August 25, 2014

Talking About Extinction In Front of Dinosaurs

I'm back from the first Climate Engineering Conference, held in Berlin. Quite a good trip, but in many ways the highlight was the talk I gave at the Berlin Natural History Museum. The gathering took place in the dinosaur room, which holds (among other treasures) the "Berlin Specimen" Archaeopteryx fossil, among the most famous and most important fossils ever discovered.

The acoustics of the place, however, were terrible, so I don't know how well any recordings will turn out. Fortunately, I had to script my talk, so I can offer the full text of what I said:

I’ve been doing foresight work for the past 20 years or so, and put simply, my job is to look at the big picture. To get away from the perspective of quarterly results and short horizon thinking. To break away from conventional points of view by stepping way back. Unsurprisingly, these days much of my work focuses on climate disruption and topics like geoengineering. But here’s the secret: in planetary terms, our actions don’t actually matter that much in the long run. The Earth, as a planet, as a global ecological system, will – over time – be just fine.

After all, it’s dealt with worse than us. Environmental scientists may call the current era the “sixth extinction,” but human civilization is still pretty much a comparative amateur when it comes to wiping out the Earth’s species. Given that there’s a past extinction event called The Great Dying, responsible for killing off possibly 90% of the species on the Earth at the time, arguably we’re nowhere near as dangerous to nature as nature is itself.

But here’s the thing: even after the Great Dying, life came back and, over time, flourished. Every extinction event has eventually become the catalyst for a new surge in life. Given time, evolution works. Environmental niches get filled. Species emerge and change to take full advantage of new planetary conditions. The animals and plants we worry will disappear as the result of human carelessness and ignorance are, in evolutionary terms, only temporary residents of the world – ephemeral, just like we are. The image we have in our heads of what the global environment looks like today is just that – a static snapshot of a dynamic system.

This realization – that the Earth will abide, no matter our mistakes – may seem liberating but is actually quite sobering. Because what this knowledge tells us isn’t that we’re free to do what we will, but that the brutal strength of our fears about what human activity is doing to our world comes from its effect on us. The Earth may be fine, but the fragile webs connecting human civilization to the planet’s ecosystems won’t be.

We don’t need to worry about driving the bees to the edge of extinction because the Earth will somehow be harmed; given time, evolution will fill that niche. We need to worry about the bees because without them our ability to feed ourselves will be eviscerated. Any anxiety we have about the creation of ocean dead zones or the collapse of fisheries is really about what these conditions will do to humanity, to the ability of seven-plus billion people to survive. And the dangers from global temperatures rising by five or more degrees over the course of just a century – an increase so fast in geologic terms it seems as if humanity is somehow the warming equivalent of an asteroid hitting the planet – these dangers will simply make it impossible for human civilization to continue on its current path.

So, does that mean civilization will collapse? Probably not. Humans are reasonably smart. As a species, we’ve survived massive natural environmental disruption before, and with less knowledge and fewer tools than we have today. But that’s not the whole story.

When writer William Gibson said that “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed,” he wasn’t just talking about technology. Imbalances in resources, in power, in luck all mean that a majority of the world’s population already lives on the precarious edge of catastrophe. From my “big picture” futurist point of view, it’s easy to say that we’ll adapt. But for far too many of us, that process of forced adaptation will be tragic, and painful, and deadly.

Saying that the Earth will be fine isn’t an attempt to absolve ourselves of responsibility for the harm that we’ve done to the planet. Rather, it’s a blunt acknowledgement that the concerns we have about the world are ultimately – and, I think, appropriately – selfish. The health of the environment, here in this moment of the Anthropocene, is directly connected to the health of human civilization. We’re not separate from nature, we’re very much a part of it; in every sense that matters the well-being of the Earth is thoroughly, intimately, interwoven with our future. In other words, when we harm the planet today, we are really harming ourselves over the long tomorrow.

August 1, 2014

TEDx in Marin

So, the second announcement can now be revealed: I'm one of the speakers at the 2014 TEDx Marin event on September 18. I'll be talking about the Magna Cortica, and will be speaking alongside my IFTF colleague Miriam Lueck Avery (talking about the microbiome), CEO of the Center for Investigative Reporting Joaquin Alvorado (talking about reinventing journalism), UC Berkeley Professor Ananya Roy (talking about patriarchy and power), and Kenyatta Leal, former San Quentin inmate (talking about how education and entrepreneurship can transform prison).

TEDx events can be a bit of a gamble; there have been enough low-quality, misinformation-driven speakers that I've generally steered clear of all of them. TEDx Marin, however, looks to have a solid history of picking good, smart people to offer interesting and provocative observations -- without veering into controversy for controversy's sake.

Tickets are limited, run about $70, and will only be available through August 5. Come out and say hi!

June 30, 2014

Climate Engineering in Berlin

Okay, first of a few announcements (posting as they become public):

In August, I'll be speaking in Berlin, Germany at the Climate Engineering Conference 2014. A major multi-day event, CEC2014 covers the gamut of climate engineering/geoengineering issues, from science to policy to media. I'm on two panels, and then a special extra event.

I'll actually be in Berlin for the entire week, so if any German/EU readers want to ping me about giving a talk nearby, please do let me know.

There are a couple more items I'll be announcing soon, so stay tuned -- same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

August 22, 2013

Governance in the Anthropocene, a SXSW Proposal

Vote_My_SessionIt's the big question for the century: how do we manage human society across the planet as the planet itself becomes increasingly hostile? Geophysical systems are complex, slow (in human terms), and deeply interconnected -- exactly the combination of conditions that our existing systems of governance can't handle. Simply continuing to operate as if nothing is changing at a point when everything is changing is a recipe for disaster.

Jake Dunagan has proposed a panel for South by Southwest Interactive 2014 to explore this very question, and asked me to be on it. Here's the tricky part: the selection of the panel depends (in part) on community support. In other words, if you think this is a useful or important idea, you need to vote for the panel.

Governance in the Anthropocene

Welcome to the Anthropocene, a geological epoch defined by humans and human activities. Humans are a global geological and evolutionary force, yet our economies, social formations, consumption patterns, and governments operate with intentional blindness to this enormous power and responsibility. The institutions that support human civilization, many of which have caused the global challenges we face today, do not appear capable of adapting successfully to 21st century realities. What is needed is a global movement to re-think and re-design governance for the Anthropocene epoch.

The current lineup is Jake Dunagan, Victor Galaz of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and myself, with more names to come.


June 17, 2013

Reinvent This

On Tuesday, June 18 (tomorrow, if you're reading this the day I post it), I'll be leading a roundtable discussion on "reinventing climate management" over at It will convene via Google Plus Hangouts, and will be accessible via the above link. Here's a taste of the promo text:

Managing the climate in the face of global warming is a wicked problem with almost no precedent. Given the global nature of the problem, no one nation can solve it without getting virtually all other nations involved. Even if Americans stopped driving cars and eating meat en masse tomorrow, it would not make much of a dent if the Chinese kept burning coal at their mad pace. India, Japan, even Canada all play outsized roles.

[...] During this roundtable we will face up to this extremely difficult problem and talk about how to Reinvent Climate Management. What would a system of global governance look like that’s up to the true challenges ahead? What kind of authority would it need? If actors like rogue nations or geoengineering tech titans broke the rules, what could be done? We’ll look at a range of possibilities, including those that don’t involve big government. Is there a bottom-up way forward? One led by corporations?

It's a pretty good set of participants: Dawn Danby, Ramez Naam, David Brin, Alan Robock, Gil Friend, and Oliver Morton, along with me and the ringleader, Peter Leyden.

I honestly have no idea how far we'll get with this discussion. We know that the current model for dealing with global climate issues is broken, but most of the alternatives -- such as solar radiation management geoengineering or militarization of environmental management -- seem more like knee-jerk reactions from desperation rather than a smart, long-term system for stability. My hope is that a roundtable of smart, interesting people will be able to envision something usefully transcendent (or, failing that, at least useful).

January 23, 2013

Today on the WELL Discussion: Pandemics, War... and Hope

Jon Lebkowsky posted this:
We know what we should be doing, but we're derailed by external forces and our own internal drivers and addictions. For decades now I've heard smart people talk about compelling solutions, but there's no market for real salvation. Gravity defeats us.
And I replied:

And yet we persevere, we survive, and sometimes we even thrive.

A few years ago, for one of the Institute for the Future Ten-Year Forecast events, I presented (as a post-dinner talk) a set of three fifty-year forecasts. All were uncomfortable in their own ways -- one emphasized disruptive technologies, one bottom-up actors (both for good and not so much), one transnational large-scale action. The audience could pick any one of them as the "happy" story, any one of them as the "scary" story -- but each offered very serious challenges to the status quo.

I then said this:

There's one more scenario I want to talk about, another fifty-year scenario. It starts, of course, with a global economic downturn, one lasting much longer than anyone expects. We slowly come out of, and see an explosion of new technological development; but in concert with that, more instability. Regional conflicts and military strategies getting accustomed to new technologies lead into an almost accidental war, which escalates to the point of fighting all over the world. Chemical weapons get used. Just as the war ends, we see the rise of a global pandemic. The combination of conflict and disease leads to what some call a "lost generation," millions of people in their 20s and 30s dead.

We finally see an economic boom, though, and for parts of the world, this becomes a glorious time. It doesn't last, of course; an economic collapse even greater than the one a few decades earlier takes hold, driving hyperinflation in some countries, mass unemployment in others. Governments fall, and totalitarian regimes take over, some using ethnic cleansing as a rallying cry. This inevitably leads to another global conflict, even greater than the last, one which ends in a shocking nuclear attack.

I've just described 1895 to 1945.

This is why I am, ultimately, hopeful about our future. We have lived through terrible, almost unimaginably awful times. We have faced brutality from nature and from ourselves. And we always come back. We learn. We build. We live.

I love telling this story to a live audience, describing this scenario -- the shock of recognition is a delight to see.

January 18, 2013

Still Talking About the Future at the WELL

The conversation at the WELL on the state of the future is still going, and will continue through the 28th. Jon Lebkowsky is the host of the discussion, taking on a role similar to the one he has with Bruce Sterling's State of the World discussion: provocateur, ringleader, and catalyst. My turn on stage was Jon's suggestion, for which I am massively grateful. [Worldchanging readers will recognize Jon as one of the very first non-me/Alex writers for the site, and folks who have been online since before the web will recognize Jon from Fringeware, Mondo2000, and pre-web bOING bOING.]

