumulates a single grain can trigger a major sweep through the pile, the “critical state”. A power law applies in the critical state, that as avalanches double in size they becomes twice as rare. This pattern can be applied to earthquakes and other phenomena. Dramatic, violent causes may not necessarily apply to catastrophes.
Creating Futures: Scenario Planning as a Strategic Management Tool, M. Godet, Economica, Expert French Strategic Management Professor presents a distinctive approach to this futures tool with seven useful case studies from Europe.
Futures of Technological Forecasting, V. Coates, H. Linstone et al, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2001. Six renowned US technology assessors and futurists explore the futures of this tool, noting the element of public input, greater scepticism about technological progress, emerging forms of TF and more.
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Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu: Tribal Vision for Success in 2025, Te Karaka, Kahuru/Autumn, 2001, developed late 2000. The Action Plan will be added in 2001. This Vision is based on five values:- Mana, the power and authority of Ngai Tahu; Whanaukataka , the familial relationship of its communities; Manaakitaka, looking after our people; Rakatirataka, chieftainship, being in control of our own destiny at a personal and tribal level; Kaitiataka, guardianship over our natural and economic resources.
Mana:- a vision of the ceremonial welcome given by another iwi to members of Ngai Tahu, the hospitality and respect with which they are received.
Whanukataka:- Ngai Tahu youth are educated to be confident in their own culture while receiving the best international-level education and training, enabling them to find employment anywhere in the global community.
Manaakitaka:- a high standard of housing, health and economic security for iwi members, especially for the treasured elderly. All participate in a range of community activities. There is now a continuous unfolding of indigenous tribal culture, based on vibrant marae.
Rakatirtaka:- recognition of the quality of leadership, stability, adaptability and excellence of performance of Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu, which is responsible for the iwi strategic direction. Tribal social policy and the benefits of common tribal programmes are centrally managed, but the benefits are locally distributed. New Zealand has recognised the Treaty of Waitangi as its founding document, protecting the iwi s rights, the settlement of historic grievances is complete and Crown/Iwi relationship is renegotiated on a shared responsibility basis. Iwi customary management of resources eg energy, water, coasts, is established, Maori fora decide aboriginal property rights acceding to customary law. Ngai Tahu produces sophisticated analysis and is the authority on Maori knowledge for the South Island. It is active in national and local politics, and on relevant corporate boards. The iwi is a wealth generator, owning businesses, it has strategic alliances with other iwi, and its initiatives are economically and environmentally sustainable.
Kaitiataka: – The relationship of the people and their environment flourishes, the treasures and the cultural values are well maintained. The iwi is a scientific leader for natural resources and its culturally-based management practices are acknowledged. Full document:- Communications Unit, Kai Tahu, Debbie.Ameriks@ngahitahu.iwi.nz.
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V. Havel raised this with a recent IMF meeting. Humans have reached a point in history when their global culture has no concern for infinite or absolute values, Technical brilliance is not balanced by a sense of human dimension and diminished respect for our environment. A new system of universal norms and values is required to uphold compliance measures for the survival of mankind. How might these be achieved? NZ Newsletter, Integrated Economic Services, Dec 2000.
D. Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age, Berritt-Koehler, 1999, foresees organisations of a new complex, chaotic (Chaordic) global technocracy, intricately webbed, both competitive and co-operative. VISA is a forerunner. Accountants under such a system need to adapt. They are a type of tribal storyteller: in present systems obsessed with numbers they assert answers. Chaordic systems need to promote inquiry into relationships, patterns and process behind these numbers. They will also need to integrate the results into the larger stories from other “tribal storytellers”.
Something New Under The Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century, J. R. McNeill, W.W. Norton, 2000. A macrohistory of the intensity of both change and the human effort provoking it in five spheres of the natural world: lithosphere (mining and construction); pedosphere, (pollution and erosion of the earth’s surface); atmosphere (urbanisation and pollution); hydrosphere(water and water pollution) and biosphere (farming forestry and fisheries, biodiversity loss, bioinvasions. In the more volatile future the human species may survive but its social systems may not. Prudence requires responses now.
Futurists at Work
How Think Tanks are Coping with the Future, J. G. McGann, The Futurist, Nov-Dec, 2000, outlines the development of think tanks, the forces driving them and some of the challenges they face in retaining a position as a marketplace for soundly researched ideas:- securing funding to maintain independent of perspective, the heavy hand of insecure or authoritarian governments and globalisation of policy problems limiting use for national perspectives.
Limits to Growth Revisited, Special Issue, Futures, Feb, 2001, reflects on the significance of one of the major futures publications of this century. Several Italian contributors shed light on the national and international context leading to the 1972 publication. Other contributors cover:- the impact on both the sustainablity issues and the uses of systems modelling which challenged the linear growth approach, impacts for futures movements internationally, extensions and alternatives to the original models and specific aspects; population changes, the limits of natural resources.
Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators: A New Tool for Assessing National Trends, eds H. Henderson et al, Calvert Group, 2000. A five year multidisciplinary project pioneering a national, comprehensive examination of the US, using a systems approach. Twelve major indicators are inter-related. www.calvertgroup.com
Determinism and Backcasting in Future Studies, M. Hojer, L-G Mattson, Futures Sept 2000. Illustrated by Swedish transport studies, this examines several techniques used in the field, critiquing their failure to note opportunities or to emphasise necessary action. Backcasting is valuable where major change is needed. Forecasting methods may serve to highlight the need for this.
Leaders Who Make a Difference: Essential Strategies for Meeting the Non-Profit Challenge, B. Nanus, Jossey-Bass 1999. Improving leadership is crucial for such organisations since it spotlights where the organisation can achieve greater good and marshals resources to that end. Six distinct roles of leadership are discussed by this acknowledged guru.
