Futurist Community's 2020 Year in Review

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Volume 7,
Number 1
January 3, 2021

In 2020, futurists around the world rose to multiple challenges by developing new projects, processes, and deliverables to keep clients, students, and the public at large informed, inspired, and forward looking. Below are a few highlights of foresight work in 2020 (plus some previews of 2021 activities).

The Millennium Project
submitted by Jerome C. Glenn, CEO and co-founder

In 2020, The Millennium Project:

  • Published Work/Technology 2050: Scenarios and Action.
  • Published Three Futures of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States January 1, 2022: Implications for all of us, using five Real-Time Delphis. Free download here.
  • Produced short videos of each of the 15 Global Challenges.
  • Produced a short video overview of the Global Futures Intelligence System and another video on how to use the 15 Global Challenges on GFIS.
  • Continued updating and improving insights in the Global Futures Intelligence System.
  • Organized and hosted the sixth annual World Future Day 24-hour round the world conversation.
  • Added new Nodes in Costa Rica, Iceland, and the Philippines.
  • Produced the Pakistan State of the Future Index and Trend Impact Analysis.
  • Employed 12 interns.
  • Participated in many teleconferences, including the five-day UNESCO Futures Literacy Summit.
  • Prepared preliminary literature and research review for study for the international governance of the transition from artificial narrow to artificial general intelligence.

In addition, Glenn offered his annual year-in-review summary for 2020. Though the events are “not listed in any priority,” the number one item is the clear headline for the year: “COVID-19 brought the world to a grinding halt, increased tele-everything & AI.”

Keep up with The Millennium Project here or subscribe to the newsletter here.

The TechCast Project
Submitted by William E. Halal, founder and director

The TechCast Project has been doing cutting-edge research, which it has reported on its newsletter during 2020. Its most recent topics covered include:

TechCast also gave keynote presentations during 2020 to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Angel Capital Investors, and Intelligent Transportation Society, South Korea.

Looking ahead to 2021: Each Friday, February 5–March 19, TechCast Project and the Cognis Group will conduct a series of virtual executive workshops, Planning For Transformative Change: Strategic Talks on the Pivotal Issues of Our Time. These executive workshops were designed to provide extensive intelligence to business and government institutions as strategic plans transform for 2021 and beyond. [Learn more or register for individual sessions or full conference]

Keep up with the TechCast Project by signing up for the newsletter here.

Public Sector Foresight Network
Submitted by Nancy Donovan, co-founder

Public Sector Foresight Network co-founders Nancy Donovan and Clem Bezold gave virtual presentations in December to the Korea Development Institute’s conference, “COVID-19 and the Age of Hyper-uncertainty: Resilience Challenges and Responses.” Donovan spoke on “The U.S. Response to COVID-19 and the Role of Foresight,” and Bezold discussed “Post-COVID political and economic futures.”

Among others addressing the meeting were PSFN member Duncan Cass-Beggs, Counsellor for Strategic Foresight at OECD, who spoke on “Strategic Foresight for Better Policies,” and Sohail Inayatullah, Inaugural Chair in Futures Studies, UNESCO and Professor, Tamkang University, who spoke on “COVID-19 Narratives and Scenarios.”

Donovan was also included among some 30 futurists interviewed for a special “Future Forward” issue of Government Technology in November. “Difficulties in financing the many services provided by state and local governments will be exacerbated by the decline in key sources of revenue, including state aid for cities, as well as property, income and sales taxes,” she warns.

Other foresight professionals featured in the special issue include PSFN member Rebecca Ryan, resident futurist at the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin; Maria Bothwell, CEO of Toffler and Associates; Vint Cerf, vice president and “chief Internet evangelist” at Google; Cindy Frewen, architect and urban designer; Thomas Frey, founder of DaVinci Institute; Erica Orange, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Future Hunters; and Amy Webb, founder of Future Today Institute.

Keep up with PSFN here.

Houston Foresight
Submitted by Andy Hines, program coordinator

Houston Foresight, the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Foresight, had a record-breaking Fall 2020 semester with an enrollment of 70 students, the largest in the history of the program. Our client research projects included exploring the future of cat care, food joy, assessments and North Carolina communities. We also worked with the U.S. Forest Service to develop a methodology for monitoring emerging issues.

