Big Questions About the Future – Futurists Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its fifth twitter chat   on Thursday, 22 February, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first four here  . (education, money, work, transportation)  

  • The topic is: What big  questions  do we need to ask about the future?

Do we need to wonder about Big Questions?

Initially, I was not a fan of this question for a twitter chat; it’s too unruly, too vague, too, well, BIG, to be addressed in a twitter chat. I discounted its 140 character potential.

Then I read Australian futurist Maree Conway’sblog post. “We need to go to a sort of future space, where we move beyond our knowledge of what’s happened and what’s happening now to explore what’s possible.”

Maree calls this future space the realm of “what if.” Those possibilities, instead of problems which assume something is missing or wrong. “What if’s” imagine alternative futures and open our minds to transformational change. By inquiring about the future in a curious and exploratory way, we see beyond today’s realities.

That’s an exciting proposition that promises to expand my futures images. Count me in.

Jugular Questions About the Future

Arno Penzias, Nobel prize winning physicist, says, “I went for the jugular question.”


What is a jugular question? Those are the most powerful questions, the why’s and what if’s, not the litanies of everyday life. For example, it’s not what you had for breakfast but


  • in 1930, you had bacon and eggs
  • in 2000 you had whole wheat toast and a banana
  • in 2040 you may eat hydroponic oranges; bananas for breakfast are a distance memory.

The Big Question would be: What values and conditions will shape food in 2040?

Big Questions address how things change, the meaning and purpose, the sweep of social change manifested in our lives. Jugular questions matter; they are systems and values, strategic questions about ethics, choices, and consequences that expose biases and assumptions. Who cares and why? Rather than who’s to blame or what’s wrong.


Big Questions create ripples.

Marilee Goldberg says it’s “when a question is asked inside the current paradigm that can only be answered from outside it.” Big Questions break open our assumptions, and create new sets of ideas, ripples in the water.

Maree details avery clear list of characteristics. Big Questions make us think differently about the future. They stir things up. And they are memorable; they stick with us and haunt us.

We’re not talking about today or even this year. What Big Questions should we ask about 2020, 2030 or 2050? What questions open our minds to future possibilities? Try to imagine you live in 2075, looking back to those years.

  • What Big Questions would we need to ask?
  • What is your jugular question about the future?

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views about Big Questions. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, the future of work, and the future of transportation. These chats are fast and intense. I always learn enormously, like scanning futurists’ brains.

Maree Conway and I will co-host, asking the formal questions and follow ups. Please ask questions that come to you, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and teach, inform, persuade, thrill, or terrify us.



What do you think are the Big Questions about the future?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to, you can use tweetdeck and search for #futrchat (as I do). Or here are two sites where you join the chat.

Future of Transportation – Futurists Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #transit

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its fourth twitter chat  on Thursday, January 20, 2011 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. hashtag: #futrchat. You can find information about the first three here . (education, money, work) 

Is 21st c transportation just more of the same?


During the 20

th century, transportation innovations exploded. You might even call it the century of transportation. We not only invented new types of vehicles; we created new infrastructure and new lifestyles celebrating them. Technology transformed from walking and animals to bikes, boats, trains, cars, trucks, buses, planes, and spaceships. I even adore some oddities like dirigibles and segways.

High speed transportation is sexy, no doubt about it. We have a love affair with these coolest new gadgets. And it’s cost us immeasurably. Cars in particular caused new development to stretch further and further from city centers. And they use fossil fuels. Both are now seen as huge mistakes.

Embedded as transportation is with energy and politics, arguments in the US may wage battle well into midcentury. Meantime developing countries aim for that middle class image, wanting cars before decent housing and causing traffic jams that last for days. But that’s now.

We want to talk 2020, 2030, 2050 – what will be our needs, what constraints, and what options will we have for transportation?  What does mobility mean in twenty or thirty years?


Backlash and penalties

Slow cities, car free cities, transit oriented development, walkability, smart growth, density, and so many other urban trends tie to strategies to reduce the influence of the car on our lives.

One massive debate is: better cars or live car-free? In fact, better cars such as electric do little to reduce greenhouse gases unless we have power plants that produce renewable energy.

It’s easy to see transportation as a topic of things; vehicles are objects. However, they are deeply integral to our daily lives, affecting how we behave, our friends, where we live and work, how healthy we are, even our personal identities. Are you a walker, a rider, a driver, a co-user, or a telecommuter?


Transportation 21

st century style

How will we travel in 2030 or 2040? What is the impact of the internet, telecommuting, and social media? How will augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence change transportation options? How will transportation be different in mega-cities, smaller cities, towns, rural, across the globe, or into outerspace?

What new technologies could transform the way that we travel and commute? What is the impact of life safety, security, and crime on transportation? What new infrastructures are worth the expense and trouble to build? Will sharing bikes and cars go mainstream? Will there be a crash or a wimper after peak oil? What aboutautonomous vehicles, robotics, and road trains? And (wincing), what’s holding back flying cars and jetpacks?


Will transportation transform our lives as it did in the 20

th century? Will we become smarter about choices and their consequences?  Will we choose to ‘un-tech’ our mobility?  Will we choose to stay still?

I bookmarked almost 200 links on the future of transportationhere and 140 on transithere

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and voice your views on the future of transportation. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education, the future of money, and the future of work. These chats are fast and intense. I always learn enormously, like scanning futurists brains.