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Commonly held assumptions about sustainability suffer from the appropriation of the term as a “feelgood to describe a mixed bag of contradictory visions, policies and practices.
This special Issue, Futures, eds G. Boyle, C. Thomas, D. Wield, April/May 2000, offers a range of perspectives about the integration of the notion of progress towards a harmonious and egalitarian future, with a sense that we need to take account of the present and be practical. Accordingly global and local issues, visions and recognition of the tension between top-down and bottom-up are included.
Transport Integration is mentioned this FW, while others of note are:- J. Tait, D. Morris on the sustainable development of agricultural systems; and the use of IT tools for building community and sustainability. P. Harper argues that environmental trends at the end of the twenty-first century will reveal a “spike” where impacts in the North decline while those of the South rise rapidly in the first half century, with rapid decline thereafter. This spike should be embraced and managed rather than avoided or delayed.
R. Roy takes up on the Factor 4+ theme publicised by Lovins and Hawken, sustainable product systems. Socio-technical systems are revised sustainably through focus on the end-use function, such as warmth, mobility, which the product offers. Four types are outlined:- results services; shared utilisation services; product-life extension; and demand side management.
P. Maiteny examines the psycho-cultural yearning of “inner human sustainability” which is subjective, rooted in the psyche, and the eco-social aspects, where the behaviours of consumerism occur. A psychodynamic theory of human experience shows that effective long-term policies must be attentive to the psychological and cultural dimensions, and to ways to sustainably satisfy beliefs and wants.
R. E. Quinn explores of discovery of the leader within, Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Results, Jossey-Bass. We all can be change agents, like Jesus, Matin Luther King Jr, using a framework which comes from seed-thoughts, described in a Change Theory with four levels:- the telling strategy; the forcing strategy; the participating strategy; and transforming strategy. Transformational change requires visioning a productive community and acting on this. Adherence to a demanding a pattern of self-mastery is needed.
NZIER Public Policy Seminar, Public Sector (NZ) Vol 23 2000, pp 23-24, summarises a workshop held by the NZ Institute of Economic Research, to explore policy challenges facing NZ long term. Four themes were covered:- economic performance; equity and dependency; stability and social cohesion; role of government. It is encouraging to see an economic initiative with such a time-frame.
The Global Transformation Reader: an Introduction to the Globalisation Debate, eds D. Held, A. McGrew, Blackwell, provides a stimulating selection of 46 contributions in six themes on aspects and controversies related to globalisation.
Runaway World: How Globalisation is Reshaping Our Lives, A. Giddens, Routledge, presents the 1999 Reith Lectures by a distinguished UK scholar and policy adviser, with five themes: – globalisation, risk, tradition, family, and democracy.
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Vision and Creativity for City-Regions
Scottish planner P. Ache says metropolitan areas or city-regions provide a vision of the city of the future, a much more a complex system of interconnected urban centres and their environments than a monolithic entity. Balancing the complexities of the frameworks and the expectations of the actors in such regions in this dynamic requires vision and creativity. These are:- symbolic,communicative, stimulating and widely shared among citizens. They also have to be actively pursued, requiring:- an overall communicative environment; creative actors, with freedom to experiment; encouragement of flexible and learning features, to avoid stagnation; dependence on a multi-actor governance system. Creative actors include those who are able to abandon secure lines and inherited truths. A learning region features people who can think and work across disciplines, in all areas besides economic. Futures, June, 2000.
Envisioning a Future Aotearoa
G. Park, ecologist/historian, looks back and forwards to a new landscape vision. The European settlers imposed their own understanding, of landscape as “picturesque” or as a tradeable commodity, which informs most attitudes and whose impacts are still deep and often damaging. Few New Zealanders now can grow up in world of birds, trees and elders teaching stories that impart the sense of belonging to the land. The spiritual passion which we could have for the land as our mother or the touchstone of our identity may be all there is to fuel the healing that it needs. An ethic of “kaitiaki”, or stewardship, relationship, with the land requires a land-base and kin to nourish it. This vision may emerge >from growing talk of collaborative ecosystem management and reform of national resource laws to bring Maori traditional concepts alongside English common law. Pacific World, Oct 1999.
Jim Dator draws on insights from E. Katsh, Law in a Digital World, 1995, to emphasise that law has had a silent partner for centuries, in the contemporary communications media, shifting from fluid oral statements to fixed print documents to electronic bits. Law in the future will be expressed as dynamic 3-D audio/visual/olfactory simulations, in cyberspace, of proscribed or required behaviours. “Courts” could exist anywhere, even wherever intelligence is found in the universe. If people really want fair, speedy justice, the means of delivery is contestable and eventually there could be no need for courts at all. Futures, March, 2000.
The ultimate origin of human behaviour lies in our genes, which will inevitably lead humanity to destruction. R. Morrison, Spirit in the Gene, Cornstock/Cornell Univ Press, 1999 argues that “civilisation” is the product of a profoundly mystical, not a rational animal, and our pastimes are those of a primate animal. Evolution does not progress, all species must fail eventually especially the successful ones. The myths of our technoculture will blind us until all exits are blocked.
The Deliberative Practitioner: Encouraging Participatory Planning Processes. J. Forester, MIT Press, 1999. An expert overview of the of the skills and processes planners need in working with conflicting, or independent parties, as they guide future action.
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Return to Which World?
