Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Transcript - futurism organizations

Class: Informatics, Computing, and the Future
Instructor: Dan Berleant
Transcriber: Brooke Yu
Date: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Professor:  This computer is going really, really slow.  Well, while the thing is chugging along, maybe it'll come to life, but I'm going to get my other computer.  I'll be back in a minute in case this one doesn't work. 

Professor:  Oh, well, it did do something, but it's not showing up on the screen.  Maybe it will.  Haha, it almost worked!  It flashed.  Okay, let us try another.

Male Student:  My thin client is go really slow too. 

Professor:  Oh really? 

Male Student:  Yeah. 

Professor:  Well, we kind of need the computer.  Let me try this one. 

Professor:  Okay, so we will use the laptop which is working.  Oh, maybe it's not working. 

Professor:  Okay, let's see here we are.  We just finished the stuff on TRIZ, and now today, I'd like to talk a little bit about the future' community as a prelude to a futurist organization, what it does, and what organizations like that do for a living.  Okay, so I click on that and hopefully it will come up, but the network seems to be really slow. 

Alright.  Okay, so the example organization we're going to talk about is the millennium project.  I want to say a few things about the community in general though.  Okay, first of all, what do I mean by futurism community? 

There are a lot of people who try to make a living by looking into the future.  You know, a lot of times they make money by working with businesses because they want to know how to make good business decisions.  So my personal interest is sort of broader than that, but a lot of people in the community do make a living by consulting to companies. 

A lot of people in the futurism community run their own small organizations and small consulting companies.  Some are non-profit to make the world a better place.  Others are profit-making, which try to find corporations to hire them for their ability to foresee what's on the horizon for these companies. 

Here's a couple of examples.  Lifeboat.com is one that I'm involved in to some degree, and I'll tell you a little bit about that in a moment.  Let's hope the network- here it goes.  Okay.  It's a non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding humanity- kind of a broad topic, you might say. 

It's got kind of a nice picture here.  They like to get donations, so they highlight their donors. 

Let's see what I want to tell you about this organization.  You can see they have a number of programs that they're running in order to safeguard humanity.  So why do they call it lifeboat?  They're making plans for humanity to survive these crises.  They could consider themselves a lifeboat to humanity

Current programs- AI shield is a program to protect the world from artificial intelligence.  My PhD research was in artificial intelligence.  I helped write this document.  There's one called asteroid shield dedicated to finding ways to protect the world from asteroid impacts.  How many of you have heard of the concept of asteroid impacts?  Anybody?  Anybody know what an asteroid is? 

Male Student:  An impact?  Like where it hits the earth? 

Professor:  Yeah.  Sometimes they come pretty close.  If they hit, it would cause quite an explosion.  Every year there's a couple of close calls.  Every now and then there will be an impact.   There was one that killed all the dinosaurs before humans existed.  So a meteor impact or an asteroid impact can make a big difference to the earth.  A meteor is the thing that lands on the earth.  An asteroid is just a big meteoroid.   There was an impact in 1908 in siberia that knocked over millions of trees.  It just hit a remote area. 

But they believe it was a small asteroid about half the size of a football field.  Well, that's what they think it was, anyway.  The energy released by hitting the atmosphere destroyed a large chunk of wilderness. 

There are very few accounts from people who lived in the area.  There are a few accounts of ahuge fireball in the sky, and heat sort of radiating. 

So anyway, a lot of people are, you know, concerned about shielding us from asteroids.  Anyone have an idea how you might do that? 

Male Student:  Blow it up. 

Professor:  Well, that's one proposal.  Or you could just push it out of the way by calculating the orbit. 

Male Student:  Aren't we trying to get rid of our nuclear weapons though? 

Professor:  Yeah, just send them up and hit asteroids.  We don't have the technology to do it yet, but I think it could easily be done.  We just haven't sent spaceships to asteroids, but we could. 

So each of these- I'm not going to click on these.  Bioshield.  You read about how people could create dangerous organisms or things that could cause diseases. 

Infopreserver- that's a program to preserve information, which I think is redundant since there are much bigger places to store information.  They have a wiki, and I'm thinking about us doing some homework to contribute to this.  I'm not actually sure what some of these are. 

