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Extreme Futurist Festival 2012: Los Angeles, December 21-22

More awesome futuristic stuff …

The second annual Extreme Futurist Festival (XFF) will take place in Los Angeles this coming December 21 and 22. XFF is billed as an arts and technology festival, where “counterculture meets academia.” So take cutting-edge technology and add some techno music, throw in some freaks, geeks and dreadlocks … but wait, XFF aspires to be more than just a nostalgic remix of late-’90s rave culture.

From what I can gather, XFF is also an embodied statement on who gets to participate in the creation of the future, and a reaction against the perceived marginalization of youthful individualism by big institutionalized futurism. In a way, it seems to be a call to arms for the futurist fringe, via transhumanist philosophy. According to the XFF’s statement on Kurzweil AI, “It is time to rise against the dominant current of our society and declare that nothing is too extreme. We refuse to be assimilated into a carbon copied version of a new humanity. As evolutionary agents we will push the boundaries of what it means to transform our species.”

Potent words, the stuff of daring youth. And here’s the XFF trailer:

Extreme Futurist Festival 2012 Trailer from H+ Worldwide on Vimeo.

The XFF was organized by Rachel Haywire, a futurist author and the editor of Humanity+ Magazine. Check out an interview with Rachel on the XFF here. The Fest is also sponsored by Humanity+, but it was at least partially financed through a crowd funding effort on RocketHub.

Anyway, it promises to be a beautiful thing, so if you’re in the LA area at the end of the fabled Mayan calendar (i.e., December 21, 2012), support it if you can.

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Dear Businesspeople: The Status Quo is NOT Your Friend

Despite my concern for ethical and social issues in previous posts, and in my academic lectures, never assume I am anti-business. Like anything, business can be a force for not-so-good as much as for good. However, business, when at its finest, creates value for society, improves lives, extends human horizons and, yes, paves the road to the future.

Plus, many of my best friends are businesspeople …

But let me say this clearly to my friends in business: The status quo is NOT your friend.

The rate of change in our business, tech, and social environment is too fast. And the barriers to entry in most industries are too low. That great new venture you got funded, that innovative new business model you invented, that great new product you just launched — they all hit the world with virtually no shelf life. At the moment of launch, someone already has something better in the works, someone else gets busy copying what you did, someone else entirely begins working furiously on making you obsolete.

Today, I still see so much energy put into maintaining various aspects of the status quo in business, especially business models and product offerings. We believe we are smarter or bigger or more experienced than everyone else. We believe we can leverage our experience and initial momentum in the market. We believe that if we just landed a few more big fish customers or built a few more headline-making strategic partnerships, we can extend the present into the future. We believe we can win in the game we know, if only it can stay the game we know.

And it will work. For a while.

But your success today can feed your failure tomorrow. The clock is ticking — your ideas are aging, your model is aging and the future is out there in those little pockets of competition, lining up to knock you off your mountain.

The status quo is not your friend. It will betray you, and it will diminish the great contribution you have the ability to make to our world as a business and/or businessperson.

So don’t stop innovating. Don’t stop learning and growing. Be the one that undermines your business model with the next big thing. Develop the product that makes your own product obsolete.

It’s your only hope.


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Futurist Artist Cory Jespersen

A big part of creating the future is being able to visualize it, to draw it and illustrate what it might look and feel like. We need artists (we also need to be artists) to create the future.

In this post, I’d like to showcase the work of futurist artist Cory Jespersen.

Some background: I used to work at the big-box retailer PetSmart several years back, first as an Associate Creative Director, then as a Senior Marketing Manager. I hired and worked with some incredible people at PetSmart, including designer and artist Cory Jespersen.

I remember looking at Cory’s portfolio in the hiring interview. He had some good retail design work and also some weird fantasy and sci-fi sketches and paintings, the kind of stuff that might turn off some corporate creative directors.

But me, I thought, awesome. I hired Cory and he was indeed awesome. He still is.

Cory has developed his futuristic art chops since that time, and with his permission, I’d like to share some of his work. It’s wonderful, imaginative stuff, so check it out:


Also, visit Cory’s site at www.coryjespersen.com. Great work. Keep it up, Cory!


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Two Awesome Hoverbikes

I was eight years old when the original Star Wars film hit the theaters. Begged my parents to take me. Waited in line. Loved it. Wanted a light sabre. Didn’t understand why they hadn’t been invented yet.

I also wanted a Landspeeder, which presumably utilized some kind of anti-gravity. And while there’s no anti-gravity propulsion still, there are increasingly powerful fans. And they can be used to power hovercraft!

