Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Utopian Futurist

Another problematic member of our field is the Utopian futurist, someone who thinks they can envision a perfect, or at least, a vastly better society than the one we live in today. A proposed perfect future society is never so good-looking when examined closely. The most famous example is the book Utopia by Sir Thomas More (1516), in which slavery was allowed, a perfect example of the difficulty of seeing beyond our cultural limitations in envisioning better futures. A much better strategy is to seek protopias, worlds that are not perfect by any means, but are measurably better along some set of variables of social progress that we consider particularly important.

For a broad collection of presumed utopias, and the various deluded leaders and writers who have proposed them, and the tragic forms of social control that have resulted, from 1490 BCE to 1998 CE, see the Faber Book of Utopias (1999) edited by John Carey. Positive images of the future are admirable, but when we value any imaginary future too greatly, we can miss and devalue all the amazing features of the present world. If we believe too much in a utopian future as an end, we can also devalue the means (our choices on the way there), which can make us morally neglectful or even dangerous. By living with our “head in the clouds”, we can also miss the many small steps needed right now to move toward a better future. As the utopian’s extreme positive fantasy fails to arrive, they can also flip and become dystopian pessimists in older age.

Marxists are a classic example of utopian futurists that once plagued Western academia, but who today are on the decline since the fall of the Soviet Union, as elder tenured professors retire. I had to sit through too many such teachers during my own undergraduate training. My fellow students and I could see where the young Marx got several insights on soft technological determinism right, then turned to utopianism in his ideas of communism and class struggle during his middle and later years. Utopians can be quite influential however. At one point in the mid-20th century, half of the world believed in this dysfunctional model of commerce and governance, as the excellent twenty-four episode documentary series Cold War, 1998, reminds us.


Utopians and Dystopians Focus on the Extremes,
While Discounting Normal (S curve) Futures.

Is the accelerating change model we’ve proposed in Chapter 7 just another utopian vision, or is it clear eyed and evidence-based? Some will call it utopian. You have to make that determination yourself. The late 21st century certainly won’t be without crime, violence, and failure states. We can expect a good deal of competition and chaos on the way to the technological singularity, and a vastly better and more stable future. Many better and worse paths can and will be taken by individuals, groups, and societies. But collectively, the acceleration of complexity seems to be part of the necessary and progressive nature of the world.

Recall Dator’s Four Futures, which tell us that at least four futures are occurring simultaneously, often to different societal actors in the same environment (picture left). These four futures are:

  • Positive Continuation
  • Disruptively Positive Transformation
  • Negative Limits and Discipline
  • Disruptively Negative Decline & Collapse

It is this kind of pluralistic and nuanced view of both the present and the future that the utopians often neglect to see.

As Kevin Kelly has said, good future thinkers will be protopian, not utopian. Our visions of the future should strive to be better, not perfect, and recognize that every transformation is disruptive. All four futures will always occur simultaneously, to different actors, in the process of reaching any better future. That means we need our own provisional hypotheses of progress (the root of the “pro-” prefix in protopian), and to conduct experiments and collect evidence on whether our hypotheses are supported by reality.

While all our images of the future will be imperfect and incomplete, some will reliably move us in a measurably better direction. Often this occurs in a dance we might call the “Evolutionary Three Step,” or, two steps forward, followed by one step backward. The more complicated the world gets, the easier it is for changes to have antagonistic pleiotropies (in biology, and we would argue in society). That means the more complex, diverse, and wealthy our societies get, some groups will always get least temporarily hurt as others progress. To stay innovative as a society, our insurance and political and legal systems need to account for that, and we must champion creative experimentation, and expect some temporary regression and chaos on the way to better futures. Being imperfect beings in a complex world, a largely trial and error approach is usually the best way we learn, and progress.

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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