Space habitats- if we can live somewhere else like mars, then if an asteroid does hit earth, we can live somewhere else.  These folks are actually publishing my book soon.  I want to show you the- the book hasn't come out yet, so you'll be among the first people to see the possible covers for this book.  So let me find them. 

Ah, I screwed up.  I shouldn't have killed it. 

Man: I'm with ITS.  We've just had to shut this port down.  Sites from all over the world were soaking up all the bandwidth to the campus. 

Professor:  Oh, so that's why it's so slow.  If you want to work here, that's fine.  The future is about computer security.  This computer was misbehaving because.

Man: something world wide was hitting it.  And we have a 400 gig connection on the campus and it was saturated. 

Professor:  Well, if you want, you can pull up a chair. 

Male Student:  They literally broke the Internet. 

Man: you have a 20 gig connection from this building to the main core.  It's very fast connection on the campus. 

Professor:  Alright, well, I was about to bring up the 17 megabytes into open writer because I don't have microsoft on it.  This is the pre-title page.  I want to show you the sample covers. 

Okay, this is one cover.  Okay, so this is one of the proposed covers.  I'm curious what you think.  Here's the whole thing.  I think the artist did a good job with this spiral clock thing.  I'm going to show you four of these.  The name of my book is the human race to the future, and this is the logo of the publisher. 

Professor:  This machine is alright.  There's another shut off in this room, but I'll find it.  Thank you for your time. 

Professor:  Here's a couple more. 

Male Student:  So are those possibilities? 

Professor:  Well, the editor thinks we should rotate the covers, but I'm really curious to see what people think.   They all say the same information, just different pictures. 

Male Student:  I think I like the first one- the one with the clocks. 

Professor:  Okay, these are from different artists.  There's one other.  So what do you think?  What are the good ones? 

Male Student:  I like the first one

Professor:  Oh, you don't like that?  Well, it's kind of orange this screen. 

Female Student:  You can't read the green. 

Professor:  Yeah.  Hmm. 

Male Student:  I think the second one like is the blue one. 

Professor:  Well, to me, I just get a thrill out of seeing them.  One of the things I like about this one is that the book is organized in terms of time scales.  There's a section on this, and this shows it on the cover.  Alright.  Maybe when it comes out I'll have next years class use the book in the class.  Anyway, that's the lifeboat foundation.  Here's a totally different example.  I just want to show you a little bit. 

It's got such a great splash page.  Well, this part doesn't look so fantastic, but.... assuming it runs properly .... let's see.  Just look at the webpage as I scroll through it.  So I don't know how you do that with webpage technology these days, but it's pretty neat.  So let's just say that if you have your own futurism company, or any company, it helps to have a good webpage because it'll catch people's attention.  Artwork is so important, but artists are so poorly paid.  There's an organization called IFTF, and it's one of the biggest future foresight companies.  I want to show you the wikipedia article about it quickly. 

Okay, institute for the future.  So let's see.  It started in 1969.  It's not only the biggest, but it's the oldest.  It deals with research programs on the future of technology, health, and organizations.  You'd be surprised how interested people are in the future of organizations.  People are really interested in that.  When I was your age, the world was much more broken up into separate countries, but today, the economy of one country really affects that of other countries.  It wasn't like that when I was your age.   Sorry, it started in 1968. 

I don't recognize any of these people, except for one person- Saffo.  Let's look at him.  He's a professor at Stanford- or he's a consulting professor in the school of engineering at Stanford.  Oddly enough, I thought he had been the leader of the institute for the future, but he was just sort of their most visible spokesperson.  I don't know why I thought he was in charge.   He must have just really been a person who was very much there in the room and everyone sort of noticed his presence when he was there. 

Here's another non-profit organization dedicated to doing things like saving the world.  Okay.  So the institute for the future is one of the biggest and oldest featuring Saffo. 

Finally, let's look at the Millenium project.  It's another project dedicated to sort of saving earth and humans from ourselves.  It's called the millennium project.  What does millennium mean?  It's 1000 years.  I don't know why it's called that, but I guess it's to give the message that it's after the longterm health of the earth.  Let me show you a bio of the founder. 