We most recently completed a training with NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and earlier this year (pre-COVID), we went to Abu Dhabi to train a team within the Ministry of Interior.

Finally, we kicked off our State of Foresight project with the first results finding that 25% of the 2019/2020 Fortune 500 companies are practicing foresight in some capacity today. Lots of great things happening as we look forward to 2021.

Keep up with Houston Foresight here.

Icelandic Centre of future studies, Innovation Center Iceland
Submitted by Karl Friðriksson, director

Many of the events this year in Iceland have been related to the COVID-19 situation and its effects on the society and different sectors. Scenario programs have been launched in this respect, the effects of COVID in general but also on our main sectors such as tourism. Through our social media and meetings, we have promoted info and reports from, for example, The Millennium Project, to different stakeholders, such as COVID authorities and other officials. (Note, all the Icelandic reports, articles, and meetings are in Icelandic.)

The main events of the Icelandic Centre of future studies are in cooperation with Excellence Iceland, a nonprofit organization financed by our members. Its goal is to promote business excellence to private, public, and voluntary sector organizations in Iceland. The online events in 2020 addressed such topics as:

  • New benchmarks in the public service—a revolution in digital development.
  • The role and goals of VR’s future committee.
  • Scenarios about the working environment of Icelandic tourism.
  • New challenges for trade and services—Living in a new reality.
  • Increasing impact of the environment on the economy—Living in a new reality.
  • COVID and so what? Policy emphases and scenarios, conference in collaboration with Bifröst University.
  • Human futures.
  • Opportunities in a new work environment.
  • Online Knowledge—The Future.

Keep up with Innovation Centre Iceland here.

Visionary Ethics Foundation
Submitted by Jan Hurwitch, executive director, FEV, San Jose, Costa Rica

This year, the Visionary Ethics Foundation (Fundacion Etica Visionaria) gave an online 12-week course in Scenario Planning in Spanish for university graduates and postgraduates, for which 111 participants registered from 19 countries. Of these, 69 students from 18 countries completed the course and are being certified.

We did not charge a fee but asked for contributions of time and energy. Participants represent nongovernmental organizations and universities, and include local leaders, environmentalists, and human rights defenders. Thirty-six of these participants from nine countries are currently enrolled in our scenario planning course (level 2) to become trainers and to strengthen their holistic approach to foresight learning and training.

Looking ahead to 2021: We are currently designing, along with participants and facilitators, our first virtual event, scheduled for January 29-30, “Rethinking the Future: Agriculture, Environment & People” (Repensando el Futuro: Agricultura, Ambiente y Gente). We are grateful to Jerome Glenn, Hector Casanueva, and Miguel Gutierrez of The Millenium Project and Erica Bol of Teach the Future for their intellectual contribution to our work.

Keep up with FEV here.

Individual Reports

José Cordeiro (MBA, Ph.D.): “This year of COVID-19 inspired my total commitment to more life, better life, healthier life, longer life, and even more intelligent life. My Spanish bestseller La muerte de la muerte (with my British co-author David Wood) reached number one in sales when launched in Madrid and Barcelona, according to the Amazon rankings. Then the book was quickly translated into Potuguese, and it also became a bestseller in Brazil. The Chinese, French, and Russian editions were finished by December 2020, and the book will be launched in those three other major world languages in the first quarter of 2021. However, I am still looking for a top English publisher for my international bestseller, so if anyone has good contacts with agents/editors/publishers in the USA or the UK, kindly contact me directly at jose_cordeiro@yahoo.com.

“I am organizing a fantastic futures summit in beautiful Madrid for June 4-6, 2021, with some of the most visionary personalities like Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey de Grey. The TransVision 2021 summit will take place in the famous and historic Ateneo de Madrid (where scientists like Albert Einstein and all the Spanish Nobel laureates have also spoken) as part of its big bicentennial anniversary, which is a time not only to celebrate the last two centuries, but also a time to consider the next two centuries. All welcome to Spain to look into the past and the future of humanity next Spring after the pandemic, it will be immortal, literally!” Register here.

