Tapping into the Waterways in the Sky

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 8th, 2013

With all of the water we have in the world, only 2% of it is fresh water. To make matters worse, only one-forth of all fresh water is accessible to humans. 

Until now, the entire human race has survived on 0.5% of the available water on earth. But that’s about to change. 

We are seeing a fast growing trend towards harvesting water from the atmosphere, something our ancestors first began working on centuries ago. People in the Middle East and Europe devised the original air-well systems over 2,000 years ago. Later the Incas were able to sustain their culture above rain line by collecting dew and channeling it into cisterns for later use.

Even though these techniques have been around for a long time, technology in this area has recently taken a quantum leap forward, and many are beginning to think in terms of houses that generate their own water supply, self-irrigating crops, and even “waterless” cities.

The earth’s atmosphere is a far more elegant water distribution system than rivers, reservoirs, and underground waterways. Our current systems involve pipes and pumping stations that are expensive to operate and maintain, and easily contaminated. 

Since we all depend on the rains to provide the water we need, what if we could extract this rain at the very time and place we need it? On-demand water extractors. 

A new breed of inventors has emerged to tackle this exact problem. Using solar, wind, and other forms of passive energy, our future water networks will be operate with far more efficiency and convenience than anything imaginable today. 

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Inspiring a Better World Ahead, the Museum of Future Inventions

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 4th, 2013

What images come to mind when you think about the future? Do you think about near-term futures with 3D printers, driverless cars, and robotics, or do you think about more distant futures of space travel, human cloning, and teleportation devices?

People make decisions today based on their understanding of what the future holds. In fact, your vision of the future permeates virtually every decision you make in your life. So if you change your vision of the future, you actually change the way you make decisions, today.

With this brief intro, I’ve tried to capture the true potential for creating a Museum of Future Inventions. It’s all about changing your vision of the future.

Simply hearing about future technologies will create a small level of engagement. However, becoming fully immersed in a future experience, where you see images, videos, and animations; listen to thought leaders, deep thinkers, and futurists; with interactive models you can touch and manipulate; all of these together have the potential of becoming a truly transformative, life-changing experience.

Realism creates viability. So adding elements of realism to our visions of the future makes them increasingly viable. Inevitably this kind of influence will translate into massive new innovations, the kind of innovations we’ll need to drive our economies forward.

But unlike traditional museums focused on the past, this one will function as a working laboratory of the future, one where visions are constantly being built, rebuilt, and rebuilt again. The future is not a destination. Rather it’s a journey built on the backs of crazy, passionate people, with brilliant minds, dogged determination, and obsessed with making a difference. We see them as crazy, but history will view them as genius. 

At the DaVinci Institute we started thinking about the Museum of Future Inventions 10 years ago and it’s still not a reality. However, with jobs disappearing at a record pace, we’ll need a whole new engine driving innovation. And the Museum of Future Inventions may just be the missing “flux capacitor” to drive this new engine.

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Inventing the Future

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 15th, 2012

When Charles Corry walked onto the stage of the Shark Tank-like Piranha Pit at Saturday’s DaVinci Inventor Showcase, his iExpander product was still $6,000 away from making the goal of $125,000 on Kickstarter. As of this morning, he has not only passed his goal, now exceeding $140,000, but still has 6 more days to go.

The iExpander is a brilliantly designed case for the iPhone that dramatically improves photo quality and battery life, and adds an expandable SD memory slot for virtually unlimited storage capability.

As the Piranha Pit investors listened to the pitch they started scratching their heads, asking the simple question, “Why do you need us?”

Charles was quick to respond, saying that his product fits into a very competitive marketplace and having a great product and money is simply not enough. He was looking for a smart-money partner.

The story of the iExpander was only one of hundreds of stories unfolding at this event. With influential people, mixed with powerful innovation, and extra large doses of passion, drive, creativity, and determination, it is one of those rare occurrences where people can literally see the future taking shape right in front of them.

As a futurist, it is the brilliance of these visionaries that breathes inspiration into the work that I do. But this is only scratching the surface. Here’s what you really missed.

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Teacherless Education and the Competition that will Change Everything

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 20th, 2012

Teacherless-Education-2

Over the past couple months I’ve become enamored with watching my two-year-old nephew Mikaia learn the letters of the alphabet, colors, and numbers. Even though he doesn’t have them all perfect, he’s scoring in the high 90% when we quiz him verbally.

Next up, the periodic table of elements?

What’s most interesting is that his mother says she never set out to teach him this information. Rather, he picked it up on his own from watching “little guy” television shows.

Admittedly, the repeated quizzing by mom, dad, and others has helped, but this is a very young child who blasted through the most rudimentary pieces of learning without having any formal teaching, classrooms, or lesson plans involved.

If young kids can learn efficiently through television, what would happen if we moved up the food chain to college courses, and handed them off to television producers, game designers, and app developers to see how they would go about rewriting the material in fun and interesting ways?

For this reason, I’d like to take you on a journey to reimagine the way we learn through a competition, a competition that I believe will change everything.

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25 Technologies I Didn’t See at CES

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on January 13th, 2012

CES What's Missing 3

After spending the past three days scouring the showroom floors at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, watching people become overwhelmed by what they saw, I tended to be more underwhelmed by what I didn’t see.

Smartphones, tablets, 3D televisions, and supporting peripherals were everywhere. But as the industry was getting sucked towards the gravitational allure of these technologies, many others, with harder problems to solve, haven’t been getting enough attention.

