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February 2007 Archives

February 27, 2007


9 years ago on this date an alternate future came onrushing into my life after an operant Working in the Temple of Set, in which the magic realism became all-too-real. This cascade had dramatic effects: a relationship break-up amidst the fall of 21C Magazine, and consequently a journey through the cremation grounds. Although the symbolism was primarily Aghori, you might prefer the Bardo Thodol realms or Thelemite Crossing of the Abyss as metaphors. The audiovisual triggers that capture dimensions of this include the Babylon 5 episode "Z'ha'Dum" and the Laibach documentary Predictions of Fire on the gathering Balkans storm in the early 1990s.

Continue reading "Z'Ha'Dum" »

February 20, 2007

Urgency turns into emergency

I'm pleased to say that article I wrote on the Victorian Convergence on the Global Sustainability Emergency was published in Monday's edition of The Age. Have a read...

It includes a nod to Dr Joseph Voros, who was the main lecturer when I completed the Master of Science in Strategic Foresight course stating:

After all, as my strategic foresight lecturer, Joseph Voros, said, if you want to view the future outside "business as usual" you need to pay attention to dissenters. Voros encourages people to ask "Who are the Bedouins at the gate?" and, rather than suggest they're out of their minds, explore what it is that they want and why.

February 17, 2007

Disembodied minds, ecological disaster: part 1

"We will be able to reprogram our biology and ultimately transcend it." (And who said the future is not predictable?) This quote appeared in an article by Ray Kurzweil, originally published in New Scientist, and reproduced in Next, The Age newspaper's IT section on 25 October 2005, just prior to release of his most recent book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. In making this statement, Kurzweil draws a rather sharp line between what he calls "we" and what he calls "our biology". But is it reasonable both to assume such a divide and to then proceed without further reflection on it?

Continue reading "Disembodied minds, ecological disaster: part 1" »

February 14, 2007

Have you got anything to declare...?

I attended a small conference/meeting on Monday entitled "The Victorian Convergence on the Global Sustainability Emergency." Sounds like heavy stuff. And it was - co-hosted by Philip Sutton, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Beyond Zero Emissions, The Australian Centre for Science Innovation and Society (ACSIS) et al. The major thrust of the event was to discuss whether a formal "State of emergency" should be declared... and whether our political leaders should be lobbied to come clean, review the science and trends and make the declaration. I imagined our PM coming back into the country and a member of staff at the airport asking him if he has anything to declare before entering.....! ;-p

It was rather interesting sitting with Philip Sutton, Cam Walker (from FoE), and Frank Fisher (for part of the time), trying to write a press release, when it came to me: "An Inconvenient Emergency" as the headline, with the lead in sentence:

There are many inconvenient truths – climate change is only one of them. They all add up to a global sustainability emergency.

I don't think it was picked up by any media outlets though... :-(

On reflection, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to imagine that the Declaration was actually made and to explore what the consequences might be. I've made this the topic of another op-ed piece that I sent off to The Age newspaper this morning. Fingers crossed on getting it published... it also tries to highlight the benefits of conducting 'wild card' analysis - to try and entice business into imagining this possibility, even if they don't think it's plausible.

When Water Futures Don't Trickle Down

There's something inherently frustrating about good futures work in a corporate environment. Early 2006 several Melbourne based futurists including Peter Hayward (Swinburne Masters of Strategic Foresight program director), Rowena Morrow (teacher in the course), Susan Oliver and I facilitated the development of a set of scenarios for South East Water.

Working with a cross-section of SEW staff and a wide array of stakeholder representatives – so as to include the 'whole system' in the process – the three key scenarios that emerged brought clarity to how different value systems and thinking styles could drive social responses to water. In Spiral Dynamics terms, we explored the possible responses of mythic, individualist and pluralistic worldviews and their signature preferences for a regulatory/rules based approach, a market forces economisation approach and a community 'values leadership' approach respectively, to the increasing water crisis.

Continue reading "When Water Futures Don't Trickle Down" »

February 11, 2007


Swinburne Masters of Strategic Foresight alumnus David Geddes has co-spearheaded a new Web 2.0 initiative: the digital media marketplace Si-Mi.com.

