Ariadne

SARS-CoV-2 – a natural event or a lab escape?

Robert Hickson May 16, 2021

In books and movies it is often a good plot point for a disease (or monster) to escape, accidentally or with assistance, from a government lab. There are also real cases of pathogens getting out of labs (but quickly being controlled). That’s also a discussion going on now about Covid-19. Natural evolution or human agency? Spillover or … Read More

Types of futures reports

Robert Hickson May 08, 2021

The web comic xkcd created a great (satirical) overview of the types of scientific papers. That got me thinking about the types of futures reports I commonly see.   There are very good reports out there. You just need to read with a critical eye.   Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash … Read More

Futures snacks

Robert Hickson Apr 07, 2021

Here’s a few short interesting developments or discussions I’ve seen recently. Loosely bundled together in a theme of “values.” Irregular labour Is the private sector the best provider and facilitator of “gig work”? That’s challenged in a New Yorker profile of Wingham Rowan, an English social entrepreneur. For many years he has been trying … Read More

Looking beyond regenerative agriculture

Robert Hickson Mar 17, 2021

Regenerative agriculture, where the health and wellbeing of the environment, animals and farmers is prioritised, is gaining cachet. I see that as a necessary but insufficient change to how we manage land and watery environments. In some respects discussions about regenerative agriculture are more backward- than forward-looking. Take, for example, the UK’s Food, Farming and … Read More

Technology listicles, deep tech, and social systems

Robert Hickson Mar 02, 2021

Technology lists, what’s this thing called “Deep Tech”, and thinking beyond the tech. Top “x” lists of technology developments, breakthroughs and trends aren’t hard to find. But how useful are they?   MIT’s “Breakthrough Technologies” This time every year MIT’s Technology Review magazine produces a “10 breakthrough technologies” list. This showcases what it sees as the year’s … Read More

Trends and developments – February

Robert Hickson Feb 23, 2021

This post is a mix of a few recent reports on trends, recent discoveries or developments. Topics covered are the future of work, the geopolitical shift from oil to semiconductors, transition to low carbon futures, disappearing Artic sea ice, and AI in health care.   Yesterday’s Gone A Canadian report from the Brookfield Institute identifies eight megatrends … Read More

The virus that stole Christmas

Robert Hickson Dec 20, 2020

Mutant and virus are two words that rarely go well together. Reports from the UK that a  variant of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged (called lineage B.1.1.7), and may be more readily transmissible, aren’t what we want to hear just before Christmas, or any time. However, it isn’t necessarily a nightmare scenario. Coronaviruses have relatively low levels of mutation, … Read More

Is science becoming artificially intelligent?

Robert Hickson Dec 09, 2020

Is science becoming “AI-led”, as some venture capitalists suggest? The short answer is no. A slightly longer response is that’s not the most important question to ask about the future of science.   A tool, not a solution DeepMind’s success in determining quite accurate 3D protein structures in a competition made headlines … Read More

Improve mental models not metaphorical balls

Robert Hickson Nov 02, 2020

Writing in the magazine Foreign Affairs Scoblic & Tetlock highlight that the US spends over a trillion dollars a year on national security but is continually being surprised by events. This they put down to taking the wrong approach in thinking about the future. The tendency (not just in the US) is to extrapolate from (and so … Read More

Treating an infected president

Robert Hickson Oct 04, 2020

News reports indicate that a range of therapies are being tried on the President of the United States to treat his SARS-CoV-2 infection. Two of these involve treatments that have not yet completed clinical trials. One was a cocktail of two neutralising antibodies. The second is an anti-viral drug.   Monoclonal antibodies The president was initially given a single treatment … Read More