Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Extremism Bias

Extremism bias occurs when a foresight practitioner goes to extremes in their forecasts, scenarios, and thinking, either in positive or negative directions. There are many varieties of it, and we’ll just look at a few.

This is an unfortunately a rather common bias in the transhumanist community, of which I’ve been a member since 1999. Many transhumanists will take any particular technology or scientific advance and push it to the extremes in their visions, usually without recognizing all the social, ethical, economic, scientific, or technical constraints that will make their extreme future very unlikely to emerge. They do this because they have a strong and entirely natural desire to escape (transcend) the limits of their biology. But when they let this natural cognitive-emotional desire to suspend their critical faculties, they are often much more extreme in their expectations than reality will admit. Extreme in expectations of positive futures, and of negative ones alike.

As veteran forecaster J. Scott Armstrong says, a Golden Rule of Forecasting is that all forecasts should be more conservative than the forecaster typically expects. Both conservative in terms of the upside (optimism, protopias) and the downside (pessimism, dystopias).

As veteran futurist Paul Saffo reminds us, prediction analysis shows that in most domains, we futurists and foresighters tend to “mistake a clear view for a short distance ahead.” The late Roy Amara observed that for many big STEEPS changes and trends, we overestimate their effects in the short run and underestimate them in the long run. We see new things that are coming, but don’t recognize all the social factors that will actively slow down and oppose that change in the short run, including large business and political interests, moral conflict, and plain old inertia.

For example, Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma (2011) reminds us that big companies are counterinnovative. They try to get to the future first, patent it, sit on it, and sell us their old products or services until they are forced to introduce a new innovation by the marketplace, typically some small to midsized company they were not able to buy out, sue, or otherwise thwart. They only get serious about innovation (bringing new inventions to market) when another large competitor in their oligopoly is threatening them (rare, due to the anticompetitive nature of oligopoly) or when a small to midsized company is finally starting to gain some real market share.

Change is often bad for the shareholder, and conservativism usually wins in the boardroom of large companies and the legislature of large political institutions. The best organizational action is often to make sure there is no action. All of this slows many types of societal change. So too does wealth, and we’re becoming very wealthy societies today, with ever greater numbers of restrictions on our social, political, and environmental activities, the so-called Nanny State. Seeing all this inertia can help us become appropriately conservative in our forecasts.

All rules have exceptions of course. The exception to getting too extreme in our future claims is certain types of technological change, which are becoming more human-independent with each passing year. To adapt a maxim of Jim Dator, in the domain of accelerating science and technology, and almost exclusively in that domain, some of our longer-term claims about the future should “appear to be ridiculous.” In this domain only, we can agree with Dator’s maxim. In most every other, increasing conservatism is usually a more prudent forecast.

Let’s look now at several other common biases, several of which are closely related to extremism bias: hype bias (inflated expectations and positive emotions), drama bias (inflated fears and negative emotions), clear view bias (too-early expectations), and elitism bias (inflated expectations that the general public will identify with the views, policies, or timetables of the person making the forecast).

Each are commonly found in certain individuals and contexts, not only in transhumanists but in our wider foresight practice community.

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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