It’s very easy for the digital world to spot an opportunity, write a few lines of code, and have a new product ready to launch. But going beyond the current capabilities of existing hardware, blazing entirely new trails of thinking, is where the real opportunities lie.

For this reason I thought it would be interesting to talk about “what’s missing.” For those of you are up to the challenge, here are 25 technologies I’d love to see at future CES events.

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Year in Review: Top 10 Articles on FuturistSpeaker.com

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on December 31st, 2011

2011 in Review

The sixth law of the future states, “The “unknowability” of the future is what gives us our drive and motivation.”

The fact that the future is unknowable is a good thing. Our involvement in the game of life is based on our notion that we as individuals can make a difference. If we somehow remove the mystery of what results our actions will have, we also dismantle our individual drives and motivations for moving forward.

There is a whole lot that we don’t know about the year ahead. Yes, it will be messy. Important people will die. We will not cure cancer, just yet. And we won’t find a solution for war. But there is great value in the struggle. Our greatest achievements will come from these struggles.

We can learn much about where we’ve come from, and for this reason I’d like to give you a quick overview of the top articles in 2011 on FuturistSpeaker.com, based on popularity. They touch on jobs, education, crime, food supplies, and most importantly, the future. Join me as we take a look at the future through the eyes of the past.

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Introducing: Eight Grand Challenges for Humanity

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on July 15th, 2011

Eight Grand Challenges
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On Sunday I gave the closing keynote at the World Future Society’s “WorldFuture 2011″ event in Vancouver, BC. It was an energized crowd of inspired thinkers from around the globe, and I felt quite honored to be part of this event.

As I took the stage, my goal was to introduce the crowd to a series of Eight Grand Challenges, incentivized competitions designed to push humanity to another level.

But as with many crowds, there was a formidable issue in the minds of attendees, a hurdle of acceptance before these challenges would be deemed cause-worthy.

At issue was our obsession with solving all of today’s problems before we dare think about advancing humanity. How can we possibly justify advancing humanity when the money would be far better spent solving today’s massive problems?

Answering this objection first, was critically important, so here is the way I presented it.

If we only focus on solving today’s problems, we become trapped in the past. Every solution leads to another set of problems. Much like the whack-a-mole game at video arcades, as one problem gets pounded down, another pokes its ugly head out.

The only real way out is to advance civilization. By advancing civilization we change the nature of the problems we’re dealing with, and that is exactly what the Eight Grand Challenges have been designed to do.

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Prize Competition #2: Viewing the Past

