Space Business, A Planetary Think Tank, Energy Innovation, and more

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Volume 7,
Number 11
October 30, 2021

Prospects for Businesses in Space

Many of the same industries conducted on Earth—mining, manufacturing, construction, tourism, services—also have the potential, or even the necessity, to be conducted in deep space, says NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell in his latest article for AAI Foresight Signal’s blog.

Historically, government has been the customer, planner, and user of commercially developed space technologies, but now, “companies have become proficient in space to not only develop and execute programs, including humans in space programs, but also to plan and operate them,” Bushnell writes.

With 60 years of human space flight experience, we have seen technologies advance, costs reduced, and more explorers ready and willing to make the giant leap into space. “The safety aspects of physical space tourism, including the human health concerns, need further development,” Bushnell says, noting that tourists should be able to safely tolerate a couple of weeks in space environments.

In addition to health and safety issues to address, future space business will require solutions to the space debris problem (and the legal issues it may generate), accurate mapping of space-based resources, more advanced power and energy technologies, advances in AI and robotics, and more.

ReadPutative Deep Space Futures” by Dennis M. Bushnell, Foresight Signals blog (October 20, 2021).

Europe’s Strategic Foresight

Climate change, digital hyperconnectivity, pressures on democratic governance, and shifts in the global order are the four key global trends the European Commission addresses in its “2021 Strategic Foresight Report,” aimed at future-proofing the European Union’s policies and global engagements. The report outlines 10 specific action areas that address the key challenges and also help to position the EU as a global leader for the future.

“In pursuing global leadership towards 2050, the EU will not turn inwards but will remain firm on its principles and values and agile in its conduct,” the report states. “As an interconnected global pole in a multipolar world, it will continuously leverage its close international partnerships to promote peace, stability and prosperity, presenting a united front against hostile actors and common challenges.”

Read2021 Strategic Foresight Report: The EU’s capacity and freedom to act,” European Commission (September 2021) or download PDF.

News and Moves in the Field

  • The World Futures Studies Federation has established an academic accreditation program designed to ensure high quality of futures studies curriculum and programming offered at institutions of higher education. The accreditation extends for five years, after which programs will be reviewed. [Learn more]
  • The Institute for the Future has launched a new Equitable Enterprise Initiative, aimed at refocusing the social responsibility of businesses from increasing shareholder profits to enhancing community well-being. “We are in a moment of historic worker dissatisfaction and disempowerment,” the Institute states. The initiative “will serve as a hub for research, scenario building, public engagement, and policy innovations aimed at promoting establishment and growth of more equitable enterprises.” [Learn more]
  • Jari Kaivo-oja, research director of the Finland Futures Research Centre (University of Turku), has announced his appointment as technical adviser for the European Parliament. He also currently serves as an adjunct professor at Faculty of Sciences, University of Helsinki, and Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland, among many other foresight and futures research activities. [Learn more]

Dialogue at a “Planetary Think Tank”

The Alternative Planetary Futures Institute (ApFi) has released a free download of its publication A Dialogue on Science Fiction: How to Achieve Planetary Wisdom Through Future Consciousness. The ebook consists of a series of conversations between Victor Motti (CEO) and scientific council member Tom Lombardo, author of the three-volume series Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future.

ApFi is a new “planetary think tank” co-founded by Motti and Jerome Glenn of The Millennium Project, which aims to “provide momentum for human development in combination with economic and political development through Innovative Critical Education and Research on Alternative Planetary Futures.”

Guided by more than two dozen international futurists and thought leaders on its executive council (including Fabienne Goux-Baudiment, Sesh Velamoor, Joseph Pelton, Jennifer Gidley, Bill Halal, Peter Bishop, and Claire Nelson), ApFi offers training in Value-Focused Thinking, Assumption-Based Planning, System Dynamics conceptual mapping, Future Wheel mapping, and more.

Visit ApFi or downloadA Dialogue on Science Fiction” (PDF)

Global Progress in Energy Innovation

Western Europe is outpacing the rest of the world in developing new technologies and services to promote clean energy, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s 2021 Global Energy Innovation Index.

The index analyzed key factors organized around nations’ knowledge development and diffusion, entrepreneurial experimentation and market formation, and social legitimation and international collaboration. While Finland, Denmark, and Sweden retained the top three positions on the 2021 index, the United States fell from fourth place in 2016 to 17th in 2021.

