For the past three years, I’ve taught responsible and ethical innovation through watching science fiction movies in class. This year, COVID has forced us online — can we achieve the same results without the in-person experience?

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This week was the start of what is possibly my favorite class to teach-The Moviegoer’s Guide to the Future in the Arizona State University College of Global Futures! It’s a class that uses science fiction movies to explore the subtleties surrounding socially responsible and ethical innovation. And as you might expect from the title, it’s one that’s firmly focused on the skills and perspectives needed to build a better future.

I first taught the class in 2018, and since then it’s regularly attracted between 80–100 committed undergrads specializing in everything from business to biology. In the class, we aim to transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries by exploring unconventional ways of thinking about the future, and our responsibility to it. …

As we accelerate into a future that’s increasingly precarious, we cannot afford to take time out from developing the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate it

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Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

As I write, over 1.8 million people have died of COVID around the world, with more than 80 million cases reported, infections continuing to rise, and a growing number of people who are intent on endangering their lives and those of others through their disregard of good public health practices, disbelief in the virus’ existence, or disdain for efforts to contain it.

As an Associate Dean in a college that’s committed to helping build a better future, it’s a pretty inauspicious end to what has been an incredibly tough year.

Yet beyond the challenges, the misery, and the pain that we’re all grappling with-and not only from COVID-there’s hope that in 2021 we’ll turn a corner and begin working together toward a future that’s substantially better than the past 12 months have been. …

No matter how compelling our technologies are, they are only as good as the trust people have in the organizations that develop and govern them.

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TIGTech — Seven Drivers of Trust

We’re standing at a pivotal point in our collective response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first vaccine against the virus is beginning to be rolled out, with others hot on its heels, and we can begin to imagine a post-COVID future albeit tentatively.

Yet despite the incredible strides being made, hope is being tempered by hesitancy-and sometimes downright distrust-as a growing number of people question the safety of the vaccine, and even the motives behind it.

It’s easy to dismiss this resistance to the COVID vaccine as irrational thinking, a rejection of science, and an unquestioning acceptance of misinformation and disinformation. Yet it points to a bigger issue of trust: Trust in how science and technology are governed, and more specifically, how organizations earn trust through being trustworthy. …

We’ve never had more ability to build a better future, or a greater capacity to blow it!

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Image by Lumina Obscura from Pixabay

Whichever way you look at it, 2020 is a year that has strained our relationship with the future like never before. And unless we rethink this relationship, we could be heading for a catastrophic breakup that will ultimately serve no-one.

As I write, we’re caught up in a perfect storm of political turmoil, social injustice, and a devastating global pandemic. And it feels like we’re drowning.

These are all symptoms of deeper tensions between our collective ability to influence and change the future, and our capacity to do this effectively. …

What we can learn about addressing planetary-scale problems from the infamous Oregon “exploding whale”

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Exploding Whale Memorial Park (City of Florence). Source: City of Florence

On November 9th 1970, a 45 foot long dead sperm whale washed up on the Oregon coast, and found its way into modern American mythology.

Looking back, it’s easy to see the story of Oregon’s “exploding whale” as an amusing anecdote of naively heroic failure. It was certainly one that found a welcome home in the national psyche, and even inspired an episode of The Simpsons!

Yet beyond the blundering attempts to solve what rapidly became an increasingly pungent challenge fifty years ago, it’s also a cautionary tale about the perils of human hubris as we strive to build a better future. …

A serendipitous journey into humanity’s often-complex relationship with the future

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Image by LoganArt from Pixabay

How do we wrap our collective and individual heads around something so complex as the future, and how we’re connected to it?

If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that there’s no single right way to do this. Science gets us some of the way, as do philosophy, the humanities, and the arts.

But we are so complex and multifaceted as a species, that the only way we can even begin to understand our connections with the future — and what this means for building a better future — is to draw multiple perspectives as we paint a picture that is deeper, and more insightful, than any single way of thinking could achieve. …

It’s tempting to go all existential when talking about the risks of artificial intelligence, but as this playlist from ASU shows, far more nuance is needed if we’re going to get this right!

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Future building, it has to be said, is tough–really tough. Especially when the aim is to create a future that’s better than the past, and not just one that’s different.

The irony is that we live in a time when there is so much incredible potential to build a better future. Our knowledge, our understanding, our imagination and creativity, and our capacity for innovation, all far-surpass those of previous generations.

And yet, we have more ways of destroying, or at least seriously diminishing, what lies in front of us, than ever before.

On the one hand there are the in-your-face planetary threats–the charismatic megafauna of the global threats world–threats like climate change, environmental pollution and loss of biodiversity; all of them having their roots in our myopic profligacy as a species. …

Despite their monumental victory, president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris have their work cut out to ensure the future is as vibrant, just and sustainable as possible

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Photo by Tabrez Syed on Unsplash

As news agencies across the US declared former vice president Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, a tsunami of hope swept across the country. Yet as the incoming administration sets about trying to build a better future, it faces a monumental task.

The past four years have brought us closer than ever to the edge of a future that is in danger of crumbling beneath our feet; not just through the lying, the conspiracy theories and the blatant disregard for evidence, reason and basic human rights, but through a confluence of factors that are threatening to undermine our very ability to create the type of future we aspire to. …

If there’s one thing we cannot escape as we look to the future, it’s risk.

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An entrepreneur uses the risk innovation planner to navigate orphan risks

Risk is inevitable in a universe where past “causes” connect in complex and often unpredictable ways with future “effects,” and every action we take leads to reactions that are detrimental to someone in some way.

And just to make things harder, the sheer complexity, the interconnectedness, and the technological capabilities of today’s society, vastly amplify the uncertainty surrounding present-day actions and future consequences.

As a result, if we’re to thrive in the future, we need to get a better handle on risk and how we think about it. …

Background trivia on Future Rising: A Journey from the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow

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First published on the Arizona State University College of Global Futures Dean’s Blog.

It’s been a long haul — especially with coronavirus — but this week saw the publication of my book Future Rising: A Journey from the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow!

Future Rising is possibly one of the most important things I’ve published, and certainly the most personal — not because it’s intellectually weighty (it’s not), but because it connects ideas in ways that I think are critical to understanding our individual and collective relationships with the future, and the responsibility that comes with these.

As I’ve already talked about the content and motivations behind the book elsewhere (including publishing a number of excerpts from it) I thought it would be interesting to use this space to dig into some of the trivia surrounding the book and its genesis. …



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