Recap: Future of Truth in a Post-Truth World

This month’s discussion of truth in a so-called post-truth world will be the biggest event of the year for Columbus Futurists.. It will be huge!  The biggest audience ever, the best ideas ever!  And this will be our report after the event, whatever actually happens!  (Hopefully, obvious satire …)

Why?  Because we have entered an age where truth has become a highly personal matter – my truth and your truth don’t have to match.  At least, that’s what some people contend.  Some people rely on alternative facts.. Facts that aren’t quite true – or might be radically off the generally accepted truth – but are still facts,  We might think of them as “aspirational” facts.  They may or may not be true, but they are seeking more support in the polls.

The challenges to “truth” and “facts” – ultimately a challenge to “authoritativeness” –  is of particular importance to Futurists, and anyone interested in trying to grasp the possibilities of the future.  It is confusing.

  • “Fake news” has come to mean both fictional stories generated to mislead, AND real stories whose veracity is called into question because someone uses the label.  We have experienced  outrights mendacity, compounded by a semblance of a bureaucratic structure which seeks to back up and strengthen the falsehoods.
  • Recently, there are reports of a forged NSA document being shopped to news organizations as a trap – to tempt them into publishing news about a document that then is shown to be fake, in order to ruin news credibility (Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, 7/6/2017).

Without confidence to rely on generally agreed sources for accurate information, how can one project the evolution of that information into a possible future?

There have been many pieces written on this subject – sorting out those which deal with the substantive issues can be a challenge.  Here a few you might consider – if you find others that you have found useful, please feel free to share:

  • What makes a truth a reliable truth? How much truth is necessary?
  • We are facing a “crisis of authority.” What makes a source reliable?
  • How can false information be identified?
  • What tools do we have – or need – to navigate the Sea of Veracity?

Some articles to consider:

Not just politics:

Another great discussion in an exciting agenda emerging for our meetings this year. Hope to see you in the future!

(Some discussion notes attached in a Word doc.)

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Recap: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Higher Education

Topic: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Higher Education

There are very serious people today imagining and considering the implications of a “world without work,” with algorithms performing cognitive tasks once thought only humans could perform. It is commonplace in our contemporary society to say that the purpose of higher education is to prepare young people for work. But if predictions of a world without work come to pass, then the linkage of higher education and job preparation would be torn apart. What will be “the primary purpose of higher education” when artificial intelligence has made human employment redundant?

Columbus Futurist David Staley presented three scenarios for the future of higher education under such conditions, and as a group we will imagine a scenario where the purpose of a university education is teaching students and AI to “think together.”

Here is an article David wrote for a special section of the Columbus Dispatch:  Here Come the Machines, Again

Some articles to consider:

Recap: The Future of Multimedia – An Interactive Tour

Recap:

Topic: The Future of Multimedia: Visual, News, Music & Social

This discussion was led by Columbus Futurists member Onyemobi Anyiwo. He took the group on a journey recalling how we received information – news, music, movies – and communicated with friends and family – starting with 1967, and then jumping 10 years forward until we reached present day.  Very interesting not only to see how technology and social behavior has evolved – but also how we recollect those changes.  Many people in the room had no memory of the earlier times – they weren’t born yet!

The exercise made the discussion less abstract – lent an air of reality as everyone remembered how their tools and their preferences had changed over the years,

Finally, the discussion looked ahead – what would the situation be in 2027 – 10 years hence? The possibilities are at once kind of clear – a continuation of current trends – and obscure – as we don’t know what unexpected disjunctures in technology might be waiting for us.

From the promo for the meeting:

The last 17 years  has seen dramatic changes in the ways we receive media content. 20th Century Media “Goliaths” have been slain by 21st Century Media “Davids”.  Home video companies like Blockbuster & Hollywood Video were hurt by Cable On-Demand & Pay-Per-View services, and eventually finished off by Redbox and Netflix.

Music stores like Tower Records which used to be staples of shopping malls across the country, have closed their doors due to the creation of the MP3, their subsequent sharing via P2P networks (Napster, Kazaa, etc), as well as the purchase and streaming options offered by Itunes, Amazon, Pandora & Spotify.

Cable News, which introduced the 24 hours news cycle, is unable to keep up with the likes of Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms in terms of delivering breaking news.

Speaking of which, even cable television itself is faltering as more and more people are joining the “cordcutting” revolution and opting for streaming services powered by media sticks & boxes, such as Google Chromecast, Kodi, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, etc.

But even the new media titans aren’t safe themselves from being supplanted by newer up-and-comers. And technology like Augmented and Virtual Reality promises to deliver more interactive types of media that we previously have only been able to imagine. So the question is: What is the future of media? Where do we go from here?

Some suggested reading resources (any one of these articles serves as fuel for the discussion):

Another great discussion in an exciting agenda emerging for our meetings this year.

Recap: The Future of the Evolving Worker

Topic: The Future of the Evolving Worker

(meeting 4/27/2017)

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” – Alvin Toffler

Humans in general seek out meaningful work.  Part of that need is based on sustenance – it is a time-honored tradition to trade our time and skills for compensation by the beneficiaries.  And another part of that need seems to be an inner drive to seek out meaningful ways to spend our time – whether compensated or not – to validate one’s self-worth, to contribute to a personal legacy, or other psychological reasons.

The structure of the relationship between the provider of time and skill (employee) and the beneficiary (employer) is undergoing radical change.  Much of that change is based on the radical changes in commercial enterprise caused by the influx of technology.  Other aspects of change cascade from initial technological impact, to a fundamental restructuring of social relationships in almost every dimension.  It seems like we are waiting on one last development to flip the balance.  Much like one last grain of sand on a perfect cone can cause the entire structure to collapse and assume a new form.

