Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sun 6 Mar 05 20:21
To answer Ted's question first. They mainly choose us. Either we are recommended by satisfied clients or our new clients hear us speak at conferences and obviously like our approach. We always try to make our presentations very visual and provocative. Without really wanting to get into a discussion about alchemy in this context, although I am happy to do so, but it might take us into directions of magick, thelema, the philosopher's stone and a number of subjects about which I have an interest, but absolutely no involvement, I do think that on a superficial level the term has legs. I'd love to be able to turn an ailing mature company into future gold, by futureproofing it in such a way that it is immortal. Oh, I just realized that is what we do!! I do believe that futurists can shape the direction the future takes to a greater extent. I dxo believe we help create the future (in our little way). That is what the future potential business is fundamentally about. We are concerned with creating future opportunities that our clients would not otherwise think about and to develop startegies that take them there. That is the simplistic view, but there is a great deal of truth in it. If you get enough people to believe in and follow your recommended course and agree that it is the preferred future, then they will make it happen. I have seen it happen numerous times. By the way, I believe in the recommendations we make with a passion. A good test is to ask yourself at the appropriate moment:"would you invest $100 million (or a suitable figure) in this future." On the other hand as we see from certain global political situations, that governments' preferred futures can be difficult, if not impossible to achieve, if ideology or arogance are the principal or only drivers. The same can be said of companies, such as Levis who at a certain point believe they are indestructable and do not believe in the possibility of discontinuity. Even if we cannot fully create a finite future, we can definitely help shape its direction. But we need a trusting audience with the desire to make it work.
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sun 6 Mar 05 20:22
Wayne. What do you think?
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Mon 7 Mar 05 02:10
<But we need a trusting audience with the desire to make it work.> Sounds like church. Derek, re: 51, you have such a great sense of humor, while being serious to the extreme. I love it.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 7 Mar 05 11:28
Since you feel, then, that futurists can shape the direction the future takes to some degree, do you feel a responsibility for getting certain desirably outcomes? Have you ever been in a situation where the future you'd like to see for a client (in the normative sense) didn't match the future they felt more attuned to?
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Tue 8 Mar 05 03:43
Tagging to #54, have you ever intentionally 'moved' or 'nudged' future landscapes as they have developed or do you just release it all once you are done with the client, or is there a built in follow-up and modification process involved?
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Tue 8 Mar 05 05:27
Jamais. I do feel a strong responsibility when it comes to recommending preferred futures that I believe are both in the best interest of the client and society, within the limitations of that specific project. This is particularly true when it comes to projects that impact societal or behavioral change more directly and universally, as opposed to creating a new product simply to grow consumption and the company's future profits. The latter of course has its merits. I have worked on a few projects where our projected future and implementation plan, simply served as a means for the client to ask a higher price for the company. 24 times earnings instead of the 16 times, the company expected without the benefits of a future vision and value. I somehow felt cheated, but the clients were ecstatic. Equally, we have an element within our scenario evaluation process labled GF (gut feel). It was introduced, so that we could better understand or get a feeling for how the client emotionally feels about a certain scenario, beyond the rational. It is part of what I wrote about in the Diamanda piece, "When body meets Soul." Clearly, there are times, albeit rarely, when we feel a certain scenario would from our point of view, create a greater level of change and impact, but where the client (at least the personnel on the project) feel uncomfortable with their ability to make that particular scenario a reality. It is sometimes a timing issue, but if they feel in the guts that a particular scenario is not right, our experience is that the likelihood of it actually being implemented is significantly reduced. So we park it and it will likely appear in our final recommendations (should we feel that strongly about it) as a scenario they give future consideration to a later stage. However, I think that the scenario eventually gets lost as they focus comprehensively on the scenario(s) that we ultimately agreed with the client was the best route to a successful future. It is strange that I really do believe we can shape the future, but then I picked up Robert Wright's book Non Zero a few days ago (after some 9 months since