EDGE OF INNOVATION

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. …


A new book of short reflections takes a novel approach to exploring our relationship with the future, and our responsibility to it.

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Future Rising, by Andrew Maynard. Mango Publishing

From the introduction to Future Rising: A journey form the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow, published by Mango Publishing.

We live in a world in turmoil. As I write, we are grappling with a future-changing global pandemic, refugees are being held in less-than-human conditions as they strive to build a better future, a growing wave of populism and nationalism is sparking another type of global epidemic — this one of mean-spirited inhumanity, and people the world over are being denied the futures they aspire to because of the narrow-mindedness of others. …


How the idea of thinking about the future as an object inspired the book Future Rising, and provided new insights into our relationship with the future and our responsibility to it.

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Imagine the future as a fragile, awe-inspiring soap bubble! Source: Daniel Olah, Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/16XJMQ2bTl4

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

What exactly is the future?

This may sound like an odd question, but it’s surprising how often we barrel ahead trying to build a better future without pausing to think about what it is, and how this affects our relationship with it.

As well as a question that seems particularly relevant to a “College of Global Futures,” where I’m currently associate dean, it’s also one that is at the core of my new book Future Rising: A Journey from the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow.

You can find out more about the book here, including an excerpt from the introduction that gives you a pretty good sense of what it’s about. …


Bringing a Silicon-Valley entrepreneurial approach to brain machine interfaces could transform how we interface with computers — but it also comes with some deep ethical challenges.

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Source: Neuralink

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

What, you might ask, have advanced brain machine interfaces got to do with global futures?

Quite a lot as it turns out!

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a discussion on the the governance and ethics of brain machine interface technologies in a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee on Science, Technology and the Law (my comments are at the end of this article). …


Building a more sustainable and just future needs a sophisticated understanding of society if it’s to avoid the trap of seemingly-simple fixes to complex problems

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Source: A Life On Our Planet, Netflix

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

If you haven’t yet seen David Attenborough’s new Netflix documentary A Life on Our Planet, you should. As a self-described “witness statement” on the state of our world from one of the most widely traveled and respected naturalists of our time, it’s sobering viewing. And its message deeply aligns with our mission in the College of Global Futures.

And yet for all its warnings of a planet in crisis, I found Attenborough’s perspective somewhat limited while watching the documentary, compelling as it is.

Like many Brits of my generation, I have a soft spot for David Attenborough. I grew up in the 1970’s transfixed by his captivating enthusiasm for the natural world, and the unique glimpses he gave us into the hidden lives of the plants and animals around us. One of my more enduring memories of that time is rushing home from church on a Sunday evening where my father was the local pastor, to watch the latest episode of the TV series The World About Us. …

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EDGE OF INNOVATION

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