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Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Adjusting to Climate Change

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Tech Review article on planning for the new global climate looks at how researchers are struggling with the need for climate change forecasts and models for regional and local levels, to aid decision makers, planners, and responders with dealing with global climate change on a local and actionable level.

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Filed under: Built Environment, Climate Change

The DIY Economy

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A CNET article from last year (gasp!) talked about the emergence of the do-it-yourself Web, where new companies online provide fast and easy tools for non-techies to create professional looking and more sophisticated websites. The article also talked about new services to let non-programmers build web ‘mash-ups’, a typically inelegant internet term for an online service that fuses two or more information sources and tools into a single application (or experience).

Thoughts: Although we don’t often think about technology this way, one of the applications of technology is to embed competency or capability into a tool to allow humans to do something they naturally cannot do, such as fly, explode objects, or create precise, visually stunning documents. This has been a characteristic of technology from the earliest times, and today we can see the evolution of this to new heights.

While being able to code is certainly a plus in today’s economy, you certainly don’t need such skills to operate in the global marketplace. We’re seeing the emergence of what some have anticipated for years: the beginnings of an economy where ideas and content really are economic drivers and where more and more of ‘the masses’ can participate, not simply as consumers, but once more a producers of valued content. From WYSIWYG software for building websites, to home video editing software, to the new services to allow non-coders to build mashups on the Web, we have been witnessing the slow application of technology to enable the average person to produce, distribute, and theoretically make money off of their original content, something previously relegated to corporations with large finances, reach, and technical staff.

In the future we will be watching for more instances of this shift, such as in movies and CGI, where developments in the last few years have slowly but surely brought professional-grade computer animation and movie making to the home desktop. It does not take a professional futurist to anticipate that in the not too distant future, any individual with basic computer literacy, an internet connection, good imagination, and good social networks could build their own successful media conglomerate, with highly unique news, entertainment, and whatever new forms of fusion media they can imagine. Add to that the parallel trend in fabrication technology, and that person’s ideas could easily take physical form (more on that in later posts)…

Related:

  • The Long Tail: a book based on an earlier article that argues that the emerging economy will allow the small little niches, not profitable from the mass market retail point of view, to be viable busineses in the 21st Century.
  • The Movies: a computer game that simulates a movie studio. It became almost more popularly because a sub-component of the game allowed players to script, selected costumes, scenes, and props, and paste together simple computer-animated scenes and thus literally produce the movies they wanted their fictitious characters to star in
  • Maya: a popular and award-winning program for 3D modeling
  • Popfly: a new Microsoft application to allow users to use shapes rather than actual code to create mashups

Filed under: Business, Economics, Wealth

Entrepreneurship in the U.S.

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An annual Kauffman Foundation study released today finds that the general rate of entrepreneurship in the United States has remained steady over the past 11 years. Between 2005 and 2006, an estimated 465,000 adults created new businesses every month. The annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity is the only annual study that measures new business development for the entire US at the individual level.

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Filed under: Economics, Education

Shaping the Future of State Education

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The University of Michigan developed the National Clearinghouse on Academic Worklife, a repository and portal for articles, policy papers, and link regarding the changes and evolution in professional life in higher education.

Thoughts: While the above scan hit really relates to the lives of professionals in universities and colleges, the issues they are facing with ongoing changes in higher education and collegiate life of course have a much broader impact. The central issue of ‘what future higher education’ has been thrown about for years, and yet for all the articles in the popular press and all of the reports, conferences, and journal pieces concerned with the ‘future of education’, there has been surprisingly little innovative thinking proposed. But as is often the case, inspiration for radically innovative changes often do not originate within the host industry.

The world is changing, as it always has, only now it is changing at a much more rapid clip. To not only compete economically in a globalized world (perhaps of primary concern to the US political establishment), but also cultivate the strong, healthy, and adaptive citizens a society needs today, we need more serious and determined examinations of the role and nature of formal state education (i.e., that base educational experience to socialize and prepare a common citizenry). The futures are opening up interesting possibilities for creating organized and disaggregated systems for education across the lifespan, but inspiration for these possibilities will not necessarily (and certainly not only) come from the education profession, and serious investigators should be looking abroad at other fields. But such most also look to the different roles, responsibilities, and capabilities that institutions other than ‘schools’ should and may have: communities, families, professions, and global communities.  By example, in recent years thousands across the country have seized upon ‘charter schools’ as The Answer to whatever educational or cultural deficiency they detected in the current system.  The Charter school movement is unlikely to be the silver bullet (and indeed there rarely is one, but single point solutions make good press), and should instead by viewed as one of several efforts available and employed by society to create a more adaptive and competent citizenry.  As with all complex social issues, the drivers are many and the responses must be many.