Mariana Todorova (Ph.D.), futurist and consultant in future studies and strategic planning, is chair of The Millennium Project’s Bulgarian Node. Her newest project is a blockchain-based platform for decision making and electronic voting, DG Agora, which allows decentralization and democratization in various areas.

In January, Todorova published her second book (in Bulgarian), Artificial Intelligence. A Brief History of Development and Ethical Aspects, which met great success and was issued twice. She co-authored her first book, Future Studies and Counterfactual Analysis: Seeds of the Future (2019, in English) together with the American futurist Theodore Gordon.

In May, Todorova made a habilitation procedure and now is an associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. She taught three university courses at the University of National and World Economy, Bulgaria. Todorova has published six scientific articles, participated in several international conferences, delivered seven public lectures, and gave 54 media interviews regarding future studies, artificial intelligence, and post-COVID scenarios that The Millennium Project has elaborated.

At the end of the year, Todorova started a project for conducting a global referendum using the principles of liquid/delegative democracy. Contact her at mariana_g_todorova@yahoo.com.

More Highlights from 2020
Reported by Foresight Signals

  • Association of Professional Futurists continued reporting on all its members’ activities, creating a special section on its website to capture the latest work APF members had been doing on COVID-19 research, consulting, and publishing. On October 24, the APF sponsored the 2020 Futures Festival, an annual, 12-hour event, on the theme of Full Spectrum Futures. Videos from the event are available on Vimeo. [Learn more]
  • Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies in 2020 produced scenario reports for the post-COVID future, corporate social responsibility in an “age of compounded crises,” and the future of the Arctic capital, Nuuk, Greenland. CIFS also moved its offices in the city to BLOXHUB, a co-working space at the Danish Design Center that serves as the Nordic Hub for sustainable urbanization. [Learn more or keep up with CIFS here]
  • Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures (University of Denver) is working with the United Nations Development Program to consider the impacts of different pandemic recovery projections on the UN’s sustainable development goals. According to Barry B. Hughes, Pardee Center founding director, the project is “using the International Futures(s) system to consider progress toward the SDGs through 2030 and 2050 across four scenarios (No-COVID, baseline COVID, High Damage, and an SDG Push scenario of interventions on top of baseline COVID). [Learn more or keep up with Pardee here]
  • Futurist.com has added strategic management consultant Bronwyn Williams to its Think Tank, a “collaboration of highly talented people each of whom has a special focus on the future,” available for speaking and seminar engagements. [Learn more]
  • Teach the Future has uploaded numerous videos to its YouTube channel, including an introduction to the organization and its works by Peter Bishop, founder and executive director. Other videos include conference presentations, global hub leader introductions, webinars, and overviews of TTF’s publications and resources. [Subscribe to TTF’s newsletter]
  • Looking ahead, Institute For the Future’s Vantage program will host a free virtual forum February 10-11 on prospects for climate adaptation. The forum “will explore the emerging technologies, policies, economic levers, and narratives that will enable us to navigate the pressing challenges of climate change, adapt existing businesses and organizations to face the crisis, and ultimately transform to effectively face the long-term future.” [Register here]

Call for Chapter Submissions

Victor V. Motti, director of the World Futures Studies Federation, will guest edit two collections of essays to be published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing:

  • Building New Civilizations: From Theory to Practice. Abstract: Civilization is defined as a community which removes borders by referring to shared core values and memory of historical events. It has significant economic and political power too. Adopting an evolving model of history with increasing levels of complexity, we need new studies on innovation, obstacles, and measures of progress for building new civilizations.
  • Multidisciplinary Studies: Towards New Education and Research. Abstract: In response to the accelerating growth of knowledge there are increasingly calls for multidisciplinary mode of education and research not only for the purpose of innovation but also for the expansion of the mind. This trend combined with new learning platforms promises a shift in the education systems. We need new theories and practices to make multidisciplinary studies more attractive and more effective.

Download submission form here. Send completed submissions to admin@cambridgescholars.com

Keep Signaling!

We encourage all foresight professionals to share their work, insights, and news throughout the year. Please forward your “foresight signals,” comments, and updates to Cindy Wagner, AAI Foresight’s consulting editor, at CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.