Here's my most recent post to the discussion, along with Jon's prompting question:

inkwell.vue 460: Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
#30 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 17 Jan 2013 (03:07 PM)
Climate and poverty are wicked problems, it seems to me - hard if not impossible to solve. What's the best way to approach those problems, vs the ones that come in smaller, neater boxes?

inkwell.vue 460: Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
#31 of 31: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Fri 18 Jan 2013 (11:05 AM)

What makes climate and poverty wicked problems is that they're complex -- complicated + interconnected with other systems -- *and* that they're attached at the root to fundamental political-economic power structures. That is, altering the status quo of climate & poverty will upset power balances; those with the power who stand to lose it will use every bit of that power to hang onto it.

So what do we know that can successfully attack a complex system with a great deal of defensive power?

Viruses. We have to think like a virus.

[Recognizing that viruses aren't even alive, at least according to some definitions of life, so yes, thinking isn't what they *really* do. But go with it.]

A retro-virus, to be precise. We need to figure out how to get in, adapt, and rewrite the system. A blunt attack would get shut down quickly; we have to be able to simultaneously weaken the system and redirect defensive resources in a way that makes the system think that it's still working. We need to be able to turn the system against itself.

Admittedly, holding high the banner of "we're like a virally-induced auto-immune disorder" isn't going to bring in a lot of money and recruits, but it is a good analogy for the strategy I think is likely to work best.

Think like a virus.

January 15, 2013

State of the Future 2013

One of those daysEvery year, Bruce Sterling does a masterful job of talking about the "state of the world" at The WELL. For two weeks, Chairman Bruce holds center stage, answering questions and pontificating (as only the former Pope/Emperor of the Viridian movement can). It's great fun. This year, however, the folks at The WELL asked me to do the follow-up conversation: a "state of the future" discussion.

Two weeks of fun, argumentation, and a nagging dread of not being as good as Bruce.

Come on over and play!

October 8, 2012

Writing the Future

On December 2, I will be speaking at the 2012 humanity+ conference in San Francisco.

Given my frequent dubious reactions to transhumanism as a broad concept (remember, humanity+ is the reimagined World Transhumanist Association), you might wonder why I'm speaking at this event.

The answer is in the title of this post -- and the theme of this conference. "Writing the Future" is at the core of what I do, of who I am, and I've long believed in the importance of crafting novel, provocative, and useful articulations of what our futures could hold. This conference will allow me to stand up and speak specifically on this topic, to an audience that will be able to appreciate what I have to say. The other speakers will be covering a fairly broad array of interpretations of the idea of "writing the future," and I can say from experience that many of them are very good presenters, and well worth your time to listen to.

I hope that folks in the SF area can check out the conference; it's not free, but the tickets are reasonable for this sort of thing, and the student rate (before Nov 11) is quite good.

August 1, 2012

Pretty Much Sums It Up

Me at the Aspen Environment Forum in June. Once again, it appears that I am devoid of shame.

June 5, 2012

The Future, in San Francisco

Baasics2 poster

On Monday, June 18, I will be speaking at the Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Sessions (BAASICS) multimedia event in the city of San Francisco. It's open to the public, but seating is limited. More info here.

The title of my talk is "Ready or Not...", and here is the description I sent the organizers:

Everybody talks about the end of the world, but is anyone going to do anything about it? Take a tour through the next few decades, checking out the various ways we could end it all. (The one end-of-the-world scenario you don't need to worry about? Zombies.)

As you can probably tell, it will be a sober discussion of the various existential threats facing human civilization, and an exploration of the role of eschatology in the practice of foresight.

May 28, 2012

Astana: Impressions

If you follow my Twitter stream (or my Flickr account), you'll know that I just got home from a week in Kazakhstan, participating in the Fifth Astana Economic Forum, or AEF.

Kazakhstan is a geographically massive but lightly-populated Central Asian country, spinning off 20 years ago from the Soviet Union. Its population is a mix of ethnic Kazakh and ethnic Russian, with both languages spoken almost interchangeably. Economically, it's a big exporter of raw materials, and is apparently sitting on quite a bit of oil and natural gas. Its president Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in charge since 1990 (and if you're playing along at home, you'll note that this is prior to the split with the USSR), showing no signs of wanting to move along from the position.

Astana became Kazakhstan's capitol about a decade ago, shifting rapidly from a sleepy town to a modern city. My first impression upon arrival (one that a couple of other attendees mentioned having) was that of Las Vegas -- lots of bright lights, diverse and showy architecture, all in the middle of desolation. The architectural diversity is worth calling out; if you like unique-looking, retro-futuristic skyscrapers, you'd love Astana.

On the surface, Astana seems like any other global city (smooth roads, reliable power, strong mobile signals, etc.), but just stepping outside the center of the "new city" is a reminder that Kazakhstan is very much a developing nation, one that is heavily dependent upon extractive industries. Small but telling example: in the "ethno-memorial complex" called Atameken (a park in the shape of the country, with miniature dioramas depicting aspects of Kazakh society and history), the very first model you see is that of mining/oil drilling.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the AEF, which bills itself as being a forum for discussion of "solutions to socio-economical, legal and cultural issues of Kazakhstan and the world's economic development," is so heavily dominated by mining and fossil fuel industries. Again, a small but telling example: in the opening plenary, alongside speeches from Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Edrogan of Turkey, and a UN representative, we got to hear from the CEO of ExxonMobil.

Energy companies are hungry to get access to Kazakhstan's resources. I saw this first hand. Much to my surprise, I was asked at nearly the last minute to be the "moderator" for a panel on the future of fossil fuels, a panel that doubled in size in the final week prior to the event. The 90 minutes essentially consisted of high-level executives from places like Conoco-Phillips, SA Total, the World Petroleum Council, and numerous others going on and on about how rich Kazakhstan is going to be. Oh, and how unimportant renewables will be for the next fifty years, at least. (Efforts on my part to push the conversation were undermined by a format of too little time for executives unused to being brief.)

One thing that didn't come up was the big presence of China in the oil industry here -- SINOIL is a major refiner, buying up Kazakh oil then selling it back to them as gasoline. In fact, now that I think of it, China -- a country which borders Kazakhstan, and is said to have a bit of importance in the global economy these days -- was conspicuous by its absence throughout the Forum.

The panel for which I was a speaker, not a moderator, went much better. But even here, in a panel on sustainable development, much of the conversation orbited around the idea of seeing just how much fossil fuel development Kazakhstan could get away with. My talk (you can see the slides I used here), which went from an originally-scheduled 30 minutes down to 10 minutes, tried to talk about the conditions under which sustainable development would be occurring over the next 20-30 years. Had I known how the panel was to go, I would have done something with more detail on the environmental context.

The most notable part of the event was the roundtable discussion on the final night, bringing together political leaders (current and former Prime Ministers and Presidents), a half-dozen Nobel Prize laureates in economics, a couple of executives and a couple of media figures to talk about the world's economic situation. About a quarter of the way in, I started "live tweeting" the event -- I simply couldn't believe what was being said, and I knew that others would have the same kind of aghast reaction.

(Storify user Eric Calkins assembled my posts into a coherent stream, which was then shared around the web. You can see it here.)

Again, a single telling example: in the 90 minutes of the discussion, unemployment was mentioned once (about 45 minutes in), and briefly, while inequality or similar concepts never came up. What received the most attention was the need for even more austerity (and how to handle the annoying groups of citizens who don't like it), alongside casual discussions of tossing Greece out of the EU.

Here's the problem: AEF is a prime example of how the global conversation about development and economics takes place without much regard for anything beyond the interests of the most wealthy and powerful. This is hardly a surprise; what was surprising was the utter lack of subtlety about it. Nobody bats an eye at the obsequiousness of Nobel laureates and global media executives towards the President-for-Life of an up-and-coming petrokleptocracy. Jokes are made about how democracy is ruined by having to rely on voters. The fate of the planet gets decided over bad (and infrequent) coffee and semi-functional translation.

And I was there as a witness.

(You can see the full set of images from my trip on Flickr.)

February 11, 2012

Whoa, BIL

After a few years of cajoling, the organizers of the BIL conference (in particular, one Simone Syed) have finally broken me. I will be speaking at BIL 2012, on Saturday March 3. BIL will take place at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and is open to the public. BIL runs in rough parallel to the (*much* more expensive and *much* more formal) TED conference; the pun at the heart of the conference's name ("BIL and TED" huh huh, huh huh) should give you a good reading of the original organizers' demographics and cultural background. But I digress.

I'll be giving a short talk -- 15-20 minutes seems to be the guideline -- on an as-yet undetermined topic. Here's where you, gentle reader, come in: what should I talk about?

There are some obvious choices, based on stuff I've written about or talked about at length before: geoengineering, human augmentation, ethics and robotics.

There are some choices based on stuff I've been mulling for awhile, topics that could either be a big smash or a big flop: social futures, the process of futurism/foresight thinking, what a successful sustainable future could look like.

Then there are the concepts I've written about or talked about, but are kind of outside my usual ideaspace: teratocracy, "we are as gods (but mostly like Loki)," the Fermi Paradox.

Again, it's only 15-20 minutes, so whatever I talk about will inevitably be more superficial or less detailed than one might wish.

Any suggestions?

December 7, 2011

Swedish Twitter University

On Monday, December 12, I'll be doing a session of Swedish Twitter University.

#STU06 - Jamais Cascio:
“The Foresight Immune System”

If accurate predictions are impossible — and they are — why should we think about the future? In 25 tweets we’ll explore why foresight work remains important and what role it should play in our thinking about the world. Hint: it does for civilization what a vaccination does for our bodies…

The concept is that I will prepare 25 tweets, each an individual thought (so not broken up over multiple entries), on my topic. There's an associated hashtag (in my case, it will be #STU06), and in between posts I'll be answering questions that come up from those following the "class."

It's actually a cool idea, one that takes advantage of the Twitter format in a way that isn't simply trying to reproduce another medium. It pushes the "instructor" to be pithy and concise, and to pare concepts down to their basics.

Previous Swedish Twitter University classes include Rachel Armstrong's "Beyond Sustainability," Natalio Kasnogor's "To Boldly Go: Computer Science's Quest to Make Living Matter Algorithms-Friendly," and Jonas Hannestad's "Nature As Technology: Strategies for Nano-Scale, DNA-Based Communication." Pretty heady stuff.

The class starts at 8pm GMT/12 noon PST (my time). Here's the key info:

How can I attend an event?
You just open in your browser to follow the presentation. Then go to the homepage in another browser window, and perform a Twitter-search for the associated hashtag (for example #STU01). Arrange the browser windows next to each other for maximum overview of the event. Everything will be updated in more or less realtime.

