Air Travel Competes for a Future, Futurist Ideas and Insights, Hot Topics, and more

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Volume 6,
Number 8
August 7, 2020

Can Air Travel Compete with Virtual Travel?

As the current global pandemic has illustrated, digital technologies offer an affordable and time-saving alternative to physical travel, a phenomenon particularly affecting airlines and aircraft manufacturers, notes NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell in his latest article for the Foresight Signals blog.

In addition to saving users time and money, digital reality (DR) reduces adverse impacts on the environment, makes conducting business more efficient, enhances health by reducing users’ stress, and makes travel and tourism experiences available to more people, among other benefits.

Moving forward, the airline industry could try to compete with DR technologically, such as with autonomous aircraft, improved design and materials, and renewable, emissionless energy. But the advantages and advances of DR may be too much for industries promoting physical transportation and experiences to compete with, Bushnell concludes.

Read:Digital Reality versus Air Travel: The Responsibly Imaginable” by Dennis Bushnell. AAI Foresight Signals blog (August 5, 2020).

Insights and Ideas

Tracking Foresight in the Fortune 500

Houston Futures’ study on who is conducting foresight in the Fortune 500 found that 25% (123 companies) practice foresight activities. The 2019 research by Laura Schlehuber and Andy Hines looked at job postings and LinkedIn profiles of company employees to determine the prevalence of such terms as futurist, foresight, horizon scanning, scenario planning, and horizon scanning among areas of responsibility.

“The 25% figure wasn’t a huge surprise to us,” writes Hines. “Going in we assumed it was under 50%. We’re working on an approach now to track that number on an annual basis, and hopefully 5-10 years now we’ll have some solid data to see which way it’s trending. Is it growing? How fast?”

Read:25% of Fortune 500 Practices Foresight” by Laura Schlehuber, University of Houston, College of Technology, Foresight blog (posted July 13, 2020) and “Getting a Handle on Who’s Doing Foresight” by Andy Hines, Hinesight (posted July 22, 2020)

Adding Journalism to General Education

As private citizens are capturing more public incidents and events to share on social media, we are seeing more people act as journalists without professional training, notes Iowa State University journalism professor Michael Bugeja. Also, with fewer mainstream journalism jobs available, future society may become more dependent on citizen journalists, he says in a recent essay for the Poynter Institute.

Bugeja suggests that the skills taught in journalism schools might better be incorporated in general-education curricula, with course work in media law and ethics, for example. “Journalism education has focused for decades on graduates securing media jobs. As those decrease, along with enrollments, the future of the discipline might depend more on general education. But the case here is about democracy, accountability, transparency and empowerment,” he writes.

Read:Democracy, accountability and empowerment: The case for journalism as a gen-ed course” by Michael Bugeja, Poynter Institute (July 22, 2020).

Hot Topic Reading Recommendations

  • World population 2100:Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: a forecasting analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study” by Stein Emil Vollset (University of Washington) et al., The Lancet (online July 14, 2020). By 2100, fertility rates in 183 of 195 countries will not be high enough to maintain current populations without liberal immigration policies, according to new research at Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington School of Medicine. The study predicts world population will peak in 2064 at about 9.7 billion people and fall to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. [See also: "Poor Countries Are Running Out of Time to Get Rich” by Mihir Sharma, Bloomberg Opinion (July 26, 2020)]
  • Breaking up Big Tech:Busting Up Big Tech Is Popular, But Here’s What the US May Lose” by Patrick Tucker, Defense One (July 29, 2020). Technology editor Tucker points out that “American tech giants do offer a unique technological resource, one that does produce innovation and that arguably would not exist if they were broken up,” including cloud storage capacity and security of Amazon, massive video data from Google’s YouTube, and facial records (pictures) from Facebook. Excerpt: “These companies developed the world’s largest compute capabilities in order to become the world’s largest companies. Busting them up could eliminate something that doesn’t exist anywhere else and actually is a driver for innovation, one that arguably requires more regulation and oversight but also that can’t be replicated at a smaller scale.”
  • Afrofuturism:How Afrofuturism Can Help the World Mend” by C. Brandon Ogbunu, Wired Opinion (July 15, 2020). In a year that’s broken the world and shattered reality, imagining Black futures can help plot a pathway to recovery. Excerpt: “Why do we care about what the Afrofuturist has to say? And why would we suspect that their answers would differ from that of an average futurist? It is because the Black experience is defined by a historical struggle for existence, the right to live, to be considered a person, to be afforded basic rights, in pursuit of (political, social, economic) equality. Because of this, the Afrofuturist can see the parts of the present and future that reside in the status quo’s blind spots.”
  • Prediction:How Accurate Are Prediction Markets?” by James Tapper, JSTOR Daily (July 22, 2020). In his 2006 book Expert Political Judgment, political science writer Philip Tetlock wrote that experts are about as accurate as “dart-throwing chimps,” which is why many economists advocate combining forecasts rather than seeking a single, most-accurate prognosticator. Excerpt: “Tetlock’s advice for people who want to become better forecasters is to be more open-minded and attempt to strip out cognitive biases. ...”