Jennifer Jarratt and I will co-host; Jennifer with intriguing questions and I with ideas, more questions, and retweets. You can do the same, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and help us think more clearly, more vividly about the future of transportation.  

What do you think about the future of transportation?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #futrchat in your tweets, and the Question #, as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:Nissan Torii,Shweeb monorail 



21st century cities: D is for Disasters

This month, I’m writing a series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. In previous entries, I explored Artificial Intelligence, Backward Futures  and Co-creation. Today is disasters.

and Brazil are suffering deadly disasters; I hope you recover rapidly and fully.


One year ago, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake. Over 300,000 people were killed. The core of Port-Au-Prince was virtually leveled. One year later, less than 5% of the rubble has been removed. One million people remain homeless, living in tent cities.

The first disaster happened on January 12, 2010. The second one is ongoing. It’s a double crime – unsafe construction and terrible response.

For 21st century cities, disasters are a way of life

Do you have a nagging sense that there’s an uptick in disasters? It’s true. There are four times as many natural disasters as twenty years ago. The trend is still climbing.

No one is immune. Fifty poorer countries led by India will suffer the most deaths. A recent report estimates we will see one million deaths a year by 2030 . Industrialized countries will pay more in economic and infrastructure loss, estimated at $157 billion annually.

Disasters are reshaping our human geography.

  •     Over one billion people  in over 100 countries are at risk of becoming climate refugees; 98% live in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Middle East (pictured Lilypad2 Refugee Floating Island).
  •     The current number of climate refugees is 50 million people, mostly displaced by flooding. By 2050, the UN estimates as many as 200 million climate refugees.
  •     People will migrate to places with food, water, security, education, health, and jobs, away from floods, disease, famine, drought, and conflict.
  •     In the US , the predicted hurricane damage on the gulf coast by 2030 is $350 billion , equal to a Hurricane Katrina every 7 years. New York and Miami  hold the highest risk for massive infrastructure damage.
  •     NBC news reporter Ann Curry’s tweet helped doctors and medicine land at a Haitian airstrip.  Is twitter a robust grassroots communication network ready to serve in disasters?

Have you been caught a disaster?

If so, were you ready? It’s more than just individual procrastination; we even vote to avoid fixing infrastructure.

  •     Elected officials get cheered and then re-elected when they respond to a disaster, as they should. But amazingly, when they beef up infrastructure, they lose elections. For every $1 spent in preparation, we save $15 in recovery.

“The benefits of prevention are not tangible; they are the disasters that did not happen.” Kofi Annan

  •     Nature or humans? Imagine if Haiti’s construction had been quake-resistant? In New Orleans, Katrina wasn’t the killer, a failed levee was. The two are so deeply intertwined, it’s always both.
  •     Mississippi and Alabama, each devastated by Katrina, refuse to enact building codes. Florida suffered 40-50% less damage and fewer deaths.
  •     Some recoveries take half a century, like Berlin. Others leap forward, like London. Still others take centuries and even millennia, like Rome.
  •     Flooding may steal the great coastal cities from future generations; there may not be future “Romes” to serve as historic markers of today.

Can we rebuild better than before?

Some cities revitalize and thrive after a catastrophic event. Others collapse, becoming a shadow of their most robust past. Jared Diamond believes collapse occurs when a society fails to adapt to new ecological or economic environments.

In other words, to recover, a city has to clearly imagine a revitalized future in a dramatically altered landscape and have the capacity and resources to act.

  •     The best time (if there is such a thing) to experience a major disaster is when your country or region is on a growth cycle. The worst is when your city’s in decline already.
  •     Will disasters become the reality tv of tomorrow?
Rotterdam is a miracle of resilience
After a catastrophic flood in 1953, Rotterdam leaders decided to rebuild beyond anyone’s imagination. Forty four years later, the Maeslant Barrier opened. It is an engineering marvel, designed to withstand a 10,000 year flood event.
  • Gumption. Building on Boyd’s OODA decision-making loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act),Vinay Gupta identifies Drive as the missing link between orientation and deciding to act, in other words, leadership and vision.
  • Wrong-mindedness. The most difficult problem is not inaction but wrong-minded action. Is New York rebuilding a 2050 future or a 1950 rehash?
  • Mindfulness. In contrast, after the 1989 earthquake destroyed the massive Embarcadero highway, San Francisco tore it down and re-established access to the bay from the adjacent neighborhoods. They chose a new, unique future.
  • A future of parity. For New Orleans to build a levee system for a 500 year flood event the estimate is $70 billion. The current repair to the levees is costing $15 billion for a 100 year flood. The entire city’s future remains unstable.

Images of the future

A number of organizations are fully mobilized such as the UN’s Resilient Cities program and Architecture for Humanity. Here’s a few still in the future.

  •     Communication networks include our mobile phones. Flying disaster relief robots support a local network.
  •     Video games can aid in preparation and emergency response training.
  •     Sensor networks provide real time data on locations of people and resources.
  •     Mobile hospitals will be flown into remote locations, such as solar airships.
  •    Temporary housing is being designed as prefab or created locally with salvaged materials.
  •     Future housing will be created on-site via 3d printers.
  •     Modular solar power enables off the grid energy.
  •     Geoengineering attempts to turn back atmospheric change to avoid the most extreme consequences of global warming.
  •     Sensors for emergency alert systems continue to improve

 Disaster-ready future cities

Several trends help: localism for food, distributed power especially the use of solar energy, walkable and biking neighborhoods w/ shops and services, DIY initiatives for making things, bartering/trading/sharing networks, communication networks such as twitter and other mobile devices, and so on.  A global push for city response plans, strengthening infrastructure, implementing building codes, and building higher and away from oceans is critical.