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 27th, 2011

Viewing the Past 283

Prize Competition #2: Viewing the Past
When it comes to the topic of time travel, color me skeptical.
Do we even know what time is? Yes, we see the seconds clicking away on clocks, sunrise followed by sunset, tides coming in and going out, seasons changing from one to another, and little trees growing into big trees.
These are all things we associate with the movement of time, yet it is a topic we know very little about. From the standpoint of science, our understanding of time exists as a thimble full of wisdom in an ocean full of ignorance.
Because of this, Hollywood uses time travel as a magical tool for storytelling. With fanciful theories and scant attention to detail, time travel on the big screen is as easily demonstrated as hitting a switch and watching people fly into the future.
But things are never that easy. When NASA set out to put a man on the moon, they didn’t start by loading a team of people onto their first rocket and launching it into space. Instead, they tested each piece of the technology through hundreds of incremental steps.
When dealing with “time,” there are two fundamental proofs that must be demonstrated before we can reasonably think time travel is ever possible. These proofs include viewing things across time and communicating across time. Sending people across time will come much later.
It is this second proof of viewing things across time that I will to focus on here, and more specifically, viewing the past.
With this in mind, I would like to formally announce the second challenge of the Octagonist, a challenge to demonstrate holographically a fully viewable event from the past.
“All information, ever created, is still in existence” – - Futurist Thomas Frey
Fundamental Questions
Let me begin by asking three fundamental questions:
1. Is it not conceivable that people in the future will have a technology to view the past? And if so, do you think they are using this technology to watch us today?
2. If it is possible to communicate across time, why then haven’t we received any form of communication from people in the future?
3. Are there rules and governing principles that define the operating system for our universe? And do these governing principles define how we are permitted to affect our own linear existence?
For hard-to-fathom topics like this, simply asking the questions will cause our minds to move far beyond the safety net of present thinking and drive us to search for possible answers.
Looking Back in Time
When we look into space we are actually looking back in time. This is because of the speed of light which travels at 186,000 miles/second. At a short distance, the time it takes light to travel from point A to point B can be measured in a fraction of a second. But more distant points take far longer.
As an example, it takes a full 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to earth, and 72 minutes for light to travel from Saturn to earth. So when we look at Saturn, we are seeing how it appeared 72 minutes earlier.
As distances get larger so does our “looking-backwards in time.” The closest star, Alpha Centauri, is so far away that its light takes 4.3 years to reach us. When we look at the closest spiral galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, we see it as it was 2 million years earlier.
The speed of light is a concept we’re all familiar with. When an event happens on earth, the light and energy trailings reflect off into space. So the earth is not just radiating light, its radiating information.
Information about the past already exists. The key question remains, can it be reassembled?
Communicating Across Time
Going back to the question I posed earlier, “If it is possible to communicate across time, why then haven’t we received any form of communication from people in the future?”
One possible explanation is that we haven’t yet invented a device for receiving these communications.
Communicating with the future is relatively easy. We simply make a recording and store it until it can be revealed at some designated time and place in the future.
But communicating with the past is more difficult. Will it require some kind of device to receive it? And what form will it take?
People in the 16th century had no technology that would allow them to think that any type of sound could be transmitted digitally or electronically. If they suddenly heard voices, even if they came from a device, they would most likely think it was the voice of God or some demon talking to them.
If voices appear in someone’s head, most people today would probably have similar thoughts.
Cross-time communications will require careful planning. Early experiments in this area will likely center around a scientist receiving their own communications prior to them being sent, only minutes earlier.
The Powers and Dangers of Viewing the Past
Would you rob a bank if you knew somebody could go back and find out exactly who you were? Would you start someone’s house on fire if you knew it was possible for someone in the future to see who lit the match?
When it comes to criminal justice, there will be few tools more powerful than this. In fact, it may work too well. In addition to halting crime, it has the potential for putting a massive number of people out of work in the criminal justice system – cops, lawyers, judges, security guards, security equipment manufacturers, and many more.
However, the biggest driver behind this technology will be whether or not people can make money from it. And the answer will be a resounding yes.
Viewing the past will be used for determining historical accuracy, mapping human genealogy, creating documentaries, doing biblical research, and a thousand other things that people will invent along the way.
At the same time, this is a technology with massive potential for unintended consequences.
Being able to view the past brings with it an awesome responsibility for us to both preserve the integrity of the generations who have gone before us, and not denigrate our contemporaries. We all have the frailties of being human and good judgment is everybody’s shortcoming at one time or another.
In the wrong hands, it should be considered as a treacherous weapon. It is for this reason that “viewing the past” was chosen for this type of competition, where country-sponsored teams are continuously monitored by a check-and-balance system of governing bodies.
Is it even Possible?
When it comes to answering the question of whether or not this technology is even possible, truthfully, we don’t know.
Events leave an imprint. Information emanating from an event travels in many different directions that may or may not be retrievable.
But we do believe that people will attempt to discover it. And if this technology is possible, that it needs to be monitored closely in full view of the public. Otherwise, the potential for abuse is far too great.
Requirements
The challenge, as we have defined it, will be to replay an event from no less than 20 years earlier in actual-size, full-holographic visualization. The viewing of this event must involve no less than 5 minutes of fully animated continuous viewing with sufficient clarity to allow handwriting on paper to be viewable.
Our thinking is that the technology will be set up around a room or specific location, and once in place, images of the past will come to life, filling the current void in much the same fashion as actually witnessing it in person.
Naturally, we would like to hear the audio along with seeing the visuals, but we realize that may not be possible with audio waves resonating differently than anything visual. So for this competition, the requirement will strictly be for re-creation of visual images of the past holographically.
Teams
As with all eight of these competitions, only countries will be allowed to enter teams, and each country will be limited to no more than two teams.
All teams will be required to maintain accurate records of their personnel, research data, and stages of progress.
The Prize
Similar to the Olympics, the winners will each receive a gold medal. However, the true value will come from the accomplishment.
This is a technology with the potential to unlock vast new industries oriented around rediscovering the past. Virtually every story throughout history can be retold with unparalleled accuracy.
More importantly, the team that wins will have carved out their own legacy with a permanent place in the next generation of history books, books that have to be rewritten using this technology.
Entrance Fee
The cost of managing a competition of this nature will be significant. For this reason the entrance fee for each team has been set at $1 million USD per team. The money will be used to fund an endowment to insure the long-term viability of this competition.
As the competition ramps up, an entirely new organization will be created. The resulting organization will require a highly skilled management team and staffing with extraordinary technical expertise. This team will need to be in place for many years, perhaps even decades.
The entrance fee represents a tiny fraction of one percent of the amount each team will need to budget for their efforts. Team budgets will likely be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Governing Body
The competition will also require its own governing body. Since it will be a venture into the unknown, pushing the limits of science and technology, there will need to be an international governing body responsible for oversight and dealing with unforeseeable circumstances.
The exact makeup and responsibilities of this governing body will be determined over the coming months. But minimally it will include one representative per team from the countries they represent.
Final Thoughts
In July, I will be formally announcing all eight of these competitions at the closing plenary for the World Future Society’s “WorldFuture 2011” event on Sunday, July 10, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The first, the Race to the Core was announced last year. More will be coming soon.
Behind these announcement is our team at the DaVinci Institute. Our hope is that we may somehow stir the imagination of people around the world and, bare minimum, incite a global conversation.
At stake will be a combination of national pride, personal legacies, and laying claim to unprecedented achievements in science and industry.
The reason we have chosen eight competitions is because of the eight dimensions of the Octagonist, a competition framework that I will explain at a later date. Each of these competitions will be the most challenging ever imagined. Some may not be completed in our lifetime. They are designed to stretch human thinking and push the envelope of understanding.
More than just a series of competition, we view them as a turning point in world history.
By Futurist Thomas Frey

When it comes to the topic of time travel, color me skeptical.

Do we even know what time is? Yes, we see the seconds clicking away on clocks, sunrise followed by sunset, tides coming in and going out, seasons changing from one to another, and little trees growing into big trees.

These are all things we associate with the movement of time, yet it is a topic we know very little about. From the standpoint of science, our understanding of time exists as a thimble full of wisdom in an ocean full of ignorance.