Resources: COVID Reports and Scenarios

  • COVID-19 Reports, April-July 2020: What the Experts Expect and Advise” by Michael Marien, The Security & Sustainability Guide (July 30, 2020). Senior principal Marien has compiled links to, and abstracts of, approximately 50 reports published since March on the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports—which include daily data reports and statistics, scenarios, general overviews, reopening strategies, agendas, and more—were prepared by groups of scientists and other experts pooling their expertise. “The reports are generally quite brief, clearly written, and free online,” Marien notes.
  • Pandemics: Lessons Looking Back From 2050” by Fritjof Capra and Hazel Henderson, published by Ethical Markets in March 2020. The scenario looks back from mid-century to reflect on “the origin and evolution of the coronavirus pandemic over the last three decades. Extrapolating from recent events, we offer the following scenario for such a view from the future.”
  • Where is the world headed post-COVID-19? Expected trends in the coming three years,” based on the rapid foresight survey launched by Future Earth’s Sustainability in the Digital Age in April 2020. According to Maria H. Ivanova, the team has launched “Phase II of the Rapid Foresight Survey, which aims to capture evolving global perceptions on societal trends in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and to take the pulse of the global community on the types of actions and technologies which could help to build back towards a more equitable, sustainable and resilient world.”
  • Out of Office” by Robert Moran and Nick Howard, Brunswick Group, July 15, 2020. Four data-driven scenarios for post-pandemic work spaces and discussion of how companies could start preparing for each. The last three months have seen record volumes of Google searches that include the word normal, the authors note, adding that we’re unlikely to find normality any time soon—if ever. [Download PDF]
  • The Association of Professional Futurists continues to update the work its members are producing related to COVID-19. Visit APF News

Call for Submissions: Future of AI

Fast Future Publishing invites submissions of 1,000-word chapters for its new book, The Future of AI – Pathways to Artificial General Intelligence, to be published March 1, 2021 (that’s international Future Day). CEO Rohit Talwar will co-edit the book with Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Society and CEO SingularityNET, and David Wood, chair of London Futurists. Submission deadline is September 15, 2020. [Learn more]

Mark Your Calendar: Ten-Year Forecast Summit

September 14-25 (online): The Institute For the Future’s annual Ten-Year Forecast Summit will be “100% virtual,” offering an array of sessions “spanning across time zones” over two weeks, it says. The summit is open to IFTF Vantage partners; others interested in tickets should contact John Clamme at [Learn more]

New Publications

  • Moving to a Finite Earth Economy—Crew Manual by futurist David Houle and climate activist and researcher Bob Leonard outlines the root economic causes of the current climate emergency and what steps we can take now to address it, including reinventing capitalism. [Learn more]
  • Small Business Foresight: The Future of Your Business (2019) by Verne Wheelwright is now available as an ebook (epub, mobi, lrf, pdb, or html formats) from Smashwords; free registration required. The free download code (valid through August 2020) is GG32V. Wheelwright has also provided an accompanying workbook (PDF format) available as a free download at his website, Personal Futures and Small Business Foresight. [Learn more]

News from the Field

  • The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C., is seeking a policy fellow to conduct research on global innovation and digital trade policy issues in the fall of 2020, starting on or after September 1, 2020. ITIF encourages students with strong interest in trade and innovation policy issues to apply, and the position is available on a part-time basis, up to 20 hours a week. [Learn more]
  • World Futures Studies Federation has launched a Japanese version of its site, created and curated by WFSF member Ryuta Minami. “Through this initiative we hope that people in Japan, in particular the younger generation, learn more about futures studies and build their own preferred futures,” WFSF says. [Learn more]
  • Teach the Future has received a grant from the World Futures Studies Federation to study the assessment of futures consciousness and is currently validating a scale developed at the Finland Futures Research Center. Teach the Future will administer the scale via its worldwide partners, including Summit Micro School in Canada, Teach the Future SA in South Africa, Impactscool in Italy, Future Problem Solving Program International in the United States, and others. [Learn more]
  • The Future Laboratory has added four new research areas at LS:N Global, its foresight and trends intelligence platform. The new topics are Sustainability, Generation Z, Intersectionality (diversity and inclusion), and Gaming. “Ranging from current topical issues to speculative 2030 scenarios, each of our original series offers insight on how to harness change and future-proof your business,” the group says. [Learn more]
  • The Center for Future Consciousness has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support new marketing initiatives, according to director Tom Lombardo. The goal is to promote the Center’s ideas, philosophical message, and educational resources. “Given the current highly unsettled, challenging, and frustrating state of both national and world affairs, I believe the time is right to broadcast the importance of such critical ideas as ‘evolving our conscious minds,’ ‘living wisdom narratives,’ and ‘heightening our future consciousness’ in creating a good future for all of us,” he says. [Learn more]

Update: Talking About Race

In the July edition of Foresight Signals, we referred to an infographic outlining “Aspects of Whiteness and White Culture.” Following criticism from conservative media, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has now removed the infographic from its Talking About Race portal, stating that it “does not contribute to the productive discussion we had intended.” The portal retains other material for fostering discussions about such concepts as white privilege, dominance, supremacy, and nationalism.

Though the work on which the infographic was based is some 30 years old (“White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training” by Judy H. Katz, 1978), it is still used in anti-racism training. As we noted in FS, understanding cultural biases and assumptions regarding a topic as broad as “the future” is important to visioning and building a future that works for everyone.