inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #26 of 99: Roland Legrand (roland) Wed 16 Jan 13 15:07
    
Which probably leaves us with decades of social and cultural tensions
and increasing frustrations. In the meantime the individual and all
kinds of small groups of weirdos get empowered by our beloved internet
and related developments such as DIY drones and 3D-printers. Which
means, logically speaking, that the probability of devastating attacks
on our mega-cities increases dramatically. Or am I too pessimistic here
(the alternative seems to be the triumph of absolute control by Big
Brother states).
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #27 of 99: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Wed 16 Jan 13 16:24
    
I saw a note that the huge clouds of iron-rich dust blown from
Austraila into the sea recently will be a good test of the fertilization
theory.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #28 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 16 Jan 13 21:24
    
The politics of climate change: it's hard to get a straight answer.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/01/16/obama_climate_
change/

"So which is it? President Obama’s flying unicorn policy in which
fighting global warming apparently does not involve a costly diversion
of resources? Or the straight talk from Todd Stern, who is willing to
say that it is worth paying something now to reduce pollution and limit
the risks of a rapidly changing climate later?"

Problem of biting the bullet: it's hard, might crack your teeth, might
explode.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #29 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Thu 17 Jan 13 11:23
    
This discussion of climate politics underscores an ongoing dilemma in
the world of professional foresight: the balance between creating
desirable future scenarios and likely future scenarios. One rule for
foresight work I've seen across a spectrum of professional groups is
the need to avoid "normative" scenarios, forecasts that describe
futures we'd like to see rather than futures that map to our
understanding of plausible dynamics. The reasoning is that normative
scenarios are not impartial analysis, and therefore don't give clients
the best insights.

At the Institute for the Future, where I do much of my work these
days, this need to avoid normative scenarios is articulated as a
description of how good futurists operate: we have "strong opinions,
weakly held."

Thing is, this makes sense if we're talking about the future of mobile
phones or automobiles or the like. But it's hard to be neutral or have
"weakly held" opinions about the climate, or poverty, or ethnic
cleansing. As it happens, most of the work professional futurists do
falls into the mobile phones & automobile futures category, not the
climate & poverty category; technologies are easier, safer, and
ultimately more lucrative to forecast than social/political futures.

This is one of my ongoing struggles with this profession. Yes, I'll
make more money talking about gadgets, but I would prefer to work on
topics that actually *matter* for our future. I want to be able to talk
about not just what is likely to happen, but what *should* happen.

There's a reason that most of the futurists I know are on
anti-depressants.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #30 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 17 Jan 13 15:07
    
Climate and poverty are wicked problems, it seems to me - hard if not
impossible to solve. What's the best way to approach those problems, vs
the ones that come in smaller, neater boxes?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #31 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Fri 18 Jan 13 11:05
    
What makes climate and poverty wicked problems is that they're complex
-- complicated + interconnected with other systems -- *and* that
they're attached at the root to fundamental political-economic power
structures. That is, altering the status quo of climate & poverty will
upset power balances; those with the power who stand to lose it will
use every bit of that power to hang onto it.

So what do we know that can successfully attack a complex system with
a great deal of defensive power?

Viruses. We have to think like a virus.

[Recognizing that viruses aren't even alive, at least according to
some definitions of life, so yes, thinking isn't what they *really* do.
But go with it.]

A retro-virus, to be precise. We need to figure out how to get in,
adapt, and rewrite the system. A blunt attack would get shut down
quickly; we have to be able to simultaneously weaken the system and
redirect defensive resources in a way that makes the system think that
it's still working. We need to be able to turn the system against
itself.

Admittedly, holding high the banner of "we're like a virally-induced
auto-immune disorder" isn't going to bring in a lot of money and
recruits, but it is a good analogy for the strategy I think is likely
to work best.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #32 of 99: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Fri 18 Jan 13 13:43
    
Assuming a slow response to the climate change issue, what do you think the
next 20 years looks like for places the technically adept tend to flock
(this is a purely self-interested question)?  From what I've seen, Seattle
and Portland look to be setup to weather climate change fairly well, San
Franscisco maybe less so, Austin may be boiling away in the summers, but I
have no idea about London, Berlin, Tokyo, Singapore, etc.  I've been
casually eyeing the Hawaiian islands as a good place to setup shop, but I
imagine if moving huge boats full of stuff back and forth becomes really
expensive, they might become an isolated economy.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #33 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Fri 18 Jan 13 14:27
    
So here's one of the nasty, generally unstated truths about climate
disruption: by and large, the rich countries (the primary historical
source of greenhouse gas emissions) will very likely weather climate
disruptions much more readily than poor countries (historically *not*
greenhouse powerhouses). This is in part due to geography -- the
equatorial region's going to get hammered by global warming, and the
closer-to-the-poles regions less so -- but mostly due to money. The US,
Europe, and Japan will be more able to afford to adapt than will
China, India, or other up & coming developing nations. Australia is an
exception on the geography side, and a test case in how well a rich
nation can adapt.

