UFOs and the Next Future Shock, Post-pandemic Job Shock, Future of Tele-education, and more

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Volume 7,
Number 6
May 29, 2021

Hot Topic: UFOs and Preparing for “Ontological Shock”

With the Pentagon’s forthcoming report on encounters with unidentified aerial phenomena (flying objects), the question naturally arises in the futurist’s mind: What next?

Psychologist Jerry Kroth, associate professor emeritus at Santa Clara University, has updated his 2017 study The Roswell Foil and produced a new video summarizing his analysis, “If UFOs are real, then what?” In other words, he asks, what happens if it’s proved that extraterrestrials have been—and even still are—among us here on Earth?

For one thing, everyone, in every field, will have to shed their biases and change their paradigms, Kroth says, calling the coming new future shock an ontological one. Then we’ll need to ask who these beings are and why they are here. To begin answering these and other questions, Kroth cites the work of Harvard psychiatrist John Mack, Temple University history professor David Jacobs, and NASA research scientist Richard Haines.

Kroth looks at “close encounters” of the fourth and fifth kind, including abductions and other interactions and messages embedded in crop circles that may be warnings and/or educational tools. The good news is, reportedly, that the beings seem to mean us no harm, though they will fight back if attacked—and win.

Because there is so much academic resistance to pursuing these phenomena, Kroth concludes that the most important question we must now ask ourselves is, What if we have been wrong?

See also:

How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously,” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker (April 30, 2021).

Navy pilots describe encounters with UFOs,” 60 Minutes (May 16, 2021).

Update (June 27, June 28): The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has now released its preliminary assessment in an unclassified document. Key takeaway: These reported phenomena likely do not have a single cause, but the researchers reported insufficient data to determine the causes of specific incidents. Among the possibilities are airborne clutter, natural atmospheric disturbances, classified government or industry programs, and technologies deployed by foreign adversaries.

“We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence. In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained,” the report states.

Because UAP pose potential threats to flight safety or even national security, the report recommends improving and standardizing UAP data collection and analysis. The task force also indicated it would “focus additional analysis on the small number of cases where a UAP appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management,” which could indicate “breakthrough technologies.”

Download “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” ODNI, June 25, 2021 (PDF).

Job Shock and Its Consequences

Special contribution from the Gordon Report

The United States and the world are experiencing exploding demand for skilled labor, which if unfilled will have widespread human and economic consequences, writes Imperial Corp. CEO Edward Gordon in part four of his white-paper series on the post-pandemic job shock, “A New Time Bomb: An Explosion of Skilled Worker Shortages.” Excerpt:

“It is already apparent that as COVID-19 restrictions ease, a pent-up demand for many types of goods and services will be unleashed. As businesses reopen or expand to meet this boom, the demand for skilled workers will soar. … An April 2021 National Federation of Independent Businesses survey found that 44 percent of small businesses had job openings they could not fill, a record 22 percent higher than the 48-year average for this survey. Ninety-two percent of businesses seeking workers reported few or no qualified applicants. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were a record 8.1 million job openings at the end of March 2021. We estimate the true number to be over 11 million. ...

“A significant shift in the priorities of American businesses is urgently needed. In recent years business expenditures on training and education have declined. For every dollar America’s chief foreign competitors invest in employee talent development, U.S. business invests only 20 cents. Training is mostly concentrated on managers and professionals. Only about 20 to 30 percent of U.S. employers have offered entry-level job training or provided employees with training updates. Much of what is now done is mandated by safety regulations. It is not about building new skills. …

“Job Shock will have a major economic impact in the United States and globally. In 2030 estimated U.S. unfilled jobs range from 25 to 30 million. Globally over 95 million jobs could be vacant. The financial costs for individuals, businesses and nations will be staggering. By 2030 U.S. GDP loss could be over $2.5 trillion. Global losses might reach $18 trillion. …

“We do have the power over this decade to increase the education and skills of American workers. We can produce a workforce that meets the talent requirements of 2030. It does require coordinated actions from key sections of our society. Picture the American talent creation system as a boat with two figures pulling the oars and a third at the rudder. Parents are the rudder steering a better course for their child’s future. One oar is pulled by educators (K-12, post-secondary). The other oar is in the hands of employers providing job training and skill updates to their workers. If one or more of these parties fails at their roles, the boat goes off-course, stops, or sinks from ever larger job shock waves.”

Learn more or subscribe to the Gordon Report.

Upcoming Events

  • June 15, online: Global Social Transformations and the Limits to Growth in the 21st century. The World Academy of Art & Science is collaborating with UNESCO, Moscow State University, and Club of Rome to conduct the III International Scientific Forum on Global Social Transformations. [Learn more]
  • June 26-30, online: International Society of Technology in Education’s ISTE Live 21, Designing a New Learning Landscape, will feature main-stage speakers, creation labs, innovation hubs, and leadership exchanges connecting educators, technology developers, and policy makers pursuing innovation in learning technologies. [Learn more]
  • July 26-29, Athens, Greece, and online: Athens Institute for Education and Research presents the 7th Annual International Symposium on Foresight, bringing together scholars pursuing quantitative and/or qualitative methods such as scenario building, horizon scanning, forecasting, roadmapping, backcasting, technology assessment, Delphi surveys, and social platforms. [Learn more]

The Future of Tele-education

Accelerated by the pandemic, society’s rapid movement into the Virtual Age will challenge education and training systems at all levels to improve the quality, accessibility, and flexibility of content, writes NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell in his latest article for the AAI Foresight Signals blog.

