Victor Scenario
Self-confidence of a #professional #futurist who discards #prediction

A scientific training or background as in the case of Kurzweil or Kaku could incline you to utter confident estimates, often called predictions. A typical scientist is the sort of person who will find great joy and awe in discovering the initial conditions and the laws of evolution from quarks to quasars.

Prediction and self-confidence are closely related notions. And we can easily separate them in particular for scholars who challenge the epistemological foundation of positivist empirical science.

We can or should discard prediction in quality futures work and emphasize the line of alternative possibilities. But a fair amount of trust in ourselves is absolutely necessary if we are acting the role of public intellectuals or thought leaders because the audience is very sensitive, often automatically and without full aware control, to how confident we are. This could well explain why Kurzweil or Kaku are successful, it’s not about prediction but more fundamentally about their scientific upbringing self-confidence.

Another group of highly confident people are the religious vision builders. They have faith based self-confidence.

It is my preference that a professional futurist should take the middle ground in an spectrum of self-confidence. If too confident we may well appear as religious or scientific as mentioned above. If no confident at all then people won’t take us seriously at all. 

Confident futures research if not predictive science
In hard sciences, prediction is all about the power of scientific theories and in particular self-confidence of scientists themselves. Let me give you an example in astrophysics. Suppose that you want to estimate the number of stars in a typical galaxy. Essentially you do not need to actually observe a star or galaxy to count them. 
Using pencil and paper and some math and physics you may get an equation that only involves some universal constants like the masses of electron and proton and two fine structure constants that gives you an estimate of the number of stars in a typical galaxy: 1000 billions. A typical galaxy has indeed approximately 100-1000 billion stars.
Such highly accurate point estimates based on scientific theories is, of course, next to impossible in a typical futures research. Yet any spell-bound audience of futures studies is much in favor of some great level of self-confidence by futurists about what they say.
The importance of self-confidence of a presenter of an idea has been duly addressed by researchers like Alex Pentland who has shown that the human brain is highly sensitive to “unconscious” clues, some of them related to your body language, about how much confident you are about what you say. Your enhanced interest, activity, and confidence in a topic and associated analysis actually determine if you will be successful in selling an idea to a typical audience.

Let me conclude by repeating the often heard aphorism by Bertrand Russell:

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

You need to reverse that perhaps by doing quality and “confident futures research” if not predictive science.

For millennia, predicting the future seemed far fetched. Today, it seems inevitable. Predictive science is in its infancy, but as we grow more connected—and more of our worlds become exposed—systems that anticipate our actions, both individually and in aggregate, will only grow more sophisticated and more accurate. Mares puts it best: “We’re just scratching the surface here.”

futurist-foresight:

A quick look at some of the wondrous work in robotics done by Festo.

policymic:

Engineering Company Festo Is Creating Robots Based On Nature

German engineering firm Festo is creating a robot army. Sounds scary, right? But there’s no need to fear a “Skynet”-type apocalypse quite yet, because these robots want to do good by making laborious tasks easier in the factories of the future. And they’re using nature as their inspiration.

Festo summarizes the motivation behind their research on their website: “Gripping, moving, controlling and measuring – nature performs all of these tasks instinctively, easily and efficiently. What could be more logical than to examine these natural phenomena and learn from them?”

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#MOOC: revival of an ancient higher education now with high tech tools

The current experimentation in higher education with MOOC reminds me of a well known model in Persia at the peak of the Islamic Golden Age. Using the characteristics that futurist Thomas Frey identifies for Super Professors I begin to recall the names of Celebrity Professors such as Avicenna, Al-Biruni, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi among a few others who had “influence, fame, clout, and name recognition” but unfortunately had not the super technology within their reach.

Back then only a handful number of influential polymaths were giving lectures in their cities for any person who cared to come. And the major aim of education was achieving wisdom plus networking (life changing experiences that are highly dependent upon the caliber of people sitting next to you) and not necessarily degrees or certificates for the job market. The big hurdle was of course long distances which now thanks to the Internet is part of history. As a matter of fact I see a recurrence of a historical model of education, this time on a planetary scale, which is enabled by modern technologies.

Suspension of Disbelief: the #Einstein way

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In the notebook of Einstein we see his tireless struggle to derive the equations of general relativity and apparently sometimes he is really exhausted.

In the middle of this we see that he used to do some recreational puzzles.

This riddle of geometry that we see in the notebook is both fun and insightful.

Arrange four components to build the same triangle yet in two different ways and end up seeing that you are short of one unit area.

Where is that missed area?
How could that be possible?
Or is it impossible?
Can you believe it?

Before looking up the solution to this puzzle let your brain entertain you for a while.

Today we call this occurrences of unbelievable possibility or credible impossibility as Suspension of Disbelief and take full advantage of them as a technique in storytelling and scenario planning.


More to explore

Suspension of disbelief
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief

Einstein’s notebook
http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/Goodies/Zurich_Notebook
Perception of Uncertainty

Identifying uncertainties plays a key role in futures studies methods and in particular scenario planning. However, I would say that our individual perception of uncertainty is highly subjective and depends on the environment, I mean the country or region, we are living in or born and raised into.