An interview with World Resources Institute futurist, A. Hammond, follows on his book Which World? Scenarios for the Twentyfirst Century (1998), based on work by the international Global Scenario Group. Three broad scenarios were presented,-one wildly optimistic (Market World), one apocalyptic (Fortress World), and a balancing Transformed World. Hammond argues that whatever the political passions, we have to deal with the forces of globalisation, not only economic, and to fix the system we must focus on the third scenario. Responses to the book by academics and the geopoliticians have been good, but the vacuum in global governance requires new initiatives. Something new happening is use of the Web for monitoring systems, some by the private sector, others from various communities of interest. This may be the start of e.governance, along with other empowering services which enable citizens to claim services online, now. The shift in consciousness for Transformed World is underway, as along with a third factor, the organisation of civil society as a political force.
Hammond and colleagues have created Hyperfora which are structured online discussions around a set of scenarios, for experts to log in (http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~bcm/HomePage/marklez.html). There is also an highly recommended, interactive companion website to the book at (http://mars3.gps.caltech.edu/whichworld//)
An Old Master
A. C. Clarke, the prolific leading edge seer, offers Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds Collected Essays, 1934-1998, St Martins, 1999, a marvellous cornucopia. This includes his recent Twenty-First Century: A (Very) Brief History which covers possible developments, from commercially-produced, cold fusion power, 2002, through human level AI, 2020, to true space-drive propulsion for human exploration of near stars, 2095.
A National Vision for NZ?
M. Menzies discusses how the “vision thing” could provide ways to strengthen and grow a national vision. This may be delegated to a Leader or to Systematic rational processes outside the political system. There are visions arising as new systems emerge from deep-end change, and others from local level, such as in local government. Application of complexity theory suggests that since a nation is more than a predictable, controllable system, a flexible, co-ordinating, synthesising process and media could encourage strategic conversations. A well-resourced institution of foresight is desirable, but at least questions could be asked about what people value in the past and the present and what they seek for the future, with analysis shared. Start >from somewhere!. NZ Strategic Management, Vol 4/3, 2000.
A New Framework for Environmental Scanning, R. Slaughter, Foresight, Vol 1/5 1999. Eminent Australian futurist notes limitations in much business environmental scanning and offers four layers:-pop futurism, problem-oriented futures; critical futures, and epistemological futures ( fundamental meanings).
Competitive Intelligence: Scanning the Global Environment, R. Salmon, Y. de Linares, Economica, 1999. A Two French corporative scanning experts tour the leading edge of global business and describe the types of scanning used by L Oreal.
Foresight, Vol 1/1 1999, features articles on uses of foresight methodologies in variety of technology areas, based on work by Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), EU, Seville.
Navigating Complexity, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, May, nine selected presentations from a five nation, high-powered Conference, Oregon, 1998.
In The Future We…21st century Visions, Time(NZ), 26 June, 2000. 39 crisp, Timestyle studies, from experts, on a wide range of social, political, technological questions about the future. Good “What Ifs?” to start on.
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Nobel winner and leading edge scientific thinker I. Prigogine provided a Millennial message for future generations for UNESCO, using arguments based on the recent sciences of complexity to urge a fight against feelings of resignation and powerlessness. The future is not given. The analogy of bifucturations in non-equilibrium physics reveal special points at which a system subdivides into ” branches. All branches are possible but only one will be followed. Since there is usually a succession of bifucturations, even in the fundamental sciences there is a narrative element, an end to certainty. Applying this metaphor to our societies we see that new social structures arising >from bifucturations, in a historical flux resulting from human actions. Our present bifucturation, called globalisation, offers many branches and raises fundamental questions. We are only at the beginning of science, with new aspects of complexity, in the microscopic and macroscopic domains, needing to be to be incorporated. In such a period individual action remains essential. It will be up to future generations to construct a new coherence that will incorporate both human values and science. World Futures Studies Federation Bulletin, Jan 2000
Science journal Nature has short regular feature, Futures, in which a scientist or scientific writer offers an innovative, usually fictitious perspective on the longer term future. Recent samples:- G. Landis, Mars Pathfinder team looks back at the 21st century space colonisation by machines, linked to superfast microcomputers integrated with human neural software. Thus humans colonised Mercury with self-replicating robots, while machines based on computation with Josephson junctions moved to the outer Solar system. 24 Feb 2000, p 833
Planetary scientist, W. K. Hartmann looks back from a later age when the American investment in science has closed, and a new Fundamentalist Age has dawned. 20 April 2000, p 817
Shocks and Paradigm Busters
G. Ringland and six collaborators from strategic management, analyse why organisations fail to develop a clearer view of the future than their competitors, based on studies of forecasts from a variety of sources made and eventual outcomes, They examine a number of human behaviours which contribute to the failure of forecasts and condense these into four systematic new paradigm areas which could improve organisational assumptions about the future. The Individual is Unboxed: people can be more adaptable than forecasters anticipate. Government Cannot Do It: the effects of the comparative retreat of governments is deep-seated. Technology Will Be Used if It is Useful: who would want this and what for? Progress: things will not necessarily get better. Long-range Planning, Aug 1999
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Urban Sustainablity Scenarios
A. Khakee, Swedish housing researcher, analyses Swedish experience in three “generations” of scenario use in sustainable urban development over the last four decades. Present models have moved from the expert and top-down approaches to the participatory, overcoming some of the earlier shortcomings. A process for participatory scenario planning for a sustainable future in 2025 for the city Obrebro,(pop 122.000) implementing Agenda 21 is outlined, covering five years to 1998. Some features included : Complete recycling of waste products, and 50% cut in energy use, radical lowering of transportation needs and significant use of new communication technologies. Merits and shortcomings of the participatory approach and premises for preparing participatory scenarios are outlined. Foresight, (UK), Vol 1/3., 1999.
