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Current Topic: Futurism

National Security Implications of Abrupt Climate Change [PDF]
Topic: Futurism 12:34 am EST, Feb 27, 2004

Fortune magazine recently ran a story describing a study conducted by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall for the Department of Defense.

Here is the public report of that study. (22 pages)

The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable -- to push the boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better understand the potential implications on United States national security.

We have interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with these experts. The scientists support this project, but caution that the scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First, they suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather than globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller.

We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.

National Security Implications of Abrupt Climate Change [PDF]

Seven Revolutions
Topic: Futurism 9:06 am EST, Feb 24, 2004

Looking Out to the Year 2025 ... and the major forces shaping the world.

Population; Resource Management; Technology; Knowledge; Economic Integration; Conflict; Governance.

Seven Revolutions

Grim Pentagon Climate Change Scenario
Topic: Futurism 6:32 pm EST, Feb 22, 2004

As the planet's carrying capacity shrinks, an ancient pattern reemerges: the eruption of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies.

As Harvard archeologist Steven LeBlanc has noted, wars over resources were the norm until about three centuries ago. When such conflicts broke out, 25% of a population's adult males usually died.

As abrupt climate change hits home, warfare may again come to define human life.

Grim Pentagon Climate Change Scenario

The Mountain and the Clock
Topic: Futurism 1:35 am EST, Jan 19, 2004

As we spent more time climbing to the cliffs and hanging out on and around them, they rewarded us more and more.

They taught us this: most of the amazingness of the Clock we can borrow from the amazingness of the mountain.

The more we highlight and blend in with the most spectacular features of the mountain, the more memorable a Clock visit will be for the time pilgrims.

It's a Mountain Clock.

Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis set out to visit the future home of the 10,000 year clock. This is the story of their journey.

If they build it, will you be a time pilgrim?

The Mountain and the Clock

What's Your Law?
Topic: Futurism 3:18 pm EST, Jan 10, 2004

There is some bit of wisdom, some rule of nature, some law-like pattern, either grand or small, that you've noticed in the universe that might as well be named after you. Gordon Moore has one; Johannes Kepler and Michael Faraday, too. So does Murphy.

Since you are so bright, you probably have at least two you can articulate. Send me two laws based on your empirical work and observations you would not mind having tagged with your name. Stick to science and to those scientific areas where you have expertise. Avoid flippancy. Remember, your name will be attached to your law.

John Brockman does it again.

What's Your Law?

The Pursuit of Happiness
Topic: Futurism 6:31 pm EST, Jan  1, 2004

"The Pursuit of Happiness" is the theme for the 2004 program of the annual "TED" conference. (TED is "Technology. Entertainment. Design.") The conference will be held February 25-28, 2004 at the Monterey Conference Center.

The speaker program contains, among many others, Steven Strogatz, Virginia Postrel, Malcolm Gladwell, Stewart Brand, Antonio Damasio, Steve Case, Eve Ensler, Mark Cuban, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Craig Venter.

It costs $4,000 to attend TED2004. Attendance is by invitation only. (You can request an invitation by submitting an essay on why "I would like to come to TED.")

The Pursuit of Happiness

Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society
Topic: Futurism 8:09 pm EST, Nov 17, 2003

In the twenty-first century, a network society is emerging. Fragmented, visually saturated, characterized by rapid technological change and constant social upheavals, it is dizzying, excessive, and sometimes surreal. In this breathtaking work, Steven Shaviro investigates popular culture, new technologies, political change, and community disruption and concludes that science fiction and social reality have become virtually indistinguishable.

Connected is made up of a series of mini-essays-on cyberpunk, hip-hop, film noir, Web surfing, greed, electronic surveillance, pervasive multimedia, psychedelic drugs, artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, and the architecture of Frank Gehry, among other topics. Shaviro argues that our strange new world is increasingly being transformed in ways, and by devices, that seem to come out of the pages of science fiction, even while the world itself is becoming a futuristic landscape. The result is that science fiction provides the most useful social theory, the only form that manages to be as radical as reality itself.

Connected looks at how our networked environment has manifested itself in the work of J. G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, K. W. Jeter, and others. Shaviro focuses on science fiction not only as a form of cultural commentary but also as a prescient forum in which to explore the forces that are morphing our world into a sort of virtual reality game. Original and compelling, Connected shows how the continual experimentation of science fiction, like science and technology themselves, conjures the invisible social and economic forces that surround us.

If this book were music, it would be called radio-friendly. It is the linear traversal of a dense network of ideas, compactly if incompletely expressed in 1.2-page nuggets, richly laced with a wide variety of samples both well-known and obscure.

The author, Steven Shaviro, has a weblog at

Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society

George Gilder's Close Call
Topic: Futurism 3:33 pm EDT, Oct 18, 2003

A few short years ago, the pundit George Gilder prophesied a telecommunications revolution. Investors weren't the only ones who paid a price when his wildly optimistic predictions turned out to be wrong.

As Katie Hafner reports, Mr. Gilder himself came close to losing everything he had.

This article will appear in the Sunday New York Times.

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years | RAND
Topic: Futurism 6:52 pm EDT, Aug 16, 2003

The checkered history of predicting the future has dissuaded policymakers from considering the long-term effects of decisions. New analytic methods, enabled by modern computers, transform our ability to reason about the future. The authors here demonstrate a quantitative approach to long-term policy analysis (LTPA).

Robust methods enable decisionmakers to examine a vast range of futures and design adaptive strategies to be robust across them. Using sustainable development as an example, the authors discuss how these methods apply to LTPA and a wide range of decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty.

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years | RAND

Accelerating Change Conference 2003
Topic: Futurism 12:10 pm EDT, Jul 19, 2003

This conference will take place 12-14 September at Stanford.

Speakers include Ray Kurzweil, Steve Jurvetson, Eric Drexler, Tim O'Reilly, Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos, William H. Calvin, and Ross Mayfield.

Accelerating Change Conference 2003

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