my first reading) and starting thinking about his premise that cultural evolutionism is the "psychic unity of humankind" and his assertion that it is a misconception that change is guided by farsighted reason and that cultural evolution has evolved little advanced planning. At The Futures Lab, we often discuss and are deeply aware that where a scenario we have created involves a high degree of human behavioral change that adoption will be slower and that the chance of the scenario succeeding is severely reduced. That is why a "revolutionary future" requires a high level of evolutionary implementation and continuing elements of familiarity to make it work. That is why the transition plan embraced within our "Rolling back the future" is critical. It is probably the reason I believe that companies and institutions should plan for change well in advance, so that they can understand and leverage cultural change and all the other influences and influencers. Ted. As I mentioned earlier in the discussion, we try to maintain strong long-term relationships with our clients and in some cases have completed multiple assignments, which has allowed us to remain involved with earlier projects. To my mind, we have not found a successful method that will enable us to undertake reviews throughout the implementation process, that is why in the "Rolling back the future" it is important that a high degree of flexibility is embedded to enable the client to make modifications as necessary. I have been giving consideration on how to keep involved and be paid for doing so, but have usually found that with large organizations (which make up the bulk of our business), the scenario(s) subsequently moves through an robust internal process and structure and that in fact, in most cases, our clients are very skilled at that part and do a good job at interpreting the scenario in ways that give it a better than even chance of success. The short answer is we tend to hand off the preferred future to the client at the end of the six stage process and occasionally are either involved or able to continue to influence the implementation. This is an area that is on our "could do better list."
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Tue 8 Mar 05 11:33
One interesting point of divergence between your process and scenario work from other groups is the emphasis on a "preferred future" (aka "normative future"). GBN (again, I use them because I'm most familiar with their processes) explicitly avoids coming up with a normative future, instead preferring to come up with a set of divergent futures against which an organization can plan. I suppose the difference is philosophical: on the one hand, the FL approach says that "you control the shape of your future" (I paraphrase, of course); on the other, the GBN approach says that "you plan your future in an environment you can't fully control." It seems to me that the FL approach can lead to happier outcomes, but the GBN approach is more useful when things don't go as hoped. How does FL (and your clients) handle extended engagements when it becomes clear that the preferred scenario is simply not possible to achieve?
Tom Reamy (treamy) Tue 8 Mar 05 21:07
I'm sorry that I haven't been able to participate in this discussion until now - it's quite interesting and fun. And I'm only part way through your book but I'm enjoying that also. I'd like to start off with a couple of points/questions revolving around a couple of tension points. Two conficts or tension points that have come up already are the conflict between advocacy and good science, on the one hand, and ethical conflicts with clients. Futurism seems to attract both people who are trying primarily to change the future of the world and those who are trying to understand the present and extend that understanding into the future. The field seems big enough to handle both, although judging by some of the WFS conferences I used to attend, they often don't speak to each other all that much (probably the different languages they utilize). However, there does seem to be a conflict -- when you have a strongly held view of a preferred future, how do you overcome the natural bias toward seeing the "evidence" that supports the judgment that that future is what the client should aim for? For example, your method seems to focus on "revolutionary" futures but how do you deal with the situation where what is called for is simply some simple efficiencies -- not as exciting as revolutions but often what the client really needs? To put it another way, there seems to often be a conflict between wanting to change the world and wanting to understand the world (both the present world and the future world). I'd like to hear your thoughts on that conflict and how you typically deal with it. Secondly, I guess I have a hard time believing that none of your clients had some group that felt they were, if not part of an axis of evil, at least engaged in something that raised ethical concerns. Some are easy like turning down a consulting gig with Phillip Morris, but there are lot's of grey areas too. Oil companies are one example where only looking at futures with which you agree might be harmful to your client. Avoiding that situation by not taking on the client is one option, but I wonder about cases where it is not as obvious. Shouldn't the needs of a client take precedence over your vision of the future?
Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Tue 8 Mar 05 22:19
It's an interesting observation Jamais. To be honest with you, I've never thought of the futures work that we do as being normative, though by your definition (i.e. preferred futures), I suppose it is. My exposure to, and experience with, a lot of normative futures work is that the big picture is so *big*, that achieving that preferred future is, while not being impossible, somewhat problematic. By this I mean they require serious time and effort, the quantities of which the typical corporate entity is unlikely to invest in. Because the time horizons that we typically work within (5-10 years) are relatively short and the scope of our projects somewhat narrow (e.g. the future of Client X and not the future of energy), I have adjudged what we do as applied futures. One of the main distinctions that I make as to our work is that we plan for opportunity as opposed to planning for contingency. Put differently, we take a "this is what we will do" approach rather than a "this is what we could / might do" line. One is proactive, the other reactive with the benefit of foresight. To use futures-speak, in a way we endeavor to fuse 'managing the future' with 'envisioning the future'. The sort of preferred futures that we develop with our clients are very directional, and as a result, able to be implemented. Because they are preferred does not mean the scenarios are fixed. We are the first to say that they should be kept dynamic and fluid, open to change and interpretation. I think Derek alluded to this when he spoke of the importance of the "Rolling Back the Future" phase of our process. In answering your question, we have been faced with scenarios that appear to be too big of an idea, and in aggreeance with the client, have parked these for reappraisal at another time. There have been other occasions where the preferred scenario, whilst not necessarily failing in its execution, has undelivered. These instances have reflected a half-hearted, 'lets wait and see' approach on the part of the client. Derek likes to talk about 'courage over comfort' which reflects the proactive, 'make the future happen' mindset that we enter into with our clients. We invest a good deal of ourselves into the scenarios and I suppose that the expectation is that our clients do likewise. That said, we don't plan to fail - but then we wouldn't be good futurists if we didn't hold this as being one of the possible futures that we face.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Wed 9 Mar 05 01:17
Derek, as we are nearing the end of your 'official' public conversation, I have a few questions for your consideration. Feel free to ignore them if they seem inappropriate to the thread. Regarding FutureFabbing, would you talk a bit about the possibilities that opened once you 'merged' (ala Rudy Rucker)the internet with a fabbing machine? Also would you comment on Terrence McKenna and Sasha and Ann Shulgin's influence on your perceptions of future frequencies and the world culture at large? And, finally, would you speak to 'plus4+++' (bliss) states as they relate to the conscious awarenesses and integration of internal and external perceived worlds achieved during Samadhi and how that reinforces and guides your work. I may not be able to get back to this by the time it ends. You guys are marvelous. Keep up the good work and beams to you and yours. Excuse me while I bump it up to a global and cosmic vision. Thank you, derek, wayne and jamais for your refreshing candor and willingness to put this in the public record. Blessings. Hogwart's is calling.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 9 Mar 05 12:35
I think Tom is definitely onto something in #58 -- there is a fundamental difference between futurists who seek to shape the future and futurists who seek to understand it. I don't think I'd characterize it as proactive/reactive, however; there are plenty of examples of organizations using an "understand the world" model to identify possible opportunities. Rather, I'd characterize it as a distinction between atomistic and systemic: the "shape the future" approach highlights the power a single actor (person or organization) has to direct outcomes; the "understand the future" approach highlights the ecosystem in which the actor lives. It seems to me that a good futurist/scenario engagement will have a little of both -- what the balance is, of course, will depend on the dispositions of both the client and the practitioners. Ted is right, though: we're reaching the last days of the official part of the conversation. Taking his cue, it might be interesting to talk for a moment not as futurist consultants, but as futurist thinkers. Let's talk about the future. What do you think will be the big forces at play over the next 10 years? Have you seen glimpses of technologies or movements or ideas which are seeds now, but will almost certainly be important a few years down the road? How do you expect people in the US to live (and work and play) in 2015? I'm not asking for predictions -- that's not the game we're in -- but possibilities.
Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Wed 9 Mar 05 19:04
Yes Jamais, I like your atomistic and systemic description and affirm the need for balance of the two - an entity that is able to identify and influence the leverage points in a system has the potential to bring about significant change. Of course we could digress, but... As far as forces at play go, I'll get the ball rolling with what I have called "Small Comfort" (it's a bad name but I'm working on that). By this I mean, a comfort level with that which we cannot see. DNA has become common parlance, in no small way (no pun intended) due to the proliferation of CSI-type TV shows. It will be interesting to see how other aspects of tiny-life are revealed to the masses. Subsequent to this will be an appreciation for, and then implementation of, the micro. In many ways I like Bruce Sterling's (in "Tomorrow Now") illustration of how: "Sterility is what people need when they don't know what's happening on a microbial level... sterility is a confession of ignorance." This will certainly change our definitions of what we mean by 'clean'. Another anyone?
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 10 Mar 05 05:17
2015, at the age of 68, I am part of the growing working population over the age of 60, which now represents nearly 20% of the workforce. I am so happy, especially in the knowledge that my SS is linked to the Chinese economy. I feel healthier, fitter and more beautiful than ever, just because I have been following Ray Kurzweil's healthy living program for 10 years (viz Fantastic Voyage). My life has been changed forever by the advent of proactive computing and rapid advances in the employment of adaptive, autonomous agents and second stage robots that have made my daily life much easier, given that they are not only my brilliant, low cost assistants, but unlike any human, I have yet to meet, they interact and seem to understand me and anticipate my crazy thought patterns, and cut through the chaos before it was even allowed to build up. I have just married an agent that is obviously no longer autonomous and so my virtual sex life is about to go down hill fast. My home is not only fully converged, but having gone fully mobile 8 years ago, I am not sure where it is, which is causing me great problems with my smart card that has difficulty in keeping up with my parameters, especially as a large part of my body has been replaced by "machines". The 4 ft OLED screens in my bedroom (or is it the bathroom, office, media room - I can never tell the difference) is a freeby from Universal Displays that I received as a reward fot talking about them so much at the beginning of the last decade. Not only does it interact with my 4D reactor that just flooded the room with blood during the showing of Kill Bill 10, but also makes me feel like I live in paradise or heaven (a place where I was told earlier I will never be accepted), and gives me sensory experiences beyond Plus 4, so that I no longer have internal or external worlds, they are one and I am one, except the override on the embedded sensory enhancers has just failed and chaos prevails yet again. To continue.
Uncle Jax (jax) Thu 10 Mar 05 09:24
Actually, you died in 2010 in the Great Ebola Outbreak!
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 10 Mar 05 15:13
Not if I play my "wiildcards" right!
