New Words in Futuring – Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #7 – August 15, 2019

My explorations of late have resulted in another of my “occasional” posts related to emerging terminology from the futures world. You can glance at the other entries here.

Geo-engineering. This terms is related to ways to slow down the deadly and destructive impact of climate change. This once purely science fiction-level set of ideas, but increasingly plausible proposed practices involve sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to trap less heat – and – reflecting sunlight away from the planet. These ideas are also referred to as carbon renewal or negative emissions technologies. You can learn more about it here.

Design Fictionemergent discipline related to use of narrative and story to provide structures, supports, challenges and provocative possibilities to guide human thinking towards a range of futures. Creative, disruptive and dynamic…this is a really interesting and helpful set of people, practices, and literature-based methods that have deep roots in the futures world. Of course it has deep connections to the world of science fiction…but is more likely to be explicitly engaged in futures practice than exclusively delivered as a work of “art.” Here’s a helpful overview and “how to” piece. It’s connected to and a variation of “speculative design” working in some of the same spaces. I’m imagining how these techniques could help us imagine futures of social welfare and/or social problems that might expand the range of creative possibilities we might discover/consider as a result of said explorations! MIT Media Lab has a whole project dedicated to this approach . Or as is evidenced by Afrofuturism (which I’ve written about previously on this blog…), these methods open deep possibilities for deepening our collective abilities to see, hear, and respect various identity-based expressions of possible futures.

Neuro-technology – perhaps you’ve been hearing about this via the Elon Musk story about his goal of linking a human brain to the internet? While experts agree it is not yet ready for prime time, the mere fact that it is getting this much press says much about our curiosity and eagerness to explore more of what is possible in this space. So too, does this possibility inspire neuroethicists to converge on the topic (appropriately and just in time) to help us all figure out how to wrap our minds around (pardon the expression) what an ethical application of this possibility might be. Here are a few pieces I found that bring this topic to life in some interesting ways.

Panopticon – actually an older concept of a form of architecture generally associated with prisons, that means everything can be “seen” at all times. Gradually coming into contemporary use associated with a society that is increasingly enacting digital surveillance. Here are a couple of pieces that drill down into this set of ideas. This concept has far reaching implications for social work practice…and the degree to which it is frequently argued that vulnerable populations are already more heavily (and frequently unfairly) surveilled more rigorously, multiplying their vulnerability and powerlessness. Truly – these ideas will impact all of us in so many ways.

Update from previous entries in this series:

Fourth Industrial Revolution – I have covered this in a previous entry in this series – but here’s a terrific new and very clear/well-written article defining this complex and important topic.

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