  • The 9/11 Report described New York as a failure of imagination. Can imagination help us?
  • The strongest efforts come from within a community. Someone steps up; some vision captures hearts and minds. People begin a million small actions towards recovery.
  • If a catastrophic event hits your city, are you ready? Is your neighborhood? Your family? How will you be safe? How resilient is your city?

Disasters destroy normal. Many cities and communities find their true mission, and rebuild even better. It can be a moment of deep reflection and learning, committing, and inspiring.

The next post, E is for Education. I am failing at my goal to post daily so I will try some new strategies. Thank you for reading, tweeting, commenting!

Images: Disaster historic statistics, Haiti tent city, Rotterdam Maeslantkering, Pakistani flood refugees, Lilypad2 floating city, flying disaster relief robots, video games.


21st century cities: A is for Artificial Intelligence

Yesterday, I introduced a January series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. Today’s the first letter A.


What does the term artificial intelligence (AI) make you think of? How about singularity? These innovations represent a holy grail for many technologists. An exclusive institution called the Singularity Universityoffers an intensive summer grad program. The teachers and staff rank among the best thinkers in the world, including some of my friends and colleagues. In their first few years of operation, they have shined a bright spotlight on the idea of super-human intelligence.

What is AI?

AI is generally defined as machines that are smarter than human intelligence. The Turing Test, the primary bellwether, simply asks a computer to conduct a conversation without the human knowing she/he is talking to a computer. In urban terms, an AI system perceives its environment and responds to successfully complete a particular job.

For cities, the most intriguing are networks of machines that aggregate data, respond, and adapt without our intervention. The machines seem self-aware and learn, the technological singularity . Machines surpass our ability to understand or control them.

Ray Kurzweil believes that by 2020 or so, computers will reach human brain capacity and by 2045, they will self-invent, no longer dependent on our creativity or intervention.


The Singularity University identifies three tracks divided into specializations: technology (robotics, nanotech, computers, biotech, and medicine/neuroscience), resources (futures, law, finance), and application (space and energy). Technology and innovation, the engine of business, are the heart of AI.

Should we fear super-intelligent self-improving machines the size of a city?

Do you remember HAL9000, the computer in Arthur C. Clark’s Space Odyssey and the film 2001 Space Odyssey? The fear of AI is the human fear of all machines: they will own us. Collective super-intelligence the size of a city will be the most potent weapon and/or collaborative experience ever invented.In Zuboff’s In The Age of the Smart Machine, she analyzes the qualitative differences we experienced when we moved from a society of artisans to button pushers.We are particularly clumsy at seeing the long-term consequences of innovations.

  •     It’s possible that machines will supply ideas, but that we will still be the makers, even more than we are today, through co-creating and DIY. Six billion brains will still be the largest form of intelligence on earth. Technology weaves that collective capacity even more tightly.
  •     We trade our freedoms and privacy every day for access to something else. A few voices will try to protect our sovereign rights but they will go largely unheard because we are only being protected from ourselves.

Will AI control transportation?



Computers already control our traffic systems. We drive our cars over a buried sensor and it switches the traffic signal. Or a set of sensors time our highway progress and notifies other drivers of travel times. Are they AI? Not really. That’s fairly simple analysis of historic behavior not anticipating or adapting. Airplanes and trains have long been controlled by autopilot computers. Google, Stanford, and MIT have road tested autonomic driving, or self-driving robotic cars. Our cars are already robots in terms of automation. Computers are rapidly making cars smarter and better drivers than us from self-parking to crash avoidance. Frankly, based on 40k US deaths/year, we desperately need their help.

  •     Cars are well on their way to becoming one big swarm more concerned with each other than with us.
  •     Eventually, rather than competing modes of transportation, light rail, buses and cars may have more in common than not.
  •     Mobility freedom is not only control but also access, representation in decisions, and choice.

Big brother may not be the power company; it may be you and me.If we are generating and capturing energy to share and sell others, the AI/smart grid becomes our partner, the tool for a new source of income. However, if we are at the mercy of power company electricity, we can look forward to brown outs and black outs. At the rate of new technology adoption, power loads just keep rising. Appliances and computers may not run during peak hours. And worse – you will know when your neighbor is hogging power and vice versa.

  •     Will we be shamed into energy conservation? Or we will simply be controlled through rations.
  •     Control and privacy are forefront in a world of limited shared resources and AI. How data gathered thru AI is revealed is up to our collective agreements.
  •     More energy efficient buildings, better batteries, low energy use appliances will eventually reduce our power needs.
  •     Real time urban data will be gathered from people, buildings, and things to create useful knowledge about how we use cities that will inform design and user decisions.

AI Design Build

At long last, design and construction are becoming data-rich. Next they will become self-improving, then self-assembling, and finally self-designing. Yet self-expression is a human talent, not a computerized algorithm. Creativity as well as the relationships, communication, and decision-making require humans.