The Fifth Step
Primatologist A. Jolly, author of Lucys Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution, Harvard U Press, considers that planetary life is embarking on a fifth major evolutionary transition. Humankind is slowly evolving into a sort of superorganism, a highly structured global society in which all lives on the planet will become so interdependent that they may grow and develop with a common purpose. This may take centuries to evolve, but it will. The question then is:- what would it be like?
We can influence the outcome by looking beyond the narrow, economic, globalising prospect, and utilise the co-operative as well as the competitive drives of earlier transitions. We can begin to do for our superorganism what our bodies do individually, ward off disease, develop control over our bodies, develop nervous systems ( information flows), appreciate the importance of altruism and reciprocity in social relationships and find the financial means (energy) to keep the system going. New Scientist, 25 Dec/ 1 Jan 2000, pp78-79.
The Next 1000 Years: the Five Big Engines of Economic Growth, G. T. Molitor, Vital Speeches of the Day, 1 Sept, 1999. World Future Society leader to WFS Annual Assembly with outlines of five major eras through to 3000:- Leisure Time, Life Sciences, Mega Materials, New Atomic Age, New Space Age. Read it and believe it.
The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, D. Korten, Kumarian/Berrett-Koehler. A corporate insider turned critic sees global capitalism as privatised central planning by which half the largest economies benefit the wealthiest 1% of global inhabitants. Seven major leading-edge approaches, already starting worldwide, can combat this.
Mustard Seed vs Wired World: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future, T. Sine, Baker. Practical, futures-based materials to help Christians for a future of mounting pressure which includes crises of foresight, of vision and of creativity.
Planetary Interest: A New Concept for the Global Age, K. Graham, Rutgers U. Press. NZ Director of Cambridges Global Security Programme articulates this two level concept. Vital planetary interest ( survival and viability of humanity and biosphere systems) and normative ( relating to universal improvement in the human condition). Three way action mandates:- direct, indirect and extension of national interests.
Visions of the Future: a Day in the Life of a Scientist, Science, 3, 10, 17, 24 Dec, 1999. Eleven scientists use a variety of situations in 2050 to visualise lifestyles and science in 21st century. Short, stimulating, fun.
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The Long Boom: a Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity, P. Schwartz, P. Leyden, Perseus. This vision provides a meme (a rapidly-contagious, highly influential idea) for a great global transformation, 1980-2020, based on three major waves of technologies:- biotech, the fuel cell, and nanotechnology. These could solve most of the present apparently insurmountable problems, for the real obstacle is not economic but political. Ten guiding principles are:- Go Global; Open Up ; Let Go ( of control of the past era); Grow More; Always Adapt; Keep Learning; Value Innovation; Get Connected; Be Inclusive; Stay Confident. Scenarios for 21st century choices and ideas are included for most sections.
Wolfgang Michalski et al, members of the Advisory Unit, OECD Secretary-General, outline their views on a possible exceptional Long Boom, originally prepared for the OECD Forum for the Future, Foresight (UK), April,1999. Although there is a powerful convergence of technological, economic and global possibilities, “sustaining the prevailing run of long-term economic dynamism is the necessary, but not sufficient condition for sparking a long boom.” Progress in these critical areas is needed:- transition to a knowledge economy; accelerated and expanded integration of global markets; and pursuit of environmental sustainablity. Three scenarios included.
Watch This Clock!
The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, S. Brand, Basic Books, backgrounds a novel idea being developed by the Long Now Foundation, www.longnow.org ( P. Schwartz is a Board member). Our current short-term focus needs to be balanced by developing a capacity to think across centuries, or longer, encouraging a greater long-term sense of responsibility. The Clock is being developed to be very big and very, very slow: illustrating 10,000 years. A Library of the deep future would be an adjunct. Brands essays examine the proposal, alternatives and approaches to thinking about time and the future.
Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, J. Macy, M. Y. Brown, New Society, 1998. Canadian practitioners of holistic studies provide a guidebook to help people, singly or preferably in groups, to take courage to act despite despair about the state of the world. This Work that Reconnects is essential to the Great Turning towards a sustainable future. Management consultant, S. Weintraub, Hidden Intelligence: Innovation Through Intuition, Butterworth- Heinneman, 1998, examines the value of intuition in business: widely used, often discounted and little understood, though de Bono would see it as part of the creative process. Techniques and applications are described.
Futures for the Third Millennium: Enabling the Forward View, R. Slaughter, Prospect Media Pty. Eminent futurist, now Professor of Foresight at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, presents 23 essays published over the past fifteen years, covering futures methods and disciplines, futures in education and general futures perspectives. An excellent introduction.
Technological Forecasting and Social Change,1999, Aug/Sept. To celebrate its thirtieth birthday, this journal presents a generous garland of experts contributions examining aspects of its experiences from the hopeful times of “hard” forecasting through integration of social perspectives, to complexity science. A bonus Colloquium on Questionable Assumptions is also recommended, as 16 practitioners shoot “assumption drag” from all angles.
Mitigation Emerges as Major Strategy for Reducing Losses Caused by Natural Disasters, Board on Natural Disasters (US), Science, 18 June,1999, pp 1943-1947. Mitigation includes all those actions that are taken before, during, and after the occurrence of a natural event that minimize its impact. High priority areas identified.
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US Futures consultant J. Coates reflects on recent experiences with three small nations in planning national futures:- Mauritius, Netherlands, and Norway. All are strong democracies, small and exposed to the globalising economy. All three lack central organising principles or beliefs as an axis for their society and economy. Consequently they have underlying uncertainties about their future. (For NZ, the latter two offer interesting comparisons) In both Norway and Netherlands there is strong tradition of futures oriented work and research. Norways economy, while currently successful, faces substantial risks. Despite much consideration of the issues, there is no sense of urgency about what should be done, or the need to change values to meet challenges. Netherlands faces two big risks:- complacency, the killer of any small nation, and high structural unemployment, the result of technological change.