Geddes, and business partners Andrew Kelley and Simone Govic, have a digital business model that adopts lessons from eBay and differentiates Si-Mi.com from other user-generated content platforms such as MySpace and YouTube: The Age notes "Uploaders are able to set their own prices, and receive 90 per cent of all revenue generated "after cost"." One sign of Si-Mi.com's success beyond the YouTube model is the distribution deal it signed with Adelaide production company Kojo to distribute its films. Inside Magazine and ArtsHub have also favourably covered the digital media marketplace.

Prior to launching Si-Mi.com, Geddes and Kelley worked at Telstra Research Laboratories, and Geddes has served on the board of Open Channel, the digital media production cooperative. This transition illustrates the broader shift from innovation in "Big Science" institutions to entrepreneurial firms with small teams. The digital media marketplace platform was built using Agile Alliance principles.

Integral Futurists?

Well, Integral anyone? There's a new Pacific-based Open Source website listing a bunch of who's who in the integral consultant sphere for the Australasia region: www.integraloceania.net The site was set up by Sydney based Tim Mansfield.

Not much out of Melbourne and Sydney at present, but in time, perhaps, it will grow. If you've got an interest in things integral why don't you put up a shingle and let us know?

February 10, 2007

We all knew this was coming….

'No mask' hey Alex… perhaps this isn't what you had in mind: Mind reading computers… we all knew this kind of technology was coming along, but did anyone really think they'd get the correlations between brain waves/localised activity and intention/meaning so quickly? And, have they really? Will they ever? From a stub article in The Age newspaper today:

A TEAM of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person's brain and read their intentions before they act.

The research builds on a series of recent studies in which brain imaging has been used to identify tell-tale activity linked to lying, violent behaviour and racial prejudice.

The latest work has prompted the researchers to call for an urgent debate on the ethical issues of the technology.

Here's the original UK Guardian article and a nice comment on Slashdot.

Now, while I agree with the urgent need for debates on the ethical issues involved, I have to wonder first, if the technology is really that good? Is this just another form of behavioural cues that so many people think they master, and then soon find out don't generalise so well?

Continue reading "We all knew this was coming…." »

I Wear No Mask

Camilla: You sir, should unmask.

Stranger: Indeed?

Cassilda: Indeed it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.

Stranger: I wear no mask.

Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Robert W. Chambers, The King In Yellow (1895): Act 1-Scene 2d.

Chris Stewart mentions theater and psychodynamics in a recent post:

I started by reflecting on theater sports and associated skills (believe me, the ability to cope with psychodrama and respond from various perspectives is a critical capability of a foresight practitioner – especially when consulting into a bureaucracy!).

This post resonated with me for a number of reasons: it opened a door for me to reflect on the influence of psychodynamics and theatre in my education, and how it continues to shape my practitioner work.

In high school I learnt improvisation and theatre sports: a highlight was being the Foreman in a stage production of Reginald Rose's television play 12 Angry Men (1957) in which the on-stage conflict resonated with a simultaneous power game in the school council. In the early 1990s, I encountered Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook's philosophies on theatre in the context of the Gurdjieff Work. This period was about the "initiatory" potential of theater to be a self-reflective and transformative practice.

Continue reading "I Wear No Mask" »

February 9, 2007

The Things They Never Teach You At School…

I've always been rude to my undergraduate lecturers by saying I got an education in spite of being at university. But that's not quite true with my postgraduate studies. There are, however, a whole host of things they never mentioned that are critical to the success of any foresight practitioner.

Of all the fundamental skills for a futurist, one that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves IMO (well, at least in my case;) is the art of facilitation. So often foresight processes involve in-depth interviews, small group processes and large group facilitation. Now, facilitation doesn't always mean b*oody butches paper and f**ing post-it notes. Although they are really handy. Facilitation can also mean what Dr Richard Hames calls knowledge design (to get a taste, see his blog here). Here, the emphasis is on the knowledge generation process of both individuals and groups.