In the Middle East and North Africa, with which I am familiar, almost anything from bottom to up and from top to down is highly uncertain. An average person or organization cannot have reasonable forward looking plans for the next year let alone the next decade. Every morning they should expect a major change that can fundamentally shift or derail those plans.

But a person or organization in more developed countries, for example, Sweden or Canada, is less exposed to everyday big uncertainties, if any at all. Also, as a matter of fact we can identify at least a few enterprises that have been around more than a hundred years in some developed countries. Take Hershey’s as an example which was founded 120 years ago.

The notion of uncertainty, it is my contention, would trigger different mental responses if raised in front of a person living in Norway with its famous giant fund for future generations or a person living in a country of central Africa that may or may not have the current government literally from tomorrow. So we need to make clear the background and context before identifying an uncertainty.

Clearly when you talk to people in highly volatile countries or regions, who are struggling with almost daily uncertainties, you cannot easily sell some uncertainties that only make sense in your country or region.

My point here is that for some backward countries and regions practically everything is uncertain and you cannot easily prioritize them. But when a scholar based in developed countries talks about a set of uncertainties an audience based on those regions simply cannot get what they mean.

Linking uncertainty to opportunity as some people do is however a bit delicate because it smacks of approving the widespread corruption in the highly volatile regions. When everything is uncertain every person may have a chance to make some huge profit riding on the horse of lawlessness and disorder.

But is it a good occurrence or bad one. On a broad psychological level what can we say about the mindset of people who happen to live in highly uncertain circumstances when they cannot even be almost sure what may bring tomorrow?

The celebration of chaos in cosmology, the science of the universe

The recent major cosmological big news about the gravitational waves and an evidence for the inflation theory has already been covered by different sources.

The implication of this scientific discovery for our thinking about the past origin and future evolution of the whole universe is much easier to explain than the nature and method of linking mathematical theory and experimental observations in physics.

The story is like this. Scientists had suggested a standard model for the emergence and evolution of the universe. It is based on expansion since big bang. However, they had faced two major challenges that were questioning two related scientific principles, causality and chaos.

Cause and effect is easy to imagine; put a cube of ice in a glass of water and it will gradually melt down.This cause and effect has to happen within spacetime and is limited for exchange of information, here temperature, by the speed of light.

There were observations and data that “appeared to violate” causality. In other words, we are measuring some “incredible order” in the wide sky that had to be “complete disorder” if we were to hold firmly to cause and effect and its mechanism in spacetime. Apparently there must have been a very intelligent design for the universe beyond spacetime and therefore ruling out the simple idea of cause and effect.This is known as “the horizon problem” among cosmologists.

Also, the whole universe, is currently nearly flat with a high precision. But the measure of flatness is very much sensitive to the very early conditions of cosmos. If you give a 14 billion years time, almost the age of the universe, to an arbitrary or chaotic value of this parameter to evolve, it would have been so much different today than it is now. Such a huge different value means that the galaxies, stars, Sun, Earth, and therefore us would have not come into being at all.

So based on the observations and old theories we had to conclude that apparently there must have been a very prescient intelligent design for the universe almost 14 billion years ago. Scientists often call this “unnatural fine-tuning.” Because they reject the possibility of an intelligent design and instead favor that order emerges from disorder and chaos they called this highly ordered parameter from the very beginning time as defining “the flatness problem.”

Scientists found a way to overcome both the horizon and flatness problems simultaneously by building a new model or theory in which a two-stage evolution around the time the universe was just one second old was necessary. If you imagine an “extraordinary expansion”, called inflation, before second one and an “ordinary expansion” after second one until today, you will note that the universe has gone through an ordinary expansion since second one which is big as much as it was going through an extraordinary expansion before second one.

In both periods, before and after second one, the universe has expanded as much as almost “3 to power of 66.” For such an extraordinary expansion in a very short time, a tiny fraction of a second, we need an amount of energy which is equal to nearly “10 to power of 16” units of energy. That would be a very tremendous amount. You can compare it to the energy record reached at the most powerful particle accelerator we have built on Earth to simulate the conditions of the early universe which is only around 7000 units of energy.

That imagined model was suggested almost three decades ago and scientists improved it ever since but only recently they were able to provide some concrete evidence in the universe for supporting that theory. Therefore they are delighted now to celebrate the point that this fantastic order in the universe has indeed emerged from chaos. Causality is saved within spacetime as well as that in nature only natural processes are needed. This rules out the need for some intelligent design or pre-order to explain the evolution of the universe.

Think about it this way: previously we thought that our universe was like a spherical balloon. In the new picture, it’s like a balloon producing balloons, producing balloons. This is a big fractal.

ANDREI LINDE, a Russian-American theoretical physicist and professor of Physics at Stanford University, is the father of “eternal chaotic inflation”, one of the varieties of the inflationary multiverse theory, which proposes that the universe may consist of many universes with different properties. 

Happy New Persian Year #Nowruz #Iran #Nuclear #Future #Peace

I wish all friends and colleagues a wonderful opportunity for renewal while celebrating Nowruz with their loved ones in the first days of Spring.

Let’s hope for some deeper trust and full cooperation between Iran and the world powers about its nuclear ambitions in the new Persian year.

We can corner extremists in Iran, US, Israel and elsewhere to deescalate the lesser cold war by promoting reason, mutual understanding, peace, and nation-to-nation dialogue.