These three countries illustrate that there is no universally applicable recipe for any nation. Consultants need to do their homework. There also needs to be realistic awareness that to build a national vision requires not only consensus but that this comes with a continuous drumbeat from a many quarters. Technological Forecasting and Social Change(US), May,1999.
Dutch Foresight in Environmental Sci-Tech
B. Van der Meulen, Futures(UK), Feb, 1999, describes and analyses some structures and processes used in the past two decades in Netherlands as the scientific use of futures for forecasting gave way to the notion of foresight as a means to explore possible futures. Among some examples considered, work in the environmental area includes National Environmental Plans, 1988/89, a foresight study on environmental technologies with emphasis on sustainability,1992, with various studies and programmes since then using foresight to determine priorities in strategies and policies for sustainablity.
M. Bloomberg, US financial news pioneer, considers that the flow of information made possible by technology has come to an inflection point when the innovation stops and we absorb what we have. Technological advance is coming to a stone wall since the public sees little advantage in the next generation technology. There is a limit to how many new things people can use or absorb. In the information business there is a need for more interpretation, more wisdom. We have made a mistake in thinking that computers can make decisions. The bigger the library, the more you need a librarian and perhaps the less you can automate the librarian. Outlook (US), 1999, No 1.
The Macmillan Atlas of the Future, Ed. I. Pearson, Macmillan, 1998. This features two-page global maps with brief essays on a variety of topics in sections:-futures of the Earth, of peoples, of resources, of communications, of globalisation, and Into the Unknown.
State of the World 1999, Worldwatch Report, L. Brown, Norton. Another in the series with valuable summary essays on a variety of economic, social and environmental concerns for the future, concluding with key tasks for building a sustainable society.
Vital Signs1999; The Environmental Trends That Are Shaping Our Future, L. Brown et al, Worldwatch, the eighth in a series with useful data on energy developments as well as environmental issues.
Predicting the Future: An Introduction to the Theory of Forecasting, N. Rescher, State Univ of NY Press, 1998. A valuable contribution, examining to the principles and issues in prediction, a halfway house state where much can be achieved provided limits, trade/offs etc are appreciated.
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Foresight, national economic interests and global science/technology can relate in creative tension, as a number of countries develop Foresight projects. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Jan provides a special issue on recent developments in a number of these >from several European countries, Korea, Japan and UK, Australia and NZ ( B. R. Martin, R. Johnston). German and US specialists, H. Grupp, H. Linstone sum up. The backbone of the projects continues to be Delphi studies, but mathematical models are being replaced by scenarios and visioning. Several new foresight perspectives are emerging. Sociologically and politically they are a means of communication and negotiation between social systems. For management and economics they provide benchmark and feedback initiating mechanisms between future and present day investment. Culturally they reflect the tension between globalisation and national or regional innovation.
On Footprints and Fossils
N.Z sustainability futurist A. Fricker ( FT, 1998/4, p16) outlined the concept of the ecological footprint, devised by Wackernagel et al, 1997. In Futures, August 1998, he develops the paradox of the apparent abundance of the footprint, and the growing sense of inequity in the use( or even overuse) of the bounty it supplies. The concept may promote biophysical sustainability, but meeting human sustainability beyond mere survival requires recognition of dimensions of human life which are not quantifiable, since they relate to our sense of purpose and meaning in life. It may be that sustainability depends on an evolution of human collective consciousness.
US geologist G. J. Vermeij reflects on fossils and the future of science as it faces the challenge of guiding us in an orderly transition from a growing to a dynamically stable society. The far reaching social changes involved will include shifts in how, to what ends and by whom the new knowledge will be gained and applied. The evolutionary experience, fossil and human, teaches that in times of growth, the rich and powerful dominate an increasingly competitive system. As growth slows, competition may even intensify but conservatism and adherence to proven methods prevails. For science to help us learn more for the future we must break with past models, preserving opportunity in the face of unforgiving trade-offs and the capacity for a degree of freedom to pursue our talents. Science, 4 Sept, 1998.
Rich Futures Method
Futurist S. Inayatullah describes a new futures research method which is especially valuable for opening up transformational spaces for alternative futures. “Causal layered analysis” (CLA), reveals deep worldviews behind surface events. Its benefits include: – greater range and richness in scenarios; inclusion of different ways of knowing when used in workshops; inclusion of artistic, non-textual expression; extending the discussion to include the deeper and the marginal; and deepening the social analysis.
The basic approach is civilisational futures research, which informs us that behind the reality we may be using in our analysis, there is cultural reality and behind that again there is a worldview.
Five research tools used in this:- deconstruction, breaking apart the components of the text we are considering with questions, what is invisible? who gains from this? Genealogy, questions which interpretations dominated? what was their history? Distancing enables us to ask of present or other reality, what makes it remarkable, unfamiliar? Alternative pasts and futures ask, what pasts give authority to this reality? or, what is its vision of the future? Finally, reordering knowledge examines how certain categories such as civilisation, stages in history, order knowledge.
It is crucial to explore the metaphors and myths we use to envision our future. What has meaning in one culture, eg dicegame, or coconut, make little sense in another. Alternative metaphors reveal deeper bases for alternative futures. They put us in touch with the mythic roots of our present and our future.
The analysis itself operates on four levels. Litany is the conventional futures research level, quantitative levels, problems. The second is concerned with social causes, historical factors and interpretation of data. The third level examines deeper assumptions behind these issues and how different discourses affect the issue, which could open up alternative futures. Metaphor and myth form the fourth level; the collective archetypes and the unconscious dimensions of the issue, coming from the gut not the head.