Who would have thought there were so many important people named John Glenn. 

Oh, it's Jerome Glenn.  I'm sorry.  That's what was confusing me.  Okay, pretty short article.  He's the co-founder of the millennium project.  He invented a technique for looking at the future called the futures wheel technique.  He also wrote a book on how to do future's research methodology.  I have a copy of the book which I used to help design this course.  It's on CD, so here it is.  He's pretty well-regarded in the field. 

Okay, let's go and take a look at the millennium project website. 

How many of you commonly use chrome for browsing?  How about Firefox?  How about explorer? 

Male Student:  No.  Never.  Don't touch it. 

Professor:  Okay, millennium project.  What is the millennium project?  It's an organization devoted to investigating the future of things that have world-wide importance.  They have 15 specific global challenges which are completely different from the lifeboat ones.  These are things like fresh water for everyone, and food for everyone.  They also have invented a way of doing the delphi method called real-time delphi.  It's like what we did in class, but people can input their estimates online and it compiles estimates from all over in a delphi type way. 

So the delphi method is pretty widely used in many variations.  Let's see what I wanted to tell you about it. 

Okay, what I'd like to do is show you a video of one of their projects.  One of activities, I should say, something called global futures intelligence system.  Let me show you a video about that. 

That's him. 

Okay, I have to plug the sound system in. 

That's funny.  This doesn't look like a sound cable. 

Alright.  It was founded in 1996.  It's in beta form now.  It's the www.themp.org.  We've tried 15 global challenges.  We have an index to show us if things are getting better or worse. 

Professor:  What he's talking about is what I just passed around. 

We invite you to participate because this isn't just on behalf of one corporation.  We're winning more than we're losing, but where we're losing is very serious.  You have no right to go to sleep because we've got some things to solve. 

Okay, so what can we say about- what that video was about was one of their activities.  I'm going to tell you a little about them.  Let's go back to the site and I'll look at the four. 

Okay, here are the four major activities.  Okay, so this is the CD I'm passing around.  It's the equivalent of 1,000 pages, but the CD has all the extra stuff.  It's title futures research methodology.  Another product is every year they come up with a report of another book called the state of the future.  There's one for each year.  Let's go ahead and look briefly at that. 

So futures research methodology.  Here's a picture of the back of the CD, and where's the CD, by the way?  You got it?  So that's the picture on it, right?  Okay. 

So it's actually a pretty interesting book.  It talks about the Delphi method and prediction markets in it. 

Then there's the annual state of the future, which are reports or books.  Here's the 2012 one.  It comes with a CD because not all the information fits in the printed book. 

And the 2011 one.  Oh, nope.  That's another report. 

Okay.  I think this needs another cover, but it's a little simple.  You can get it in Spanish too.  Here's the 2010 one.  2009.  I kind of like the eye peering out of... I guess that's right around Mongolia.  The center of the eye is centered in what country?  Mongolia?  Russia? 

Male Student:  Part of the former Soviet union.  Somewhere around there. 

Professor:  Okay.  Well, that one's also available in these languages [On board.]  

That was 2010, right?  2009.  So there's 2008, which is also available in several languages. 

2007.  2006.  2005.  I wonder how far back it goes.  This one, the CD has over 3000 pages, most of which no one would probably want to read

I notice the closer we come to modern times, the better the pictures are.  I would attribute that to better graphics software support for art.  I would suggest that's a possibility. 

2002 here with this old picture. 

Actually, well, what do you think?  On physics grounds, can you make guesses as to whether this is an asteroid coming in for a landing or the moon and the sunrise?  Neither? 

Well, let's break it down.  Would anyone argue that it could not be an asteroid coming in for a landing? 

Male Student:  There's no trail behind it. 

Professor:  Well, this is deep space, so there shouldn't be a trail. 

Male Student:  Okay, well, then that would have to be a huge asteroid. 

Male Student:  It would have to hit hard to make that much light off of it, and if it's up there and hasn't hit, that doesn't make sense. 

Professor:  Right.  So then you think it must be the sunrise, but anyone want to take an issue with that? 

Male Student:  The way it's shopped it kind of look like the sun's between the moon and the earth and that's not right. 