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Filed under: Education

Cities to Undergo ‘Greening’

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The William J. Clinton Foundation, in collaboration with the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, is implementing the ‘Clinton Climate Initiative.’  Under this initiative, sixteen major cities around the world New York, Chicago, and Houston, will be renovating municipal-owned buildings with green technologies.  Major financial institutions will be contributing $1 billion to the renovations, and companies such as Honeywell International and Siemens AG will conduct audits to ensure that the expected energy savings are obtained.  If not, they will pay the difference or make further modifications to the buildings.

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Filed under: Built Environment, Climate Change

Powered Prosthesis

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Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab (specifically in the biomechatronics group) have developed an experimental ankle prosthesis. The device mechanics are modeled on the human ankle and is powered to provide the same sort of propulsion that the natural joint does. The researchers hope to have lighter and more powerful commercial versions available next year.

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Filed under: Biology

Designing Cities from Scratch

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Wired magazine featured the back story to the upcoming Chinese city of Dongtan, a metropolis about the size of Manhattan to be designed and built from scratch on Chongming Island. The firm Arup has approached the project as a closed ecosystem, employing urban planners, economists, environmental experts and others to create a more comprehensive and systemic approach to designing a city for the 21st Century. Learn more.

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Filed under: Built Environment

Profiting off the wealth gap

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A recent BusinessWeek article examined the financial sub-industries that have grown up around the lower income classes, catering to what is known as sub-prime markets. The article details a few cases of low income individuals getting caught in what many see as a predatory game to hook individuals into credit they can ill afford, all catering to their needs and desires to pay bills and purchases higher end products. A key insight of the article is the lack of financial knowledge and savvy common to many Americans, and how this exacerbates the very real human tendencies to play to emotional responses (e.g., desires, impatience, need for status), all of which lead to poor financial decisions.

Thoughts: One of the concerns raised by the article is the increasing wealth gap found in the US and believed by many to be occurring around the globe. In our economic system, individuals have considerable incentive to find ‘niche’ markets within which to build profitable businesses. Indeed, much of the ‘corporate strategy’ literature points to differentiation and finding niches as the effective ways to orient a business and product development. The sub-prime markets talked about above represent a certain kind of niche that some saw long ago and into which many are now flocking. From a ‘profit-maximization’ viewpoint (something management luminaries such as Peter Drucker thought was ridiculous), this makes perfect and legitimate sense. From a broader point view, something endorsed by advocates of environmentalism, sustainability, and social justice, the knowing pursuit of policies (read: business trends) that contribute to the fraying of the socio-economic fabric are unethical and in many cases immoral.

Here a key may be context and knowledge. It often takes someone to identify the larger and longer-time ramifications of policy, consequences not examined by the policy designer/implementers for a variety of cultural and structural reasons, to make the broader public or policy establishment (or business community) aware of the potential impact before society and its instruments (like government) can properly identify the threat and establish new rules. And of course, this response is always shaped by the cultures woven through a society: thus, do we as modern Americans feel enough offense at the widening wealth gap to advocate for substantive behavioral and structural changes in our socio-economic system?

Related:

  • The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Jeffrey Sachs. 2006
  • The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. William Easterly. 2007
  • Development as Freedom. Amartya Sen. 2000 (winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998)
    • For a related item by Amartya Sen dealing with culture and identity

Filed under: Economics, Wealth

Biometrics

Fingerprint authentication is revealed as the preferred method for security for a vast majority (70%) of citizens in Singapore and Malaysia, according to a recent Unisys survey. According to a ZDNet Asia article, factors such as convenience, security, and early socialization with more advanced identity cards than are used in the U.S., contribute to these citizens’ comfort and acceptance of the biometric systems.

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Filed under: Security

Family Run Businesses

A recent BusinessWeek article covers the end of the world’s longest-lasting family-run business: Kongo Gumi, a Japanese temple builder that began in C.E. 578 and ended last year in 2006. The firm was lead by 40 generations over 14 centuries of business. The article comments on lessons to learn from their incredible longevity as well as their eventual closing.

For those interested in studies of family businesses, and particularly the challenges faced in passing leadership from one generation to the next, check out the book Succeeding Generations, by Ivan Lansberg.

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Filed under: 'Ohana, Business

Hawai’i: the Reboot

2 days. 200 innovators. A new future for Hawai'i.


The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


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We work with organizations to anticipate strategic change and to craft the strategies that will shape their desired futures.


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