CLA is applied to a number of issues, the futures of the UN, University senior management, social issues for a NGO. Futures, Oct, 1998.
Futurist/economist R. Theobald (www.transform/org/transform/tic/index.html) believes that humanity needs profoundly new goals:- for social cohesion, ecological integrity effective decision-making and a high quality of life. These require a re-emphasis on the moral, the sacred and the spiritual over the pragmatic and economic. The enormous shifts around us blind many of us to these goals, resulting in inertia, especially in institutions. There is a continuum of reactions to the current reality, from status quo satisfaction, through attempts to use old style fixes, to radical rethinking. In many cases this requires overcoming mistrust and a willingness to seek common ground for fundamental understandings and different patterns of thought. At this level of paradigmatic discussion, key issues are ownership, ideas, land, capital, authority. Directions which arise from these:- income distribution, resource use, learning, family etc. Finally new approaches and processes are needed for leading, administering and managing within an organic paradigm.
For Australian networks on this, Reworking Australia, www.powerup.com.au/~rework, for USA, Resilient Communities, www.resilientcommunities.org
Firm Forecast, J. Casti, New Scientist, 24 April. Powerful computers simulations of real-life human behaviour have the potential to provide accurate forecasts of human affairs. Instead of basing the simulations on grand laws they use software agents acting as individuals in market. A different type of simulation emerges when the agents are companies, not individuals.
The Future in Plain Sight, E. Linden, Simon & Shuster, 1998, provides a pessimistic assessment of the stability of the 21st century. The prosperity of the immediate past and the present hides the coming turmoil, for which nine harbingers are outlined. He develops scenarios to dramatise life through to 2050.
Towards Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments, M. Roseland, New Society ,1998. Updated edition, originally produced for Canadas Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, on mobilising citizens for sustainable communities, and policy instruments for local governments. Resource guides, and a broad worldview.
Future Trends, N. Legat, North & South ( NZ), July. Definitely of the CLA superficial layer but still a starting point; 27 prettily-boxed snapshots of 2005, for the commuting consumer.
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Nordic Futurists Contemplate Sustainablity
Funded by the Academy of Finland, futurists P. Jokinen et al examine the interaction and dynamics between the information society and sustainable development. IT can potentially reduce environmental stress as it facilitates a society in which intangible needs dominate, but the rebound effect of excessive growth could overwhelm positive environmental effects. Current perspectives may be distorted, since the present may be a time of transition when the tensions are very obvious. There are three broad, overlapping issue areas – sustainable development, information society and technology/infrastructure, all animated by the push-pull of positive and negative impacts. Sparse evidence for the rebound effect exists as yet. It arises from total use of material resources increasing by more than the saving resulting from greater emphasis on intangibles. The relationship between the broad issues is complex and contradictory requiring much more research. Futures, August 1998.
Norwegian futurist K. Dahle, Futures, May 1998 examines the range of strategies employed for motivating social change to care for the future of the environment .The main idea types are;- the reformists, who try to balance environment and market economics: the impatient revolutionaries, who support authoritarian, top down methods; patient revolutionaries who emphasise long-term awareness raising; grassroots fighters who see the change coming from outside established institutions; multifaceted radicals who want to replace present institutions with new ones. No one way is likely to lead to change, but any short-term strategies need replacing with dynamic realism: behaviour related to long-term trends which cannot be allowed to continue.
Learning with Scenarios
Using scenarios as a planning tool for business has had mixed results. They need to be integrated in to decision making processes, not employed as one-shot gimmicks, according to eds. L. Fahey, R. Randall, Learning From the Future: Competitive Foresight Scenarios, Wiley, 1998. Several scenario experts, eg I. Wilson, P. Schwartz, K. van der Heijden, provide guides, tips and commentaries. The sections cover : basic approaches, scenario application in diverse contexts; managing the organisational context for scenario learning. K. van der Heijden elaborates on Scenarios: the Art of Strategic Conversation, Wiley, 1996, a lucid account of the Why? as well as the How? of scenarios. In organisational learning, scenarios contribute greatly to:- perception by widening, deepening and lengthening the perspective, as well as appreciation of complexities; to theory building; and to joint action. He emphasises that probabilistic approaches are not useful since they hinder learning. The real strengths of scenarios come from becoming a normal habit for continuous learning by all management.
J. Cribb examines the usefulness of scenarios for the New Zealand public service, Public Sector(NZ), Vol 21/4 1998, outlining what they are, their limitations and their usefulness. Since this sector has to mange a future under uncertainly, scenarios are useful aids to learning.
A. Hammond, Strategic Director, World Resources Institute, provides scenarios for the future, for the general reader to ponder, Which World? Scenarios for the 21st Century, Island Press, 1998, developed in the 2050 project. The three scenarios are:- Market World where most countries are integrated into a global economy; Fortress World arising from the restriction of prosperity to a smaller portion of the global population; Transformed World, resulting from radical shifts in environmental thought. The scenarios are also applied to regions.
Try Cycles or Waves
Management guru T. Modis looks to the seasons for recurring patterns in human affairs and institutions: all have winter, spring, summer and autumn. Conquering Uncertainty: Understanding Corporate Cycles and Positioning Your Company to Survive the Changing Environment, McGraw-Hill, 1998, offers guidance to judging the right time for action, as failure arises >from ill-timed decisions. Focus on the specifics, then pull back to assess the big picture of the pattern of systems within systems. Modis is one of the contributors, outlining this approach, to a more sophisticated collection debating the billow-like dynamics of societal processes, in Technological Forecasting and Social Change (US), August 1998.
Imagin.i.zation: New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing and Managing, G. Morgan, Berrett-Koehler, 1997. A highly creative thinker offers stimulating practical guidance for managers to thinking outside the square by revitalising our views with reimaging.
