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March 2007 Archives

March 24, 2007

Futuristic NASA Think Tank To Be Closed Down

New Scientist reports here that NASA is very likely to shutdown its Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) in order to save US$4 million in budget cuts. The budget cuts are due to US Congress legislation to tighten NASA's overall budget, cost overruns on the space shuttle's replacement, and NASA chief Mike Griffin's prioritisation of space exploration over science research programs. This isn't a new trend: I wrote about it over 9 years ago for the late 21C Magazine on NASA's institutional problems that contributed to the Challenger fateful "launch decision" in 1986.

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March 20, 2007

The Secret and Magical Futures

In describing what I actually do as a futurist, and as ever, trying to fit into the 30 second elevator pitch at parties, I've often come back to a joking stance: "I'm a rigorous imagination technician. Not engineer, that you do for yourself. But technician, helping explain how things work, yes, that I do with imagination, vision, images of the future and how to get there or avoid going there."

Despite the critical-reflexive, self/client empowering, non-deterministic and inherent action orientation of this stance, I still get dumbfounded by the level of magical thinking in our society when it comes to the future. Whether it be techno-optimists who religiously fantasise and proselytise that we will create technology beyond our dreams and solve every problem and open up impossible means of transcendence, all at the flick of a psychic switch, or new-age retro-romantics who have read the cards, studied their sun signs for the year and, in the middle of a primal scream session had a sudden realisation gifted by an animal spirit that their future would require we do away with all technology, they all have one thing regularly in common: magical thinking.

I'm obviously going to have to change my humorous 30 second pitch, otherwise I could easily been seen as promoting magical wish fulfillment (if I didn't have a conscience and wanted to be rich, then maybe I would;)

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March 12, 2007

Open Source Futures (OSF) - further concept development

Ahead of a workshop this Thursday where I plan on "unveiling" this concept to a room full of unsuspecting strangers, I thought I'd share it with some futures buddies and whoever else is reading for some critical and supportive feedback.

Rationale of OSF: Every statement about the future contains a number of assumptions – some known and acknowledged, the majority not. These statements, or conjectures, often come at the focal topic from a wide range of different perspectives and the “open source" approach outlined here aims to make these explicit and the thinking process far more collaborative. It is argued here that this could be achieved in practice through the use of collaborative technologies and the careful application of key principles:

For the draft eight principles and five-step process read on......

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March 7, 2007

An All-In-One Cancer Cure?

Sometimes things sound too good to be true, but they're not. Here's hoping this recent report from NewScientist.com that an old, unpatented, known-to-be-safe-to-humans drug called dichloroacetate (DCA) really is the silver bullet for cancer. The key activity for those scientifically minded:

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar. Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis's experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don't get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly. In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become "immortal", outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

The cry of relief for humanity will be huge – the groan of frustration by drug companies unable to really make a profit on this unpatented drug however, should also be equally enjoyable for us all. Hopefully enough philanthropists will stand up to claim the pride of funding the required trials to prove this avenue is for real. Then we just have to wonder about how quickly we can get it distributed around the world…

March 3, 2007

How The World Really Shapes Up

US media futurist Mark Pesce kindly tipped me off to a Daily News article on a collection of visual maps known as cartograms that reveal the dynamics of globalisation forces and geo-economic imbalances. The maps on HIV prevalence and Military spending are very revealing.

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About March 2007

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

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