Category Archives: futures

Three-Parent Babies – Tackling Obesities scenario becomes reality

“By combining the DNA of parents with genetic material from a third person, scientists might have developed a way for women with rare genetic disorders to have healthy children. The bad news: The ethical complications involved are so messy that it might be a long time coming. The researchers outline their work in a study in this week’s Nature. On the surface, the idea is fairly simple. They took the nuclei out of the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg, and transplanted them into a donor’s egg cell that had its nucleus removed, but whose mitochondria remained in the cell’s cytoplasm. What you get is the genetics of both parents, plus the mitochondrial DNA of the host. This technique was pioneered in monkeys last summer, but researchers have now done a proof-of-principle study with human cells.”
via Discover Magazine

During my internship on the Tackling Obesities project at Foresight, DTI (now Government Office for Science) we were asked to respond and envision the impact of the predicted obesity epidemic over the next 40 years. This current scientific research development reflects some of the work I generated during this internship; one scenario Michael Burton and I generated was entitled P-Evolution Clinic.

P-Evolution Clinic: The Immersive Future Child Portrait Room

The P-Evo Clinic is the ultimate preventative measure against our obesity epidemic and a development of the Family Planning Association. It offers services to would-be parents, through advanced PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), to predict genetic variants in the not-yet-conceived child. Parents can prepare for possible special requirements their unborn child may need in an obesogenic environment. The experience of a visit to the P-EVO clinic is a rare blend of religious vision, health spa and theatrical spectacle. It was particular a service catered towards three different parents who want to find the opportuntiy to merge the ‘ideal’ DNA of each parent to prevent future predisposition to obesity disease.

This particular scenario was generated to raise discussion amongst the other scenario planners and researchers at Foresight to imagine the impact obesity will have on the health service. Now that this research has been published, where might the discussion continue?

What would be the parental negotiations if 3 parents were responsible for a child? What social services would exist? Would the average family be increased? How will housing change? Would and how will these Gattaca services exist? How would parents roles change? Would the mother become ever more a vehicle for reproduction ( see The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood)

The Microtrend Diary: your future real time, your future memo

Example page of my recent project: The Microtrend Diary

I am now at the next phase of developing my Microtrend Diary.

The Microtrend Diary currently exists in paper form and there are a number of exercises embedded within it that perhaps make sense as individual applications. Ideally im looking to develop a very simple website with an embedded form that will generate a new question each week/day. At the moment it is it about generating enough questions that provoke the right emotional reactions that I am looking to develop.

In some ways it is still about provoking and coercing you to subconsciously think about your future next moves rather than just asking you about your opinion in real-time. A blend of Plinky with an underlying sense of the relationship recommendation nation as perfectly illustrated by Facebook or LinkedIn mashed up with a life coach and soothsayer.

So the next step is to generate the right tone and the right amount of questions. I was originally inspired by the current news headlines and tragic stories i used to read in magazines and newspapers and the messages they give to you as the reader.  As we absorb more information via social media sites the more we are away of our inadequacies. How can we be reminded of these in such a way that we act on them and make changes, would we want to and would we know we are making changes? Some questions add anxiety but how does this make you change? Maybe these questions are merely mundane reminders but what if you could create a future memo for yourself? Are these wishes for when you reach a certain age? Is this just another time capsule opportunity that all social media apps provide for our future selves? Will these questions create a self fulfilling prophecy, is it a form of persuasion?

Britain in 2010 as seen in 1990, London in 2030 as seen now

  • 2010: Nigel Coates
  • “In 1990, the architect and designer Nigel Coates took a more whimsical view of the future, trusting in London’s capacity to mutate and treating prediction as a licence to fantasise. He foresaw dizzy roofwalks for wafting commuters, with weathershield blimps overhead to redistribute the rain, and prescribed a monorail for Oxford Street.”

  • 2030 : Ian Sinclair
  • “There will be serious talk of bringing back a riverbus service for the Thames. There will be more white ghost-bicycles than any other kind, cycling being compulsory for those who want access to the National Health Service . Privileged lanes for VIP non-participants will have expanded and public lanes shrunk. Tickets will be at a premium for permanent show trials, inquiries into inquiries, after terrorist outrages and botched judicial executions. Film, television and other forms of electronic communication will happen on fingernail-size screens and be without content, other than re-runs of Dad’s Army. Locality won’t exist, the slab or vertical stack being the universal form. West Ham FC will debate a move into the part-demolished Olympic stadium. The late Ken Livingstone, in computer-generated form, fresh from his triumph in Celebrity Big Brother, will be re-elected as mayor.”

    The Guardian

    More Future of Work Links

    Personal Futures inside The Art of the Long View

    DSCF9623   DSCF9620

    I recently came upon a 2nd hand copy of Peter Schwartz‘s seminal scenario planning  book ‘The Art of the Long View’ and came upon an inscription. “January 1994, Dear Mary, Jim and Thomas, To help make your futures even more super and satisfying, Love Dad”

    It gave me an idea about how we create weak future affects everytime we give someone a gift or a card, we directly affect how we think someone should live their ‘personal futures’. What if we collected those and rated their impact over time. Would there be a scale of affect that could enable different affects to be measured?….umm to be continued

    The Self Help boom & the Happiness Cult

    Picture 1

    Tony Robbins: Motivational Speaker. Captured  from The Century of the Self

    In last Sunday’s Observer, journalist Carole Cadwalladr, discussed the increase in the huge profiting market of selling happiness: the world of self-help.  Self help books used to be something my dad talked about in the early 90s that made me think he was a little strange and that it was just a way to fake his real self. Yet in some ways I have become to realise that there is some good in enabling people to self administer happiness much like how self medication has become more and more common with the help of the internet. Whether that actually increases paranoia and hypochondria is another matter.

    Creating The FATE Institute, a fictitious personalised futures institute was a comment in some ways on the way we all want to have someone/something/somewhere to believe in and have the answers and know more about us than ourselves. For there to be someway to control and manage the unknown and know how to get what we want out of life using techniques, methods and knowledge from the diverse fields of ancient divination, corporate forecasting and personal genomics & genetic futures.

    This Observer article describes how this common feeling we have has created an opportunity for psychologists, counsellors, hypnotherapists and entrepreneurs to use their skills and speak to a wider audience by creating their brand empire with books, weekend courses, DVDs etc and in doing so turn self help into a huge money making genre.

    Self help means investing time and money to listen to a 3rd party agency describe our potential risks in the future and then explore ways to control it to essentially make us feel happy in the now. We will join societies, buy memberships, read the horoscope, hire foresight consultancies and futurists, read horizon scanning reports, subscribe to predictive gene testing services, listen to counsellors,

    This article also reminded me of Adam Curtis‘s doc, The Century of The Self and the way Edward Bernays applied Sigmund Freud’s understanding of  the subconscious to create the practice of public relations. Finding ways to understand and explore the self and introduce techniques to persuade and  encourage consumption and self obsession.  Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

    See also The World of Happiness post

    Self on Ballard


    Will Self explores the imagination and work of writer JG Ballard, who he came to know in his final years. Will draws on the many telling interviews that Ballard gave throughout his working life and on Self’s own tapes of his encounters with him. From his life of suburban anonymity, Ballard charted the realms of innerspace and the madness of the modern world with a cool eye and visionary prose.

    via bbc iplayer

    The Uncivilised – Quote of the Day

    Yet very few of us are prepared to look honestly at the message this reality is screaming at us: that the civilisation we are a part of is hitting the buffers at full speed, and it is too late to stop it. Instead, most of us – and I include in this generalisation much of the mainstream environmental movement – are still wedded to a vision of the future as an upgraded version of the present.

    From the recent debate between Paul Kingsnorth & George Monbiot in the Guardian in the article entitled “Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial collapse?“:

    The Dark Mountain Project

    Holiday at the Airport

    The latest in tourist holidaying is the “Holiday at the Airport”. There is no longer the need to actually leave the country but to enjoy the experience of being at the airport about to leave for a fantasy trip abroad.

    Similar to the theme park experience, at the end of the security queue you receive a photo of your xray baggage and footage of you and your friends/family queuing with fear and excitement.

    You receive photos of the people you meet, the places you loiter, the food you consume at the many vending and fast food chains.
    You relish the moment you find that your flight is delayed and the electricity in the airport has failed. The moments you share with strangers will never be replaced, they are unique and you savor every angry word, stressed and confused face. You audio record the moment the airport representatives fob you off and the budget airlines blame each other…

    This is the new ‘Holiday At the Airport”, just as Ballard might have depicted.

    via flickr

    Basic Rules for an Evil Futurist!


    Or John Von Neumann and the Institute for Advanced Study?

    Great provocative post by one of our favourite IFTF futurelyricist; Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He wonders what might have or could have happened if “futures” actually came about from this time and enforced from another set of cultural, political and social explosions and optimisms/pessimisms and the reactions of future forecasting that would have manifested around the technologies of now; the genetic technologies of self-knowledge, neuroscience, diy_synbio, man made sperm (that does not sound right), dna computing, carbon nanotubes, web 2.o etc

    Relevant History: The Evil Futurists’ Guide to World Domination

    “One of thing things I’ve kept coming back to is that, if you take seriously the criticisms or warnings of people like Nassim Taleb on the impossibility of prediction, Philip Tetlock and J. Scott Anderson on the untrustworthiness of expert opinion, Robert Burton on the emotional bases of certainty, Gary Marcus and Daniel Gilbert on the mind, etc., you could end up with a radically skeptical view of the whole enterprise of futures and forecasting. Or, read another way, you end up with a primer for how to be an incredibly successful futurist, even while you’re a shameless fraud, and always wrong.

    No expertise, no problem!

    One simple idea may be one too many!

    Get prizes for being outrageous!

    There’s a success hiding in every failure!

    Don’t remember your failures; no one else will!”