Professor:  Yeah, my complaint is that this is a view from space so you wouldn't see these rays. 

Male Student:  Maybe there's already an impact and that's an other asteroid coming.  

Professor:  Haha, that's a possibility.  A comet landed on Jupiter before, but before it landed, it broke up into 9 big chunks which landed over the course of a few days.  That's a possibility here- that one piece has already landed and another is coming in.  Always, you know, think about reality when you read or see pictures. 

So that's 2002.  2001.  This is the 2000 book, I think.  I guess here's where it kind of ends.  Okay, so state of the future- every year they come out with one.  Each new one is based on the previous one because they look at how much has changed from the last one.  So that's these two.  Then like any other orgnaization, they'll do special research on topics.  The last of their major activities is called the global futures intelligence system. 

Okay.  So these four major activities- there's a short PowerPoint.  I wanted to look at that. 

So this is their own introduction to the millennium project.  It's a nice presentation here.  They have a cool logo up there and it's directed by Jerome Glenn.  The organization has global tendrils, you know- it has people all around the world involved.  The state of the future reports are given in so many languages so they can keep an international flavor to it.  It's based in the US, however. 

Okay.  Let's see what's next.  It was created in the 1990s.  Oh, it was established in 1996.   They try to get people from all over the world participate, and they've had 2500 people around the world join in.  But it doesn't really say how many people are involved in it right now.  These people involved work for governments, companies, universities, the UN, and so on.  NGO's.  Whats an NGO?  It's a good thing to know about.  Non-government organization.  A lot of the news you get from far away places- you hear about organizations trying to feed starving people.  They're there for humanitarian purposes. 
Okay.  So this is a diagram showing the organizations involved. 

The UN is one.  I mentioned NGOs- non-governmental organization.  Universities, governments, and corporations.  The idea is that by bringing these groups together, they can synergize and get something done. 

Okay.  The organization is broken into 40 nodes.  There's 2 in the US- one the DC and one in California.  You can see the global reach of this organization, which is how they want it. 

This PowerPoint is a few years old which is why their recent project is in 2009 here.  I think they should update this slide, right? 

Version 3.0 is what I passed around.  State of the future video- oh, where is that?  I didn't see that.  Environment- we need a healthy environment. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]  

This is a couple years out of date.  What's their agenda?  They have 15 global challenges. 

So I'll just- here they are.  One is how can development be achieved for everybody. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]   We think of water as being unlimited, but in some parts of the world people get sick because the water is contaminated or they don't have enough water. 

How about population growth?  We can't overpopulate the earth or there won't be enough water or other things people need.   So how can this be brought into balance with the resources we have?  Agricultural technology has improved enormously in the last several decades, so the earth can support more people.  So there's really.  Double objective here it's not controlling population alone or dealing with resource problems alone. 

I suppose some governments might not like this project because it's pro-democracy. 

Here's something that really countries and people around the world are bad about- long-term thinking.  I don't care who you are- the temptation is to think about tomorrow or next semester and not take a long-term perspective, which can get you in trouble.  If you don't look ahead, you won't realize where you've gone. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]   Really, it's just making the world what it is these days, and how can it be made available to everyone.  Does anyone here not have a landline anymore?  Okay, well, a lot of people don't have land lines. 

When my oldest kid went to college, I thought the dorm room she was in and they had no telephone.  One of her friends brought one, and they got all of these calls from telemarketers and they just unplugged it.  Building phone networks is expensive.  So think of a countyr in a far-away place.  It's hard to put up wires nowadays it's not done anymore, so there are places in the world that just have cell phones.  If we can make cell phones even cheaper, then people everywhere may afford them. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]  

So the gap between rich and poor has increased world wide.  In china it's astronomical.  If we can only make sure the poor people aren't on poor, everyone will be happier. 

It's worth, in my view, to look at the composite happiness of everyone the world. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]   Remember we talked about the time it would take to overpopulate?  Well, why did it take the earth so long to get to the present state of population- it's because of things like wars and diseases.  We need to deal with that threat. 