At least in the near-medium term; left unchecked, climate disruption
hoses everyone by the end of the century.

Your sense that the Pacific Northwest is one of the better places to
go in the US is probably accurate. Not sure that Seattle itself is a
good spot, simply due to how close it is to sea level. Portland's a
decent option, though.

Texas residents should pay close attention to what's happening in
Australia right now -- that's your likely (uncomfortably near) future.

As a general rule, you want to be further north and well above sea
level. Storm systems in the western Atlantic seem to be getting charged
by climate disruption more so than storms in the eastern Pacific, so
you'll probably want to be well away from the coastline in the US
Northeast. Also, bear in mind that global warming means increased (a)
energy in the atmosphere (driving storms) and (b) ability for the
atmosphere to hold moisture, so winter storms will probably be bigger
deals.

Europe's problem is that most of the northern cities and regions
aren't accustomed to very hot summers, and don't have the necessary
infrastructure to withstand the heat (remember the heat wave that
killed thousands in Europe a few years ago -- they were by and large
killed by the lack of air conditioning). That's not impossible to fix.
Power lines/stations that aren't built for the heat may be a bigger
issue.

To be clear, nobody gets a pass on the impacts of global warming.
Water access, loss of farmland, internal population displacement*,
novel pests & diseases will be big problems in the rich countries as
well as the poor -- it's just that the US, etc., will have more
resources to draw from to deal with these problems.

(* Apparently it's frowned upon to use "refugee" to refer to people
forced to flee from one part of a country to another. The More You
Know.)
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #34 of 99: R.U. Sirius (rusirius) Fri 18 Jan 13 15:52
    
Jamais,

What do you make of the objections to fracking?  
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #35 of 99: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Fri 18 Jan 13 21:51
    
What are the two questions you wish people would ask you when they find out
you're a futurist, but never do?  (And what would your answers be, of
course.)
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #36 of 99: Roland Legrand (roland) Sat 19 Jan 13 02:05
    
Catching up with the discussion and reading 'Admittedly, holding high
the banner of "we're like a virally-induced auto-immune disorder" isn't
going to bring in a lot of money and recruits, but it is a good
analogy for the strategy I think is likely to work best.'

This sounds very interesting, but could you give a concrete example of
such a strategy please?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #37 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Sat 19 Jan 13 15:13
    
RU: From what I've read, fracking done correctly, under ideal
conditions, is *relatively* benign. Problem has been that much of the
fracking has been done sloppily and without consideration of conditions
(like fault lines) that might cause trouble. Objections to fracking
rightly focus on those; support for fracking rightly argues that it
*can* be done without causing harm. The problem arises when opponents
try to claim that all fracking is bad in the same way, and when
proponents try to claim that fracking is never bad.

Jeff: Ooh, nice.
(1) "Why don't you get a real job?"
Believe it or not, this is a real job, and I couldn't imagine myself
fitting better into any other kind of profession. Near-ADD-levels of
curiosity, an obsession with world-building, and a strong feeling of
always being on the verge of seeing the big picture add up to either a
futurist or a mental patient.
(2) "What's the weirdest part of being a futurist? Is it all the
groupies? It must be all the groupies."
No groupies. The weirdest part is either the Cassandra Complex one can
get when things turn out in ways that you'd forecast, but nobody
listened, or the point when you're out in the middle of a cattle ranch,
pulling on a latex glove to pretend for a TV documentary that you're
about to do something horrible to a cow.

Maybe that last one's just me.

Roland: Damn. I knew someone was going to ask me that. Before I
answer, I'd like you to tell me what you *think* I mean when I overuse
similes/metaphors like that.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #38 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Sat 19 Jan 13 15:15
    
I'm not lying about the latex glove, btw:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamais_cascio/2266075988/in/set-72157601036766034


(That was for the National Geographic TV documentary, SIX DEGREES.)
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #39 of 99: Roland Legrand (roland) Sun 20 Jan 13 09:05
    
Jamais, your strategy reminds me this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snDO3ClgRTA&feature=share&list=FLQpEzdZqP-1-03-
m6ArZalg

Bruce Sterling and some designer dude trying to convince Google to
help out (investing people and money) in a project about designing
spimes. Bruce explains how the internet of things - enabling us for
instance to see the life cycle of about every object in real time -
could be part of the efforts in favor of a durable civilization. What's
in it for Google? It's the kind of work they do anyway and it would
promote the vision of a Green Google rather than an Evil Google. 