Or you can put the @SvTwuni-flow in one column and the associated hashtag-flow in another one next to it, if you got a Twitter-client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

Do I need a Twitter-account to attend an event?

No, not if you just want to lurk and not engage in any discussions… But that’s NOT recommended!

November 1, 2011

London Calling At the Top of the Dial

I will be in London next week, and have arranged a talk -- open to the public -- on the topic of Geoengineering.

Thursday evening, November 10, I'll be speaking at the Hub Westminster, as part of the TruthAndBeauty series. I'll be giving a talk on geoengineering aimed at a general audience, talking mostly about the political and social complexities of the issue. Both geoengineering advocates and geoengineering opponents will find material to chew on (and probably get pissed about) here.

I'm using my standard geoengineering talk title: "Hacking the Earth (Without Voiding the Warranty)"

Talk begins at 8pm, dinner at 6:45.

Hub Westminster
80 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4TE (map link)

May 5, 2010


Name in Splat

April 15, 2010

Yes, I'm Alive

This month has proven to be hellaciously swamped, but that's no excuse for disappearing like that.

I'm still on the hellaciously swamped clock until the end of April, however. One of the things on my checklist is a very short trip to NYC to speak at the Social Business Edge conference. My topic:

    Soylent Twitter: Why the Future is Made of People

Now to figure out what that means...

If you can't make it to NYC, you can still follow the livestream of the Social Business Edge conference here. It's a good set of speakers, and I'm really looking forward to hearing what everyone else has to say.

I've also been asked to speak at the Activate Summit 2010, in London. It's put on by The Guardian, and looks to be an effort to put together a UK-based TED-type event. It's definitely a TED-class set of speakers on the roster this time around, so it should be quite fun.

It turns out that I was in NYC a bit over a week ago, filming an interview for "Sci-Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible," a show on the Science Channel in the US, and ITV in the UK. My bits won't run until the Summer. It seems to be broadly similar to the "That's Impossible" show I popped up in last year, only this one is hosted by an honest-to-goodness scientist: Michio Kaku.

With Michio Kaku

While Dr. Kaku didn't conduct the interview, he was there for it, and he and I had an informal lunch afterwards. Let me say, talking about the Fermi Paradox, the origins of the universe, and boiling spacetime(!) with one of the leading thinkers in string theory was pretty damn cool.

March 10, 2010

Cool Project #3: Social Business Edge

yUgeP.Screen shot 2010-03-09 at 07-41-15.pngOn Monday, April 19 (yeah, just two days after the UCSC thing), I'll be speaking at Social Business Edge in New York City, a new (and hopefully recurring) event looking at the intersection of business innovation and social media.

Certainly what is going on today is more than just social media marketing, limited to marketing and community outreach efforts. Some of the leading thinkers in this area believe that we are at the start of something much larger than a retake on marketing. We are seeing a rethinking of work, collaboration, and the role of management in a changing world, where the principles and tools of the web are transforming society, media, and business. The mainstays of business theory — like innovation, competitive advantage, marketing, production, and strategic planning — need to be reconsidered and rebalanced in the context of a changing world. The rise of the real-time, social web has become one of the critical factors in this new century, along with a radically changed global economic climate, an accelerating need for sustainable business practices, and a political context demanding increased openness in business.

Assembled (and hosted) by my friend Stowe Boyd, Social Business Edge includes a pretty good variety of speakers. Stowe has decided to do this in something of a "talk show" format, so use of powerpoints will be limited, and the presentations will be more conversational than formal.

The event isn't free, but it is pretty reasonably priced for something like this. If you're in the area, and are interested in the future of social media, I think you'll find this quite valuable. Hope to see you there!

Cool Project #2: UC Santa Cruz "Intellectual Forum"

As you might know (especially if you've read my bio), I went to college at the University of California at Santa Cruz, receiving a double-BA in History (with a focus on 20th century revolutionary movements) and Anthropology (with a focus on human evolution). UCSC was a terrific place to get an education, due to (at the time) its use of narrative evaluations rather than letter grades, the deep commitment on the part of the faculty to undergraduate education, and its general spirit of enlightened experimentation. Although UC Santa Cruz has changed over the 22 years since I left, I still have real affection for the place.

So when UCSC contacted me about speaking at an upcoming event, I jumped at the opportunity to give something back.

On Saturday, April 17, I'll be one of the three featured speakers at what they're calling the "Intellectual Forum," part of the 2010 Reunion Weekend "Day by the Bay."

What does the future look like?

Three UCSC alumni explore the next generation of communities, work and health care, offering fascinating insights into the way we’ll live our lives:

Jamais Cascio (Cowell, anthropology and history ’88)
Writer, leader, and visionary, Jamais will share scenarios of the future that cross the boundaries of technology, the environment, and society. Research Fellow, Institute For The Future. Named by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 global thinkers and a "moral guide to the future."

Shannon Brownlee (College Eight, biology ’79)
Nationally known writer and essayist whose book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer was named the best economics book of 2007 by the New York Times.

David Bank (Oakes, politics ’82)
Vice President, Civic Ventures. A veteran journalist, Bank was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal for nine years, covering Silicon Valley and the software industry. His book, Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft (Free Press) was named one of the "Best Business Books of 2001" by the Harvard Business Review

The event is free, although you'll need to register. And don't blame me for what they're calling it.

Cool Project #1: LAUNCH

Launch Logo.jpegI'm honored to have been asked to serve on the advisory council for LAUNCH, a group looking to support innovative ideas for sustainability. Sponsored by NASA, the US Department of State, US Aid for International Development, and Nike(!), LAUNCH is intended to give good ideas the assistance -- financial and otherwise -- necessary to move from concept to plan to implementation.

LAUNCH will identify 10 innovative, often disruptive world-class ideas, technologies or programs that show great promise in making tangible and impactful progress for society in each of the key challenge areas. These innovators will be invited to be part of the LAUNCH Sustainability Forum which is a high-level impact event where they present their innovative ideas to LAUNCH and engage in a collaborative discussion.

The event however, is just the starting point, post-event the Innovators will become part of the LAUNCH Accelerator, an on-going effort which utilizes the collective power of the networks, resources and expertise of the LAUNCH organization to create and execute an action plan accelerating them from where they are to where they need to be to successful have a positive impact on global sustainability.

The first meeting will be about water-related innovations; you can see the list of ideas we'll be talking through here.

My fellow LAUNCH Council members are all brilliant and insightful, and I'm gobsmacked to be a part of this group.

February 8, 2010

"Inflection Points" Presentation

For those folks who are interested, here's the Slideshare version of the presentation I gave last week at the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute annual meeting. I was asked to talk about foresight thinking, as the event theme was "The Big One of 2056: What Went Right?" a look at a fictional 7.8 quake in the SF region that was handled as well as they could imagine possible.

My goal was to offer a bit of reassurance to the audience that there is some real utility to thinking about the future, and to spell out (in a cursory way) the kinds of big picture issues they should keep in mind while looking ahead forty-six years.

By and large, it was a successful talk. The post-talk questions were engaged, with little push-back, and I'm told that the overall response from the audience was quite positive.

The talk was video recorded, and I'm told will eventually be available to the public. I'll link when that happens.

January 13, 2010

Speaker Circuit

My 2010 calendar is filling up already!

  • February 4: The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's 2010 Annual Meeting (PDF). Morning keynote. San Francisco.
  • Also February 4: State of Green Business Forum -- "Hacking the Earth Without Voiding its Warranty." San Francisco (just down the street from the previous conference, fortunately).
  • February 13: Information Technology Senior Management Forum 2010 Symposium on Green IT. San Jose.
  • Mid-March: NASA-sponsored project on sustainability, coinciding with shuttle launch. Cape Canaveral, Florida. (No public link yet.)
  • April 19: Social Business Edge, Show 1. New York City.
  • April 26-27: Institute for the Future Ten-Year Forecast. San Francisco.
  • May 5-7: Lift10. Geneva.


  • December 17, 2009

    Lift '010

    Just as a heads-up to anyone planning on being in Geneva (or in a nearby European location) in early May: I'll be speaking at the 2010 Lift conference. The theme is "What can the Future do for you?"

    Generations and technologies

    How to go beyond the usual clichés on generations, with Seniors unable to benefit from technology and Millenials ruining their future careers on social networks?

    The redefinition of Privacy

    What is privacy in the 21st Century? Is personal security threatened by the massive collection of personal data?


    Since 2006 Web 2.0 has celebrated the so-called "amateur revolution". What did we learn in the past 5 years? Are we reaching the limits of Web 2.0?


    Beyond the much talked-about political campaigns on Facebook, how to turn users into engaged citizens in public action?

    The old new media

    Newspapers are struggling, TV is not sure of what the future holds. What is at stake nowadays when informing, reaching and involving people?

    It's shaping up to be a good group of speakers, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Do let me know if you're going to attend!

    December 1, 2009

    Be Biopolitical At Home

    IEET has announced that Friday's Biopolitics of Popular Culture Seminar (referenced here and here) will be live-streamed for those folks unable to attend in person.

    Those unable to attend the event in person will be able to follow along in real-time.

    In order to make all of the valuable information being presented at this week’s “Biopolitics of Popular Culture” seminar available to as many people as possible, the IEET has arranged to have the entire event live-streamed online.

    It will be shown at this page on the IEET site, and can also be viewed on TechZulu.

    Times are from 8:30am to 5:30pm PST (11:30am to 8:30pm EST) on Friday, December 4, 2009.


    November 11, 2009

    Biopolitics of Pop Culture -- Updated

    sw55.gifLots of new speakers joining the Biopolitics of Popular Culture event on December 4. Here's the latest info:

    Biopolitics of Popular Culture Seminar
    Friday, December 4, 2009
    EON Reality, Irvine, CA, USA

    This is your chance to learn firsthand from artists, writers, filmmakers, and culture critics whose work plays an important part in shaping our modern society.

    Come and explore with us the biopolitics that are implicit in depictions of emerging technology in literature, film and television. Take notes, ask questions, watch video clips, and have your say in the discussion.

    Speakers include:

  • David Brin
  • Jamais Cascio
  • Brian Cross
  • RJ Eskow
  • James Hughes
  • Richard Kadrey
  • Michael LaTorra
  • Alex Lightman
  • PJ Manney
  • Michael Massuci
  • Edward Miller
  • Jess Nevins
  • Annalee Newitz
  • Jeannie Novak
  • Matthew Patrick
  • Kristi Scott
  • Mike Treder
  • Natasha Vita-More

    Be sure to register BEFORE November 15th and save 33% -- just $99, which includes continental breakfast and lunch. After November 15 or at the door it's $150. Get all the information at this page and mark the date on your calendar now.

