New Words in Futuring – Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #5

This is a recurring series of posts to share round-ups of terms I hear that are directly from futures practice, or reflect new trends for those of interested in what is coming next. Here are previous posts (scroll down for all 3 previous posts) – #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Esports – fast growing sector of gaming. Some think it will rival traditional athletics and absorb attention, revenue and global enthusiasm.

Green energy – Most probably – you already “know” this term, but since it is turning up a lot in the media (a good thing) with increasing interest and use, it might be a good opportunity to refresh yourself on the basics. It really is more than solar – good overview here.

Proceleration – the acceleration of acceleration.

Quantum Communication – ultra secure computer networks that could form the basis of a quantum internet.

Reference rot – the thing that happens when digital links expire/change. Particularly troubling for the future of academic pursuits.

Terminology – yes you know the word, but do you know what it means with regard to the future of technology (and in particular – the internet of things)? Terminology refers to multiple, interconnected digital languages that will provide the map, as well as the highway, of how things communicate digitally.

Xenodesign – what is beyond “human centered design” and what are the limits to thinking that the best approaches keep humans at the center? Emerging ideas in this space.

New Words in Futuring – Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #4 (February 10, 2019)

This is a recurring series of posts to share round-ups of terms I hear that are directly from futures practice, or reflect new trends for those of interested in what is coming next. Here are previous posts (scroll down for all 3 previous posts) – #1, #2, and #3.

Ramp education – This refers to the need to reskill massive numbers of workers who are most likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence. Deep questions persist about the fate and well being of potentially 32 million workers (according to some estimates) in the near future. This article (with embedded report) provides a road map.

“Captology” – ‘computers as persuasive technologies’ (Fogg, 2003: 5). ( Science of how technological products can be best designed to change users behavior.

Quantum Computing – what is the “next level” of computing and why does it matter? Folks at the deep end of the pool of technology are talking a lot about quantum computing and the almost beyond comprehensible things it can and might do. Get worried when the technology grows beyond our ability to understand it – and jump in with me and let’s try to learn more about it!! Here are a couple of pieces that attempt to make it accessible.

Time Banking – How do we make the most of the TIME we have (our most precious resource) and find ways to point it in the direction of social good? Here are a couple of articles that describe what time banking is, and some information about Andrew Yang, founder of a company called Seva. In addition to being a time-banking enthusiast, Mr. Yang is also interested in running for president of the U.S. on a high tech progressive platform that includes guaranteed income. This post is not an endorsement – but I do find his ideas fascinating and promising.

New Words in Futuring: Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #3 (January 2019)

This is recurring and occasional series of posts in which I round up and share both some new terms I’m hearing in the futures discourse, as well as some links to read a bit more where possible. You can see the first and second of this posts if you’d like to diver in deeper!

Black Swan Theory – based on the idea that unexpected and devastating events will always be part of life, and that in hindsight we can frequently see that we “should have” seen the signs leading up to it. Developed by theorist Nassim Taleb, this framework is a model to assist in guiding analysis of current events to help to predict future calamities.

Brief film about Black Swan theory

Nassim Taleb’s book: Black Swan Theory (2010)

NPR Story about Black Swan Theory with book exerpt (2007)

Haptics – a form of interaction involving touch. In futures/tech language, this refers to technological features that involve touch or creating the illusion of touch.

Short video about haptics

Haptics: The present and future of artificial touch

Post-capitalism – futurist frameworks on the evolution of the modern capitalist economy and what will result in its place.

The beginning of post-capitalism: Some say yes (2017)

Post-capitalism: A guide to our future (2017)

Video of author Paul Mason discusses his book “Post Capitalism” (2015)

After capitalism, what comes next? Ethics, for a start…(2015)

STEEPLED Analysis – Framework for environmental scanning. Includes Social, Technological, Economic, Ecological/Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethics, and Demographic dimensions.

Universal basic income/asset models – the idea of assuring universal financial resources and security to all members of a society

Institute for the Future: Universal Basic Assets – Manifesto and Action Plan (2017)

“Universal Basic Income Is Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam” by Douglas Rushkoff 

Universal basic assets could be the key to an equitable society (2018)

Universal basic assets: The tip of the universal basic income arrow (2018)

Universal basic assets: A smarter fix than universal basic income (2018)

Grand Challenges in Social Work: Building financial capability for all

VUCA – term associated with present ecosystemic conditions in society and various systems (economic, technological and civic). Specifically a “VUCA” world is one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Leading NGO’s in a VUCA world (2017)

Leadership skills for an uncertain world

VUCA Planning in the nonprofit world (2018)

What VUCA really means for you (2014)

Redefining leadership in today’s VUCA world (2018)

New Words in Futuring: Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #2 (December 2018)

Recently, I shared some new words that appear in the futures literature and/or discourse.   As mentioned, I’ll continue to produce these lists as I gather up enough interesting terms to do additional versions.   Here’s batch #2.  