That's one of the historical scourges of humanity.  Decision making.  Work is changing.  There's a lot of buzz on campus among the faculty about how cheap massive open online courses are.  So major universities offer these courses that anyone can attend online.  That could be a threat to a university like UALR.  If everyone wanted to do that, why would you want to pay me to teach 20 people? 

It's not just me and UALR.  It's universities nation wide are worried about this. 

Male Student:  Didn't university of Arkansas say they were going to start doing things like that for comp I and II? 

Professor:  Well, I've heard about that.  I think, you know, in a lot of cases courses could be taught more efficiently that way.  I don't think every course can be. 

Male Student:  People from Google and from Stanford got together and made a website udacity where you can take classes to teach you to create a search engine.  I think the state could do something like that. 

Professor:  Yeah, it's one of these massive online courses.  This was started by a professor at Stanford.  Two other people in the same department- there was a woman and I forgot her name and another guy.  They started another company too.  There are three people in one department who started two companies.  It's clear there was a lot of buzz about it in their department.  The three of them must have started out seeing eye to eye then diverged. 

Okay, so it's the same concept as udacity.  I'm trying to remember who the people were.  I can't remember. 

Professor:  Here they are.  Daphne Coler and Andrew Ing. 

MIT and Harvard are starting a nonprofit organization that does that called EDX.  There's a company UALR is involved with too, but I don't know anything about them, really. 

I'm not sure how I'd do this course if there were 100,000 people in it!  Anyway, I got out of the PowerPoint.  Here we go.  Okay.  So yeah.  The nature of work changes.  In my book, I have a chapter about how one hour of work yields one week of food.  200 years ago in this country, it might have taken 30 hours.  Most people were involved in producing food full time them. 

Now, 2% of the labor in this country goes to producing food, and we not only feed the US- we export tons of food outside the country as well.  If the economy was different, we could all work an hour a week and be well-fed.  

Well, the world is full of conflict, and I'm glad these folks are concerned about it to make it one of their priorities.  Women are oppressed in many parts of the world as well, and that should change. 

As the world becomes more globalized, organized crime networks improve too, so we need to prevent that from happening. 

Energy has always been a problem.  People have always worried about what will happen when energy runs out.  Huge amounts of natural gas are now able to be extracted, but coal is going to- we have a lot of coal too, but we're going to hit a peak in global oil production probably in the next 10 years or so, and things will get interesting. 

They used to burn oil to make electricity, but then they converted to mostly all coal.  At least 50% now is natural gas.  It's not because the power companies want to be clean, but because it's cheaper now.  Well, you know a lot of people believe technological breakthroughs will solve all our problems. 

So certainly they can do a lot, so let's use it to solve problems.  Then I guess this is the last one.  How can we make major decisions globally, both government and corporate, for the ultimate good of human kind. 

It'd be nice of in the process of making a profit it helped others too.  People trying to make a buck for themselves will ultimately help everybody.  That was his point. 

Okay, so... I want to tell you one more thing about- let's go to the last activity.  It's the futures intelligence system. 

Here are the nodes in the different parts of the world.  It's a way to crowd source ideas to solve humankinds problems.  These are the same 15 concerns, really, from before

I'd like to show you this introduction.  It has an animated introduction to using the system.  You have to subscribe to the system to put in your own information, but that's what they're after

Collective intelligence- here, they're referring to crowd sourcing. 

Okay.  This a little bit about the millennium project, which we mentioned earlier.  Okay.  I don't know if you can read this writing. 

This box describes the 15 global challenges we mentioned earlier.  It says they are interdependent, so if you improve one, you'll improve the others. 

Okay.  So if you were involved with crowd sourcing, you could click on each of these and contribute to a real time delphi system about that problem. 

You can search, of course.  So they say you see items on these pages and you can right-click to get a drop down.  This is a nice website- sophisticated.  I don't know how much they spend on custom web development, but this system is more than most websites have.  So you can right click on anything with a black double border. 

So here, I can right click it, and it'll display options. 

Alright.  You completed the tour. 

And so if you wanted to provide crowd source wisdom about any of these topics, you just click on them and it would take you there.  But we are out of time.  So I guess that is your introduction to the millennium project.  Any questions about the homework?  Alright.  

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