  • I'm happy about this mix of people for a few reasons. The first is that it's not just the same "usual suspects" -- there are folks from a fairly wide array of fields with something to say on the subject. The second is that, atypical for a futures-focused event, the proportion of women on the speaker list is fairly high -- just under a third.

    The agenda for the event should be posted soon. I've seen a draft, and it looks like it's truly going to rock. Hope to see you there!

    (Image from Diesel Sweeties, by Richard Stevens, which you had better be reading daily.)

    October 21, 2009

    Biopolitics of Pop Culture

    pinocchio.pngJoin me and a pretty nifty selection of speakers on December 4 at the Biopolitics of Popular Culture event in HOLLYW--er, IRVINE, California.

    Popular culture is full of tropes and cliches that shape our debates about emerging technologies. Our most transcendent expectations for technology come from pop culture, and the most common objections to emerging technologies come from science fiction and horror, from Frankenstein and Brave New World to Gattaca and the Terminator.

    Why is it that almost every person in fiction who wants to live a longer than normal life is evil or pays some terrible price? What does it say about attitudes towards posthuman possibilities when mutants in Heroes or the X-Men, or cyborgs in Battlestar Galactica or Iron Man, or vampires in True Blood or Twilight are depicted as capable of responsible citizenship?

    Is Hollywood reflecting a transhuman turn in popular culture, helping us imagine a day when magical and muggle can live together in a peaceful Star Trek federation? Will the merging of pop culture, social networking and virtual reality into a heightened augmented reality encourage us all to make our lives a form of participative fiction?

    During this day long seminar we will engage with culture critics, artists, writers, and filmmakers to explore the biopolitics that are implicit in depictions of emerging technology in literature, film and television.

    On the roster are Annalee Newitz (the first time we'll be speaking on the same program!) and my friend and comic book/superhero fiction historian Jess Nevins, along with:

    Natasha Vita-More
    Kristi Scott
    J. Hughes
    Mike Treder
    Michael LaTorra
    RJ Eskow
    PJ Manney
    Matthew Patrick
    Alex Lightman
    Edward Miller

    (Still not gender parity, but a speaker list that's one-third women is a significant improvement over nearly other future-focused event I've been to. Good work!)

    September 23, 2009

    If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Singularity

    All of the details have been worked out, so now I can talk about it: I will be speaking in New York City on October 3, at the New York Futures Salon. The subject?

    Singularity Salon:
    Putting the Human Back in the Post-Human Condition

    aka If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Singularity

    I'm very happy to announce that acclaimed futurist Jamais Cascio will be coming to lead our discussion of the Singularity, and what we should be doing about it. He's going to kick us off with a provocative call-to-arms:

    With their unwavering focus on computing power and digital technology, leading Singularity proponents increasingly define the future in language devoid of politics and culture—thereby missing two of the factors most likely to shape the direction of any technology-driven intelligence explosion. Even if the final result is a "post-human" era, leaving out human elements when describing what leads up to a Singularity isn't just mistaken, it's potentially quite dangerous. It's time to set aside algorithms and avatars, and talk about the truly important issues surrounding the possibility of a Singularity: political power, social responsibility, and the role of human agency.

    This should provide more than enough fodder for a lively discussion. I'm looking forward to a very special evening.

    This is, in essence, counter-programming for the Singularity Summit, happening that same weekend (I'm not attending the Summit, fwiw). The 7pm start time for my event gives Summit attendees a chance to come on over after the last Saturday talk.

    This is the first time I've give a talk on futures in New York, and it's open to the public (via registration for the Future Salon group). Hope to see you there.

    June 23, 2009


    Resource Collapse

    Presentation #1 done. They scheduled me for 7:30 in the morning, so the crowd was lighter than I expected. Fortunately, my body was still on California time, so 7:30 in the morning felt like early afternoon for me!

    A few meetings today, then a repeat of the talk tomorrow afternoon.

    There's an audio recording of the talk out there, but the quality is pretty bad -- wildly variable volume and bursts of static. Hopefully, there will be a cleaned-up version.

    Here's my slide deck at Slideshare. Many of the slides will be familiar -- as you know, I'm a great believer in recycling.

    (UPDATE: Okay, here's the audio. They cleaned it up -- although it still starts with a loud static blast, sorry -- but there's occasional dropout. If you listen to it with the slideshare file open, though, you should be able to follow along and pick up what the mic didn't.)

    Sydney Harbor Night

    June 21, 2009

    Worry. Be Happy.

    On Wednesday morning, I'll be presenting at AMPLIFY 09 in Sydney, Australia. The topic of my talk? "What if we really COULD change the future for the better?"

    It's at once a bit unsettling and a bit of a relief to be speaking about this subject again. I've spent so much time, of late, writing about and talking about Big Hairy Crises and Our Failure to Confront Them (tm), that I almost forgot what I should be doing. In a way, it's good that the Atlantic article was delayed so long; it ended up being a nice reminder that not all of my work has to be so dire.

    Pictures, etc., to follow as usual.

    June 2, 2009

    Mo' MoMo Pics

    Mobile Monday Amsterdam #11 may be the most -- and best -- visually-documented event I've ever done. Both official photos and casual audience pictures captured a good percentage of my talk, as well as some of my pre- and post- activity (or, in some cases, lack of activity).

    Here are some of my favorites on Flickr (beyond the several I posted/linked to yesterday):

    (Update: moved to the extended entry)

    Continue reading "Mo' MoMo Pics" »

    Mobile Monday

    The presentation went well. There should be a couple of videos available shortly -- the official one, and one recorded by Howard Rheingold.

    Here are the slides for my talk. This is the raw Slideshare version, with a few minor flaws; I'll have to tweak the Keynote document to make a smoother conversion.

    A few other shots of my talk:

    (Update: moved to the extended entry)

    Continue reading "Mobile Monday" »

    May 16, 2009

    Hacking the Earth Slides

    Here are the slides I used for the Futuresonic 2009 keynote. I made the slides somewhat provocative in tone, but tempered the argument in my spoken presentation.

    Feedback always welcome.

    May 14, 2009

    Heckling the Earth

    So my keynote at Futuresonic 2009 went reasonably well, with two big caveats: my voice is still weak from the cold I've been fighting, so my infamously Vader-esque presentation baritone wasn't on display; and I had a heckler.

    A drunken, global warming-denying, belligerent heckler.

    Here's an audio clip that gives a little flavor of the evening:


    I look forward to seeing what the video recording of the event shows...

    March 19, 2009

    Cascio's Laws of Robotics

    roboticlaws.pngThat's the title of the talk I'm giving this Sunday (March 22) at the "Bay Area Artificial Intelligence Meetup Group" meeting-up that's meeting in Menlo Park (the one that's next to Palo Alto). The subtitle is "Building Intelligence in an Uncertain World."

    Most of the conversations we have about the potential for powerful machine intelligence focus on the technological aspects. Jamais Cascio, senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, wants us to think about the social aspects, too. What kinds of legal, ethical, and cultural drivers will shape how we develop intelligent systems? How can we make AI a tool for resilience in a rapidly-changing economic, political, and ecological environment?

    The meeting appears to be free, and (as of Thursday night) there are still seats available. Come by and say hi, call me names, or ask impertinent questions!

    And what are those laws? I'll let you know once I come up with them.

    February 19, 2009

    Art Center Summit Talk

    January 6, 2009

    Upcoming Stuff

    My 2009 is already filling up!

    Here's what the calendar holds so far:

    Yeah, that May-June period's gonna be rough.

    I also have something fun tentatively scheduled for July, but I can't talk about it yet.

    November 14, 2008

    Global Catastrophic Risks


    November 12, 2008

    Mark Your Calendars

    As I've noted, this weekend I'll be speaking at two different events in the SF Bay Area. I finally have the times for my talks, for those of you wishing to make sure you don't stumble across me by accident.

    For Global Catastrophic Risks on Friday in Mountain View, I've been convinced somehow to give two presentations, the first at 10am, and the second as a closing set of observations at 4:45pm. I think Hughes got me to agree to this while I was still under the influence of jet lag. I call shenanigans.

    For the Green Festival San Francisco, I'll be speaking at the "Mezzanine" location at 4pm on Sunday. I'll be talking Green Futures, but I'll be up against Greg Palast and the "Shamanic Cheerleaders," so I suspect the audience will be most generously described as "intimate."

    Tickets still available for both.

    October 27, 2008

    Global Catastrophic Risks - Now With More Doom!

    The program for the Global Catastrophic Risks event, November 14 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, has been doubled: Now you have 13 people (now only almost all middle-aged white guys) eager to describe in great detail just how royally screwed we are, as a civilization -- and, just maybe, what we can do about it.

    Here's the speaker list, as of late October:

    • Anders Sandberg PhD, Oxford University
      “Global Catastrophic Risks: An Overview, and Caution about Risk Assessments”
    • Eliezer Yudkowsky, Research Associate. Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
      “Cognitive Biases in the Assessment of Risk”
    • Feng Hsu PhD, Head, Integrated Risk Management, NASA
      “Critical Issues of Global Catastrophic Risks - a Worst Case Scenario Assessment”
    • William Potter PhD, Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
      “Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Proliferation”
    • Martin Hellman PhD, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
      “Risk Analysis of Nuclear Deterrence”
    • Bruce Damer, CEO of The Digital Space Commons, director of Contact Consortium
      “The Risks of Asteroid Impacts”
    • Mike Treder, Executive Director, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
      “Nanotechnology’s Global Risk and Promises of Resilience”
    • Kattesh V. Katti PhD, Director, Cancer Nanotechnology Platform, Professor of Radiology, University of Missouri
      “Green Nanotechnology: An Economic And Scientific Initiative For the Future Of Human Civilization”
    • Alan Goldstein PhD, CEO of Industrial Nanobiotechnology
      “The A-Prize: Tracking The Global Race To Break The Carbon Barrier”
    • J. Storrs Hall PhD, author Beyond AI
      “The Weather Machine: Nano-enabled Climate Control for the Earth”
    • George Dvorsky, Director, IEET
      “Risks Posed by Political Extremism”
    • Jamais Cascio, IEET Fellow, and research affiliate, Institute for the Future
      “Building Civilizational Resilience” (hey, that's me!)
    • James J. Hughes PhD, Exec. Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
      “Strengthening Transnational Governance to Mitigate Risks”

    $100 if you buy your ticket now, $150 after November 1.