We have some idea how the nature of jobs – and, more generally, work – is changing.  But what must we as individuals – and as a society – change to keep up, and accommodate new rules for finding sustenance, and for finding personal meaning and satisfaction?

This changing picture for people – and all the adjustments and changes they will have embrace for a future success and a future economy – is the topic of our discussion this month.

Some suggested reading resources (any one of these articles serves as fuel for the discussion):

Building on our discussions of blockchain  and the future of jobs in the last two meetings – this focus on people – a key factor in shaping the future – is a primary consideration in projecting an economy for coming generations.

Recap: The Changing Picture of Jobs

Forum: March 23, 2017

Topic: The Changing Picture of Jobs

— Our meeting generated lively discussion – how are jobs changing, how are our jobs changing, what conditions will a new generation of workers face in specific job categories?  Following the meeting, a couple of relevant articles appeared, which I include here for the record.  And this discussion will certainly inform our next meeting, focusing on people – people who will need and want meaningful work in the future.

Rich Bowers

Chasing the future of the employment opportunity has long been a social and political priority. Since World War II, it has been a foregone conclusion that the way to a good job and a life of success was a good education.  The definition of “a good education,” though has been changing: a good education in a profession that is in demand, then a good education that focused on STEM fields, then an education that focused on creative or so-called “soft” skills like project management, or communications.  In spite of that wisdom, stories abounded of people with levels of education in highly specific specialties that were unable to find employment in those fields . Meanwhile. middle-management and lower skill-level jobs were shedding workers at high rates, and re-training, and skills updating became priorities.  Billions of dollars in students loans, millions of displaced and under-employed workers – all chasing a job.  And like a wisp of wind – just when about to grasp it – the job would vanish.  Not just be withdrawn or reduced in number needed – but in many, many cases – the job itself simply performed tasks that were no longer needed to be done.

Perhaps it is in our definition of “job.”    The “gig” economy, the advent of Uber, the “auction” mentality that has sprung up in so many creative professions – along with the impact of animation, fluid centers of manufacturing and declining costs of transportation of goods and – most significantly – the underlying foundation of virtually free communications technology – has resulted in a new trajectory for employment and the meaning of “earning a living.”

This changing picture of jobs – and all the dimensions and dynamics that have created our current situation is the topic of our discussion this month.

Some suggested reading resources:

One final point – building on our discussion of blockchain last month – and the impact this technology might have when kinks are worked out – consider this quote: “The spread of blockchains is bad for anyone in the ‘trust business’ – the centralised institutions and bureaucracies, such as banks, clearing houses and government authorities that are deemed sufficiently trustworthy to handle transactions,” The Economist argued back in 2015.”

Meeting Notes – Blockchain – February 23, 2017

Topic: The Blockchain – and the future of the Internet and your data

Guest facilitator Dave Bladwin provided a lot of thought-provoking ideas on the subject of blockchain, and it impact in a variety of aspects of life – from the management of value (e.g., bitcoin) to the possible futures of politics, health care, education and more.

He offered a handout developed by Price-Waterhouse-Coopers describing some basic ideas and markets of blockchain.

He also recommended Don Tapscott’s Ted Talk as a good introduction.

——————

Coming up on 25 years of the Internet, and it’s within recent memory that most people knew little about it, were afraid of it, were fascinated by it – but couldn’t even spell HTML, or www.

For all the change the Web has brought to our lives, one thing has remained an unresolved obstacle – the ability to transmit a secret securely and reliably.  We all have secrets – financial , data health data, personal and professional and corporate and government data of all descriptions.  With only flawed technology to work with, we have accepted a certain amount of risk in exploiting the Internet in spite of its insecurity.

A few years ago, however, a a new kind of money appeared on the web.  Not based on any country’s currency, not dependent on banks or any of the traditional financial infrastructure – a thing called Bitcoin came on the scene, and became the first Internet tool of wealth.  The thing that made Bitcoin possible was a new approach to the “secure transaction” – a technology known as the blockchain.

Both Bitcoin and the blockchain are abstract concepts, steeped in highly geeked-up technology, and implemented by people who are challenged to communicate with common consumers and data users.  But it turns out that the blockchain is not simply a currency-related tool.  It can in fact be generalized, and used in many environments for a wide – and wild – variety of transactions and and interactions that have never before been seen as “transactions” at all.  Securing medical records, education records, financial records of all kind – and a host of additional applications that appear weekly.

The blockchain might be – all hyperbole aside – the key to the next level of exploitation of communication and Internet services.  While nothing is without risk, it may reduce the risk of storing and transmitting secrets online – and that could change the face of commerce and interaction for everyone.  Thus important to now about, so we are going to explore it in this edition of the Columbus Futurists.

The list of this topic’s resources is longer than usual, because this is a topic that can be elusive if the explainer comes at it from a direction the reader/hearer can’t identify with.  So this list represents and attempt to provide multiple doors and windows for our Futurists to get a handle on one of the latest, most exciting developments in technology.

Late-breaking story about the perceived importance of blockchain:

Check out these resources for background on the blockchain:

TED talks on the subject:

January 19, 2017 – Gene editing and the future of CRISPR

Meeting Announcement

Forum: January 19, 2017

Topic: Gene editing and the future of CRISPR

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique that allows scientists to isolate the segment of genes they want to alter, then uses the Cas9 protein as a kind of “cutting tool” or scalpel to remove the section we want. The technique then inserts the desired gene sequence. It has been somewhat whimsically called a kind of “find-and-replace” for genes.  CRISPR will have effects on everything from the treatment of diseases to the manufacture of drought resistant crops. Some researchers — and many ethicists — are also warning that gene editing tools have the potential to create evolutionary-scale changes to entire species.

Check out these resources for background for the discussion:

An exciting agenda is emerging for our meetings this year.