Because of this, Hollywood uses time travel as a magical tool for storytelling. With fanciful theories and scant attention to detail, time travel on the big screen is as easily demonstrated as hitting a switch and watching people fly into the future.

But things are never that easy. When NASA set out to put a man on the moon, they didn’t start by loading a team of people onto their first rocket and launching it into space. Instead, they tested each piece of the technology through hundreds of incremental steps.

When dealing with “time,” there are two fundamental proofs that must be demonstrated before we can reasonably think time travel is ever possible. These proofs include viewing things across time and communicating across time. Sending people across time will come much later.

It is this second proof of viewing things across time that I will to focus on here, and more specifically, viewing the past.

With this in mind, I would like to formally announce the second challenge of the Octagonist, a challenge to demonstrate holographically a fully viewable event from the past.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reinventing Humanity by Reinventing Time

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 10th, 2010
Reinventing Humanity by Reinventing Time
Humans think about our time system the same way that fish think about water. We simply don’t.
The numbers on the clock are a constant reminder of our daily schedule, where we should be, and what happens next. We eat, sleep, and breathe according to a framework of time established by ancient humans.
Without ever stopping to ask “why,” we have built our entire social structure for planet earth around some guy saying, “Hey, let’s do it this way.”
We now have the ability to shift from a system-centric approach to something with a far better human interface. The convergence of atomic clock technology, GPS, and an increasingly pervasive Internet will give us the tools we need to reinvent our core systems thinking about time.
In the following narrative, I will introduce you to a series of new concepts including Circadian Time, Continuous Daybreak, Micro-Banding Time Zones, and Virtual Moments.
This is far more than a Mensa exercise. As we explore these options we can begin to uncover some of the true imperatives for our human-to-time relationship.
A Clock-Centric World
Why do we hold meetings at 3:15 pm in the afternoon? The short answer is “because we can.”
Time, as we know it today, was invented by ancient humanity as a way of organizing the day. What began as tools for charting months, days, and years eventually turned into devices for mapping hours, minutes, and seconds.
The first mechanical clock movements began showing up in 13th century Europe, predating other key inventions such as the piano and the printing press. Spring powered clocks showed up in the 15th century and over time evolved into pocket watches a couple hundred years later.
Patek Phillipe created the first wristwatch in 1868, but it wouldn’t be until the 1920s when they became popular, setting the stage for a far more time-centric lifestyle.
In 1959 Seiko started developing their first quartz wristwatch and by the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, they had a working prototype.
The first atomic clock was built in 1949 at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards. It was less accurate than quartz clocks, but served to demonstrate the concept.
Today, atomic clocks and wrist watches have become very affordable, and by extension, quite ubiquitous. This technology has set the stage for new innovations which will push our notion of time far beyond anything we’ve considered so far.
History of Daylight Savings Time
In 1784 when he was working as an American diplomat in France, Ben Franklin published a letter suggesting that people in Paris could save money on candles by waking earlier to use morning sunlight. He went on to propose taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. The idea didn’t go very far.
In 1895, New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed the idea of a 2-hour daylight shift to the Wellington Philosophical Society so he could have more time to collect and study insects during the evening hours. This was followed up 3 years later with a paper describing the benefits.
Most people, however, attribute the invention of daylight savings time to William Willett, a prominent British outdoorsman who noticed that many Londoners slept through a large part of their summer days. As an avid golfer, Willett was frustrated when he couldn’t complete a game simply because of the shortened evening hours. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, written up in a paper which he published in 1905.
But the idea went nowhere until war broke out. Starting on April 30, 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use daylight savings time as a way to save on coal during wartime. In short order, Britain, most of its allies, and other European countries soon followed suit. Russia and a few others waited until the next year and the United States formally adopted it in 1918. Since then, the world has seen it evolve with multiple changes and repeals along the way.
History of Time Zones
Time zones, as we know them today, are all oriented around Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). GMT starts at 0 degree longitude – the Prime Meridian.
Greenwich Mean Time was established in 1675 when the Royal Observatory was constructed to help English ship captains determine longitude at sea. During that time, each town’s local clock was calibrated so 12:00 noon would coincide with the sun at its peak – high noon. As a result, every village had a slightly different time.
The first time zone in the world was established by British railway companies in 1847, with GMT certified by portable chronometers. This quickly became known as Railway Time. Later, other railroads around the world began using their own brand of time zones to better manage their own operations..
In 1879, a Canadian, Sir Sandford Fleming, first proposed a worldwide system for time zones. He promoted this concept at several international conferences including the International Meridian Conference held in 1884.
The International Meridian Conference was put together at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur in October 1884 in Washington, D.C. The primary objective was to officially determine the Prime Meridian of the world.
The conference did not adopt Fleming’s time zones because they felt it was an issue outside of their mandate. However, they did adopt a universal day of 24 hours beginning at Greenwich midnight. Beyond that, however, they were reluctant to interfere with other time-related issues they felt were better decided by local people in local communities.
The notion of a 24-hour day had been understood and heavily used for many centuries, but it didn’t become a global standard until 1884.
Motivations behind Daylight Savings Time