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Reflections for the Future
Scientist E. O. Wilson reflects on the breakdown of the divide between the great branches of learning, especially between the natural sciences and the humanities. The boundary is being revealed as a broad, largely unknown territory for co-operative exploration from both sides, to the benefit of both. This consilience, the interlocking of causal explanations across disciplines, raises the key question for the social sciences; the nature of the linkage between genetic evolution and cultural evolution. The genes prescribing much of human behavioural biology evolved in a cultural environment, which was itself evolving. “To understand the physical basis of human nature, down to its evolutionary roots and genetic biases, is to provide needed tools for the diagnosis and management of some of the worst crises affecting humanity.” Science (Essays on Science and Society series), 27 March, 1998, pp 2048-49
World Trends Researcher, W .Van Dusen Wishard, speaks of our time when one way for human organisation and relation to a deity gives way to another, full of discontinuity and anxiety. Four significant areas affected: – One, world affairs is a gigantic process of fragmentation of empires and nations, which could extend to the US itself: Two, technology, the fifth stage in modern times, is unique in human experience and could see the creation by artificial life of its own civilisation. Three, in culture, the post modernist mood accepts reality unordered in any objective way as discerned by the human mind; impulse and pleasure are the life affirming realities. Fourth, spiritual/psychological reorientation, as the Christian inner dynamic of Western culture diminishes, neither communist nor consumer materialism has satisfied the human search for inner meaning. Dysfunction is a lifestyle, but individuals are reorienting to seek direct experience with whatever may be called divine.
We face two needs:- to maintain the best possible framework for global stability and security as our economic systems adapt to other cultures; and to domestically redefine and restructure our institutions, together with our individual adjustment to changes. Vital Speeches of the Day (US), 1 Nov, 1998
Tools for Futures
Lifelines From Our Past: A New World History, (Rev Ed) L. S. Stavrianos, M. E.Sharpe, 1997, is nice introduction to macrohistory, a selected analysis by an academic historian of those aspects of the past that illuminate our present and where we might go. Highly relevant if we stand on the threshold of a new axial age.
Developing Your Wide-Angle Vision, W. Burkan, The Futurist (US), March, 1998, is a useful guide to the art of scanning, an essential tool in futures thinking.
Which World? Scenarios for the 21st Century, A. Hammond, Island Press, 1998 comes from a joint project on long-term sustainability by three diverse US Institutes:- Brookings, Santa Fe and World Resources. The emphasis is on the ability of humans to change and reshape their futures. As the scenarios are explored, the critical trends are analysed region by region. The scenarios are:- Market World, growth, prosperity but ultimately risky, precipitating Fortress World of Instability and Violence. A third option may be a solution, Transformed World, with enlightened policies and voluntary actions to direct and supplement market forces.
Societal Cohesion and The Globalising Economy: What Does the Future Hold? OECD, 1997, summarises the outcomes of a Forum for the Future on this theme. Two scenarios illustrate the range of imaginable societies arising from these, Individualistic and Solidaristic.
The Complete Book of Survival, R. Stahlberg, Barricade Books, 1998 details how to plan and execute disaster strategies in the worst circumstances. DIY for that ultimate Big One.
Ideas for the New Millennium, P. Ellyard, Melbourne Univ. Press, 1998 comes from noted Australian futurist, who arranges his ideas around the contrasting themes of planetarians(cosmonauts) and cowboys, to explore leadership, learning, innovation, ecological sustainablity, social and cultural sustainability, food production, health and wellbeing and a summary. Succinct and very readable.
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The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture
This is the over-arching title for an authoritative, strongly-researched, three volume study by Sociology Professor Manuel Castells, UC-Berkeley, Blackwell: Vol 1 The Rise of the Network Society, 1996; Vol ll, The Power of Identity, 1997; Vol lll, The End of Millennium. Vol l considered that extremely flexible labour patterns and highly segmented social structures are likely to be the longer-term effects for advanced economies. Vol ll continues the study of the loss of shared identity, the crisis of meaning and the dissolution of society. Vol lll explores five aspects:- the crisis of industrial statism, the global criminal economy, the rise of a fourth world of poverty and exclusion, the Pacific era and the unification of Europe. He concludes that the next century will neither be a dark age nor one realising the optimistic hopes of the technologists, but rather a time of informed bewilderment.
Strategies for the Information Age
G. Mulgan, UK academic and Demos Director, describes Connexity: How to Live in a Connected World, Chatto & Windus, 1997, coping with tensions arising everywhere between freedom and interdependence. Rather than retreating into simplification, it is better to live with the interdependence. The twofold challenge is to cultivate moral people who can bear responsibilities and make decision together with institutions and laws better suited to an interdependent world. Can we create new unifying mythic visions for the future? ask psychologists and playwrights S. Krippner, A. Mortifee, D. Feinstein. The modern Grand Narrative of Progress is severely criticised. If humanity is to survive, its dysfunctional myths need to be transformed: for example “outgroups” can no longer be used as targets for our destructive impulses. From the Millennium myths arising, some may reach sufficient critical mass to sustain humanity through the next decades. Several strategies for such myths include :- learned optimism, goals which transcend conflicting groups, synergy, emotional education and spiritual enrichment. The Futurist, March, 1998.
The Future of the Self: Inventing the Postmodern Person, W. T. Anderson, Tarcher/Putnam, 1997. A self-concept as a bounded “I ” may no longer be adequate now or into the future, according to this lucid political scientist. New studies of the brain show it to be much more multi-centric than was realised; modern biotechnologies are transforming the realities of our bodies; and cyberspace provides many possibilities to adopt other persona. We may need to rethink ourselves as “human beings” in an open system of multiple communities, flowing identities and movable boundaries.