Following in the wake of manufacturing, construction is being automated. First with material deliveries, then tools, and finally with self-constructing buildings. Experiments with robots have reached demonstration levels. Consumer goods distribution centers have hesitated on robot investment because they have peak seasons and the robots sit idle otherwise. Construction operates project by project to maintain a steady workflow, only slowing for economic cycles. Without too much trouble, a city will be self-constructing, particularly useful for infrastructure and repetitive projects.

  •     Without human intervention and oversight, cities will become dull and cookie cutter. Our job will be to alter the cities before we learn to hate them. We require imperfection to love a place.
  •     A full accounting of all materials and resources in a region will enable local distributions, recycling, adapting, and re-allocating of supplies and scheduling maintenance.
  •     Dominating those asset allocations will make or break various urban areas. Urban negotiations open a whole new field.

Will AI cities like us, be our friend?

The self-aware, self-improving, sentient city will adopt the patterns of the existing city. Machines are purely rational. Humans are intuitive, emotional, and imperfect plus we are culturally determined. A machine can only copy or replicate these characteristics, which might be flawless. That’s the problem with the conversant computer. It does not know how to improvise, make errors, be human.

We love our houses, favorite shops, parks, even our cars. These attachments will become exponentially deeper. They will remember key dates and react on cue. They will know our habits and when we break routine. If your house can talk to you, play scrabble, fix you meals, layout your clothes, wake you up, start the coffee, prepare your shower, order the groceries, complete your reports, and sing you to sleep, will you believe it cares for you?

  •     We will need retraining on the meaning of artificial.
  •     Will we ever be able to move? Will we strip the house-friend of its knowledge and mourn its death?
  •     Will AI computers strive for self-preservation? And to self-replicate? Will they hoard or aggressively acquire materials to create their projects?
  •     Will they share our most precious secrets? Doesn’t Facebook do it every single day? We won’t need to report our sins; the shaman and tax officer and probably your mom, daughter, enemies, and neighbors will already know.

The city’s brain

As we build swarms of self-improving intelligent machines, we will need a meta-AI to monitor and coordinate. That’s HAL9000. Will we be able to control it? I rather doubt it. Furthermore, how safe will that concentrated power be? Imagine the cyber attacks and security threats when so much power is held by one entity.

  •     When all the machines are hooked together as an army of super-intelligent computers, are they controllable?
  •     Moreover, will we become part of the super-intelligence? Notice that Singularity U includes neuroscience. Later, we will look at transhumanism and our active participation in collective intelligence.

Cities will be smart. They will be more beautiful, more exquisitely made in parts and more assembled ad hoc in other parts. More resourceful and more transparently knowable. Unlike today’s “dumb cities” that sit like the dead materials that they are, future cities will be alive in a Biomimicry sense, evolving, learning, and growing. The caveat is huge. A city as a functioning extension of the people may be the most intoxicating experience we can imagine. The most creative and potentially invasive intelligent computers will work in partnership with people. We have to be able to let go, opt out. Increasingly, it will be impossible unless we demand it.

Tomorrow, B is for Backward.

Images: Robotic construction in NYC on ArchDaily, Ford Sync Destination Eco-navigation system and New Songdo in Fast Co, automated road trains on Crunchgear, PlanIT Masterplan, Geminoid robot.

ABC’s of 21st century cities: January series

As an architect, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we are constantly imagining and shaping it. Other than our own brilliant new buildings (she says modestly), we usually think it will be a lot like today– only more. Architects are project-oriented. Space is our domain; we think in terms of a particular situation.

As a futurist, what intrigues me about the future is the fact that we can freely replace one future with another and fearlessly explore decades, even centuries, ahead. Futurists are large-pattern, context-oriented. Time is our domain; we think in terms of decades more than years.

I marry these two methods to try to understand where our cities are headed. This month, I offer you an alphabet of future cities, twenty-six slices that reveal, explore, and imagine what we might build and how we might live, work, and play in 2020, 2030, or 2050.

Sound like fun?

Tech in the city

If you track urban development, you hear a lot of the same concepts. Walkable, livable, quality of life (QOL), redensify, green/LEED/BREEAM buildings, green cities, smart cities, smart growth, smart grid, new urbanism, mixed use, complete streets, car-free, bike highways, bus rapid transit (BRT), transit oriented design, transect zoning, multi-modal transportation. Rather than being “the future,” these ideas are happening in some cities today, so-called ‘used futures’.

  •     Our most advanced, high performing cities are technology-intense. In these gazelle cities, people believe innovation is part of their DNA. They aim to show the rest of the world how to build, more specifically, how to live. New transportation, environmental, and communication methods take root. Hi-tech companies and creative people flock to these Meccas.
  •     On the other end of the spectrum in African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cities, people wish for indoor plumbing, clean water, fresh air. The same enemies that London and New York conquered in the 1800s strangle the people of Lagos and New Delhi today but at a mind-boggling scale.
What happens is a massive urban divide. The greater our technological advances, the greater the gap. Somewhere, some city will still be fighting to supply basic services with primitive solutions while cities with the highest levels of tech reach further and further, stretching the extremes.

It’s not all about resources and technology.