When clocks became widely used during the industrial age, people were forced to orient their lives around the specific start and stop times of their jobs. Regardless of how sunny or dark it was, the workday demanded people comply with the numbers on the clock.
As in the tradition of sundials, clocks today are oriented around 12:00 noon, the median point of daylight hours, when the sun is highest in the sky. With time zones, this varies a bit from one side of a time zone to the other, but life on planet earth has been oriented around the “center point of daylight.”
With 12:00 noon occurring when the sun is at its highest, the times for sunrise and sunset are constantly moving.
As soon as clocks became a permanent fixture in human life, the 12-noon orientation became problematic because valuable daylight hours would be lost on the front and back end of work schedules based on the seasonal length of days.
Circadian Time
The idea of Circadian Time started with me asking the question, “What if our clocks were oriented around sunrise instead of 12:00 noon?”
What if we started every day with sunrise occurring at exactly 6:00 am?
Virtually everything on earth works according to our natural circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms involve the patterns, movements, and cycles stemming from the light and dark cycles of the earth’s rotation.
Circadian Time is based on the notion that our system for timekeeping no longer has to be the rigidly pulsing overlord of humanity that constantly demands compliance. Rather, our time systems need to be oriented around people, molded to the natural flow of humanity, creating fluid structures rather than our current, abrasively rigid ones.
As I explain the following three concepts – continuous daybreak, micro-banding time zones, and virtual moments – some of the opportunities will become clearer.
Continuous Daybreak
Working with self-correcting atomic clocks, having sunrise being recalibrated on a daily basis, how would society change if we reoriented life around daybreak, with the end of day doing all the fluctuating?
In Colorado, where I live, sunrise fluctuates by nearly 3 hours between the longest days of summer and the shortest days of winter. If we were to reorient our days so sunrise would happened consistently at 6:00 am every day, then sunset would fluctuate twice as much as normal, close to 6 hours between seasons.
Admittedly, it would also be possible to orient all of our days around a 9:00 pm sunset, and push all of the daylight variations onto the beginning of each day, and I’m sure some people would prefer that option. However, there is something critically important about beginning each day with the rising sun.
Perhaps a better way to orient our time structure would be to make the moment of sunrise “zero time” with our days building through a natural progression of our current 24-hour day. As an example, since people wake most naturally when the sun rises, work would start 1-hour later at 1:00, ending at 9:00 or 10:00.
Since I’m already introducing several new concepts, I won’t get into the lunacy of using 12-hour clocks to manage our 24-hour days. Nor will I attempt to think through the merits of metric time where we convert to 10-hour days.
Instead, my goal is to focus on using sunrise as the starting point for every day, and this concept is strengthened when we consider moving towards Micro-Banding Time Zones.
Micro-Banding Time Zones
Currently our time zones are structured around a 1-hour wide geographical bands that runs from the North to the South Pole.
So what if our current 1-hour time zones were reduced from broad well-defined pieces of geography with exacting borders, to 1-second time zones based on virtual latitudinal lines.
If we add GPS technology to our existing atomic clocks, then wherever we travel, our clocks will automatically adjust to the local time.
At first blush, this sounds very confusing. With 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day, that would mean we would have a total of 86,400 time zones. Yes, a crazy big number to work with.
But keep in mind that this is a system oriented around humans, not clocks and time zones.
Today if we schedule a call between someone in New York and San Francisco, we have to work through the mental calculation of compensating for the time zone differential between these two cities. When talking to people on the other side of the earth it becomes even more problematic with some time zones being 30 minutes of even 15 minutes out of sync with the rest of the world.
Technology could easily be developed to work with a system of 86,400 time zones, and that is where the concept of Virtual Moments comes into play.
Virtual Moments
People to people interactions are only important to the parties involved. The timing of a phone call, web conference, or virtual meeting can easily be oriented around the time that works best for the person instigating the call.
Any link between two people can instantly compensate for the time differential.
Scheduling physical meetings and conferences will always take place in local time, with planning and preparation leading up to the event automatically calculated into the planning cycle.
All timing will still be based on some derivative of GMT, but with far more gradients to consider and far more dependency on technological assistance. But what appears on the surface to be a massively confusing system will suddenly seem totally natural to everyone immersed in it.
We suddenly become far less reliant on clocks and far more reliant on the natural order of the day.
Closing Thoughts
I have no naive expectations that people will want to quickly throw in the towel on our current system for time, clocks, and time zones. We can’t even decide what to do with daylight savings time, let alone invoke some massive new global change to rewrite the course of history.
That said, every avalanche begins with the movement of a single snowflake, and my hope in writing this is to move a snowflake.
For people on ships, the context of time zones becomes meaningless, with an orientation of “ship time” having far more relevance to those onboard. As a way to experiment with the idea of Circadian Time, it may work well to use a floating community onboard a ship to test the theories of new social structures that will result from reinventing time.
My hope is that others will find inspiration from these ideas and add to the thinking. I’m sure many of my ideas are wrong and, at best, very primitive. But our current system for timekeeping is also very primitive.
My sense is that our current clock-centric systems are a major contributor to human health problems. We live shorter lives, produce less, and are involved in more high-stress and high-anxiety situations simply because of our rigid dedication to a time system that governs every single moment of our lives.
As a species, we can never know where our true potential lies until we confront the systems that keep us tied to the past. And that is where the true adventure will begin.
By Futurist Thomas Frey

Circadian Time 546

Humans think about the underlying systems we use for keeping time in much the same way that fish think about water. We simply don’t.