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Thu 10 Mar 05 18:11
So as not to hog the space (actually I already have), I'll get Wayne to answer Ted's question on fabbing. I would like to respond however, to his questions about the influence of McKenna and the Shulgins and Plus 4 -bliss. In Future Frequencies, I draw upon my in-person and virtual conversations with Sasha and in particular his approach to experimentation and its role in the future studies process. I never met Terence, although I was a long-time groupie. I first came across him in the mid-70s through his book "The invisible landscape : mind, hallucinogens, and the I Ching." It was the first time I had really taken much notice in the chemistry and mechanisms behind the influence of hallucinogens on the phenomenology of consciousness. Up till then I knew what it felt like, but I didn't really care why. I was fascinated by his arguments on the space-time continuum. Later as I ploughed through amongst others, "Food of the Gods" and "The Archaic Revival" the space aspect became more meaningful to me in particular his piece about "the human imagination being the dimension beyond space and time, or it preceding all dimensions' together with his thoughts on the collapse of the distinction between inner and outer space. It made me want to pursue the outer limits of my imagination, to open up my consciousness and thinking universe. As Terence said: "The future of the human race lies in the exploration and making explicit of the contents of the human imagination." It underpins our "Think the Unthinkable" stance, which is a critical aspect of our approach. I came back to McKenna in the latter part of the 90's, before his death, through the work of my good friend, filmmaker Ken Adams, whose films "Alien Dreamtime" and Strange Attractor both featured Terence McKenna (see the piece in the book, titled An excursion into the Overmind.) Imagination, energy and fantasy are what makes our work "tuned in" as Timothy Leary would say. He added "Tuned in means going far, going far means returning to the harmony." To achieve his "thousand-petalled lotus of light" (the Crown Chakra). Sasha Shulgin has inspired me in a very different way. I had known of his work for a while before "Pihkal" and "Tihkal" and we communicated virtually and then first met at the first Psychoactivity Conference in Amsterdam in 1998 (there have now been three) - which marked my first introduction to ayahuasca. (check out the book of the same name, edited by Ralph Metzner, if you haven't already). In addition to the experimentation aspect and my general interest in psychedelic biochemistry, Shulgin has had the most impact on my thinking, in terms of exploration, experiences, connection and vision. He inspires the somewhat softer, more intimate, natural, spiritual side of me, one that too few people see. As an extrovert pleasure-seeker, I tend to demonstrate the wilder side, but I need the balance to really to harmonize my thinking, to transcend the chaos. (sounds like bullshit, but it is how I feel about it - maybe not a pretty side, but I love baying at the horizon naked, a feeling of being effortlessly at home in my body and easily and fully present, which leaves a distinctive afterglow.) It is difficult to decide whether i ever experienced true bliss in the Shulgin sense, which he calls omnipotent and timeless states. If it is Samadhi - a direct union with ultimate reality, allowing the dissolving of the ego and the achievement of the state of bliss or divine transformation, I'm not there yet. As it states in Tihkal, if somehow (I think drugs were mentioned) a plus four state was produced in all humans, it would signal the ultimate evolution and perhaps the end of the human experiment. Who needs singularity! Obviously one man's bliss is another man's poison!
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 11 Mar 05 03:04
Well, it's about time (Jax). How about your serious thoughts, I would be interested to read them. It's 2015, I am 68, actively retired (we are still calling it work), my golf handicap is now -4 and I am playing real tennis on the world Court Tennis circuit and hobnobbing and clubbing at all the '19th holes' around the beautiful, viridian-designed, sustainably energized blue marble. I have several virtual DVD's on the Virgin Digital Network and a comedy show beamed from the Satellite dish on my baseball cap as I hike around the world. I am digitally connected, cashless, ecstatically happy and no longer use or look at computer screens. My voice is my command key. And my voice and various personalities are all protected under a Creative Commons license. I am my own iconograph, my logo is me in all my human totality and potentiality and I enjoy interactive collaboration with all like-minded souls around the universe. Life is good, my grandchildren are financially secure, my nuclear family is functional and involved in globally progressive endeavors, my extended family is the world and I am a happy camper. I am the Director of Misanthropes Were Us and currently on the Boards of IconoBusters and Myths R Us. Simultaneous Synchronicity is a way of life and I am at 'plus 4' most of the time. Occassionally I do something productive, but mostly I just enjoy being.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 11 Mar 05 03:10
(jax), sorry about that, I think it should be all caps like the airport.
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 11 Mar 05 05:02
I believe today is the last official day for this conversation, although I am happy to see it continue. I'd like to know from those who have read the book what they think and their thoughts on this discussion. I have really enjoyed the questions and more are welcome. When I began to write Future Frequencies, I found the task of explaining about how I think quite demanding and complex. It is sometimes difficult to articulate, but hopefully we have answered your questions helpfully. Should you wish to pursue a further conversation with me on any subject for which you think I may have the capacity, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. Otherwise, let's make this day fun.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 11 Mar 05 05:07
It's true that today is the last official day, but you always have the option to continue as long as you'd like. Meanwhile we want to thank you guys for a truly illuminating discussion of professional futurism!
Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 11 Mar 05 08:31
Thanks Jon. I am happy for it to continue.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 11 Mar 05 09:52
This has been ultimate fun and thought provoking at the most cosmic levels. You guys are just simply the bomb. My son, the budding rock star, would say this conversation has been "in the pocket". Beams and all the best. I sure hope this continues on. I would still like to talk a bit about Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future, a bit about Kurtzweiler's Spiritual Machines, the WFS and all things synchronistic. Specifically, Derek, you alluded to the merge affected from the technological use of computers, software and the processes you have developed at FutureLabs. What new things are you learning from that and what possibilities are on the horizon as it relates to the ways you go about FutureFabbing?
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 11 Mar 05 09:54
Also, before I launch into my fun-filled jam-packed weekend in NYC, have you guys given any thoughts to how your processes might be used in the emerging social interactive platforms for online communities now being developed?
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 11 Mar 05 11:26
Derek, Wayne -- and everyone reading and asking questions -- thank you! As for what I think 2015 might look like... I think I covered that best in a character narrative I wrote for GBN last year. Here it is: Name: Ken Sakai Age: 22 Occupation and Location: Environmental design consultant, San Diego, California The ten-year-old Honda hybrid runs well enough, but Ken is beginning to think he may need to finally break down and buy a new car, one of those hydrogen ones (a "HindenCar," his mom said, before she bought one last year) since everyone says it's the wave of the future and the future is now and all those other clichÃ©s that creep up on you until you realize they're true and anyway he saw a gas station that only sold hydrogen yesterday (hydrogen is a gas, right? So he can keep calling them "gas stations," right?) and even though he's only 22 he's amazed at how fast things change, sometimes. He has his hiptop stuck on the dashboard with one of those sticky pads that doesn't leave a residue so that he can see the messages that pop up and scroll by and the random snaps of images and video his phone pulls from the web as idle entertainment and just, you know, to let him keep an eye on things, even though he's never really been into that whole "sousveillance" thing (he wonders how long that term's been around, since "surveillance" means "oversight," or "watch from above," and "sousveillance" means "watch from below," so that whole everybody-watches-everybody's back thing wasn't a big deal when he was a kid so it probably hasn't been around for too long). Ken is late again for a meeting with the design team and he's more than a little annoyed that they want to do these things in-person, even though he could just as easily view the mockups over video and has to have his hiptop to see their changes to his schematics anyway so why don't they just do it over the web like civilized people, except they're all older and probably like the whole "personal touch" thing that seems like more of an excuse to waste time talking and eating bagels and don't they realize that he's a busy busy guy with a ton of work to do for a dozen other clients and damnit was that the exit? He runs in, five minutes past ten, glad that his hiptop had already ID'd him to the cameras at the gate so that they just waved him through and he didn't have to stop to explain himself since he always hates talking to people carrying guns and he suppresses a shudder, changing the subject in his head, hoping that the meeting hasn't started yet but they always seem to run a bit late, and he turns the corner to the glassed-in room and sees everyone standing around the coffee and bagel cart and he relaxes, just a bit, and says hi to the group. They all sit down to start the meeting and Ken notices, immediately, who is actually there and who is simply warming a seat, including the guy next to him who seems to be taking careful notes of the conversation but is actually playing some game, Darwin's Kingdom, looks like, he could never really get into it because it wasn't violent enough but it's probably perfect for meetings like this and Ken wonders if he'd start playing games in meetings if he only worked at one place and always saw the same people every day, even though Jina, across the table with the Apple HedZup wearable who seems to really like his designs, is great to talk to and he could actually imagine working in the same place as her for awhile. It's Ken's turn to talk, to tell them about his own improvements to the design, changing the material base to reduce monomer outgassing and also reduce production costs, and he hopes the coffee kicks in soon because he really needs to start thinking faster.
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