The urban divide occurs inside of countries too. Portland, Oregon began a green revolution in the late 1970s resulting in a dense, mixed use, transit oriented city. Dallas continues to bank on more highways and low density perimeter sprawl. The varied approaches reflect different priorities and offer radically different lifestyles. Over time, these bets will pay off or they will cost the cities and their residents dearly.

Paradoxically primitive sometimes works better than intensive technology. The current generation may be the first to employ just-right-tech or even un-tech. As a new form of intelligence, future gens will know when to switch off. Similarly for cities, high-rise, high-speed tech is not always the most livable, functional, beautiful, or viable response.

What will we do?

In the next forty years, the world population is likely to grow by two billion people. Nearly all of those people will live in

the cities of emerging economies, half in slums and nearly all in poverty. In contrast, western countries are faced with aging infrastructure and older populations. America is expected to grow by as much as one hundred million people, one-third as immigrants.

It’s said that this is the century of urbanization. In 2007, for the first time in history, the majority of people live in cities. We built American cities according to what we knew in 1950, just as Europe built cities with technologies and lifestyles of prior centuries. Now we know more.

  •     Unlike any other time in history, cities and buildings are ready to be more than a roof and four walls. They can expand our quality of life or destroy it. Beyond shelter, buildings and cities can feed our spirits and replenish the environment. Or they can be a curse, a deathtrap, a monstrous albatross.
26 significant, provocative, intriguing ideas

In ten, twenty, thirty years, how will you build, work or live differently? What will it mean to your children or to their children? Will your city, your neighborhood, your home feed your soul or anger you?

Imagine if you were suddenly transported to 1950. Would you support the Federal Highway Act? The Urban Renewal Act? Removal of trolleys and cable car systems? All of these decisions shaped how we live today. In hindsight, what would you do?

Standing in 2011, we have equally momentous choices. Maybe even bigger. January 1, let’s begin: A is for Artificial Intelligence.

Images: Urbanization on TriasWiki, Portland Street Cafe, Singapore kids, Urban Population chart.

Future of Work – Futurists’ Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #futureofwork

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its thirdtwitter chat on Thursday, December 9, 2010 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. Use these hashtags: #apf #futrchat. You can find information about the first two futrchatshere.

How do you see the future of work?


An organization called

The Future of Work is composed of HR, IT, and facilities professionals. On their website, they make several provocative claims.

  • Work is no longer a place you go; it’s what you do.
  • The future of work will be radically different than anything we know today, or can even imagine. In the economy of the future people will get their work done where and when they need to-or want to.
  • Managing work and talent in today’s dynamic, distributed, mobile economy is incredibly challenging-but highly rewarding. We offer guidance and advice on how to succeed in a world that’s being turned upside down by technology, globalization, demographics, and environmental concerns.

Questions about the future of work

As we were planning this chat, Jennifer Jarratt and I wondered about the future of professions. Our respective fields, journalism and architecture, are both traditional professions that are not sure of their futures, or if they will even remain professions per se.

  1. Will we continue with disciplinary silos? Do specialty fields still serve a purpose or are they a thing of the past?
  2. How will aging affect work?
  3. How do knowledge migration, crowdsourcing, co-creating, social media, and communication technology change the ways we work?  Are trades or professions more affected?
  4. How does globalization of manufacturing and services affect work? And the corresponding notion of localization?
  5. What is the connection between the current lackluster job market and the future of work? Is a weak job market a temporary anomaly or the shape of things to come?

How will we work in 2020, 2030, or even 2050 differently than today? Here is aTED video by Jason Fried, author of Rework, about the future of work, featured on CNN last week. He proposes non-talk times to enable creative work without distractions. I love that idea. Is it realistic?

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I bookmarked a few links on the future of workhere.

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat to share your ideas about the future of work. We’ve hosted chats on the future of education and thefuture of money. Both were exhilarating experiences. I think people learned and shared at a pace you cannot find. If I had to say one word, it’s intense.

Jennifer Jarratt will pitch provocative questions and I will add color commentary. You can add your own colors, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and reveal your ideas about the future of work. Together, we will make some sense about future possibilities.

After all, we all care deeply about the future of work. Its what we do, how we spend a great deal of time, an identity, and how we create, produce, and build wealth. Are you working in a new paradigm, or are you supporting a current or past way of work?


What do you think will be the future of work?

Join us on Twitter by searching for #futrchat. Please use #apf #futrchat in your tweets and the Question # such as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. 

As alternative to, here are two sites where you join the chat.

Images:hate my job andwork and unity on flickr creative commons

Future of Money – Futurists’ Twitter Chat Thursday 4:00-5:00 EST #apf #futrchat #futureofmoney

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting its second twitter chat on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST. Use these hashtags: #apf #futrchat. 

Venessa Miemis  will join us as an invited guest  to share thoughts from  her recentSIBOS  keynote presentation and FOM research.


The Future of Money 

Beyond the currency arguments between nations, another more fundamental debate brews. You could say that it’s the difference between people who trust the traditional banking system and those that believe there’s a better way based on transparency, open data, and social bonds.   

Venessa Miemis ,Gabriel Shalom , and Jay Cousins developed a short film,“The Future of Money,”  for the recentSIBOS conference  in Amsterdam. In a series of interviews, Gen Y’s say why they feel distrust or a disconnection with the current system and what they see emerging in the social currency space.  


On twitter, you can find tweets by searching for #futureofmoney. Here’s some recent posts pertaining to SIBOS.