    What's missing? I'm surprised that there isn't something explicitly bio-related on the list, either pandemic disease or engineered bioweaponry. I'd also like to see something about cross-issue reinforcement (i.e., how sub-catastrophic problems can mutually boost each others' awfulness), but that might come up in discussion.

    Nothing about robots stealing our medicine, either. Maybe next time -- if there IS a next time!

    October 14, 2008

    Superstruct Meetup

    Jane McG passes along...

      What will the year 2019 be like? And who will YOU be in the future?

      You’re invited to a SUPERSTRUCT PARTY & MEET-UP!

      Learn all about and try out Superstruct for yourself. It’s the world's first massively-multiplayer forecasting game!

      Monday October 20, 2008 (2019)
      4:30 PM – 6:00 PM at the Institute for the Future office

      This meet-up will be filmed for the Sundance Channel, which is doing a show about the game Superstruct

      Address: 124 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA (across the street from the downtown Palo Alto Cal Train station) [Map:]

      FOR NEW PLAYERS: Learn how the game works, register, and complete your first mission.

      FOR EXPERIENCED PLAYERS: Meet other SEHIs, talk to the game director and scenario director about what should happen next in 2019, earn your next badge, and complete an advanced game mission.

      FOR ADVENTURERS: The meetup is followed by an optional “downtown mission”. Are you ready to take Superstruct to the real world?

      Please RSVP by Friday October 17 to

      Due to the Ravenous Superthreat and the globally disrupted food supply chains, this party is BYOS – bring your own snack to share with others with others. (We’ll provide drinks, including bootleg champagne!)

    March 24, 2008

    Future Salon (This Time, For Sure!)

    Okay, so having the Cold of Doom last month prevented my appearance at the February Bay Area Future Salon, but I'm feeling reasonably healthy now, and Mark Finnern has graciously allowed me to step in for the March Salon on Thursday, March 27th.

    So, one more try:

    Jamais will be talking about Green Tomorrows at our Future Salon on Thursday the 28th of February. [...] A Future Salon has the following structure: 6-7 networking with light refreshments proudly sponsored by SAP. From 7-9+ pm presentation and discussion. SAP Labs North America, Building D, Room Southern Cross or Cafeteria depending on how many people sign up. SAP is located at 3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304 map As always free and open to the public, spread the news. Please RSVP:

    If you're in town, come on by.

    March 11, 2008

    SXSW Interactive Panels

    chorus.pngHad both of my South-by-Southwest Interactive panels today, "Visualizing Sustainability" and "Futurists' Sandbox: Scenarios for Social Media, 2025."

    The sustainability panel offered a traditional panel format, and went reasonably well. One of the attendees, Michael Gomez of Green Interfaces, recorded the session with his laptop, and the recording is of surprisingly good quality. Listen to it here (29MB MP3).

    The futurists' panel was... weird.

    No, scratch that. It was freaking bizarre.

    When the recordings and such become available, you'll be able to see for yourself, but just check out the comments on Twitter from people talking about the session: as many people loving it as hating it.

    As I ended up pre-recording my part of the event, you can download it and give it a listen (6.4MB MP3). Remember, it was arguably the least weird of the bunch.

    March 7, 2008

    Waking Up in Austin

    My travel from Wisconsin to Texas went with fewer than expected hitches, and I'm now camped out at Jon Lebkowsky's flat in Austin, here for South by Southwest Interactive. I head back home on Wednesday, and thankfully have few travel plans for awhile thereafter.


    For those of you attending SXSWi wanting to say hi, you can be certain to find me at my two panels:

    Visualizing Sustainability, Tuesday March 11, 11:30-12:30, Room 9

    How can we visualize the city of the future and create more interactive steps that lead to sustainability? How can we use technical simulations and games to build understanding of the resource-balanced world? What's the connection between an emerging Global Sustainable Society and video games?

    Panelists: Jon Lebkowsky, Dawn Danby, Pliny Fisk, Joel Greenberg, me

    Futurists' Sandbox: Scenarios for Social Technologies in 2025, Tuesday March 11, 5-6, Room B

    What futures emerge when everything is hyperlocal and the boundaries between what is real and virtual disappear? Will our current social media tools lead us to a participatory panopticon? Take a futurists' tour of emerging social technologies and tap into the collective genius of fellow SXSWers. In this session we'll present four possible scenarios about social technologies in the year 2025 and ask the audience to join us - and each other - in an interactive deep dive to explore the implications of each for the present and the future. Get out of your seat and into the future!

    Panelists: Michele Bowman, Jake Dunagan, Stuart Candy, Wayne Pethrick, me

    You'll notice two things -- that both of my panels are on the last day, and that my "Core Conversation" on the Participatory Panopticon is nowhere to be found. It turns out that being on two panels bends the rules, so being on three (even if the third was just a poster session) just isn't going to happen. Being that it was easier to replace a poster session than a panelist, bye-bye to the PartiPan.

    I'll be posting photos from the trip to my Flickr feed, and updates to my Twitter feed -- and will work in some more considered posts here.

    Oh, and I'm doing much better today. Still have a cough of doom, but it sounds worse than it feels.

    February 26, 2008

    Scivestor Conference

    SVDTC Logo.jpgUPDATE: Sadly, this event has been canceled.

    Here's an interesting data point about the changing perception of "the future:" a transformative technologies conference aimed not at fellow trans-techies, but at investors.

    Scivestor's Disruptive Technologies Conference - NYC 2008, happening on May 22nd, will host a variety of speakers (including me and the Director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, Mike Treder) talking about the potential for large-scale economic and social disruption happening due to medium-term technological change.

    I have to admit, this is an odd environment for me, as I'm more accustomed to speaking to people looking at managing impacts, not to people looking at profiting from them. But since the investment community is arguably a key catalyst for technological change, it's important to speak to them, to help them make wiser choices. For people out there concerned by this, don't worry: I won't change my message. My goal remains supporting the ethical, inclusive, open development of transformative technologies, and that's what I'll be talking about to this -- hopefully, receptive -- audience.

    Here's the event info:

    From the event brochure: "By some estimates the very nature of mankind will change radically in the coming years transformed by the accelerating pace of technology change. These empowering technologies – Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology, Robotics, Virtual Reality, and Human Enhancement – will soon become major disruptors to today's profitable business models.

    The SciVestor Disruptive Technologies Conference represents the single most relevant gathering of thought leaders, businesses and investors focused on monetizing this opportunity. The intensive day-long event will offer tangible insight for both the investment and business communities."

    Jamais Cascio will be present and will join other technology and business futurists like Adam Bly, Dr. Eric Braverman, Mike Treder and Jonas Lamis.

    You can download the event brochure here (pdf).

    Registration information is available here:

    Who Should Attend: Investment Managers, Business Executives and Strategists, Technology Futurists, Venture Capitalists and Individual Investors who are focused on staying ahead of the coming waves of transformative technologies. Seating is limited to 125 attendees.

    When: Thursday, May 22, 2008
    Where: New York Information Technology Center - Wall Street
    55 Broad Street
    New York City
    Cost: $495 per person until March 15th, 2008. Then $595 per person.

    Do let me know if you plan to attend.

    February 13, 2008

    Bay Area Future Salon Details

    Mark Finnern has now posted the details about my talk at the Bay Area Future Salon on Thursday, February 28:

    ...I am super happy that Jamais will be talking about Green Tomorrows at our Future Salon on Thursday the 28th of February. Abstract of his talk:

    With global warming and ongoing climate disruption posing a leading threat to how the next century unfolds, it's useful to look at the implications of how we might choose to respond. Adopting a "scenario planning" approach, Jamais Cascio looks at four different possible ways we could tackle climate risks -- and the kinds of worlds that these choices might create. From geoengineering to distributed power, hyper-efficient buildings to reimagined cities, the various possible strategies we might employ offer a diversity of complex risks and transformative benefits. [...]

    A Future Salon has the following structure: 6-7 networking with light refreshments proudly sponsored by SAP. From 7-9+ pm presentation and discussion. SAP Labs North America, Building D, Room Southern Cross or Cafeteria depending on how many people sign up. SAP is located at 3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304 map As always free and open to the public, spread the news. Please RSVP:

    To sum up: Thursday February 28, 7-9pm, Palo Alto, free. Come by and say hi!

    February 4, 2008

    Upcoming Events

    The insanely busy month begins...

    Tuesday, February 5 (i.e., tomorrow):
    UC Berkeley's School of Information, Information and Service Design lecture series
    "Futurism and its Discontents"
    ISD Lecture
    Speaker(s): Jamais Cascio
    Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 5:00pm-6:00pm
    202 South Hall


    In a rapidly-changing, uncertain environment, the ability to think constructively about various future possibilities is more important than ever. "Foresight Specialists", "Scenario Planners", "Trend Spotters" and good old "Futurists" provide a specialized service that few businesses, non-profits, and governments have organically -- and fewer still recognize that they need. I'll talk about why today's futurism has more to do with imagining the possible than thinking the unthinkable, why futurist ethics matters more than futurist economics, and whether futurism might just be the best job out there for the easily-distracted generalist.

    Saturday, February 9:
    Writers with Drinks
    San Francisco's longest running monthly reading series jumbles genres again, featuring:

  • Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of I'm Looking Through You and She's Not There
  • Lolly Winston, author of Happiness Sold Separately and Good Grief
  • Jim Shepard, National Book Award finalist for Like You'd Understand, Anyway
  • Jaime Cortez, writer/artist of Sexile
  • Tung-Hui Hu, poet and author of Mine and The Book Of Motion
  • Jamais Cascio, who blogs at

    Where: The Make Out Room, 3225 22nd. St. btw. Mission & Valencia
    When: Saturday, Feb. 9, from 7:30 to 9:30, get there early if you want a seat! [I'm told that I will be going on first, so definitely don't be late!]
    How much: $3 to $5, all proceeds benefit CSC and the campaign to save rent control

    Writers with Drinks is organized and moderated by Charlie Anders, the editor-in-chief at io9.

    Monday, February 11:
    Alliance to Save Energy's Green Campus Energy Efficiency Summit 2008
    The Alliance to Save Energy's 2008 Green Campus Energy Efficiency Summit is being held in San Diego, CA on February 10th and 11th. The Summit will begin with a reception on Sunday evening, February 10th, at 6:00 PM at the Town and Country Hotel, followed by a full day of speakers, presentations, and planning sessions on Monday, February 11th, from 8:15 AM through 4:30 PM at San Diego State University.

    The Green Campus Program builds effective partnerships between students, staff, administrators, and faculty around the common goal of improving campus energy efficiency.