Block chain – a digital “distributed ledger” record of transactions which are called “blocks,” and which link together through use of cryptography, are date stamped, and which are resistant to modification once stamped.  

Excellent brief video overview of the fundamentals of block chain (2018)

The truth about blockchain (2017)

What is blockchain?  The most disruptive tech in decades (2018)

FAT (Fairness, Accountability and Transparency) . This is the terminology utilized by a growing body of researchers, programmers and other concerned citizens, FAT encourages dialogue and practice regarding ethics in machine learning development.   (Thanks to Lauri Goldkind for suggesting this term.)


Gamification – Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure, or simply their response to the framing of a situation as game or play (Wickipedia).

Game designer Jane McGonigal’s classic TED talk from 2010 – Gaming Can Make a Better World

Gamification in Education: A Mapping Study (2015)

Top 15 Examples of Gamification in Health Care (2017)

The dark side of gamification at work (2018)

Precariat class – emerging group of people whose economic status is vulnerable, uncertain and literally “precarious” through instability in the labor market.    Results of neo-liberalism on working people.  Connected to concept of “gig economy.”

Public interest technologist – the intersection of tech skills with a desire to make the world a better place through work in areas such as social justice, inclusion and the public good.

Public interest tech – a field you should know about (2018)

Public interest tech (2018)

Why universities need “public interest technology” courses/programs (2018)

Infographic:  5 reasons you might be a public interest technologist (2018)

To serve the people – public interest technologist (2017)

Transhumanism – philosophy and growing community focused on the evolution of humanity specifically related to likely increase in artificial intelligence presence and function in human life (sometimes even suggesting a merging of human life with artificial intelligence).  Critics suggest dystopian possibilities.

Transhumanism and the future of humanity:  7 ways the world will change by 2030 (2017)

No death and enhanced life:  Is the future transhuman? (2018)

The ethics of transhumanism and the cult of futurist biotech (2018)

Team Human – excellent TED talk by writer and scholar Douglass Rushkoff about ethics and humanity in the face of digital and AI futures

New Words in Futuring: Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #1 (December 2018)

As I’ve continued on a futures learning journey, I’ve noted a great deal of new vocabulary springing up.   Think back – there was a time when the term “social media” was really cutting edge.  It is not clear which of these terms will “stick” and evolve into powerful forces, but it is clear that they are all in circulation and connected to trends associated with a futures lens.   I’ll be producing these lists periodically when I gather enough to make an interesting list.   Where possible, I’ll always insert a link or two to provide context/background.   Please note that most of these resources are not organized or written by social workers.   My point in sharing them is these tend to be terms that people are talking about but ARE NOT generally in high circulation formally in social work circles.  Yet these terms represent areas of civic, cultural or scientific relevance that will impact vulnerable people and/or our profession (in either positive or negative ways – or sometimes a combination of the two).   I believe we need to be discovering, talking about, and contributing to the discourse around these (and other) emerging issues related to the future.   This is an “in process” and ever evolving exercise.  If you have any futures terms you think might be of interest to social workers – please send them my way at   I’d love to include them in future lists.

Afrofuturism . A movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture.  Oxford Dictionaries .


What the heck is Afrofuturism? (2018)

Octavia’s Brood

Algorhithmic racism .  Increasing attention being paid to the embedded “built in” bias inherent in the digital world.

Algorhithms of Oppression (2018) by Safiya Noble

Discrimination Algorhithms (2018)

Computational propoganda.   A term and phenomenon that encompasses recent digital misinformation and manipulation efforts. It is best defined as the use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks (Woolley & Howard, 2016).

Computational Propaganda, Bots, Targeting and the Future (2018)

Political communication, computational propaganda and autonomous agents (2016)

The future of computational propaganda

Fourth Industrial Revolution – what comes after the first industrial revolution (water and steam power), second (electric power), third (electronics and and information technology) – leads to the fourth which is the “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres,” Schwaub, 2016.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here – are you ready? (2018)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us (2017)

Internet of things the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.

The internet of things market projected to double by 2021 (2018)

The internet of things:  Opportunities and threats (2017)

Ethics and law in the internet of things world (2018)

Managed retreat (climate change) – pre-emptively moving away from areas considered high risk from a climate change perspective (most recently – areas likely to flood due to sea level change).

Adapting to climate change through managed retreat (2017)

Managed retreat as a response to natural hazard risk (2017)

Meme-iverse – official definition not found, but heard at a recent conference of futures practitioners.  Refers to the overall zeitgeist of favorite and/or high circulation memes and/or realizing the power memes are having to create culture shifts, e.g. “the meme-iverse shows that folks are interested in XYZ.”

Memes:  Shared experience, implicit meaning and social commentary (2017)

How memes are being weaponized for political propaganda (2018)

Are memes the future of social change? (2018)