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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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April 10, 2007

Planning for the Aftermath of Climate Change

I recently watched the latest episode of the BBC's Spooks (the last episode in Season 5 downloaded courtesy of uTorrent and ISOHunt). The episode's main plot, besides the obligatory end-of-season cross-over emotional subplot, was about environmental terrorists threatening to blow up the Thames Barrier that serves to reduce the impact of flood waters on the low lying London. Their one demand before everyone involved became manifestly irrational was that the British Government publish in full a planning document code named 'Aftermath.'

The premise of the fictional Aftermath plan? Accept that climate change is not only inevitable, but already too progressed to be corrected, altered or mitigated in any way, and simply get on with adapting to the tectonic like changes by securing existing energy supplies, key infrastructure that will survive and generally capitalising on the ensuing chaos while squashing any trouble at home or with those pesky EU neighbours. The plan's co-authors were, of course the United States.

Stepping back into reality, this far-fetched plan isn't such a stretch.

Continue reading "Planning for the Aftermath of Climate Change" »

April 30, 2007

Futures On Your Tele

SBS TV is currently airing an interesting grab bag of documentaries under the rubric of "Future Focus." As a futurist, I'm interested to watch, of course. I suspect, however, that many professional futurists would have sighed, and changed channels. Why is that?

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May 6, 2007

Nine Inch Nails: 'Year Zero'

The new album Year Zero from the US industrial band Nine Inch Nails explores a dystopian future set 15 years beyond the current Bush Administration. Trent Reznor's targets include the military ("The Good Soldier"), politics ("Capital G"), alien contact ("The Warning"), religion ("God Given") and propaganda ("The Greater Good"). For me, the standout tracks are the finale ("In This Twilight" and "Zero-Sum") on the dissipative edge of the chaotic system, as a moment of civilisational Truth and global Armageddon both loom. The album's dominant theme is a dystopian perspective on (the lack of) consequentialist thinking for decision-makers.

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July 2, 2007

From Blog to Broadsheet

Two of our writers here at Futuristics have had opinion pieces published recently in Victoria's Age newspaper. Josh Floyd today draws an adroit and principle based line to argue for a social morality foundation to developing Australia's carbon trading system, while Stephen McGrail (following up January, February and April opinion pieces) leveraged comments made by Dalai Lama in his recent visit to explore the implications of 'enlightened self-interest' for business strategies appropriate to the 21st Century.

Both articles are worth noting for the progressive yet pragmatic approach they take to address the complexity of responding to humanity's sustainability challenge. From my vantage point, albeit a biased one for several reasons, it's great to see the fruits of Swinburne's strategic foresight program beginning to be more publicly displayed. Whether it’s the course or the people it attracts, or a combination of both, there's hope in them there hills;)

August 15, 2007

FWD's Summer Reading List 2007

FrontWheelDrive.com publisher Roy Christopher kindly invited me to contribute to FWD's annual Summer Reading List for 2007. My selections capture several different contexts and considers domain applications of Strategic Foresight and Strategic Intelligence for military grand strategy; post-mortems on covert operations; cool-hunting in new wave and post-punk music; and how art-forms as diverse as martial arts and horror short stories are used for cultural regeneration. I threaded several themes on self-reflection, practice and transmission throughout my review selections.

FWD's other contributors include Disinformation publisher Gary Baddeley, Gang Of Four legendary bassist Dave Allen, VRML maven Mark Pesce, and omniscient scientist Howard Bloom. Happy reading!

September 12, 2007

Factory Girl

The nemo is a man's sense of his own futility and ephemerality; of his relativity, his comparativeness; of his virtual nothingness.
- John Fowles, The Aristos (1964).

I first heard of bohemian muse Edie Sedgwick in 1996 whilst writing a 21C Magazine profile on maverick physicist Jack Sarfatti. George Hickenlooper’s Factory Girl (official site, IMDB page & Wikipedia entry) has received flak for its portrayal of Edie, Andy Warhol’s Factory, musician Bob Dylan and the “swinging ‘60s”. Despite this, Factory Girl has several themes of interest to Strategic Foresight practitioners. Spoilers warning!

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September 22, 2007

The End Is Nigh. Be Positive.

Futurist, social commentator, academic and general rabble rouser Dr Richard Eckersley (director of Australia 21, a non-profit, public-interest research company, and a visiting fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University) has had a very thought provoking opinion piece published in the Melbourne's Age newspaper today. It is called "The End is Nigh. Be Positive."

With clear an accessible prose Eckersley invites the reader to consider the psychological impact of the current images of the future that our industrialised societies hold: about war, famine, pandemics etc. He explores the crucial link between they stories we collective use to frame our situation and the type of social interactions these lead to and the type of actions these make possible.

Changing the story, he proposes, is one of the most effective ways to start shaping how we will collectively respond to the challenges of our times… Well worth the read…

September 30, 2007

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Film director Ridley Scott will be releasing Blade Runner: The Final Cut in US cinemas this week and on a 5 disc DVD set in December. Fred Kaplan in The New York Times praised the re-edited film with remastered special effects as "something different: darker, bleaker, more beautifully immersive."

Blade Runner: The Final Cut trailer

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