  • Venessa believes that traditional financiers and Gen Y’s areliving in different worlds.   Her proposals and concerns: 
    1. Intelligent investing opportunities likeGroupon  local deals but for investing.
    2. Real-time data visualizations for money management .
    3. Social network analysis for co-production opportunities that helps visualize network connections
    4. Local currency projects such asMetacurrency .com
  • Gabriel Shalom  comments on responses to the film andthe future of the FOM .
  • Chris Skinner , a financial expert and co-founder of Shaping Tomorrow website, attended Sibos and executive produced the video. He wroteblog responses  to Venessa’s ideas and added a number of other points.

And here’s a few developments since SIBOS.


What do you think?

I’m watching to see what people believe about money. We all use it and by necessity, we each manage it for ourselves and/or for businesses. Is there anything more emotional than the power of currency? And how do you define currency? Economic, social, environmental, political, cultural?

What is money? What does it do and what does it mean? Are you worried about the future of money? Or is it all roses ahead? What drivers could plague money, and cause drastic change? Are we at or nearing a turning point? Is there a significant, fundamental gap between financial experts and us, the regular people? If so, is the gap in communications, worldviews or something else? Is the distinction or gap useful or an us against them battle? Will it be useful in the future?

I wonder if we will see a range of ideas, conflicts of opinions, or will we agree quite readily on the future of money. What, do you believe, are the big issues for money by 2020? Or by 2030? Is it social/community, trust, transparency, or are other lumps or gems on the horizon?

Please Join Us – an open tweet chat

You are welcome to join the APF #futrchat and say what you believe will be the future of money. At our premier chat last month on the future of education, an intensive hour flew by and the results gave a snapshot of many varied perspectives and experiences, like a speed scan or survey.

As we did last month, Jennifer Jarratt will pitch provocative questions and I will cajole, contribute, coax, and retweet the saltiest items. You can do the same, add links (if they pertain and are not promotional ads), and teach, inform, persuade, thrill, or terrify us about the future of money.

What do you think will be the future of money?

Image: Organic Grapefruit onThe Value of a Dollar Project by Jonathan Blaustein

The Future of Education: A Twitter Chat #apf #futrchat


The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting our first tweetchat.

  • Thursday October 14, 2010 from 4:00- 5:00 Eastern time, Washington DC/New York (check your time zone via world clock )
  • Topic: Future of Education
  • Hashtags: #futrchat #apf

 We welcome anyone that is interested in the future and/or education to join us.

Jennifer Jarratt  and I plan to co-host; I think Jennifer will be throwing out questions and I’ll try to spark conversations. If you have ideas for questions, please send them to either of us.

What’s a TweetChat?

For those who haven’t participated in tweetchats before, here are a couple of how-to’s by Content Maven (pt 1  and 2 ).

You can view the tweet chat a couple of different ways:

  • Tweetchat  is a special site just for this purpose.
  • Tweetdeck  you can search for the hashtag #futrchat which will open a column with all the tweets in a timeline.
  • Tweetgrid you can search for multiple terms: #futrchat, #apf, education, future, or any of our twitter names.

I have participated and lurked on a few chats over the past six months. What I’ve learned is:

  1. Always include the hashtags #apf #futrchat somewhere in the tweet.
  2. When you arrive, say hello and introduce yourself briefly.  
  3. Always start your response with the number of the question, Q1, Q2 and so on.
  4. If you like someone’s comment, retweet it so that others see it.
  5. Add links if appropriate, which builds value. People can read these later.
  6. Comment as often as you think of something, at least once per question.More comments are better.
  7. Ask other people direct questions if they say something that intrigues you.

We are building a community and exploring a topic. I hope in the end we have a transcript from Tweetchat to share. More importantly, I hope we learn something together.


Future of Education

A few of the futurists in APF specialize in education and plan to participate. I worked on nearly 100 education facilities as an architect and teach in higher ed.

That’s the thing about education – we all have a vested interest. Education matters. People are immersed in today’s education problems; the key here is to think long-term.

What will be our problems, our needs, our realities in 2020, 2030, or 2050?

In terms of education, are we preparing people for careers in 1990 or 2030? How do we deal with the explosion of change? Longer life spans? Who are the students? What is knowledge in 2030 or 2050? Its speedy obsolescence? New technologies? What tools, new or old? Preparing teachers? Building schools? Engaged and integrated in communities, at home, or in classrooms? Participatory action learning? Global connections? Remote teaching, remote learning? Creativity, practical vocations, science, math emphasized? If everyone learns differently, how do we build learning communities?

Dr. Michael Wensch, an inspiring teacher and cultural anthropologist, studies the effects of technology on students. I recently saw him speak at a TEDxKC event, a treat.

You are the key!

I hope you will join us! Thursday October 14, 2010 – 4:00 East coast US time. Let me know if you have any questions, here or on twitter as @urbanverse.

We plan to do these on the second Thursday of the month. Your ideas for improvements, new topics, and questions are appreciated. We may invite special guests at future chats, including some APF members.

Here’s a few education links from my delicious site.

Images: Kids learning: School Gate, The Times Online; Millau Bridge, Arctic Puppy on Flickr CC

Earth Shoes Vs. Flip Flops: Are College Grads Ever Ready? #letsblogoff

For the third #letsblogoff (my second entry in this group effort to cure the world of ills via blogging on a single topic), my twitter buds chose a meaty question: Are college grads ready for the real world? Warning: things don’t end where they start off.   


