Note: This is part of a regular occasional series of blog posts I do that is based on scans of Twitter and elsewhere on the web – and a gathering of interesting things I think social workers, social work educators, folks in higher education and related professions who interested in futures topics might find valuable. It is a digest, and is unapologetically eclectic. Here’s a link to prior posts – check them out too!!
Now for some alternative ways of thinking about the smart cities push, what if we advocated for low-tech cities that maybe aren’t so smart…but potentially much better for humanity? This article considers that premise. (P.S. my own editorial note – I don’t think the word “dumb” in the title is helpful or appropriate. I liked the article…the title not so much. Oh well.)
Tech and Society
This past year, San Francisco hosted an art exhibit called “The Glass Room” which had a focus on the interconnected impacts of tech, data and surveillance on modern life. I didn’t get a chance to go…but here’s a wonderful write up describing it in some detail. Sounds like it was very cool and thought provoking.
Here’s a group called “Data Detox” that has put together a useful guide on disinformation. They highlight the importance of this especially in a run up to an election. Another interesting resource I found were some “digital citizenship” guidelines from DigCitCommit. I liked these a lot – this whole website is quite full of cool tools and resources.
Found another interesting piece about an emerging academic discipline called “digital humanities” – literally applying humanities methodologies and worldviews to technology.
Should we have the right to protect our attention in a world seeking to distract us? This little piece from a couple of years ago is a thoughtful exploration of that topic. Reminds me in some ways of Futurist Amber Case’s work with Calm Technology which you can read more about here.
By the way, who owns your data and what is the future of privacy? Another futurist I follow on the regular, is Amy Webb. She has thoughts she shares about this topic here – important piece. The risks are high for all of us…but I continue to think about how they are disproportionally concerning for the most vulnerable in our world. As usual. We need to do better.
I’m a big fan of the group “Dot Everyone” – it’s a UK-based “responsible tech” think tank. They do such a great job of being up front with their values (which are in sync with many of mine as a social worker) and they do a lot with creative projects and process, implemented in an ethical and transparent way. I follow them on Twitter…but their website is wonderful to browse and engage with.
The Future of Food
This is a fascinating topic I haven’t spent a lot of time on, but is an incredibly interesting and relevant subject as it relates to the future of human survival. The Institute for the Future has done a lot of work in this area. Here’s another fun overview from the BBC.
The Future of Weapons/Security
I don’t really like this topic. That said, it is fascinating and a space for thoughtful people to engage and contribute to a world where we don’t have these tools of destruction. The truth is, powerful people (governments and corporations) continue to use many new tools and technologies as tools of war and security – and much of this is largely hidden from civilian view. Let’s be brave and look it in the face and think through the implications of various futures – pushing ourselves and our leaders towards the futures we democratically decide we want. Here’s a couple of links that, frankly, should worry us. I’m in favor of many other worldbuilding methods – like peacemaking, equity, diplomacy and rational democratic processes. Let’s hold our world leaders accountable and keep an eye on what happens in these spaces. A new hypersonic weapon from Russia is described here. Here’s an overview of new military tech – the good and the bad. Here’s an overview of military drones around the world, and here’s a more academic analysis. Here’s some of the futures/foresight work undertaken by NATO. I found one article which speaks to the ethical imperative of drone developers to take a strong stand against use of these tools as autonomous weapons. And of course, the future brings with it new kinds of conflict too…here’s a piece about cyberwarfare (in this case with the real time concerns about conflict with Iran). Here’s a guide from Wired about cyberwarfare in more detail. All of these are offered to provoke discussion and further exploration (especially regarding the ethical dimensions of these tools and practices). I will be doing some further exploring on futurists who work on peace issues – interestingly they are harder to find than those thinking up new high tech weapons in our conflict-laden world. I’m going to end this part of the post with a bigger and essentially worthy futures vision – for a world without war, and a TED talk by a young woman exploring this very topic.
In Praise of Science Fiction
The Future Imagination Summit
This is a report from the first national Future Imagination Summit. Comprised of “radical futurists, grounded with deep critiques of the current world, calling into action a collective future for all, based on compassion, justice, and harmony. By imagining radical futures, people’s movements can conjure these visions into actions in the present day.” Check out an overview of the truly inspiring gathering they had in late 2019. This is a meeting I’d love to go to someday if it continues.