AI and Medicine, Think Tanks Report, Fundamentals of Foresight, and more

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Volume 6,
Number 3
March 6, 2020

Mack Report: AI’s Partnership with Medicine Grows

In his latest article, AAI Foresight Managing Principal Tim Mack provides an overview of new ways artificial intelligence technologies are being deployed to improve medicine and health care. Rather than replacing medical personnel (doctors and technicians), “AI capabilities allow doctors and technicians to deliver medicine that is more personalized, proactive, and effective,” he writes.

For example, algorithms can monitor and adjust medication levels and combinations as a patient’s condition changes in real time, thus freeing the doctor’s time to be more interactive with the patient. AI can also accelerate diagnostics (and thus treatment) by learning to review X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other diagnostic imaging that would otherwise await interpretation.

Other areas in which AI can assist medicine and health care include drug development, patient data management, physical therapy, mental health, pain management, and risk analysis.

Read “Growth of AI Partnership in Medicine” by Timothy C. Mack, Foresight Signals Blog (March 3, 2020).

TechCast 2.0

A rebranded and refocused TechCast Project (previously TechCast Global) “is returning to its academic roots in research, education and consulting,” according to founder William E. Halal, professor emeritus of management, technology, and innovation at George Washington University.

This next generation of TechCast will continue to provide strategic analysis and foresight based on the pooled input of “high-tech CEOs, scientists and engineers, academics, consultants, futurists and other experts worldwide,” Halal says. The site lists some 50 contributors and invites others to participate on the panel to “provide critical comments and suggestions, publish articles on our work, join in occasional webinars, work on consulting projects.”

The TechCast Project’s reporting will shift to a more business-oriented focus, Halal says. Readers may subscribe to the TechCast newsletter the bottom of the main website,, or view the blog at

Go To Think Tank Index Report

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at University of Pennsylvania has released the 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report by James G. McGann, senior lecturer, international studies director, TTCSP.

The new edition addresses the increasingly crucial role artificial intelligence plays in analyzing the data that think tanks amass, and it has added a new index of those institutions that both study and utilize AI in their work. Among those included in this inaugural index are several future-oriented think tanks that Foresight Signals has previously tracked: Brookings Institution, Hudson Institute, RAND Corporation, and the Wilson Center.

Also new this year is the index’s policy of singling out “any think tank that has been ranked as the top think tank (#1) in a category for 3 consecutive years.” These consistently top-ranked think tanks (e.g., Brookings Institution) are excluded from the rankings for the next three years and instead “will be recognized as a center of excellence for achieving this level of distinction as a think tank center of excellence.”

Comment: We have elected not to report on the changes in rankings for the future-oriented think tanks that Foresight Signals has tracked for the past five years because the index does not provide useful information about the specific work these institutions do. For example, it is unclear why the Worldwatch Institute is included in the top U.S. think tanks for 2019 when it apparently has been inactive since 2017. (See Guidestar and Charity Navigator notations.)

That said, we laud the TTCSP’s mission “to increase the profile and performance of think tanks and raise the public awareness of the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the globe.” —CGW

Foresight Report: Fundamentals of Foresight

In the past year, we at AAI Foresight have been approached by a handful of friends and former colleagues to assist them in their new responsibilities as “futurists” or “foresight strategists” serving their respective organizations (a trade association and an agency of the federal government). Anecdotally, therefore, we have seen an interest in having a simplified set of foresight principles that mid-career professionals can use in their “second profession” as futurists.

AAI Foresight has now released a new Foresight Report providing a brief introduction to the study of the future. “Fundamentals of Foresight” is based on work previously prepared for new members of the World Future Society who were not necessarily trained in foresight techniques but who needed a toolkit they can use in their work.

These 10 principles (Scanning, Trend Analysis, Scenarios, Delphi Polling, etc.) synthesize the work of many professional futurists and colleagues over the years, so the report also includes a selected bibliography and connections for readers to pursue more training, networking, and resources. The report is free to share with students, clients, customers, members of the media, and anyone else who may benefit from such an introduction to this increasingly critical set of skills.

DownloadFundamentals of Foresight: Preparing for a Changing World” by Timothy C. Mack. AAI Foresight Report (Spring 2020).

Futurist Publications and Resources

  • Future Minds: The Rise of Intelligence from the Big Bang to the End of the Universe (Skyhorse Publishing, 2020), the latest book by Seattle-based futurist Richard Yonck, founder and lead futurist for Intelligent Future Consulting, will be released this month. An official launch party is scheduled for March 23 at Town Hall Seattle, where Yonck will discuss and sign copies of the book. [Note, the venue is closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation, which may force the event’s cancellation.] Also, Yonck’s previous book, Heart of the Machine, has now been published in paperback. [Learn more]
  • MIT Technology Review’s March/April 2020 issue on breakthrough technologies includes an article on “The professionals who predict the future for a living.” Among those featured are Anne Lise Kjaer, futurist, Kjaer Global, London; Philip Tetlock, co-author of Superforecasting and professor, University of Pennsylvania; and Annalee Newitz, science fiction and nonfiction author, San Francisco.
  • A Fresh Start for OTA: Creating the lean, dynamic technology assessment agency Congress needs today (white paper for Lincoln Policy) by Robert D. Atkinson, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Atkinson, a staff member of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment for five years during the 1990s, writes that “any effort to revive OTA or to create a new agency to perform [its] function must reckon with the weaknesses of the original OTA.” [Read more from Lincoln Policy’s series on technology assessment]
  • Futures Podcast with Luke Robert Mason, director of Virtual Futures, “explores the multitude of possible tomorrows.” Topics covered to date include transhumanism, immersive virtual experiences, and “calm technology.”

Future Day Recap

On Sunday, March 1, futurists around the world marked Future Day, notably through a 24-hour conversation around the world via video conference organized and hosted by The Millennium Project under the leadership of Jerome C. Glenn.

“To summarize or give key insights on this extremely diverse 24-hour conversation on the future with hundreds of futurists and others is impossible to do objectively” Glenn says, but he hopes to provide a report shortly to give a sense of what happened.

The segment of the 24-hour conversation starting at noon in Brussels focused on “disinformation, deep fakes, and information warfare.” Participant Vint Cerf commented, “Thoroughly enjoyable—thanks for the invitation!”

In addition, Ted Kahn of Design Worlds, along with support from Peter Bishop, Torben Riise, Ronnie Lowenstein, and Zhan Li, conducted “the first parallel youth set of discussions for World Future Day 2020.”

Caroline Figuères facilitated an online discussion among young people on how education could “make humanity more intelligent, knowledgeable and wise enough to address climate change issues.” [via Twitter]

In order to include more students during a school day, some groups organized additional Future Day activities on Friday, March 6. Among these were the Institute For the Future, Teach the Future, and Finland Futures Research Institute, the latter focusing on the theme of Utopia.

In Memoriam: Freeman Dyson

Visionary physicist Freeman Dyson died February 28 in Princeton, New Jersey, where he had worked at the Institute for Advanced Study for more than 60 years. He was 96.

Early in his career, Dyson collaborated with Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and other leading figures of the atomic age but later became a voice for nuclear disarmament.

He was the author of Disturbing the Universe (1979), Weapons and Hope (1984), Infinite in All Directions (1988), Imagined Worlds (1997), and The Scientist as Rebel (2006), among other works. In the December 1969 issue of The Futurist, he wrote “Garbage Disposal Seen as Benefit of Space,” an influential article on space colonization. [Read more]