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Dear Mr. President...

The good folks at Worldchanging asked me to offer up a hundred words for what the new president of the US should do in the first hundred days in office. I figured that most of the folks they asked would come back with some kind of environmental thing (and I guessed right), so I went a different path. Here's my reply:

Jamais Cascio, Co-Founder, Worldchanging/World-Builder-in-Chief, Open the Future
    Although the present crises demand much of our time and attention, the next president must have a longer-term view of the challenges we'll face this century. The creation of an official Foresight Agency -- pulling in talent and insights from across the spectrum of official government departments -- would both formalize and legitimize the practice of looking ahead at emerging threats, technologies, and opportunities. The UK's Foresight Directorate offers an example of how this might work. We can no longer afford individual departments looking only at their narrow areas of interest; we need a cross-disciplinary view of tomorrow.

Mildly self-serving, perhaps (although I wouldn't expect to get a job with said Foresight Agency), but it's something that I strongly believe. Futurism is a tool for making better decisions about an increasingly complex and uncertain world -- and better decisions are desperately needed right about now.

Other folks weighing in include Bill McKibben, Simran Sethi, Hunter Lovins, and (of course) Bruce.


Well, if they ever create a Foresight Agency, you have my support!
Since I'm a Swedish 20 something student I don't really have any say in it, but at least it's something.
Great blog by the way.

So, I've been elected president.

What are my criteria for selecting futurists for this new bureau? Correct predictions? Sexy predictions? Dire warnings? Warm fuzzies? Whomever makes a good pitch?


Realistically, you wouldn't be selecting the staff for this bureau yourself, you'd delegate that to someone who would delegate it, etc.. You'd be more likely to have a hand in picking the leader, though.

I would advise you to pick someone with multidisciplinary depth (the core function of this group is to provide cross-area awareness), a proven expertise with multiple methodologies (so you're not just tied down to scenario planning, or Delphi, or whatever), excellent ability to communicate the analysis without losing its complexity *and* without losing the audience (being able to properly communicate findings is a huge issue in intelligence work, apparently), and a strong sense of ethics around his or her practice.

That person would probably have similar guidelines for picking the lead team for the agency, although some specialization (in topic and/or methodology) would be useful, too.

Most practically, I'd suggest head-hunting from the best-regarded commercial or non-profit foresight groups. The first wave of employees would almost all come out of the business/ngo world, since the academic practice is extremely limited.

Great one. I hope he reads it.

For a cross-disciplinary look at the pros and cons of over 20 approaches to solving global warming (wind, solar, electric cars, nuclear...), you may want to check out Debatepedia's Global Warming Solutions Debates Series with the UN Foundation:


Jet: grab someone smart, put them in charge of the short list, vet the short list, hire as many as possible, and trust the hires to expand the area to a given size of pros until they fuck up. Just like any other job when you have too much to do.

Step 1 is the most critical. Interestingly, McCain has already shown the capacity to fuck up even step 1. Obama's doing pretty well though.


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