“Innovation is the only way that the massive global demand for energy in the present and future can be met while averting the worst consequences of climate change,” ITIF says. “National governments are the most important contributors to global energy innovation. Their aggregated contributions indicate a lack of urgency, which is needed to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Learn more or download PDF.

Foresight Opportunities

  • The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies seeks a digital editor (part time) who will write, edit, and produce media content as well as support the launching of the new quarterly Scenario print journal and its companion podcast. Application deadline November 18. [Learn more]
  • The International Institute of Forecasters is recruiting an editor-in-chief for its peer-reviewed journal Foresight: The International Journal of Applied Forecasting. The position requires “an excellent understanding across the breadth of the forecasting field, an established track record in editing papers in applied forecasting, supervisory skills to manage a part-time staff responsible for editing, design, and production and the leadership skills to oversee volunteer editorial and advisory boards.” Application deadline December 3. [Learn more]
  • The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation currently has several research and policy positions open, including director of broadband policy and senior analyst with ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation. [Learn more]

Awards and Recognition

  • The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) has named the winners in its 2021 Student Recognition Program. In the PhD category, candidates from Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast claimed all three awards: Russell Clemens, Liam Mayo, and Kimberley Camrass placed first, second, and third, respectively. APF’s Individual Masters recognition went to University of Houston’s JT Mudge and Heather D Benoit Kampa and Ontario College of Art & Design’s Donna Dupont. Three OCAD teams swept the Masters Group Awards, and a team from Tecnológico de Monterrey earned the Undergraduate Group Award. [Learn more]
  • Brazilian high schooler Alice Machado, co-founder of the international online debate society Mundo, has been named winner of the inaugural Next Generation Foresight Practitioners—Young Voices Award. The competition, a collaboration of the School of International Futures and Teach the Future, awarded $1,000 to the winner based on her project, “an international online debate championship for youth, focusing on solutions to contemporary global challenges.” [Learn more]
  • Positive Future, an initiative of The Paris Institute for Advanced Study, the 2100 Foundation, and the Institute for Futures Studies, has named Anne-Laure Cases the grand prize winner of its first scenario writing competition for her short story “En attendant Cléo” (“Waiting for Cléo.”). The winning story, focusing on the City of the year 2100, “offers us a universal story about love in a Paris of the future in which we believe, because it remains a future ... full of humanity!” The 2022 competition will focus on work in the year 2100. [Learn more]

Foresight Resource: Thought Landscape

Futurist consultant and speaker Ross Dawson has outlined what he calls a Thought Landscape for Creating a Better Future. Across the landscape, which is downloadable as a PDF, Dawson organizes trends in

  • Humanity (e.g., collective intelligence, democracy and governance),
  • Business (collaborative value creation, social enterprise),
  • Technology (bio/energy/materials, VR/AR/XR extending reality), and
  • Thinking (foresight practices, concept visualization).

“The scope of topics presented is of course very broad, but laying them out in this way helps me to frame what I am looking for and thinking about as we push forward into the future,” Dawson writes.

ReadThought landscape: Thinking, Technology, Business, Humanity” by Ross Dawson, (September 30, 2021).

In Memoriam: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Psychologist, professor, and author Mihaly “Mike” Csikszentmihalyi, best known for his studies on happiness, creativity, and the concept of flow, died October 20, 2021, at his home in Claremont, California. He was 87.

Csikszentmihalyi studied psychology at the University of Chicago, where he also taught for three decades before moving to California. At Claremont Graduate University, he founded the Quality of Life Research Center in 2000 and taught until his retirement.

Flow is what Csikszentmihalyi called the optimal experience of satisfaction that many creative people feel as they focus on a complex or difficult activity that stretches their capacity, though happiness or enjoyment is experienced after the fact.

The capacity to feel flow has impacts on the future, he suggested. “Unless enough people are motivated by the enjoyment that comes from confronting challenges, there is no evolution of culture, no progress in thought or feeling,” he wrote in The Futurist (September-October 1997).

Learn more

Signal Thoughts

“The future has waited long enough; if we do not grasp it, other hands, grasping hard and bloody, will.” Adlai Stevenson (quoted in America Comes of Middle Age by Murray Kempton, 1963)