    Thursday, February 20:
    Horizontal -- Horizon Scanning: Technology and Learning
    Tower Bridge, London

    Thursday, February 28:
    Bay Area Future Salon (details not yet posted)

    ...and that's just February.

  • January 2, 2008

    Bruce Sterling's 2008 State of the World

    chairmanbruce.pngOnce again, Chairman Bruce weighs in on the insanity wrought in the year past and the hopes, fears, and snarky asides in store for us in 2008. It's part of the Well's "Inkwell" site, viewable by the public and open to questions via email (or directly in the discussion if you're a Well member). My old friend and colleague Jon Lebkowsky is handling the moderation duties.

    The State of the World conversation will take place ostensibly over the next two weeks, so come by often to see what's new.

    Here's an excerpt from his initial take on what the new year holds:

    So: I don't expect too much to happen in 2008: except for that intensified smell of burning as people's feet are held to the fire. "Nothing changes if nothing changes." But if nothing changes, then more and more china is going to flat-out shatter and break.

    THEN they'll move. If they see somebody making money at it, they might move pretty fast.

    See you there!

    (URL updated with correct link. Thanks, Stefan!)

    December 31, 2007

    Happy New Year


    Our world is small, fragile, and alone in the dark. All we have is each other.

    Here's to building a future that's resilient, democratic, and open.

    December 19, 2007

    Green Tomorrows Happens Tomorrow

    GT title.jpgLast call for "Green Tomorrows."

    I'm looking forward to the chance to engage an audience with the ongoing evolution of my "sustainability success" scenarios. This web seminar will mix teleconferencing and webconferencing, and will rely on lessons that Gil Friend and Natural Logic have learned by using this system for much of this last year, and that I have learned undertaking a series of remote scenario workshops. I'll be doing a direct presentation for the first half, and a Q&A session for the second half.

    Once again, here's the pertinent info:

    Date: Thursday, December 20, 2007
    Time: 10:00am - 11:00am
    Location: Preregistration required.
    Street: Time shown is PST. 1pm EST, 12pm CST, 11am MST

    Join futurist Jamais Cascio for a stimulating webinar -- you can attend from anywhere -- exploring how the sustainability revolution will transform our politics, our economics, and our lives.

    The process of building a sustainable future follows diverse paths, and the choices we embrace today will shape the future we encounter over the next 20 years. By adopting a scenario planning approach, Cascio will look at what kinds of results we might get, and what kinds of opportunities and surprises those results could have in store.

    Another Carbon Neutral Learning™ opportunity from Natural Logic. Series Host: Gil Friend, CEO

    (NOTE: This event requires preregistration.)

    As you might suspect, this isn't a free show, although the price is reasonable (especially for people coming in as part of an organization -- the price is per line, not per listener, so callers are perfectly welcome to use a speakerphone and bring friends). Gil does these web seminars as part of Natural Logic's business, and I'm curious about how well the model links to my other projects. It's certainly a much greener way of doing a presentation -- no air travel required.

    If you do get a chance to listen in, I'm really eager to get your feedback on both the presentation style and content. This is the working concept for a book -- is it something you'd want to read?

    December 7, 2007

    Green Tomorrows: the Web Seminar

    sunset.jpgOn December 20th, I'll be conducting something of an experiment.

    In coordination with Natural Logic, I'll be leading an hour-long "webinar"* on four different scenarios of how we may respond to global warming, and build a sustainable future. Here's the link, and the relevant info:

    Join futurist Jamais Cascio for a stimulating exploration of how the sustainability revolution will transform our politics, our economics, and our lives.

    The process of building a sustainable future follows diverse paths, and the choices we embrace today will shape the future we encounter over the next 20 years. By adopting a scenario planning approach, Cascio will look at what kinds of results we might get, and what kinds of opportunities and surprises those results could have in store.

    This webinar is part of the ongoing Carbon Neutral Learning™ program from Natural Logic, bring you engaging, practical, up-to-date guidance from leading practitioners. Series host: Gil Friend, Natural Logic CEO.

    Date: Thursday December 20
    Time: 1:00 pm ET (10:00am CT, 11:00am MT, 10:00am PT)
    Length: 60 minutes
    Price: $129

    Oh, that. This is why it's an experiment. Gil Friend and Natural Logic have done webinars* on sustainability topics in the past, and they've worked well both as a way of providing information and as a business opportunity. I'm curious about how well the model would work for me.

    Please pass along the info about this event to people and organizations you think might find this of value.

    (*I really, really hate this term, but it now seems to be the accepted/required jargon. Ugh.)

    November 26, 2007

    Metaverse Meetup, now with More Information!

    The Metaverse Meetup organizer, Henrik Bennetsen, provides greater detail -- along with directions for both real and virtual attendance:
    For our second Metaverse Meetup we are truly pleased to present Jamais Cascio one the authors of the Metaverse Roadmap. Our first meetup [with IFTF's Mike Liebhold] turned out to be very well attended by some very interesting people both at Stanford and in Second Life. We know we have an interesting speaker and topic for this second event and once again will open the floor for some nice and geeky conversation afterwards, so please come join us.

    The man: Jamais Cascio writes about the intersection of emerging technologies and cultural transformation, focusing on the importance of long-term, systemic thinking. His work regularly appears both in print and online, and he has spoken around the world on issues such as the global environment, technological transformation, and political change. In 2003, Cascio co-founded, the Utne Independent Press Award-winning website identifying models, tools, and ideas for building a "bright green" future. In March, 2006, he started as his online home. Cascio presently serves as a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future, as the Director of Impacts Analysis for The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, and as a founding fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

    The talk: The Metaverse -- what does it include, where is it going, and how will it change our lives? Based on my work for the Metaverse Roadmap Overview, I'll look both at the underlying technologies of the Metaverse and at the social, cultural and economic impacts it could have.

    • When: Thursday, November 29th 2007 from 6pm to 7:30pm PST/SLT
    • Where: Wallenberg Hall, Stanford University and at Spaceport Bravo in Second Life courtesy of the excellent ISM

    A few more bullets for good measure:

    • Feel very free to forward this email or blog about this.
    • RSVP is voluntary but appreciated
    • Write me (Henrik Bennetsen - if you have any questions.
    • The next of these events has not been scheduled as of yet, but feel very free to suggest speakers or topics
    • The Stanford Humanities Lab is delighted to welcome MediaX as cosponsor for this event
    If you can't make it to Stanford on Thursday night, but want to check out the talk live, try the Second Life link. For people unable to make either, a video of the talk will be posted fairly quickly afterwards.

    November 17, 2007

    Opportunity Green

    Opportunity Green is underway now over, and I'm glad I got a chance to play a role. The event struck me as a case study of the cultural transition underway in the center of gravity of the green movement, from activism to business. This is not a painless change, but arguably a necessary one. If environmentalism is to have a persistent mainstream presence, it has to make the leap from imperative to normative -- that is, from environmentally beneficial action being something driven by guilt or morality to being something commonplace and assumed. The question, for me, is how to navigate that transition without losing the elements of the activist culture that bring energy, enthusiasm, and -- most importantly -- a long-term perspective to the party.

    The lesson I took from the Opportunity Green event is that activist passion doesn't necessarily translate well into business passion. This is less a result of the transformation from "green movement" to "green markets" than a dilemma inherent in a change in the dominant participats: the most successful voices of the movement are often not as successful as market advocates, and (at the same time) the most effective salespeople are often not as deeply immersed in the underlying science and the complex tapestry of the broader issues. As a result, there's a noticeable tension between these different perspectives.

    As a result of this conference, I'm increasingly convinced that the core dilemma of sustainability today is how to make environmental responsibility mainstream and normative while responding effectively and quickly to an accelerating crisis. To paraphrase the old tech joke, our situation appears to be: "Rapid response, broad adoption, affordability -- choose two."

    [Edited significantly at 10:35 pm PST.]

    November 7, 2007

    Green Talk Tour

    Sorry about the silence this week; I've been prepping for back-to-back green talks this week.

    Tomorrow, I'm giving the keynote for the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference in Sacramento, in front of a large crowd of policy-makers, academics and NGOs. The title of the talk is "Technology, Culture... and Cheeseburgers."

    The upshot of the talk -- which I will be doing unscripted: every choice matters, even (especially) the little ones; we still have a say in what kind of future we create; bottom-up solutions can beat top-down solutions, but only when we make an effort -- and that neither will take the form we might expect.

    New graphics, for the talk:




    Friday, I'll be speaking at the Green Business Conference in San Francisco. I presume that the audience there will be more business-folks and interested civilians. I'm a late substitute for my fellow IFTFer Bob Johansen, and will be talking about the ideas in his book Get There Early, and how they apply to the green business space. Fortunately, GTE talks about the IFTF processes, so it's reasonably familiar territory.

    This weekend, I'll be taking a bit of a break to see Lisa Rein perform all-new songs -- including one written as a result of her attendance at the Singularity Summit -- at her birthday party on Sunday. Happy Birthday, Lisa!

    October 15, 2007

    Blog Action Day

    Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day I suppose I should have held the "Solving the Climate Crisis" post for today. Blog Action Day is a world-wide project to get as many blogs as possible to post today, October 15, about the environment. At last count, over 15,000 sites registered to participate -- and that doesn't include the blogs that post about the environment every day anyway.

    Blog Action Day is an interesting concept: make the environment a topic of conversation by making it essentially unavoidable for people who read blogs. If it's successful -- and in this kind of effort, success is measured not in practical results, but in levels of participation -- I'd expect to see this become a regular type of event, across a variety of issues.

    From a foresight perspective, it's been interesting to watch the evolution of the blog format, and the kinds of roles it has come to dominate. Blogs are attention engines, if you will, serving as filters to promote or diminish a panoply of ideas. If a story, a concept, a meme catches hold, it can spread across thousands upon thousands of weblogs in a matter of a few tens of minutes, and even if the perspectives on the given idea vary dramatically, the important point is that this particular story -- Al Gore winning the Nobel, for example -- is suddenly impossible to avoid. Since blogs function to feed conversations, online and off, there's a good chance that what's buzzing in the blogosphere reflects what's important, for that moment, in connected offline communities. There's obviously a long tail aspect to this; certain ideas may be buzzing in the blogs covering a diversity of subjects, and some may be dominant only within particular sub-categories.

    I find the rise of meta-blog events, like Blog Action Day, to be particularly fascinating. These are attempts to manipulate the attention engine, and in doing so, alter the broader, connected conversation. My suspicion is that the impact of this particular Blog Action Day will be hard to see, lost in the glare of the continued discussion of Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize win -- that is to say, getting people to talk about the environment is not that hard when people are already talking about the environment. That said, a Blog Action Day that tried to raise an unrelated issue -- the monks in Burma, for example -- would almost certainly fail to change the steamrolling conversation already underway. Blog Action Days, and similar memetic engineering efforts, are likely to be most effective when there isn't currently a dominant story being discussed.