Continue reading "The Things They Never Teach You At School…" »

February 8, 2007

"Over The Horizon" Post-Mortems

Fred Kaplan's regular column "War Stories" for Slate Magazine became a weekly read for me during postgraduate studies at Monash University's School of Political & Social Inquiry. From his doctoral dissertation The Wizards of Armageddon (1983) to his analysis of the Bush Administration's defence policies Kaplan understood the human dimension of policymakers and the cycles of strategic thinking in US governments and think-tanks.

Kaplan's dissection of the Bush Administration's defence budget in February 2007 ends with the following observation:

This is all a game of funny money to begin with. We could hardly afford any of these things, vital or not, if the Chinese stopped underwriting our debt. It's a bit much, under the circumstances, to spend tens of billions of dollars on threats that some analysts foresee 20 years beyond the horizon and that are, at most, hypothetical even then.

Kaplan's critique raises an important problem for the new generation of Strategic Foresight practitoners.

Continue reading ""Over The Horizon" Post-Mortems" »

February 7, 2007

Open source confusion... or an open process to generate new insights?

In the spirit of open source, I'm putting this thought out there (open to inspection, modification and redistribution, etc). I've been wondering if there might be some illuminating insights that might be gained by exploring what useful crossovers there may be between two emerging positive forces in the world: the open source movement and field of futures studies.

I was drafting a short article tonight where I was trying to link the two through things like managing increasing complexity/uncertainty, the 'the wisdom of crowds' (a book put out by New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki), possible applications of collaborative technologies and various musing on what would seem to make the future more 'open source' or 'closed'. I feel like I'm at that point where I need to stop for a bit and come back to the idea with a fresh pair of eyes... and maybe some outside input.

Have any of you had similar ideas? Has this post sent your mind off to interseting destinations that you could report back on? This area - which I've for now, dubbed 'Open Source Futures' - is one I think I'll come back to from time to time.

What's in a name? Foresight spotting in academia

Yesterday I was sent a link to the Stanford Center for Critical Foresight, at Stanford University in California. Not sure when the centre was established, but the impression I have is that this is quite a recent initiative. Given that the critical futures and foresight discourse is a central thread in the lineage of practice that all of us here belong to, this immediately drew my attention.

Continue reading "What's in a name? Foresight spotting in academia" »

Thinking about thinking: what does this have to do with the future?

If Critical Futures Studies can be characterised by the idea that "the way we think about the future influences the futures that we get", then what might the implications be for the future of the way that we think about thinking itself? This is a theme that I would like to explore here over the next little while.

Continue reading "Thinking about thinking: what does this have to do with the future?" »

February 5, 2007

Flatland or Fantasia – Is Everybody Un-Integral?

Marcus Anthony from the University of the Sunshine Coast of Australia recently wrote a paper called “Not-So-Integral Futures” (PDF) about his experiences at the November 2005 conference ‘Global Soul, Global Mind, Global Action’ at Tamkang University. The conference was organised under the guidance of Sohail Inayatullah. If I had the money I would have been there, as Sohail had asked me to present a paper – something akin to Huamnicide (PDF) published in the Journal of Future Studies in 2005 or an updated Meta-Analysis of Futures Journals (and trust me, it needs an update! Hence no link;)

While reading through Anthony’s paper I found my self with symmetrically opposing sets of reactions.

Continue reading "Flatland or Fantasia – Is Everybody Un-Integral?" »

February 3, 2007

Five Things

For some reason, my first post here is going to be trivial. In the litany of human communication habits, and right through litany futures work, short lists of things seems to resonate with our neocortex's thinking and memory functions. So lets hand it over to the number Five…

Five different things landed in my inbox this week – all talking about five big things. So, for some reason five is the number this week (was Sesame Street playing in my subconscious or something?):

- TrendWatching.com's Top 5 consumer trends for 2007;
- Forbes.com's Top Five Nanotech Breakthroughs Of 2006;
- The Inquirer's Top Five Next Big Things That Weren’t;
- Minyanville.com has a daily Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street, here's a taste; and,
- In psychology there are Five Big Personality Factors. I never knew, and I even studied psychology!

Okay, we can change channel now. We can do an integral futures cartography of the levels of thinking and domains of interest some other time… Now I just wanna cookie.

About February 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Futuristics in February 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2007 is the previous archive.

March 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.