World Future 2013: Part 1: The next horizon
By Debra Rae
From April to October of 1962, some ten million people visited the Seattle World's Fair, popularly known as Century 21 and officially opened by President John F. Kennedy. With construction of the Space Needle, the Coliseum, Science Pavilion, monorail, and other architectural feats that imparted a glimpse into the future, Seattle was said to have entered the 21st century thirty-eight years ahead of schedule.
Trans-Federal Futuring at its Finest
Yet again, over the course of two and a half days, some 900 futurists gathered in Chicago for more than sixty sessions, workshops, and special events featuring world future studies, coupled with reports of progress toward achieving a coveted, one-world order.
On July 19, the World Future Society 2013 convened at the Hilton Chicago to explore humanity's "next horizon"—this, under the watchful eye of the mainstream media.
With an eye to the 22nd century, politicians, scientists, and laypeople alike dialogued on what the planet's future holds. At Chicago's World's Fair of Ideas (Century 22), deemed-to-be-premier minds will collectively map out the future of science and technology, humanity and religion, economics and global governance.
Sponsored by the Gorbachev Foundation, and called for in the Club of Rome's 1972 book, Limits to Growth, the 1995 World Forum first used the term "global governance" instead of "New World Order." The latter was considered too emotionally charged and, therefore, not likely to be as well received. Limits to Growth likewise called for a sort of clearinghouse for all global conglomerates—enter, the World Future Society merging together political, spiritual, and economic aspects of one-world government.
The World Future Society: Century 22
Situated in Baltimore, the World Future Society engages global advisors consisting of directors, professors, scientists, analysts, and authors from observatories, polytechnic institutes, universities, foundations, and corporations. Institutional members likewise represent foundations (Baha'i World Centre Library, for one), business firms (Pacific Foods of Oregon), studies (the Millennium Project), educational institutions (high schools, community colleges, universities, graduate schools of law, business, medicine, and emergency services), government agencies (immigration, transportation, military, natural resources), and even the U.S. Secret Service!
Previous attendees at the World Future Society's annual conference have been Gerald Ford, Al Gore Jr., Sen. Edward Kennedy, Betty Friedan, and scientist-inventor Ray Kurzweil, to name but a few. This year, World Future 2013 will feature MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, visionary author Ramez Naam, Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly, and geo-security expert John Watts. Among visionaries expected to attend will be corporate planners, business leaders, government officials, scientists, doctors, and forecasters from all over the world.
The Next Horizon
Director of engineering at Google, Raymond ("Ray") Kurzweil is a brilliant American inventor, evolutionary futurist, and author of The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), The Singularity is Near (2006), How to Create a Mind (2012), and more. Through his "Edges of Life Lecture Series" at the College of Science (University of Arizona), Kurzweil characterizes information processes of technology as being quite predictable.
Correspondingly, he accepts that the future also can be predicted, but not by employing intuitive linear thinking. Instead, one must take into account exponential progression. What Kurzweil calls the "paradigm shift rate" will allow thirty-two times more progress in the next fifty years than what was achieved in the last fifty. In his view, the next horizon includes harnessing artificial intelligence. Eventually, Kurzweil believes, our brains will be uploaded to the Internet.
The Language of Foresight
The conference's keynote luncheon speaker, H.G. Wells award-winning author Ramez Naam calls for a Future Day because, in carefully considering the future, we'll not be surprised by it. Less popular in academia than "futures studies," "futuring" (verb for the noun, "future") is a very broad term for the art or science of identifying and evaluating possible future events.
Advancing a unique, agenda-backed vocabulary, the World Future Society's Dictionary of Foresight begins with the glossary from Futuring: The Exploration of the Future. "Backcasting," for example, gets a group of "bellwethers" (forerunners) to envision a desired future and, then, analyze what must transpire to realize it. "Proactive managers" identify, and then prepare for, challenges or opportunities likely to present; and "alternative futures" allow for several, mutually exclusive scenarios that clarify options available to global decision makers.
"Reductionism" explains complex phenomenon by observing, measuring, and analyzing individual, component parts. To think systematically about each one, "morphological analysis" studies the structure and/or form of isolated issues. An option deemed "futurible" is considered possible, though not probable.
A diagrammatic "relevance tree" establishes hierarchy. "Ideation" (ideas) emerges from "heuristic" techniques, such as brainstorming; "gaming" (simulation); historical- and/or trend-analysis/ monitoring/ projection, polling, scanning (systematic surveying); and/or visioning. Effectiveness in stimulating research and/or discovery determines a model's "heuristic value." By means of the "Delphi technique," a consensus view is reached.
Decision makers heed "the butterfly effect," metaphor for how a very small event may produce very large effects. A matrix method ("cross-impact analysis") explores effects that future developments may have on each other. "Singularity" signifies a postulated time in the future when technological progress and evolutionary development become so rapid that reliable conceptions are no longer possible; the "wild card" is an unexpected, unlikely event with enormous consequences.
The Language of God
In many ways, the brainy language of foresight parallels, yet counterfeits the language of God. This being the case, we do well to consider an old Yiddish proverb, "We plan; God laughs." Yes, to have vision for the future is key to survival; and to assume proactive posturing is wise indeed. Where there is no counsel, plans fail; but God alone imparts soundness of mind. In using our God-given, disciplined minds to prove all things, we mustn't fail to hold fast to what is good and acceptable in His sight.
At Century 22, however, leadership consultant Megan Mitchell and creativity expert Marci Segal promise to free people's thinking in their transcendent, "co-creative journey" to enhance business success and personal fulfillment. Nevertheless, these two creativity muses, despite all good intentions, fall far short of Holy Spirit inspiration and revelation.
Sadly, despite the certainty of unprecedented proliferation of knowledge, there remains an ever-escalating global famine for biblical truth. Having reflected on the history of futuring, an internationally acclaimed expert on long-range trends (Glen Hiemstra) will suggest strategy for "creating a preferred future." What he fails to comprehend is that the times of our lives are in God's hands, not his.
Man merely "discovers" and "invents"; only God "creates." Moreover, He knows the end from the beginning—and what's to come just ahead. When held up to the language of God, the speculative language of foresight presumes to instruct God. In fact, His prophetic word warns of a coming world power, the nature and structure of which mirror the "preferred future" advanced by Century 22. In contrast, a believer's hope remains fixed on God's intended New World Order, a theocratic Millennial Rule and Reign of the Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ.
More to come in Part 2.
Debra Rae is a regular contributor to The Intellectual Conservative. © 2013