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Utopia Revisited

Tim Mack

Tim Mack

Book review by Timothy C. Mack. When Verso Books in London released a new edition of More’s Utopia nearly 500 years after its first publication, it produced a bit of cultural shock. For many, the term utopia has come into some disrepute as a reactionary or even a delusional social goal, while among others, especially the technocracy of Silicon Valley, it is viewed as just another easily achieved social building project—all it would take is their unlimited funds.

European Union Versus the United States: Common Values Fade Out of Sight

By Joergen Oerstroem Moeller
The European Union (EU) is in much better shape than is normally portrayed, with a strong economy and initiatives introducing new common policies or strengthening existing ones. In due course, a stronger EU may emerge, setting a course distinctly different from that of the United States. This analysis discloses how the EU and the United States choose a different approach on almost all major issues. Common and shared values once kept the Atlantic Alliance together, but divergent values will split the alliance. Brexit aggravates this somber outlook, as Britain in many ways acted as an interlocutor that understood both the United States and Continental Europe. The geopolitical consequences will be huge.

Foresight in the Public Sector: 2017 Update

The 2017 joint meeting of the international Public Sector Foresight Network and the U.S. Federal Foresight Community of Interest was held October 20 at the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs office in Crystal City, Virginia. The meeting was organized and hosted by Clement Bezold, founder and chairman of the Institute for Alternative Futures; Joe Moore, senior analyst for Strategic Foresight & Risk Management at the Office of Enterprise Integration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Eric Popiel, strategic analyst and Evergreen Program Manager, Office of Emerging Policy, U.S. Coast Guard. Nancy Donovan, director of domestic relations, Strategic Planning and External Liaison at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), served as moderator for a session on government foresight activities.

Sharing Foresight Knowledge and Experience

A Report on the 2016 Meeting of the Public Sector Foresight Network and the Federal Foresight Community of Interest

Interest in how government looks at the future is undergoing a renaissance in governments around the world, and the role of networks in facilitating the exchange of information is critical. The integration of networks is particularly important in order to leverage knowledge.

Two government foresight networks were formed in recent years in response to growing interest in developing a critical mass of those working in government on foresight in the U.S. and around the world. In 2011, futurist Dr. Clem Bezold of the Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) and Nancy Donovan of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) convened a government foresight breakfast in Vancouver, Canada, which has since evolved into annual day-long meetings and the creation of an international Public Sector Foresight Network (PSFN) open to those in and working with government on foresight issues. In 2013, James-Christian Blockwood, then with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), organized the Federal Foresight Community of Interest (FFCoI), which has since conducted quarterly meetings drawing officials from over 50 U.S. federal agencies. Both networks decided to combine forces to organize a joint meeting in 2016 in order to facilitate the exchange of diverse views and best practices by U.S. and international foresight officials.

VR and AI Development

Tim Mack

Tim Mack

The trouble with virtual reality (VR) is that science fiction and other popular media have so raised expectations that people are always disappointed, because they all think that fully functional VR is already here. But what VR is really good at is storytelling, simulator games, and training of all sorts.

The Strange Case of the One Hundred Trillion Dollar Toilet Paper

David N. Bengston

David N. Bengston

One hundred trillion dollars is a lot to pay for toilet paper. Utterly ridiculous! But I have a piece of such toilet paper in my office to remind me of the importance of including wild cards – low probability, high impact events – in thinking about the future.

Self-Driving Cars and Wild Nature

David N. Bengston

David N. Bengston

People have been thinking and dreaming about self-driving cars for a long time. Paleofuture.com’s article about the “Driverless Car of the Future” (Novak 2010) features a 1957 magazine ad depicting a family playing Scrabble in a bubble-topped car as it cruises down a six-lane freeway, the steering wheel pointedly unattended. The ad copy reads in part, “One day your car may speed along an electric super-highway, its speed and steering automatically controlled by electronic devices embedded in the road. Highways will be made safe—by electricity!

Wool: Old Wine in New Bottles

Tim Mack

Tim Mack

Wool is one of man’s oldest materials. It’s been in use for at least 3,400 years, but it was not effectively utilized until selective breeding reduced the hard outer layer (known as kemp) that protects the usable fleece. While the industrial uses for this material have grown over the years, the potential now is rapidly expanding. Wool is both water retentive and water repellant, fire resistant up to 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit (and does not melt, unlike synthetics).

Coal and the Cascading Consequences of Change

Tim Mack

Tim Mack

Much has been said about clean coal, and how it is a “wave of the future.” Clean coal refers to reducing or neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions at the burn point, but regardless of China’s continuing commitment to coal-powered electrical plants, the United States has a natural gas glut and increasingly cost-competitive wind and solar power. As well, mountaintop leveling, destructive chemical processing, and byproduct disposal challenges continue to complicate any solutions that billion-dollar U.S. projects such as the recently canceled FutureGen might have produced.

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