2YK and Resiliency
R. Theobald, influential futurist, author of Reworking Success, New Society pub, 1997, and activist in alternative systems, sees the Y2K playing out at the mythic level, a kind of millennium mania which can be utilised to focus on how we can affect where we shall be. Although some areas may do better than others, the necessary work will not be done in the available time to remedy the dangers, if current styles are used. This points up the brittleness of current systems.
A broad, transformational, change-process lens is needed, to find ways to build resilience before breakdown and to enhance resilience in communities coping with the unexpected consequences of breakdowns. For resilience, new styles of leadership need to be encouraged, supported by the media, and frameworks for careful, creative discussion about what is really going on.
He has designed a scenario for Spokane, USA, looking at both the technical issues, fostering resiliency and using this as a catalyst for wider issues particularly transforming health care and developing a learning community. e.mail communication, email@example.com
Systems Concepts for Societal Futures
R. A. Eve et al edit Chaos, Complexity and Sociology: Myths, Models and Theories, Sage, 1997, an examination of these tools used in the physical sciences which can have valuable possibilities for the social sciences, for our understanding of predictability and of organisational change. R. Jarvis challenges fundamental social science approaches with System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, Princeton Univ. Press, 1997, looking at the contexts in which political decisions are made, and the systems in which they are embedded. Effective outcomes cannot be achieved unless we look at the dynamics driving them.
World Citizenship: Allegiance to Humanity, Ed J. Rotblat, St Martins Press, 1997. A Nobel Peace Prize winner presents essays >from a Pugwash Conference exploring a rationale for world citizenship and education for world citizenship.
A Special Moment in History: the Future of Population, B. McKibben, Atlantic Monthly, Cover feature, May, 1998. A good journalistic study. Whatever the outcome of population predictions, the planet is so pervaded by human influences that physical limits are approaching. Our special time may be that we are apparently degrading the most basic of Earths functions. The change will be slow and expensive.
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The Power of Metaphor
Canadian academic G. Morgan explores the implications of different metaphors for thinking about organisations as pervasive ways of seeing reality, Images of Organisation, ( 2nd Ed), Sage, 1997. Organisationsa can be: brains, cultures, machines, organisms, flux and transformation, psychic prisons. Managers in turbulent times need to check assumptions about the images carried in the organisation and to ìreadî it. We organise as we imagine and thus open the way for numerous possibilities.
Prof. U. Franklin draws on her early experiences, using Occupation as a metaphor for a way to survive and even change undesirable existing stuctures. The present is like an occupation by an army of marketeers,with puppet governments and citizens who collaborate of necessity. Opposition can emerge around solidarity in resistance, refusal to use the language of occupation and developing strategies to protect the most vulnerable. No structure is impregnable, it can be undermined in numerous small bites. People’s News Agency, Denmark, firstname.lastname@example.org/dk
Mitsubishi Executive T. Kiuchi draws on the rainforest as an inspiration for improving the company. Lessons from the rainforest : – One, watch where you are going, the present system is heading for disaster. Two, learn to consume less from the environment, be creative and ecologically benign. Three, true profit comes from design, not materials, for it is not the individual trees but rather the relationships between the species which create rainforest value. Four, to succeed in the new economy, we must operate by the design principles of the rainforest, adapt, change, measure new aspects: differentiate, fill unique niches: and be a good fit. Five, the mission of business is to develop the human ecosystem sustainably. The Futurist, Jan/Feb, 1998.
Scenarios for Japan
American and Japanese futurists present the following possible developments. One – Japan Hollows Out:- the bureaucracy retains its control, companies draw together more tightly with each other and the banks, and the people remain indifferent to the need for change. By 2005, many Asian economies are recovering, China diverts attention from domestic problems with greater miltarism, and many young Japanese, despairing of recovery from stagnation, move overseas. The economic problems lead to relaxation of environmental policies, undermining qualtity of life. Two- National Resurgence:- The economic crisis is confronted, banks and bureaucracy reform, greater transparency develops, all with popular support. Chinaís population pressures lead to great power confrontations over Central Asian interests, but Japan brokers peace. Three- Security Concerns:- US economic recession leads to withdrawal of troops by 2005, though chronic issues such as Korea had already been resolved. After 2005, China exerts greater overt pressure on Japan, until Japanese politics comes to crisis on the question of a reversal of its Constitutional position against miltarism, with factions promoting peaceful negotiation, greater nationalism, closer relations with US, more federalism with E. and S. Asia. Look Japan, June, 1998.
Foresight and N.Z National Identity in Public Sector, Vol 21/1, 1998, contributions on the Foresight Project, Ministry of Research, Science and Technolgy, include a report of the Department of Internal Affairsí study on Foresight and National Identity, by J. Phillips and R. Blakeley. Issues bound up with national self-definition and relevant values are summarised. Three scenarios confronting a returned-from-overseas New Zealander sometime towards 2020 are described.
The Zero Event, J. Grompone, Futures(UK), Vol 29/6 1997, assumes that scientific and technological revolution increases in speed, raising questions about eventual convergence to a common end for our future society. Various indicators taken over longer and shorter time series, all indicate that somewhere in mid 21st century some sort of Zero experience could transform the world. Design Outlaws on the Ecological Frontier, eds C. Zelov, P. Cousineau, Knossus 1997. The industrial world has developed beyond its design limits and the challenge is to find a design integrating the built world and the natural one. The work of a wide variety of still leading-edge innovators on this frontier are outlinded, mostly influenced by Buckminster Fuller.
Technology Assessment and Forecasting for Sustainable Development, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol 58/1&2, 1998, covers a wide range of applications in several countries and in various fields.