Here are two awesome hoverbikes.

First, this one from Aerofex in California:

Read the story on the Aerofex bike here.

Finally, this one from Australian inventor Chris Malloy:Click on the image above (courtesy of GizMag.com) to read the full story and see the great photo gallery.

A lot of development left to do here, apparently, but great design and innovation.

Three final words: I want one.


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A Good Futurist Needs …

According to Jim Dator, Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, to be a good futurist (and I quote Dator in italics), you need:

•  the widest possible knowledge of the history and present condition of as many cultures and civilizations as possible; you must know more than one culture, and thus more than one language, intimately,

• the widest possible knowledge of all aspects of all the social sciences,

• the widest possible knowledge of current and emerging developments in the natural sciences, and their emerging sub disciplines and transdisciplines, for example, evolutionary systems theory, chaos theory, and brain science,

• the widest possible familiarity with developments in engineering (especially electronics and genetics), architecture, and space sciences,

• the widest possible familiarity with philosophy, ethics, morals, and religions, and certainly the ethical discourse of as many different traditions as possible,

• the widest possible familiarity with law and planning,

• an active awareness of esthetics and the esthetic element in all aspects of life; a continuing experience of esthetic expression in some, or preferably many, modes,

• creativity, imagination, the willingness to think new thoughts, to make unmade connections, to be ridiculed, laughed at, and to laugh at yourself,

• the ability to synthesize, combine, invent, create,

• the willingness to be politically active, to test out new ideas on yourself first and while trying actually to create a better world, or some portion of it,

• the ability to try to anticipate the consequences of actions before you act, but also the willingness to risk failure and to learn from mistakes and criticism–indeed to seek out and provoke criticism–but to keep trying to do better, and constantly to relearn what ‘better’ might be,

• insatiable curiosity, unbounded compassion, incurable optimism, and an unquenchable sense of humor and delight in the absurd.

It’s an engaging (and daunting) list of interdisciplinary knowledge and open mindsets to master and develop, but I would also argue that these requirements are not just for the obscure profession of future studies. Today, as technology and globalization compress time and space, we all need to be doing at least some of this stuff. We all need to be futurists.

The future is happening now. And now. And now.

So build a tough reading list and start reading. Make connections across disciplines and cultures. Dream up an idea and prototype it. Test your assumptions. Let your curiosity run away with you.

Oh, and don’t forget to laugh a little.


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OpenIDEO: Crowdsourcing Innovation

The legendary product development and design firm IDEO has beta-launched OpenIDEO, a “crowdsourcing” site for innovative ideas for a variety of contemporary challenges. The concept is fairly simple: challenges are posted, ideas submitted, and a panel facilitates refinement and ultimate selection of a winning concept. You can join for free and participate in several different ways, from submitting ideas to helping in refining the ideas of others.

The challenges posted range from sustainability to education to medicine. If you’re creative and have ideas, it’s a fabulous way to interface with IDEO and a network of people like you. If you’re simply looking for inspiration, it’s a great place to browse about (see especially the Field Notes section).

The best part, to quote from the OpenIDEO site: “All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able and reusable by anyone – in a similar way to Creative Commons. The hope is that some of these concepts will become reality outside of OpenIDEO.com.”

Here’s their video introduction:


Exciting stuff, really. I see in OpenIDEO an intriguing model for all kinds of technological and social development projects. In a way, it’s a kind of democracy of ideas that neither completely dilutes the vision of the individual creator nor completely eschews the value of a rigorous vetting process. And because the concepts are shareable and resuseable, there’s the potential here to cultivate and coalesce creative problem-solving around big challenges and thus stimulate even more, even better solutions for our present (and future) challenges.


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Quick Sketch: A Semi-Automated Farming Pod

Great Labor Day weekend with friends and family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Inspired by the landscape and hiking in the Sandia Mountains. Thinking about “machines of loving grace,” I sketched up a couple of techno-eco ideas, and here’s one (below). It’s an automated farming machine that uses suspended, interchangeable hexagonal pots, put into hexagonal pods of seven. These pods are suspended around a column, and a computer automates the watering and other processes. It’s solar-powered and reclaims some of its water.

At harvest time, just lower the pods and pick, or access the produce from the interior and drop it down an internal ramp.

Here’s the sketch:

Actually, it would be preferable if the machine did everything, but we’ll have to get to that. Lots of technical details to work out on this idea, but it’s an idea, a sketch. And good things start there.