What’s Wrong With Kids — Yesterday?

We all heard that knock right out of school – What’s wrong with kids these days? My gen heard: cut your hair, turn down that music, can’t you do something useful with your life? It’s the perennial generation gap.

Boomers, such as me, rejected the uptight establishment world of our parents. We fought their lousy Vietnam War (we typically whine about that first), made love, not war, waged sit-ins and love-ins to ban the bomb, experimented in communes, pot, psychedelics, and outdoor music bashes, and generally knew better than our elders. heh. Our rallying cry , “Never trust anyone over 30.”

Now there’s a plan with a short time horizon! So what happened to Boomers post-30? We became the establishment. Natch. Eventually, we had to take the reins and assume responsibility. That’s inevitable.

And when we did, it turns out we were better at organizing protests than truly changing the world. The generation that thought we put the R in Rebellion became (mostly) authoritative, ideological, Wall Street money makers and Big Business CEO’s.

Why in the world is that? I have an idea but first back to those new college grads,Gen Ys.

What’s Wrong With Kids – Today?

Gen Y’s, do you have a better plan? Apparently you study less, live with your parents longer, get married later, maybe have kids first, fight for gay rights, assume women’s and racial rights, rather be on American Idol than fly to the moon, and (get this!!) you can’t even support yourself.

How can you change the world when you’re still a dependent? What happened to the rebellious youth? Have you no spunk? (please hang with me on this ….)

While the Boomers and Gen Xs flattened the globe into a monster-sized playground, Gen Ys played high-speed digital games, built powerful social networks, and saw friends become stars via YouTube and reality TV. They are Digital Natives, fully connected 24/7, and seeking an Epic Win.

In fact, rather than rebelling (which in the hegemonic world actually reinforces the existing system) Gen Y’s are creating a new and potentially more powerful, more vibrant, less resource-intensive world. They might actually be building a real world – ok, a hybrid real/digital world — that can be effectively balanced.


Are We Ready for the Age of Flip Flops?

Earth shoes were made for walking. On the earth. They were earthy and so were the Boomer hippies who favored them. Earthy things take earthy resources, energy, and machines. Our Boomer world is Big Physics.

Flip flops on the other hand, are fragile, flimsy, and made for long days at the beach or sitting on your tush rocking to tunes while you game the day away.

Thing is, in the next real world, we might game for a living. That’s right. Millennials are finding a way to turn fun into profit. Their world is Mega Pixels.

We will likely travel, shop, learn, connect, produce, and get health care primarily via computers. And according to game guru, Jane McGonigle, Institute for the Future, computer gaming is good for us. It builds community, intense concentration, and most of all, confidence that we can achieve an Epic Win.

Unlike the real world where our largest life lessons arrive in the form of defeats and exhausting resources, digital games have no limits. Plus at any given moment as a reward for exceptional performance, you can experience a monumental win. What’s more, everyone else can too. There are absolutely no shortages of possible wins. That in itself frames an entirely positive experience.

Imagine if the game world IS the real world.

While Millennials have teethed on joy sticks and cell phones, Boomers and Gen X’s are mere immigrants to digital reality. We learn these skills like a second language; they live and breathe them. Even while we create the toys, it is Gen Y’s that hyper-extend the power of the media.

Welcome, President Flip-Flop; Move Over, Boomers 

Boomers, how did we let this happen? How did the generation that supposedly was the largest, most powerful cohort ever to walk the earth allow these upstarts a way to shove us into obsolescence prematurely?

Social change experts Strauss and Howe call it the Fourth Turning. Four types of eras, or Turnings, last for 15-20 years each and cycle continuously.

  • 1st Turning, Outer-Driven Era: a new sense of community arrives.
  • 2nd Turning, Awakening Era: inner life blooms with spiritual renewal, artistic innovation.
  • 3rd Turning, Inner-Driven Era: cultural and social life fragments.
  • 4th Turning, Crisis Era: conflict reins supreme and spiritual curiosity declines.

We entered a Crisis Era, the so-called Fourth Turning, around 2005 and it’s estimated to last until 2020 or 2025. These eras frame our worldviews and create generations with unique characteristics.

  1. Boomers, born during 1st Turning/Superpower America are idealists/prophets.
  2. Gen X’s, born during the 2nd Turning/Boom Awakening are reactive/nomads.
  3. Gen Y’s, born during the 3rd Turning/Millennium changeover are civic/heroes.
  4. The next generation, along with the Silent Generation, will experience the current 4th Turning/Crisis era during their youth, imprinting them as adaptive/artists.

In other words, when Boomers took the reins, we became moralistic (see graphic), which works for protests, but is hardly a formula for revolutionary leadership.

On the other hand, Gen Y/Millennials are truly transformative. As these civic/heroes emerge, their interest is power and they are instinctive team players. They become builders and doers.

While Boomers went looking for meaning, Millennials are meaning-makers. They share, publish, curate their own works and connect with the works of others. During emerging adulthood, “Civics develop activity oriented peer relationships, and a strong sense of generational community” (Strauss & Howe). That is exactly what this generation is doing right – collectively creating a way out of Crisis. Don’t worry, we will all play parts especially during the next decade but Gen Ys eventually will run the show.