    We're still in the early days of figuring out how to use this Web thing for good.

    October 3, 2007

    Visions of the Future conference, Budapest

    Talk #2The point of my trip to Budapest, the Visions of the Future conference brought together representatives from two different Hungarian technology institutions and representatives from the Institute for the Future: research directors Alex SK Pang and Anthony Townsend, along with me. Alex and Anthony discussed some of their current Institute projects, while I -- for the third time in as many weeks -- presented the overview of the 2007 Ten-Year Forecast. I also got a chance to give an updated version of my Participatory Panopticon talk.

    (I know that Alex and some of the conference folks took pictures during the talk; when I have links, I'll add them.)

    For both of my presentations, I went entirely script-less. I don't do this often; I have a writer's appreciation of language precision, and while the way I speak bears a close resemblance to the "voice" of my writing, I know that my scripted presentations end up with a more powerful narrative. Unfortunately, memorization of the scripted pieces is usually not an option, so I end up having to read the presentations. This actually works out reasonably well, but it does reduce my contact with the audience. Because of this -- and because I'm told that I speak more slowly when I'm extemporaneous rather than scripted -- I'm now making more of an effort to go naked (verbally, at least).

    Sunset Over the Danube 2Budapest is an interesting city. Most of the guides make a point of mentioning that people (guide-writers, at least) call it the "Paris of the East." This is actually not an unreasonable description: with a mid-city river, a mix of historic and modern architecture, and a rich cultural tradition, Budapest does have a Parisian aura. Café culture isn't at a Parisian level, but it's certainly more developed than (say) London. (The fact that Starbucks has yet to make it to Hungary may have something to do with that.)

    I'm heading home tomorrow, and amidst the overly-adventurous menus and consultant shmoozery, I think the most memorable moment was a quiet conversation at dinner last night. Speaking with one of the young conference organizers, he told me about the moment 18 years ago when, sitting in a classroom, he listened to a live broadcast of the Hungarian leader's announcement that Hungary had become a republic, and was no longer a de-facto dictatorship. The classroom erupted in cheers, only to fall silent when the teacher asked, simply, "how do you know it will be better?"

    As ten-year-olds, they had no answer, but I do have one:

    They don't -- but they know, better or worse, it will now be their choice.

    September 20, 2007

    She's Geeky

    Mark your calendars: the first "She's Geeky" unconference is now set for October 22-23, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Organized by my colleague Kaliya Hamlin (the so-called "Identity Woman"), She's Geeky will be an opportunity for the growing number of women tech specialists to network and collaborate.

    We have three simple goals with the event.
    • Exchange skills and learning from women from diverse fields of technology.
    • Discuss topics about women and technology.
    • Connect the diverse range of women in technology, computing, entrepreneurship, funding, hardware, open source, nonprofit and any other technical geeky fields.

    What is the value of coming? It should be a great networking opportunity to meet other interesting women who you or your company might do business with. In this format you will get to learn more then you would just having interesting meetings in a hallway like you do at typical conferences that cost a lot more.

    Not being female, I'm not attending, but this is the kind of event I'm happy to give my whole-hearted support, and I'm pleased that Kaliya asked me to blog about it.

    Looking out over the audience (and the speaker list) at the Singularity Summit earlier this month, I was reminded just how narrow the perspectives seem to be in the world of tech-centered futurism. Ideas are not determined by the color of one's skin or the shape of the bits in one's pants, but they are shaped by experience. Diversity -- a cognitive and social polyculture, if you will -- gives us strength.

    September 6, 2007

    Opportunity Green

    On Saturday, November 17, I'll be speaking in Los Angeles at the first annual Opportunity Green conference, looking at the future of "sustainable business." Opportunity Green is being produced in cooperation with UCLA's Sustainable Resource Center.

    I'm the least business-focused of the four "keynote" speakers, but it looks like it will be an interesting mix of personalities (albeit in the form of four middle-aged white guys... sigh).

    Hope to see you there!

    August 31, 2007

    Upcoming Calendar

    It appears that I'm now shifting into the "public presentation" section of my work year. I'm reasonably comfortable giving a talk in front of a crowd, but that comfort will definitely be put to the test by this flurry of speeches. They'll be on diverse topics, which means I won't be able to recycle my presentations, but it also means I'll be reaching a wider variety of audiences.

      September 8: Singularity Summit 2007, in San Francisco, California

      September 13-14: Swiss Re*, in Zurich, Switzerland

      October 3: Government of Hungary*, in Budapest, Hungary

      November 8: Behavior, Energy and Climate Conference, in Sacramento, California

      November 9: Green Business Conference, in San Francisco, California. Note that I'm stepping in as a replacement for IFTF's Bob Johansen, the actual author of Get There Early.

      November 17: [Will be announced on Wednesday]

      December 6-7: Metaverse Summit 2007, in Berlin, Germany

      [* IFTF-related conferences]

    If you'll be attending any of these, please let me know -- and say hi when you see me.

    August 20, 2007

    Begging Your Indulgence

    Home now from the mini-vacation, sad that I actually didn't have time to blog while away but relieved that I actually got a chance to relax for a bit. But I digress.

    If you're at all hooked into the cultural side of the blogosphere, you probably already know that South by Southwest Interactive has just opened up its interactive panel picker for SXSW08. Scan through the 600-odd panel proposals and vote for the ones you'd like to attend, you'd find interesting, or are just being organized by your friends. You have to sign-up for a SXSW voting account -- it's free, and they claim that they will discard the address after the voting period ends in late September without ever bothering you -- so the voting has some minimal security against ballot-stuffing.

    You see where this is going, I trust.

    I offered two different panel proposals:

    The Future is You

    Futurism isn't just for marketing and the military. In a world of rapid change, it's also a way to make smarter choices about one's own life. I'll go through the basics of personal futurism, and make the case that (as Bruce Sterling says) the future isn't a noun, it's a verb.


    The Whole World is Watching

    Lifelogging. Participatory Panopticon. Total History. By whatever name, it's a world where everything we do and say can be captured on video -- not by "Big Brother," but by Little Brothers and Sisters carrying cameraphones. Downside: loss of privacy. Upsides: Better memory, better understanding of the world, better politics. Are you ready?

    If you're so inclined, I'd love to have your vote for my panels. The nice thing about this process is that voting for one panels doesn't eliminate your ability to vote for another -- give all of your online friends and favorite bloggers big SXSW 5-star kisses!

    August 13, 2007

    Official Singularity Summit Announcement

    creation.jpgI've mentioned before that I'll be speaking at this year's Singularity Summit, taking place in San Francisco next month. Today's the official announcement, however, so you'll undoubtedly see word of it showing up across the futurist blogosphere. Key excerpts from the press release (you can read the whole thing here):

    ...What are the major challenges to achieving advanced AI? What are the benefits and dangers? How far are we from self-improving AI? How should we prepare for this potentially powerful innovation?

    These are among the questions that 17 outstanding thinkers will explore and debate at the Singularity Summit, to be held Saturday and Sunday, September 8-9, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California. The summit is organized by the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit institute in Silicon Valley for the study of safe advanced AI.


    Tickets can be purchased online for $50 at

    Confirmed speakers include:

    * Dr. Rodney Brooks, famous MIT roboticist and founder of iRobot
    * Dr. Peter Norvig, director of research at Google
    * Paul Saffo, Stanford, leading technology forecaster
    * Sam Adams, distinguished engineer within IBM's Research Division
    * Jamais Cascio, cofounder of World Changing and creator of Open the Future
    * Dr. Ben Goertzel, director of research at SIAI and founder of Novamente
    * Dr. J. Storrs Hall, author of Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine
    * Dr. Charles L. Harper, Jr., senior VP at John Templeton Foundation
    * Dr. James Hughes, executive director of Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
    * Neil Jacobstein, prominent AI expert and CEO of Teknowledge
    * Dr. Stephen Omohundro, founder of Self-Aware Systems
    * Dr. Barney Pell, founder and CEO of Powerset
    * Christine Peterson, cofounder of Foresight Nanotech Institute
    * Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and founder of Clarium Capital
    * Wendell Wallach, author of Machine Morality: From Aristotle to Asimov and Beyond
    * Eliezer Yudkowsky, Friendly AI pioneer and cofounder of SIAI
    * Peter Voss, founder and CEO of Adaptive Artificial Intelligence

    So what am I going to be talking about? You can see my abstract here, among the rest, but in brief, I'll build off the Metaverse Roadmap Overview to look at how different kinds of metaversal environments lead to different kinds of Singularities.

    August 7, 2007

    City Lights, Part Deux

    atcitylights.jpgThe second half of the R.U. Sirius event at the City Lights bookstore (previously, here, here, and here) is now up at the Neofiles website. Pesco gets a chance to speak, and I continue to talk a lot. I am apparently rather fond of the sound of my own voice.

    True Mutations Live! at City Lights (Part 2)

    Favorite bit:

    I have to push back on the notion that technology develops itself. I mean, technology... technology is a social process. It's all too common, especially in the circles that we run in, to have the conversations focus on the toys, focus on the technology, the gadgets, and really ignore that these emerge on the basis of social and human decisions.

    July 24, 2007

    Scene from City Lights

    (Picture taken by my wife Janice.)

    July 19, 2007

    Reminder: City Lights Bookstore Event

    Reminder: On THIS UPCOMING Tuesday, July 24, at 7pm, R.U. Sirius will be recording his radio show at the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, in celebration of the release of his new book, True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology, and Consciousness. Several of the people interviewed for the book, including Annalee Newitz, David Pescovitz, Lynn Hershman and myself, will be there to serve as co-hosts for the show.

    I'd be really happy if there were OtF readers in the audience...

    Update: Annalee has dropped out... but in her place, Howard Rheingold will be there!

    July 9, 2007

    Come Say Hi

    On Tuesday, July 24, at 7pm, R.U. Sirius will be recording his radio show at the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, in celebration of the release of his new book, True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology, and Consciousness. Several of the people interviewed for the book, including Annalee Newitz, David Pescovitz, Lynn Hershman and myself, will be there to serve as co-hosts for the show.