Of course, I guess that this project would rather sooner than later
make it obvious that being Green also means to be involved in the
struggle against poverty. 

So rather than attacking Google - for instance because they hardly pay
any taxes at all - it would be a way to turn them into an partner for
making the planet a better place. 

And of course other big corporations would feel they should intervene
as well. 

would this be like a virally-induced auto-immune disorder - as it
subverts the logic of 'the shareholders and only the shareholders' in a
rather irresistible way? 
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #40 of 99: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Sun 20 Jan 13 22:01
    
Keeping the futurist grilling going, what kinds of things do you (or other
futurists you know) do to prepare for the future?  Things people not as
focused on the future might not think about?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #41 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Mon 21 Jan 13 12:25
    
Roland, that's exactly what I mean. Good example.

Jeff: you mean aside from drinking heavily?

Futurists aren't Preppers. I have water & food in containers in case
of an earthquake, but that's because I live in Northern California and
have the space to put that stuff. But I'm not (and no futurist I know
is) setting aside guns and cigarettes for barter in a shack in the
woods. Something I wrote a few years ago may explain:

http://www.openthefuture.com/2007/09/greetings_from_rschloken_1.html

"I think it's because, to reverse Tolstoy, all unhappy futures are
identical, but every happy future is happy in a different way. Unhappy
futures, no matter their province -- environmental disaster,
technological doom, bird flu, peak oil, civilizational suicide-by-spam
-- are really about three basic fears: deprivation, pain and death. The
relative balance of the three will vary, as will the proximate causes,
but for the starving masses, it ultimately doesn't make much
difference whether their demise was at the hands of a global climate
collapse or a super-empowered high-tech terrorist.

"We know all too well, conversely, that definitions of happiness vary
considerably between cultures and between individuals. A bucolic life
of growing my own food and living amidst nature doesn't work as a
"happy future" for me, but would be idyllic for some of you; neither of
us, however, would likely welcome a future that would be a happy one
for a religious zealot.

"Or, to put it in a more considered (and less pointed) fashion, we
tend to recognize that happiness is contingent, and because we can so
easily imagine how any given happy future could become less happy --
and have trouble imagining how a disastrous future, once underway,
could become less apocalyptic -- it's far harder to accept that we
might succeed (at avoiding doom, at improving our society, at changing
our values, etc.) than that we might fail. It's my job to make those
happier, or at least less-apocalyptic, futures easier to accept.

"Sometimes, being a futurist isn't about making forecasts or spotting
trends.

"Sometimes, being a futurist means acting as a civilizational
therapist."

One philosophy I try to adopt when making decisions with longer-term
consequences is a principle of "least regret" -- of a set of options,
which ones can I imagine regretting more in the years to come? This
forces me to consider what happens if my choice fails, and what the
"opportunity for happiness cost" might be if I choose not to do
something.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #42 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 21 Jan 13 16:08
    
You should be like those Dadaist punks in John Kessel's novel, _Good
News from Outer Space_ - who break into cars and install expensive
stereo systems.

***

I know there are cultural drivers, but my impression is that the
primary reason we have climate change deniers on the right is economic
anxiety: if we take action against climate change, it'll blow some
well-established economic engines and disrupt the flow of dollars to
certain people and certain economies. How do you respond to that (not
always articulated) set of issues?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #43 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Mon 21 Jan 13 17:34
    
Good question. It depends on the context, who I'm speaking to. 

My basic approach when I know that there are climate change
skeptics/deniers (not necessarily the same thing) in the audience is to
talk about balancing risks. How much are they willing to gamble on
being right? What kinds of losses are they looking at if they're wrong.
The fact that the major re-insurance companies are terrified of
climate disruption is very helpful when talking to executives -- they
know that the people with no real political axe to grind and a *lot* of
money at stake don't make decisions solely based on ideology.

That said, there are people who simply don't want to hear it. I was
actually heckled by an audience member in Manchester UK a few years
ago. She was *really* drunk (open bar before the keynote, she walked to
her seat with two glasses of wine), and just kept yelling at me about
climate stuff being "so speculative."