A Powerful Coupling

Boomers and Gen Xs were stuck with a modern industrial world that needed our attention for another generation. Millennials don’t have those same interests. They have the tools and technology, and most importantly, the zeitgeist and worldviews to think and act in a brave new digital world. They will be heroes that show us a new way to trim our physical uses into a just-right fit. Plus they will enhance the real world with digital realities of unlimited potential.

The question isn’t:”Are college grads ready for the new world?” Or even, “Is the world ready for them?” We have to ask ourselves: Are we ready for the world they bring to us?


The young do not know to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation. Margaret Mead


Admittedly, there’s many ways to slice this pizza, as my brilliant twitter friends prove.

  1. Amy Good (splintergirl) Amy’s Blog
  2. Nick Lovelady @cupboards    Cupboards
  3. Becky Shankle @ecomod EcoModernism
  4. Tamara Dalton DesignStudios
  5. RufusDogg @DogWalkBlog DogWalkBlog
  6. Sean Lintow  SLS Construction
  7. Bonnie Harris @WaxGirl333  Wax Marketing
  8. Richard Holschuh @concretedetail ConcreteDetail

Images: Strauss & Howe chartEarth Shoes; Flip Flops


Architects, Designers, Planners, Are You Change Agents? Lessons from KCMO School District


Perhaps you’ve heard of the Kansas City Missouri School District’s decades of struggles? This spring, the district leadership shocked the nation when they announced the closure of twenty-one schools. Despite dozens of desperate public school districts in America, none ever closed 21 schools at once. The last students walked out this week.

Eight of the closed schools are mine. Around twenty years ago, my architecture firm designed, renovated, or added to eight schools now closing (8 others are still in use). A sad day indeed.

Where Architects Messed Up
In the 1980s under a deseg order, KCMSD adopted a theory of magnet schools to curb the tide of white flight. Create buildings that match the suburbs with unique programs to attract white students. Does that make sense? The district spent one billion dollars in capital improvements.

They didn’t ask architects to think strategically. We were technical experts and designers, not experts at learning environments in the broader sense. Not offering was our fault; not being asked reveals the limits of our siloed profession.

Human-Centered Design Process
We shape buildings and then they shape us, right? It’s Churchill’s famous quote.

When we design, build, and use an environment, we participate in an ongoing interactive process. Imagine a constant state of design; we change the place, it changes us, and so on. So long as we engage with a place, it remains relevant and vital. When we stop, it dies, becomes a relic, an historic artifact.

Buildings are relatively straightforward to construct; difficult but we know exactly what it takes. Communities are not; they’re dependent upon the right mix of people sharing enough commonalities to cohere. Building excellent cities means we know how to develop both synchronically. If we want to be consulted on comprehensive decisions, then we must think beyond technical and design issues. We have to think full spectrum in terms of integrated holistic systems, cultivate our beliefs, and articulate persuasive narratives.

Are You A Change Agent?
To create human-centered solutions, the most important questions you have to ask are not “What to build?” but “Why build?”

1. Who is being served? Who should be?
2. Are you trying to build a legacy or serve an immediate need? Which dominates?
3. How will your work transform the community? The neighborhood? The city?
4. Are you building a completed project or will it grow with the students and community?
5. Are you leading the process or performing a duty as requested?
6. Does this solution figure into larger learning systems? And larger community needs and beliefs?
7. Is the solution student-centered, community-centered, building-centered?
8. How will you define excellence and failure? How long will you wait to claim victory or defeat?
9. How risky is the solution? Does it meet, stretch expectations, or redefine ideas?
10. Are you willing to make mistakes? Does the community allow mistakes?
11. Will you challenge their beliefs and assumptions?
12. Are you prepared to share your beliefs about learning, education, city and community building? Can you articulate excellence?
13. Do you care about the long-term future of the community? And the building?
14. What does the solution say about the students? The community? You?
15. How will the story of the project be told?
16. Who cares about what? Who cares about whom? How does your solution address, extend ideas of, cater to or engage these constituents and their affiliations?
17. How do you imagine the future in five years? In twenty years? Does that match, stretch, or diverge from the community’s?
18. How will your solution change the students’ lives? How will you know?
19. Are you prepared to grow and change with the project? What ideas are you willing to shed? Are any absolute?

Why Build?
Frequently architects move directly into programming using a linear process, missing out on the overall question of “Why Are We Building?”

Have you been asked to imagine ideas before there’s a defined building project? Have you developed knowledge and articulated philosophies beyond technical and design domains? Are you considered a trusted advisor regarding social systems, cultural beliefs, political alliances? Or the larger issues of learning and education? (Fill in the project type.)

Are you engaged in the community and/or project type so that others will seek your advice early? What do you and your team bring to the table?

In short, what questions are you asking?

So Long, Old Friends
Goodbye to: Moore Elementary 1916, Pinkerton Elementary 1931, Woodland Elementary 1923, Franklin Elementary 1961, Longan Elementary 1955, Kansas City Middle School of the Arts 1993, Douglass Early Childhood Center 1952, and Fairview Alternate School 1957. Best wishes in your next life.

Kansas City and its most beleaguered neighborhoods inherit a gaggle of empty buildings. If folks focus on vitality and communities, then these buildings again become relevant.