    True Mutations looks at the wild changes that may be coming to the human species during the 21st Century. In a series of interviews, author/host RU Sirius explores a series of (r)evolutions in disciplines ranging from the evolution of clean energy to the possibilities of endless neurological ecstasy; from open-source free access to nearly everything under the sun to self-directed biotechnological evolution; from psychedelic culture mash-ups to the possibilities of a technological singularity that alters not only humanity but the entire universe.

    If you're in the area, please come by and say hi!

    April 17, 2007

    Ten-Year Forecast 2007

    Probably not going to do much posting for the next few days; I'm at the Institute for the Future's Ten-Year Forecast 2007 conference, and won't be coming up for air until Friday.

    March 11, 2007

    User Creation Panel, SXSW2007

    Mark Wallace at has a pretty darn complete recap of the panel I was on today at South-by-Southwest.

    Most interesting line, from Raph Koster:

    The number one use of user-created content in virtual spaces is the screenshot.

    (Update:) Another recap of the panel from Tony Walsh at Clickable Culture.

    March 10, 2007

    In Austin. It's My Birthday.


    Getting ready to go out to dinner with some friends.

    Jerry Paffendorf said that he thought I was about ten years younger than I really am. I'll accept that.

    October 19, 2006

    PopTech Images

    Just a couple of pictures to show that, yes, I really was here...


    Bruce Sterling and Jamais Cascio


    Ethan Zuckerman and Jamais Cascio

    (My apologies for the lack of sharp focus on the second one -- cameraphones still have a ways to go, sadly...)

    Late to the Party

    Tom Friedman just left the stage at PopTech, having talked a bit about about his GeoGreens notion. Friedman frustrates me; his work in the 1980s and early 1990s on the Middle East was remarkable and insightful, but he's lost me with his recent work. His analysis of globalization feels mired in the 20th century -- an amazement about technology coupled with a fixation on top-down authority and very traditional social structures. With his observations and declarations about Iraq turning out to be fatally in error, he's turned to the need for greater sustainability and more renewable energy. And here's where the frustration really hits -- as much as I agree with most of his proposals, his ideas are hardly new (even if he acts like these are novel discoveries and insights), and they're far too timid.

    The key problem with his approach is that Friedman's observations about the environment get swallowed up by the quite traditional, limited language of international politics. I'm completely convinced that global warming is already having serious political impacts, but Friedman doesn't tell us anything that anyone with open eyes couldn't have seen five years ago -- and he tells us in a way that (as much as he wants to say that he's trying to butch up the terminology) diminishes the importance of the environment. With an emphasis on the geo-strategic aspect of energy, he opens us up to scenarios in which the political problems are solved without much impact on the environmental problems -- and the potential for "solutions" that could even make environmental (and other) problems worse.

    I understand the use of people like Friedman; when he raises topics, he makes them acceptable for the chattering classes and inside-the-beltway bureaucrats to discuss. That's good, I suppose, but if the allowable discourse on the environment is only about "support for freedom" vs. "support for terrorism," we miss out on opportunities for innovation and solutions that cut across multiple problem categories. We need to think bigger, broader and faster. Fortunately, we can, we will, and more and more of us already do.

    Pop!Tech Underway

    spore.jpgFirst day of Pop!Tech, and I've opted not to try live-blogging it, in part because that's not the way I think/work, and in part because some folks do it far better than I could. Case in point: Ethan Zuckerman. His first post detailing the start of the conference is already up, and he does a good job of covering the conversation between Brian Eno and Will Wright.

    Wright showed Spore, of course, and it keeps looking more astounding every time I see the demo. I could easily imagine myself spending hours on end playing -- as much as I want to get my hands on it, I hope that it doesn't come out until after the IFTF project is done!

    Kevin Kelly is speaking now, making a surprising argument that technology determines culture more than culture determines technology. My gut reaction is to disagree -- I have a strong bias towards the opposite argument -- but given Kevin's history of insight and observation, I have to take his position seriously. A key element of his piece is that, in conflicts between culture and technology, technology wins pretty much every time.

    October 16, 2006

    Anticipating Pop!Tech

    poptechlogo.jpgThe speaker list at Pop!Tech includes more than a few very familiar faces, and that will undoubtedly be fun. But I'm really hoping to see some new names, and a few presentations on the list look to be definitely worth checking out.

    Roger Brent is the Director of the Molecular Sciences Institute, Rob "Carlson Curve" Carlson's old home. He's talking on biohacking and synthetic biology.

    Homaru Cantu is a hacker-chef, and this line from his bio just tickles me: Scientific elements such as liquid nitrogen and helium and devices such as a centrifuge and a hand-held ion particle gun make regular appearances in the Moto kitchen. I want my KitchenAid Ion Particle Gun!

    Marie-Helene Carleton is a documentary filmmaker, along with her partner Michel Garen. In 2003, as they were finishing a documentary about the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq, Garen was kidnapped. Carleton worked aggressively to bring his release.

    Hasan Elahi is a professor at Rutgers specializing in understanding the technologies of media, surveillance, and society. I'm definitely hoping to get a chance to talk participatory panopticon with him...

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somalia-born Dutch feminist, activist and politician. She's best known as the producer behind the film Submission, a documentary critical of the treatment of women in Islam; the film led to the assassination of its director, Theo van Gogh. She's about to move to the US to join (of all places) the right wing think tank American Enterprise Institute.

    Will Wright, creator of a few video games. Have you heard of SimCity and the Sims? Yeah, that Will Wright. His soon-to-be-released game Spore threatens to bring down the collapse of the US innovation economy by forcing technocreative types to stay at home for days or weeks on end building new universes and sharing them online.

    May 9, 2006

    Days of Futurism Past

    opencroquet.jpgThose who cannot remember the futurist predictions of the past are condemned to repeat them, usually at conferences. That was the mantra running through my head, at least, during the Metaverse Roadmap Project event last Friday and Saturday. This is not to say that the conference, which included technologists, pundits, academics, journalists, and assorted cross-subject thinkers, wasn't worth the time. It was extremely interesting, in fact, and I'm very happy to have been a part of it. But throughout the discussions, I had this eerie sense of being back in 1996, when the web and the popular Internet began to really show promise -- and technologists, pundits, academics, journalists, and assorted cross-subject thinkers all wanted to be the first to proclaim that the revolution was at hand.

    The purpose of the Metaverse Roadmap Project (hereafter MVR) was to begin to sketch out the possible evolution of the broad collection of technologies subsumed under the label of the "3D Web." Most of the discussion centered on the 3D virtual world technologies found in games like World of Warcraft and avatar chat environments like Second Life, but the MVR crew quite rightly included people who work on "geospatial web" technologies, too -- location-aware, information-dense systems that layer onto the visible, "physical" world. These are 3D technologies, too, even if they don't use cartoon people and fantasy places.

    This inclusion of geospatial (or "augmented reality") systems in the metaverse concept allowed the participants to construct a spectrum of scenarios, ranging from the cautiously incremental to the fantastically radical. (I can sum up the latter end of the spectrum in two words: brain implants.) Curiously, the group that fell into the "futurist" affinity group -- me, Esther Dyson, Helen Cheng, Janna Anderson and Randy Moss -- had a strong bias towards the cautious and incremental. I suspect that a great deal of that caution came from having heard technology-drenched proclamations of social revolution before. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me... can't get fooled again. Or something like that.

    Despite our caution, however, we did manage to catch a glimpse of a truly transformative vision. Open Croquet is an open source, peer-to-peer 3D environment system that everyone who got a chance to see it declared to be shockingly cool. Microsoft's Robert Scoble (who was at MVR for the second day) describes it thusly:

    We have just seen a new world. [...]
    This is rough, early-adopterish, but once you see this you realize a new kind of computing experience is coming.
    ...All running P2P. No centralized servers needed. It's remarkable. They showed how you could just "step into" a new virtual world. Just move toward something that looks like a window and you "dive into" that Window and are instantly in a new world. In that new world there would be new people, new things to see.
    Sometimes I pinch myself at what I get to be among the first human beings to experience.

    Scoble isn't exaggerating -- it was simply that cool. You can download the Open Croquet SDK right now; it runs on Mac, Windows and Linux.

    Open Croquet wasn't the only technology demo at MVR, just the flashiest. The variety of tools and ideas kicked around this last weekend in Menlo Park made it very clear that the next decade will see an increasing integration of our virtual existence and our physical lives. In the nearly-certain scenario, this will mean an immersive information environment, accessible wherever and whenever, augmenting and enhancing -- but not replacing -- our day to day experiences. In the more-adventurous version, 3D spaces become a common interface for communication and interaction, putting more of our daily lives into virtual settings, but for largely functional reasons (e.g., working from home).

    I'm really hesitant to go as far as many of my colleagues at MVR; I asked's Betsy Book whether the vision she articulated was meant to portray virtual life as augmentation for physical life, or the physical world as augmentation for our virtual worlds. She answered, "Both," and suggested that a large part of the population will see these synthetic worlds as their real homes. But even if the technology is up to it -- likely, but not certain -- it's hard for me to see the cultural transformation required to make this a reality happen in just a decade.

    Two aspects of virtual/synthetic/metaversal spaces seemed conspicuous by their relative absence. The first was the distributed awareness technologies of "everyware," "spimes," "things that think" and the like; these aren't directly part of the 3D web, but to the degree that the geospatial and augmented reality components are important, these systems will be seen as part of the package. The second was the fabrication and material production technologies exemplified by 3D printers; as Rebang's Sven Johnson has demonstrated, the connection between the physical and virtual worlds isn't simply a matter of creating digital analogues of material goods -- sometimes, we're going to want physical instantiations of virtual products. To the degree that we shift to just-in-time/local-fabrication economies, the use of synthetic environments to design and test prototype goods could become extremely common.

    I may not be ready to buy a homestead in Second Second Life, but it's pretty clear that, at the Metaverse Roadmap event, I got a glimpse of tomorrow's digital world.

    Added bonus: I got a chance to have a good, long conversation with WorldChanging board of directors Chair (and Global Voices conductor) Ethan Zuckerman -- and event photographer John Swords managed to get a decent shot of the two of us.

    April 13, 2006

    My Talk at Yahoo!

    My friend Jeffrey McManus, who is responsible for bringing me to Yahoo! last Friday, took this picture of me as the talk began:

    speaking at Yahoo!

    (Thanks for letting me use the picture...)

    Upcoming Events

    I'll be attending the Jimmy Wales talk for the Long Now Foundation tomorrow night in San Francisco.

    I'll be in Princeton, New Jersey, from the evening of April 25 through the afternoon of April 27, working on a project for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the Institute for the Future.

    I'll be in Palo Alto, California, from May 5 through May 6 for the "Metaverse Roadmap" project for the Acceleration Studies Foundation.