As it turns out, though, the most effective way to get through to
skeptics seems to be talking about geoengineering. It's a "crap,
they're actually considering this scary stuff, it can't be just to doom
capitalism and line their pockets with the lucrative grant money..."
reaction; that's backed up by some interesting research. The UK's
National Environment Research Council did the legwork:

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/consult/geoengineering-dialogue-final-report.pdf
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #44 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 21 Jan 13 19:38
    
> there are people who simply don't want to hear it.

Good point: denial as a response to real fear.

From the pdf you linked:

"The basis on which participants accepted climate change varied, and
views were not always based on scientific data. Participants often
formed attitudes towards climate change through personal experience of
certain weather events, sometimes conflating weather and climate
concepts in their comments. For instance, some mentioned unusually
heavy snowfall as evidence of climate change, while others refuted
claims of global temperature rise due to 2009’s cold winter. People
also referred to media coverage of high profile natural disasters, such
as the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 or the recent Chilean earthquake, as
evidence for climate change."

It can be hard to get the difference between climate and weather.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #45 of 99: Roland Legrand (roland) Tue 22 Jan 13 05:48
    
Climate change by MIT Technology Review editors, annotated by Bruce
Sterling: 

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2013/01/a-hundred-years-ago-would-have-
been-a-good-time-to-deal-with-climate-change-mr-president/
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #46 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Tue 22 Jan 13 14:13
    
It's frustrating to see people with whom one ostensibly agrees saying
things that demonstrate a lack of knowledge. It really underscores the
tribal aspect of these big picture issues: ofttimes, people don't
believe or deny things because they've analyzed the facts, but because
of how well the issue fits with an existing worldview. Things that seem
vaguely connected get lumped in.

One test I've used on my own beliefs about the world: what kind of
information would it take to get me to change my mind?

And Bruce's observation in the title of that piece is right, but
really, even 25 years ago would have made a big difference.

BTW, I want to give a shout-out to an interesting project that started
today at IFTF: the "connected citizens" 24 hour Foresight Engine game:

http://game.connected-citizens.org

"What if, together, we could imagine hundreds of civic innovations to
improve our communities?

"Join a global conversation to rethink and reprogram government
services for a complex and connected world. Become a civic inventor,
and contribute your ideas about how governments and citizens can work
together to make life better for everyone."   

This will run until midday (PST) tomorrow (Jan 23). I would strongly
encourage anyone with interest in the future of governance to check it
out.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #47 of 99: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Tue 22 Jan 13 15:35
    
It seems like it would be very difficult to hold in your head the
possibilities of all the various co-mingling disruptive technologies.  I was
just listening to a talk from dConstruct 2012 by James Burke, and after
talking about connections and change for 40 minutes, he ends with talking
about how nanoscale benchtop manufacturing could make all the predictions
and current organizational structures obsolete.

<http://2012.dconstruct.org/conference/burke/>
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #48 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Tue 22 Jan 13 17:10
    
It's difficult for a couple of reasons. It's not just the "oops,
forgot about that potentially transformative gadget" problem, it's also
the "wow, I've been hearing about that potentially transformative
gadget now for about 20 years, and it remains just 10 years away."

I'm quite certain Burke is right, but the problem is that desktop
nanofabs have been just about here since I first read about an early
iteration of the idea in Drexler's ENGINES OF CREATION back in the
early 1990s. It's easy to get jaded about the mind-blowingly
transformative when failed or delayed transformations are pretty much
on the daily menu for a futurist.

I haven't had a chance to listen to Burke's talk, so I don't know if
he addresses this (and he may well, he's fucking brilliant and I'm not
kidding when I say I wish I was half as smart as he is), but there's
also a bunch of social/legal/economic factors that tend to drag out
these big transformations, even when the technology is here. The first
desktop nanofab manufacturer that raises its head will be inundated
with lawsuits over environmental impact (including but not limited to
the toxic effects of nanoparticles), IP violations, what happens to the
waste stream, and on and on. And my god, don't forget the potential
for spam in a world of network-connected nanofabs.

I sometimes get accused of only seeing the downsides, the problems
with this kind of stuff. That's not accurate -- what I look at are the
*complications* that arise with this kind of stuff. That's not to shoot
the ideas down, but to make sure that the people pushing this stuff
have covered their bases and really thought it through.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #49 of 99: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Tue 22 Jan 13 19:20
    
In the talk he says the people he's talked to are thinking it's a 2050's
technology, but even if there are speedbumps on the way, there don't seem to
be fundamental physical laws against it, so it's just a matter of when.
With 3d printing at a smaller and smaller scale, augmented reality,
intelligent everything... it seems like the future is going to be a very
confusing place.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #50 of 99: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Tue 22 Jan 13 19:49
    
Well, that's why they call it the singularity.
  

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