Seeing into the future and making prognostications is an ancient human pastime dating from before the oracle at De;phi*. Brief tangent: for anyone needing a refresher on Delphi and the oracle (from the Wikipedia essay),
Delphi is perhaps best known for the oracle at the sanctuary that was dedicated to Apollo during the classical period. According to Aeschylus in the prologue of the Eumenides, it had origins in prehistoric times and the worship of Gaia. In the last quarter of the 8th century BC there is a steady increase in artifacts found at the settlement site in Delphi, which was a new, post-Mycenaean settlement of the late 9th century.
Not everyone wants to rely on supernatural means or the movement of the planets (astrology) to predict the future. Intel for example has developed something called, The Tomorrow Project (from the project home page),
What kind of future do you want to live in? What are you excited about and what concerns you? What is your request of the future? Brian David Johnson Intel’s Futurist asks these questions and more with The Tomorrow Project, a fascinating initiative to investigate not only the future of computing but the broader implications on our lives and planet.
This is a unique time in history. Science and technology has progressed to the point where what we build is only constrained by the limits of our own imaginations. The future is not a fixed point in front of us that we are all hurdling helplessly towards. The future is built everyday by the actions of people. It’s up to all of us to be active participants in the future and these conversations can do just that.
The Tomorrow Project engages in ongoing discussions with superstars, science fiction authors and scientists to get their visions for the world that’s coming and the world they’d like to build. [emphasis mine]
Here’s a video of Brian David Johnson, Intel’s futurist, talking about The Tomorrow Project (watch for the title on the screen at the beginning),
Did you spot the typo? I laugh and groan in sympathy as I’ve had similar things happen. For some reason, this type of mistake is always in the most obvious spot. BTW, the Intel website features the video with a corrected title.
BBC News online featured an August 19,2011 news item about one of the project’s outputs,
Chip maker Intel has commissioned leading science fiction authors to pen short stories that imagine future uses for the firm’s technology.
The collection, called “The Tomorrow Project”, aims to capture the public’s imagination regarding the company’s current research.
The project features work from UK sci-fi author Ray Hammond, who took research in development at Intel’s labs and used it as the basis for “The Mercy Dash” – the story of a couple battling futuristic traffic technology in a race to save a mother’s life.
“I was more nervous approaching this than I have been with any of my full-length novels. I’ve never written short stories, so the form was new to me,” Mr Hammond told BBC News.
The author’s work has been made freely available for download from Intel’s site and Mr Hammond has been delighted by the reaction.
You can go here to download the full anthology or select one or more of the stories. The other three authors included in this anthology are Douglas Rushkoff, Markus Heitz, and Scarlett Thomas.
Johnson doesn’t explain clearly enough (for me) what makes his futurecasting unique. The Canadian Army hired a novelist (Karl Schroeder) in 2005 to write a futuristic book about nanotechnology as I noted in my February 16, 2009 posting, which also mentions that they had commissioned another such novel (I haven’t come across any news about it since).
Jamais Cascio seems to do something similar to Johnson’s futurecasting (from the Bio page on Cascio’s website),
Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of their Top 100 Global Thinkers, Jamais Cascio writes about the intersection of emerging technologies, environmental dilemmas, and cultural transformation, specializing in the design and creation of plausible scenarios of the future. [emphasis mine] His work focuses on the importance of long-term, systemic thinking, emphasizing the power of openness, transparency and flexibility as catalysts for building a more resilient society.
I look forward to hearing more about The Tomorrow Project as it unfolds. Perhaps they’ll expand their conversation past “superstars, science fiction authors and scientists” and engage some of the rest of us.