The numbers on the clock are a constant reminder of our daily schedule, where we should be, and what happens next. We eat, sleep, and breathe according to a framework of time established by ancient humans.

Without ever stopping to ask “why,” we have built our entire social structure for planet earth around some guy saying, “Hey, let’s do it this way.”

We now have the ability to shift from a system-centric approach to something with a far better human interface. The convergence of atomic clock technology, GPS, and an increasingly pervasive Internet will give us the tools we need to reinvent our core systems thinking about time.

In the following narrative, I will introduce you to a series of new concepts including Circadian Time, Continuous Daybreak, Micro-Banding Time Zones, and Virtual Moments.

This is far more than a Mensa exercise. As we explore these options we can begin to uncover some of the true imperatives for our human-to-time relationship.

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The Future of Philanthropy

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 5th, 2010

 

The Future of Philanthropy
Former Citigroup Chairman Walter Wriston once said, “Capital goes where it’s welcome and stays where it’s well treated.”
Philanthropy has traditionally been the interface between wealth and need. It gives pride to the wealthy, give purpose to those without, and gives hope to the underprivileged.
Philanthropy is power; the power to make a difference, the power to leave a legacy, and everything in between. It is the worthiness of a cause and the worthiness of a struggle that gives nobility to the process, and bestows awe and respect on those in the middle.
But for all its well-spun intentions, the process remains hugely inefficient.
Philanthropy itself is in a constant state of transition. Over time, philanthropy will shift from a playground for the rich to a business tool for the many. It will be very fluid in nature, organic in its potential, and apply resources with far greater precision.
As it continues to transform, it will evolve into a new voice of democracy, allowing people to vote with their money, applying targeted amounts of resources to specific causes, issues, and noble agendas without waiting for approval by the power elite.
The purpose of this paper is not to delve into the many nuanced forms of philanthropy. Rather, the intent is to focus on some of the key over-arching trends and think through a few of the implications along the way.
As it stands today
In 2009 as compared to 2008:
Total giving to charitable organizations: $303.74 billion. A 3.6% decrease from the $315.08 billion given in 2008.
The majority of giving came from individuals: $227.4 billion (75% of total). A 0.4% decrease from 2008.
Giving by bequest: $23.8 billion (down 23.9%).
Giving by foundations: $38.4 billion (down 8.9%).
Giving by corporations: $14.1 billion (up 5.5%).
Largest Recipient – Religious Organizations: $100.9 billion (down 0.7%). 33% of all donations go to religious organizations, with most coming from people giving to their local place of worship.
Second Largest Recipient – Education: $40 billion (down 3.6%).
Donations to international charities:  $13.3 billion (up 0.6%).
Donations to human services charities:  $27 billion (up 2.3%).
Donations to animal and environment charities charities: $6.15 billion (up 2.3%).
Donations to health charities:  $22.5 billion (up 3.8%).
Donations to arts, culture and humanities organizations:  $12.3 billion (down 2.4%).
Donations to public benefit charities:  $22.8 billion (down 4.6%).
The Population Factor
Unbeknownst to most, the 8,000 pound gorilla hovering in the background of our economy is the shifting population base. Any fluctuation in the number of consumers changes the demand-side of the supply and demand equation.
The 1900s were a very fertile century where the earth’s population grew from 1.6 billion people to 6.4 billion within 100 years. Never before in history had the human population exploded like this, and we all became conditioned to think there would be a never-ending supply of young people, and a never-ending supply of demand for real estate, stocks, bonds, and other securities.
But a strange thing happened along the way. As doom and gloom predictions started painting scary scenarios of an overpopulated earth where food shortages threatened the very existence of humanity, the full impact of birth control technology, invented in the 1960s, began to take effect.
Three states in the U.S. are leading this trend with declining populations in Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island. Soon there will be many more.
Today, Maine’s median age stands at 42.2, the oldest in the country. The declining population has translated into school closings and fewer investment dollars, as well as a declining labor force and tax base.
Although the U.S. growth curve is slowing it still remains above zero, while nearly all of Europe and major parts of Asia are in serious decline. Since people create the economy, the lack of people creates just the opposite. A drop in demand will manifest itself in many areas, including a drop in the demand for real estate, as well as other goods and services.
System Perspective
The world is built around systems, but we often fail to recognize systems that are out of date or failing.
My favorite story about failed systems has to do with a Roman Empire that produced no famous mathematicians because of their numbering system – Roman Numerals. The reason Roman Numerals didn’t work was because it wasn’t a placeholder numbering system with separate columns for 1s, 10s, 100s, 1,000s, etc. Instead, each number was an equation, making higher math nearly impossible to calculate.
This is an important reference point. The Romans were employing a system that prevented their entire civilization from advancing its math skills, simply because of the numbering system they were using.
Putting it into today’s context, what systems do we employ today that are the equivalent to Roman Numerals that prevent us from accomplishing what needs to be done.
Indeed there are many.
In philanthropy, one system preventing the industry from moving forward is the institutionalized process of submitting proposals to receive grants. It has become what many would describe as the modern-day millstone around the industry’s neck.
What began as an effort to formalize requests has evolved into an entrenched bureaucracy that operates in a manner that is quite detached from the recipient’s needs, favoring those most adept at writing grants over those most adept at producing results.
More importantly, it creates a large organization bias with barriers that prevent funders from ever hearing the people-in-the-trenches stories, and finding the greatest inflection points for driving change.
A more fluid funding environment will mean that future funders will try to circumvent the gatekeepers, seeking small amounts from the masses as opposed to large amounts from the few.