As the technologies improve, tele-ed will offer key advantages over in-person education, including personalized learning through software that encourages and motivates learners. Such software also avoids typical classroom issues such as “regimentation upon individual creativity, a tendency to operate at or below the median level, and classmate censure and derision,” Bushnell points out.

“Given the huge markets and that increasingly machines are writing the software, a superb distance education should become available at extraordinarily low cost (if not free), like much of the current distance ed offerings,” Bushnell writes.

ReadProspective Futures of Distance Education” by Dennis M. Bushnell, Foresight Signals blog (May 15, 2021).

Moves in the Field

  • Denver-based ad agency LRXD has named Kimberly Bates its chief futurist and chief marketing officer. Bates previously was chief futurist for Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, and she also served as head of strategic planning at INNOCEAN USA. [Learn more]
  • Derek Woodgate, president and chief futurist of Futures Lab, will serve as chair of the Organizational Planning Committee for World Futures Studies Federation’s 24th World Conference, to be held October 26–29, 2021, in Berlin, Germany. The event will be conducted both in person and online, says WFSF President Erik F. Øverland. Topics and a call for papers will be announced soon. [Learn more]
  • Design researcher Sandjar Kozubaev, director of customer experience and service design lead for Mailchimp, will join Kennesaw State University’s Department of Technical Communication and Interactive Design this fall as an adjunct faculty, where he will teach futures, design, and research methods. [Learn more]

Help Wanted, Institute For the Future

Institute For the Future (IFTF), based in Palo Alto, California, is seeking a research director for its Equitable Futures Lab. The “successful candidate may have relevant background in such fields as economics, labor, wealth and racial equity, sociology, urban planning, etc. but with an ability to work across multiple domains to help catalyze long-term futures thinking.”

IFTF is also now seeking a director of Philanthropy and Foresight, senior administrative coordinator, and sales and data administrator. [Learn more]

New Publications

  • Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future by Deborah Westphal. Former CEO of Toffler Associates, Westphal uses personal stories and historical examples to illustrate the impacts of convergences—“deepening intersections of people, business, and technology”—that will demand new mental models and more human-centric perspectives. [Learn more]
  • Tripping Points on the Roads to Outwit Terror by Millennium Project members Yair Sharan (co-chair of the Israel node), Ted Gordon (co-founder and senior fellow), and Elizabeth Florescu (director of research). The authors examine both new terrorist threats and potential prevention strategies through new technologies. [Learn more]
  • Future Forces: A ten-year horizon for Australian agriculture, by Institute For the Future and Agthentic Advisory for AgriFutures Australia, examines the emerging opportunities and risks affecting the agricultural system’s value chain. “Rather than providing probabilistic answers about the future, we aim to provide a set of plausible—yet provocative—possibilities that stretch our preconceived notions about the future.” [Learn more]

BOLO Books—be on the lookout for these forthcoming foresight publications:

  • Future Skills by Perttu Pölönen (Viva Editions, September 14, 2021). The next revolution is a human revolution, says Finnish inventor, composer, and futurist Pölönen. The age of ceaseless technological advancement will need to be balanced with soft skills such as creativity, perseverance, compassion, and curiosity. [Learn more]
  • Human Frontiers: The Future of Big Ideas in an Age of Small Thinking by Michael Bhaskar (MIT Press, October 26, 2021). Despite a plethora of new gadgets, the last few decades have produced few world-changing ideas, says technology writer Bhaskar, who sets out to explain why and what it means for our future. [Learn more]
  • Strategic Planning in the Humanitarian Sector: A Manual to Foresight and Futures-Focused Thinking by Eilidh Kennedy and Michel Maietta (Routledge, October 28, 2021). Authors Kennedy and Maietta, co-founders and directors of the Inter-Agency Research and Analysis Network, guide leaders of humanitarian organizations through the process of “creating a robust, agile and impactful long-term strategy.” [Learn more]
  • The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall (Scribner, November 21, 2021). Foreign affairs journalist Marshall examines the impacts of regional geography on decision making, with 10 regions set to change the future: Australia, The Sahel, Greece, Turkey, the UK, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Space. [Learn more]

Now See This! Past Visions of the Future

Navigating the seas by Whale-Bus? Getting a shave from a multi-armed “New-Fangled Barber”? Aeronautics and automation were among the themes tackled by visionary artists at the turn of the century (the last one, that is). Public Domain Review offers a gallery of these antique artworks that it credits science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov with discovering and publishing several decades after they were produced.

While some of the artists’ forecasts for the turn of this century seem prescient, others fell prey to a common flaw in foresight, the PDR story notes: “failing to go far enough in thinking outside the confines of their current technological milieu (hence the ubiquity of propellors, not to mention the distinctly 19th-century dress).”

SeeA 19th-Century Vision of the Year 2000,” Public Domain Review.

Signal Thoughts

“It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.” Publilius Syrus (85–43 BC)