Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight: Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Six Schools of Social Foresight

Since the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, ambitious scholars have tried to extend evolutionary thinking to include human culture and its higher features, including our values and spirituality. A recent overview of these efforts by Phipps in Evolutionaries (2012) outlines twelve such schools, and the surnames of some of their more famous current and historical proponents:

   Evolution-Weighted Schools:

  1. The Neo-Darwinists (Dawkins, Gould, Dennett, E.O. Wilson)
  2. The Complexity Theorists (Goodwin, Kaufman, Laszlo)

   Development-Weighted Schools:

  1. The Collectivists (Bloom, Corning, Margulis, Sloan Wilson)
  2. The Directionalists (Conway Morris, Gardner, Wright)
  3. The Progressive Darwinists (Carroll, Jablonka, Lamb)
  4. The Transhumanists (Ettinger, Gibson, Kurzweil)

   Speculative Philosophy and Religious Schools:

  1. The Process Philosophers (Whitehead, Hartshorne, Griffin)
  2. The Conscious Evolutionists (Teilhard de Chardin, Dowd, Marx Hubbard)
  3. The Intelligent Designers (Behe, Dembski, Johnson)
  4. The Theistic Evolutionists (Miller, Peacocke, Polkinghorne)
  5. The Esoteric Evolutionists (Blavatsky, Steiner, C. Wilson, Tarnas)
  6. The Integralists (Aurobindo, Gebser, Wilber, Combs)
Jan Visser

Jan Visser

As Evo Devo Universe member and complexity scholar Jan Visser notes, only the first six of these schools can today be considered scientific. The second six are typically either prescientific speculative philosophy or religion. Process philosophy occasionally offers testable scientific ideas, but is mostly prescientific. Discussion of conscious evolution might become scientific once we have accepted theories of consciousness, but today it is largely poor-quality speculative philosophy.

We do not discuss intelligent design, theistic evolution, or esoteric evolution in this Guide, as each are broadly religiously motivated (or in the esoteric’s case, spiritually motivated), and thus primarily our personal choices. None are accepted as science. The integral school, which also commonly discusses spiritual topics at a time when we have few to no testable approaches to them, is also today a prescientific endeavor, and the quality of its speculation varys widely. Some integral models are testable. Many are simply rhetoric, heavy on incomprehensible postmodernist jargon.

Again, as Visser says, scientific evo devo models of culture and technology span the first six schools above. That makes them special, and we will call these the Six Schools of social foresight and evo devo scholarship in this Guide. Different scholars and foresight practitioners are attracted to different sets of these six schools, yet all seem fundamentally useful to a better understanding of complexity and change.

Those who see the value in all Six Schools must seek to reconcile the two evolution-weighted schools, proposing neo-Darwinist and complexity theory views, which model biocultural change from a mostly contingent, evolutionary perspective, with the four development-weighted schools: collectivism (understanding emerging morality and social cooperation), directional features of evolution, progressive features (a stronger claim than directionalism) and the transhumanists, who seek to understand accelerating change and human-technology coevolution.

Again, evidence-based foresight practice relies on the first six schools listed above. While foresight professionals will occasionally explore additional schools, and we and our clients will all have our own personal views on God, consciousness, spirituality, integral philosophy, and other prescientific topics, we should remember that all of those topics can be best analyzed as components of the six scientific schools listed above. Such a strategy pushes us to always seek to validate what we do.

For example, if you think consciousness, spirituality, and intelligence or any other philosophically important topic or entity is a random product of the universe, you can profitably analyze these topics from either the Neo-Darwinist or the Complexity Theorist perspective, or some mix of both. If you think the topic or entity in question is instead a consequence of the developmental nature of the universe, you can ask whether the topic or entity emerges from the collective nature of computation, as a directional feature of universal change, as a progressive feature, or as a result of the application of information or other technology (language and beyond) to biological humanity.

Or perhaps, as we will argue with all three of these challenging topics (intelligence, consciousness, spirituality), you think that each are in fact a mix of both evolutionary and developmental processes. The more you focus your efforts on relationships between the Six Schools, the more you are practicing something that may be turned into science, rather than practicing untestable philosophy or faith.

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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