Fluid Resources
Moore’s Law has shifted us from analog to digital thinking, with the fluidity of communications setting the stage for a more fluid monetary system.
For financial institutions, even though their internal transaction costs have plummeted and the time-float has been squashed to zero, they haven’t passed these savings on to the end users. The industry has built a financial fortress out of the laws and regulatory environment that provides its base of power. It remains stubbornly resistant to new thinking and business approaches fomenting deep inside the digital underground.
In what many have termed to be an abuse of power and privilege, today’s banks and credit card companies are on the verge of being blindsided by an array of alternative currencies and payment systems designed to eliminate the current friction in the system.
Rising from the ashes of this pending battle will be an innovative new funding environment, creating a foundation upon which the next generation of philanthropy will emerge. In this fresh new environment, the flow of resources will be conducted with great precision, speed, and transparency. It will also emerge as a form of checks and balances for today’s increasingly failure prone business and social structures.
Appealing to the Masses – The Haiti Story
The earthquake in Haiti was a very revealing moment as nonprofits around the world witnessed the American Red Cross raising millions through text messaging.
Using a simple five-digit code and the word “Haiti,” the American Red Cross raised over $2 million in the first 24 hours after the nation-crushing earthquake on January 12th.
Over the next few weeks, the Red Cross pulled in over $30 million using the cell phone program, and nonprofits everywhere saw this as the new gold rush as they scrambled to duplicate that success. But for most it was an unworkable system. In most cases the cost of the program is more than the money it generates.
Sending donations through text messaging is limited to $5 and $10 increments and capped by phone companies to no more than five a month per phone. Also, text-based donations require a 5-digit short code and they are very expensive, around $12,000 each.
Perhaps the most limiting factor of all is the cost of a promotional campaign to “tell the world” about what you’re working on. Few issues are likely to attract the number of eyeballs that the Haitian earthquake did with media around the world acting as the marketing department. So factoring in the cost of the technology along with the cost of a marketing campaign raises some instant red flags.
Circumventing the Gatekeepers
Working deep inside the tech community are legions of talent trying to unlock the keys to new digital currencies, and in doing so, radically improving the flow of digital money.
Every obstacle that prevents people from replicating the Haiti success has a work-around, and the disruptive thinkers are constantly probing for ways to circumvent the gatekeepers.
The biggest disrupter in this space today is PayPal. Last November it opened up its code, giving anyone with rudimentary programming skills access to its technology. This is a move that has the potential to unleash a massive new wave of innovation. Two months after PayPal opened its platform, 15,000 developers had used it to create new payment services, sending over $15 million through the PayPal network to beta test their technology.
Many of the work-arounds use a new currency to circumvent the current system stumbling blocks, and these alternative currencies are springing to life in places we wouldn’t normally suspect..
For example, in the gaming world, one U.S. Dollar equals:
10 Facebook Credits
125-170 WOW Gold (World of Warcraft)
80 Microsoft Points
10 Project Entropia Dollars (Entropia Universe)
6 Q coins (QQ.com)
250 Linden Dollars (Second Life)
1,500,000 Star Wars Galaxies Credits
6 Habbo Coins (Habbo Hotel)
10 Twollars (Twitter)
100 Nintendo points
1,000 IMVU credits
80 hi5 coins
5 Farm Cash (FarmVille)
5.71 WildCoins (WildTangent WildGames)
2,000 Therebucks
100 Whyville Pearls
25,000,000 ISK (EVE Online)
0.75 Mahalo Dollars
4 Zealies (Dogster)
10 Ven (Hub Culture)
Game currencies are destined to become an integral part of philanthropy for two important reasons. First, they are designed to influence behavior, creating instant on-demand incentives. And second, they operate in a world with dramatically less friction.
In addition to the alternative currencies of the gaming world are a number of other payments systems designed to undermine the current power structure.
A startup called Obopay, funded by Nokia, allows people with cell phones to transfer money to one another with nothing more than a PIN.
Twitpay is a startup that uses Twitter to transfer payments inside of PayPal.
Hub Culture uses its Ven currency for travelers to circumvent the hassle and fees of swapping dollars for Euros by transacting in virtual currency.
Perhaps the most applicable to philanthropy is GetGiving, a mobile app that uses PayPal to enable charities to accept small donations without the usual exorbitant credit card transaction fees.
We have only begun to scratch the surface of alternative currencies and payment systems. The true power to transform system impediments will come as we think through the scenarios listed below.
Business Colonies
As I have mentioned several times in the past, future business will evolve around the concept of business colonies, and this will play a particularly interesting role in the future of philanthropy.
In much the same way the movie industry works, where a single movie project will attract camera people, script writers, lighting and sound people, actors, and makeup artists, future business projects will attract talent for short-term temporary assignments. Once the project is complete, team members will disband and form around other projects.
While this may seem discouraging to those who are looking for stable careers, to many young people it will be an inviting work environment because of the variety of work and flexible work arrangements. The job security they lose on one hand is offset by a steady stream of available projects and the ability to control their own destiny.
Setting up a new colony is as simple as hiring a project manager and developing a database of talent that can be brought in on a moment’s notice. Some colonies will be completely virtual, while others may require facilities with access to specific equipment.
Philanthropic projects with defined objectives will be well-suited for operating out of a business colony environment. Costs can be kept extraordinarily low, performance can be measured on an ongoing basis, and the entire operation can be shut down on a moment’s notice with very little disruption to the people involved.
Scenarios and the Future of Philanthropy
Scenarios are a tool used to craft compelling stories about what the future may hold. Done correctly, they challenge our assumptions about what might happen and why, and in the process, give us new strategies for adapting to change.
By engaging your imagination in all these ways, my hope is to highlight some of the opportunities and dangers that may lie ahead. This is not a comprehensive picture, by any means. Rather, it is an attempt to take some of the theme above and ask how the coming years may be quite different from the present.
For the purpose of this exercise, a series of short-form scenarios are used to present possible directions for philanthropy.
1. From funding the “helpee” to funding the “helper” – While donations of money and support will still be available to help the disadvantaged on a short-term basis, the “ongoing needs” department is more the purview of governments with access to public money. Governments have a symbiotic relationship with the needy, but philanthropy aspires to a higher calling – changing the outcome of the needy. And they can best achieve this type of change by working with change-agents responsible for administering the funds.
2. From the digitization of wealth to the digitization of need – We have spent several decades making money more digital, and by extension, more fluid. The piece of the equation where we haven’t done a good job is in understanding the need. Tomorrow’s tools will allow us to micro-analyze virtually any situation and find the primary inflection points where a change can be most effective.
3. From need related issues to cause related issues – Needs are ongoing but causes have a definable life cycle with an actual endpoint. More important than the endpoint, definable life cycles have definable criteria for success. Success criteria creates the foundational underpinnings of good management metrics. Future proposals will map the entire cause lifecycle and assign a series of “points of influence” where change-efforts can be directed. The success of a campaign will be determined by measuring the metrics at each step of the process. Causes will not only include issues of need, but also many other far-reaching topics.
4. From helpers of the needy to cause architects – Traditionally, people with a big heart, who dedicate their lives to helping the needy, were held in high esteem. It was a virtuous life filled with personal fulfillment. In the future, an even greater virtue will be bestowed upon those who are capable of solving the predicaments that create the needy class in the first place. Cause architects will extend far beyond working with the disadvantaged, and set out to wrestle social injustice to the ground. Cause architecture will become an inspiring new profession well suited for power-craving young people who both want to make a name for themselves as well as live a life of meaning..
5. From whale hunting to dollar valves – The time and effort needed to build a relationship with a major donor is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the quick connections needed to garner $1 to $10 donations. Small donations require virtually no relationship-building. But people designing these systems have to contend with today’s high friction payment systems and ever changing mass marketing issues. The viral nature of causes will make future marketing far more efficient and future alternative currency systems will be designed to circumvent today’s system impediments.
6. From ongoing support to defined life cycles – Virtually every piece of music has a beginning, middle, and end. Books and television scripts are also written with a discernable beginning, middle, and end. The best cause architects will be the ones who continually work themselves out of a job. Their role will be to construct a realistic action plan, execute, and complete the process of solving some major social problems along the way. People in this field will come armed with tools unimaginable by today’s standards, as well as tools they invent along the way.
7. From “push” to “pull” – Traditional philanthropy has been formed around “pushing” a cause forward – spending money until a solution is discovered. The power tool of the coming decades will be prize competitions where people are incentivized to accomplish a specific objective. Rather than using money to “push” a project forward, the incentives used in prize competitions have a way of “pulling” people towards the finish line. In general, people are very good at competing. But in most fields, we have been running a race without a finish line. Funding a well-conceived prize competition can have far-reaching implications, and may provide a variety of opportunities for people to leave a legacy with such things as naming rights for both the competition, the prize, and the given accomplishment.
8. From leaving a legacy to living a life of meaning – Wealthy people love to leave a legacy and typically need a significant amount of hand-holding along the way. However, young people today are far more interested in living a life of meaning, and more likely to give small donations throughout their life as opposed to one large grant sometime after they retire.
Philanthropy and the power to transform itself
Funding a cause brings with it unusual new ways to think about opportunities, including the opportunity to for philanthropy to change itself. The cause being funded may be a payment system used to facilitate the flow of money. It may involve the reworking of tax laws to inspire a whole new breed of philanthropists. Or it may be used to reinvent the organizational structure of foundations or corporate giving.
In the end, philanthropy has the power to be its own doctor and prescribe its own medicine. And that is where the real future of philanthropy lies.
By Futurist Thomas Frey

gold nest egg

Former Citigroup Chairman Walter Wriston once said, “Capital goes where it’s welcome and stays where it’s well treated.”

Philanthropy has traditionally been the interface between wealth and need. It gives pride to the wealthy, give purpose to those without, and gives hope to the underprivileged.

Philanthropy is power; the power to make a difference, the power to leave a legacy, and everything in between. It is the worthiness of a cause and the worthiness of a struggle that gives nobility to the process, and bestows awe and respect on those in the middle.

But for all its well-spun intentions, the process remains hugely inefficient.

Philanthropy itself is in a constant state of transition. Over time, philanthropy will shift from a playground for the rich to a business tool for the many. It will be very fluid in nature, organic in its potential, and apply resources with far greater precision.

As it continues to transform, it will evolve into a new voice of democracy, allowing people to vote with their money, applying targeted amounts of resources to specific causes, issues, and noble agendas without waiting for approval by the power elite.

Read the rest of this entry »