The World Future Society 2013 annual conference was held last weekend in Chicago. It was my second year attending this conference. The information was dense, the crowd was diverse and the thinking was futuristic. Imagine a virtual information tsunami of foresight, futuristic language and innovation bearing down on you. That was just the first day.
I took a fantastic foresight consulting class by Riel Miller (head of foresight at UNESCO), Andy Hines (Hinesight / University of Houston) and Chris Carbone ( Innovaro Inc). All are leaders in the area of foresight. Riel talked in depth about the importance of imagination, philosophical thought and human rights.
Next was a “3D Printing For Futurists” class presented by Dr. Paul D. Tinari (ZP3D ). Imagine a room filled with futurists talking about 3D printed hearts, nano materials and manufacturing innovation. We covered everything from near future to far future trends in the 3D landscape. 3D printing is not a new subject for Serious Wonder Members and readers. We have written about this area at length and have even moved on to writing about 4D printing.
It’s usually very hard to future-shock a futurist. However, I watched in awe as several attendees became visually shocked at what they were hearing. You could feel the paradigms shifting inside their consciousnesses. I thought I might bring up the idea that automation+3D printing+hacking could = collapse of the existing economic structure as we know it, but the room was already filled with too much economic debate. You could feel the fear and excitement. In my opinion, 3D printing should have been one of the keynotes. Bre Pettis CEO of Makebot anyone?
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B006M2PJV0″ locale=”us” height=”152″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41wEtWfiOYL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]Erica Orange and Jared Weiner (Weiner Edrich Brown Inc) gave a presentation called “Cultural Shifts Among Global Youth: Part IV.” They talked about 3D and 4D printing, Standing Desks, (yes, I have a treadmill desk in my office), Boredom studies, Play Space for adults (not that kind of adult play). Think monkey bars for grownups. They covered life hacking, bitcoin, and Erica mentioned Aquatecture, one of my favorite subjects.
John Smart gave a very interesting presentation on “Ten Areas of Disruption, Strategic Opportunity and Threat.” A few highlights included, EvoDevo, TINA trends and Valuecosm. I could write an entire book on his presentation alone.
Nicholas Negroponte (One Laptop Per Child) gave the opening plenary “Learning Without Schools.” His passion and innovation in the area of education is impressive. During the Technology Beta launch and cocktail reception, Edie Weiner (Weiner Edrich Brown Inc) and I had a conversation about haptic technology and adding scent to video games and cars. Edie has a fantastic sense of humor and a deep understanding of future technology. Very cool lady.
Ramona Pringle gave a lecture on “Cyborgs, Cinema, and Future Scenarios” that covered the ideas of empathy in cyborgs, sexbots and techno-utopia. She also has a film called Avatar Secrets coming out later this year that you will be hearing more about on Serious Wonder.
Mark Waser (Digital Wisdom Institute) talked about “Ethics in the Age of Intelligent Machines.” This was one of the best lectures of the entire weekend. It was an exciting deep dive into the ethical and philosophical implications of future A.I.
Sheryl Connelly head of Ford’s Global Trends and Futuring Division, (yes, Ford has a futurist) gave the closing keynote. It was fascinating to hear her story and to get a deeper understanding of how a major motor company utilizes the wisdom of foresight. She talked about the shift the company had to make after the 911 attacks and the environmental pressure Ford faced in the aftermath of the anti-SUV shift in the United States.
You can get the digital recording of these lectures: HERE
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0007SXAI4″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41cfWrzx8YL._SL160_.jpg” width=”160″]What are the future ethical implications of creating A.I.? We are already feeling the precursor of this tehno-ethical issue with the uproar over the NSA spying scandal. Do we really want to wait until autonomous machines become a reality before we decide what the parameters of machine ethics should be? We may have no choice in the matter.
We know these future machines will reflect the moral and ethical algorithms of the humans that create them. In fact, the study of techno-philosophy and a deep realistic understanding of human psychology could prevent a humanoid vs human catastrophe. Yes, we may eventually merge with these machines, but even then we have no guarantee that our little brains and egos could handle the power of omnipotence… of becoming digital gods.
Even if we do merge with these machines, as many transhumanists believe, we will still face a period of trans-digital-evolution. We will face a time when we are part cyborg and part human, and that day is near. We now have the first human on the planet with literally no pulse, we are printing organs and we are sending machines to fight our wars. Can the human ego handle having access to all the knowledge in the know universe?
I am an optimistic futurist. We will rise to the occasion. We have no choice. Sooner or latter we will come face to face with most efficient, rational, intelligent being our little planet has ever known.
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Feature Image :Viwat S.