Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

IV. Change Curves and Other Cycle Models

The second major group of process models we will consider are change (growth) curves, and other cycle models. Unlike our personal and organizational decisions, which we have just covered in decision cycle models, these models describe systems that are often even bigger, and thus even less in our direct control. Yet as leaders, we can influence every system to the extent we understand it, and can help others understand it, and its leverage points.

As Marcus Cicero said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child,” and as Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself but it rhymes”. Many complex systems change in ways that can be fit to historically documented curves, cycles, and other simple models. While our change models take ideal and regular forms, real world changes and cycles are more irregular and probabilistic. Nevertheless, whenever we can identify probabilistic relationships, we greatly improve our forecasts, predictions, and strategy. Very often, replication of something interesting (organisms, information, economic behaviors, technologies, ideas) seems to play a central role in creating these relationships, in some kind of evo devo cycle. Of course when we think of replication, we should also think of life cycles. Everything in this section can be considered an application of cycle theory, whether the cycle is obvious (a production of a new widget) or less so (some type of learning cycle, or Do loop).

Turchin & Nefedov (2009)

Turchin & Nefedov (2009)

For good introductions to cycle foresight, try Dewey and Dakin’s classic Cycles: The Science of Prediction (1947/2011). If you’d like evidence for social, economic, and political cycles, start with Turchin and Nefedov’s Secular Cycles, 2009, one of a trilogy by Turchin on this topic. Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital (2003), building on the early long-wave cycle work of Kondratieff and Schumpeter, is another well-regarded book that looks at technology from both a cyclical and developmental perspective.

One of the simplest cycles we can observe is a pendulum, where a system swings regularly or irregularly between two poles or categories. A regular pendulum is Earth’s day-to-night cycle, an irregular one is our boom-or-bust market cycle. There are also many systems with more than two phases in their cycle. Earth’s seasons have a regular four-phase cycle (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall). Economies have irregular alternating phases of increasing then decreasing income inequality. Organizations often move irregularly from Adolescence to Peak Performance to Bureacracy. Products often have an irregular six-phase life cycle (Birth, Rapid Growth, Declining Growth, Maturity, Decline, and Death).

In this section we’ll tour an alphabet soup of interesting growth and cycle curves, including B-, C-, E-, S-, J-, L- and U-curves. Systems theorists are always looking for curves that show predictable behavior in many classes of systems. Futurist Charles Fadel teaches a great course, Ten Curves that Explain the World, to freshmen at Harvard. His ten curves aren’t a full menagerie, and they don’t include some of the ones you’ll see below, but the idea is excellent, and it informs this section of the Guide.

There are a number of classic curves that will tell you predictable things about a system’s development, sometimes over the short term, sometimes over centuries. Once you know a curve or a cycle exists and is operating, you can look for a predictable succession of phases, even if the duration of each phase seems irregular. In many cases it may be the smartest strategy to simply try to get faster at sensing and reacting to the expected next phase of the cycle, when it comes, rather than trying to predict the exact time of its arrival. But identifying the curve and the cycle can give you a major competitive advantage.

Different strategies and tactics will often be most adaptive in different phases of any change cycle. You don’t want to be buying when the market is high, or selling when it is low. Noticing when a cycle is operating, determining which phase you are in, knowing which behaviors will work best for each phase, and being ready to quickly shift your tactics, strategies, goals, and sometimes even your organizational structure when the next phase occurs are all ways to use cycle foresight to gain strategic advantage. Let’s look at a few change or life cycle models and phases that can be helpful in foresight practice.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice