Thursday, October 7, 2010
Universities are starting to establish special institutes dedicated to studying concepts of time and popular consciousness of the turn of the Millennium. There are also think tanks and consultancies popping up that are dedicated to understanding the Zeitgeist, for a price! Here's a list of a few (out of many) places where people are devoted to thinking about the future and our place in it.
The Centre for Time, University of Sydney (established 2002): "supports research in the philosophy and foundations of physics, metaphysics and the philosophy of time, and the pragmatic foundations of language and thought."
The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, Boston University (established 2000): "The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future convenes symposia and conducts interdisciplinary, policy-relevant, and future-oriented research that contributes to long-term improvements in the human condition. It aims to facilitate intellectual inquiry and generate scholarly discourse and policy options on longer-range challenges and to seek to identify, anticipate, and enhance the potential for human progress in the longer-range future (35-200 years range)."
The Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University (established 1998): Goals of the Center include: "Gather and archive the vast "harvest" of millennial literature that is appearing at the turn of the second Christian millennium. Study and analyze millennial beliefs, the movements they generate, and the kinds of transformations that they must undergo in order to adjust to the (inevitable) return to normal time, the bifurcation of the disappointed between violent and peaceful mutations. Collect, edit and analyze documents from earlier such times. Make research materials available for future generations so that they have the best possible record of this period of millennial and apocalyptic activity."
London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL and Imperial College London (established 2003): "Our purpose is to solve global problems in information processing, healthcare, energy and environment through the application of nanoscience and nanotechnology."
Canadian National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT), National Research Council Canada and University of Alberta (established 2001): the section of NINT devoted to Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social Issues has the following mission statement: "researchers focus on understanding the development of nanoscience and technology within a broader societal and transnational context. Current and ongoing research is focused on the development of a deeper understanding of issues related to the environment, human health and safety, law, policy and ethics, public opinion, commercialization and the development of a socio-historical analysis of the growth of nanoscience and technology."
Center for Nanotechnology and Society, Arizona State University (established 2005): "Nanotechnology is expected by many to create 'the next industrial revolution.' Whether or not its social consequences are that profound, they will be wide-reaching. The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, signed into law in 2003, mandates 'integrating research on societal, ethical and environmental concerns with nanotechnology research and development” to ensure that nanoscale science and engineering advances "bring about improvements in quality of life for all Americans.' CNS-ASU responds to this directive by building a new capability, in the United States and globally, for understanding and governing the transforming power of nanotechnology - what is known as 'anticipatory governance.'"
Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Public Policy Think Tank, Arizona State University: "Science and technology (S&T) have become the most powerful transforming forces in society, allowing people to escape fundamental need; fostering innovation and economic growth; fighting scourges like smallpox, polio, and AIDS; and joining billions of people together in information and communication networks that serve democracy as well as commerce. But the profound changes brought about by S&T have led as well to negative impacts–often unanticipated. From the industrial revolution to the information revolution, the march of scientific and technological progress has left in its wake unemployment, cultural dislocation, economic inequity, environmental destruction, even war and disease. Just as science and technology affect our world, they are affected by public policy decisions about how research funds are allocated, priorities established, the research enterprise organized, knowledge communicated and applied, and accountability maintained. Policy decisions influence the societal consequences–the outcomes–of scientific research in realms as diverse as the economy, the environment, health, governance, national security, and social structure."
MIT Center for Future Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "The Center for Future Civic Media is working to create technical and social systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information. These include developing new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action; serving as an international resource for the study and analysis of civic media; and coordinating community-based test beds both in the United States and internationally. ... We use the term civic media, rather than citizen journalism: civic media is any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents."
MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (established 1985): "The MIT Media Lab applies an unorthodox research approach to envision the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life—technologies that promise to fundamentally transform our most basic notions of human capabilities. Unconstrained by traditional disciplines, Lab designers, engineers, artists, and scientists work atelier-style, conducting more than 350 projects that range from neuroengineering, to how children learn, to developing the city car of the future."
The Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford (established 2005): The aim of the James Martin 21st Century School "is to mitigate the most pressing risks and realise exciting new opportunities of the 21st century. With interdisciplinary teams of researchers from across the university, the School is working on the frontiers of knowledge in four broad areas: health and medicine; energy and environment; technology and society; and ethics and governance."
The Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford (established 2005): "The Future of Humanity Institute’s mission is to bring careful thinking to bear on big-picture questions about humanity and its prospects. The Institute’s work focuses on how future technology might affect fundamental parameters of the human condition, the risks and opportunities involved, and the epistemic, moral, and prioritization issues that confront actors who pursue long-range global objectives. We currently pursue four interlinked research programs: Global catastrophic risks; Human enhancement; Applied epistemology and rationality; and Future technologies.
The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, University of Oxford (established 2009): "Neuroethics is arguably the most rapidly advancing and exciting field of research in biomedical ethics today because it addresses head-on the two most important subjects relevant to who we are and how we live: the brain and mind."
Think Tanks, Branding Agencies and Consultancies focussed on the Millennial Zeitgeist include:
Tellus Institute, Think Tank, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (established 1976): "We are at the cusp of a new historical epoch – the planetary phase of civilization – that binds the world's people and the biosphere into a single community of fate. But what form of global civilization will emerge in the coming decades? In the face of unfolding crises – cultural antagonism, violent conflict, economic volatility, environmental degradation – pessimists may be forgiven for their dark forebodings and dreamers for their doubts. Or is another world possible? We live in a challenging era, a time when a culture of greed and mania for growth undermines human amity and degrades the planet. Yet, we still have time and world enough to shape an alternative future where the health of the environment, the breadth of human solidarity, and the quality of lives become the legitimate measures of development and true wealth. The key to such a Great Transition is the capacity and willingness of the world’s citizens to gain new insights, embrace new values, and take common actions."
The Institute for the Future, Think Tank and Consultancy, Palo Alto, California, USA (established 1968): "The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent nonprofit research group. We work with organizations of all kinds to help them make better, more informed decisions about the future. We provide the foresight to create insights that lead to action."
Kairos Future, Think Tank and Consultancy, Stockholm, Sweden: "The future is important. One could say that companies and organizations not interested in the future, likely won't spend much time there either. But not all futures are equally important. It is the strategic future that counts, for instance the issues, events and trends that may change the conditions of a company, an entire industry or a society. A future that should lead to strategic decisions and strategic actions, that is, activities that in a significant and in the long-term can boost the position and competitiveness of a company, an organization or even a nation. Kairos Future's mission is to help companies and organizations to identify, understand and manage their individual strategic future."
Futuribles, Think Tank and Consultancy, Paris, France: "For more than 40 years, Futuribles has been an independent non-profit center for prospective studies and foresight. Its overall aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the contemporary world."
The New Zealand Futures Trust, Think Tank and Consultancy (established 1982). Strategies of the Trust include: "Research of a topic with a futures focus based on international best practices. In depth causal analysis of deep rooted issues and problems. Creation of possible and probable scenarios for a focussed future. Reviewing strategic plans versus possible futures. Assisting process of creating community visions. Scenario gaming - learning how preferred scenarios can be transformed into strategies for success."
Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, Washington DC Think Tank: "Despite the overwhelming power of scientific and technological change in modern societies, and the formative role played by government in catalyzing such developments, there is at present no freestanding think tank in Washington, DC with wide interests in science and technology policy. The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies ... has brought together prominent figures from the political spectrum's left, right, and center - encompassing both secular and religious perspectives. This is vital, as policy must seek to capture and respond to shared commitments, and not simply reflect competing political and cultural agendas."
Center for Science, Society and Citizenship, Think Tank, Rome, Italy: "Europe’s leading independent research centre specializing in advice on political, ethical and social issues raised by emerging technologies. Its overall aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the contemporary world by clarifying the human (social, cultural and ethical) factors which shape technological innovation."
Converging Technologies Bar Association, New York, New York, USA: "The purpose of the CTBA is to foster interest, understanding and collaboration among the legal, scientific, engineering, technology and business communities centering on the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and other related sciences and technologies."
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies US Think Tank with international Board of Directors (established 2004): "The IEET's mission is to be a center for voices arguing for a responsible, constructive, ethical approach to the most powerful emerging technologies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed. We call this a 'technoprogressive' orientation. We aim to showcase technoprogressive ideas about how technological progress can increase freedom, happiness, and human flourishing in democratic societies. Focusing on emerging technologies that have the potential to positively transform social conditions and the quality of human lives - especially 'human enhancement technologies' - the IEET seeks to cultivate academic, professional, and popular understanding of their implications."
The Future Laboratory, London, UK (established 2001): "The Future Laboratory is recognised internationally for its innovative approach to trend forecasting, consumer insight and brand strategy. Via our global network and in-house team of trend analysts and ethnographic researchers, we offer clients qualitative and quantitative insights into future consumers and how to target them."
Voltage, Consumer Think Tank, São Paulo, Brazil (established 2005): "Voltage is specialized in the research and mapping of human behaviour. Our projects are focussed on achieving a holistic view of individuals, going beyond the 'consumer' and gaining access to the richness that lies in the interaction between the diverse spheres of a human being. In an organic fashion, we seek to deeply understand the world we live in, the changes in contemporary society and the driving forces that will mold people's behaviour. More than that, we transform this understanding into orientation and inspiration for companies, given that capturing people's deepest desires is essential for true innovation."
Fashion Forecast Services, Brighton, Victoria, Australia (established 1991): "is recognised as the leading source for international reports for colour and trend services to the fashion, homewares and associated industries."
European Foresight Monitoring Network, EU-funded Network: "The EFMN is a network of policy professionals, foresight experts and practitioners as well as analysts of Science, Technology and Innovation related issues."
World Future Studies Federation, Global NGO that consults with UNESCO and several UN agencies (established 1960s): "The WFSF is a forum where the stimulation, exchange, and examination of ideas, visions, and plans for alternative, long-term futures can take place."
Forward Looks, European Consortium associated with the European Science Foundation (established 1974): "The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 79 member organisations devoted to scientific research in 30 European countries. ... The flagship activity of ESF’s strategic arm, Forward Looks enable Europe’s scientific community, in interaction with policy makers, to develop medium to long-term views and analyses of future research developments with the aim of defining research agendas at national and European level."
The Long Now Foundation, San Francisco, California, USA (established 1996): "The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today's 'faster/cheaper' mind set and promote 'slower/better' thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."
The World Future Council, Futuristic Public Policy Think Tank, Hamburg, Germany: " The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making."