Ariadne

The futurist’s metaphorical menagerie

Robert Hickson Mar 16, 2020

  Futures folk like animal metaphors for uncertainties. “Black swans” is a favourite one, and currently doing the rounds with opinions about COVID-19. The term “black swan”, popularised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book of the similar name, refers to unanticipated events with big impacts. However, COVID-19 and other epi- or pandemics aren’t black swans. They … Read More

The speeds of life

Robert Hickson Mar 08, 2020

  Many people think that the speed of change today is unprecedented. That’s just because we have short memories. Historians focused on Western civilisation, like Vaclav Smil, point back to the late 19th and early 20th Century when electricity, radio, the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, cars, planes, anaesthetics, and (a bit later) antibiotics emerged. Smil … Read More

Futures Fatigue and Futures Inertia

Robert Hickson Feb 18, 2020

Nobody thinks about the next century anymore. That at least is Sci-Fi writer William Gibson’s observation (in this BBC 4 short interview, starting at 1:43:50 ). He calls it “Futures Fatigue”, but isn’t judgemental about it. Gibson notes that in the 20th century speculation about the 21st (and beyond) was common. Now the focus is much more … Read More

Science in the 20’s – part 2

Robert Hickson Feb 02, 2020

  Will the 2020’s be a case of, to borrow the words of the illustrious Martian botanist Mark Watney,  “sciencing the sh*t” out of the big problems facing us? In some cases yes. In some cases no, because it isn’t science that is missing. In many other cases, maybe. If we can improve the system. Read More

Transitioning

Robert Hickson Dec 31, 2019

Two things you can guarantee at this time of the year. Predictions about the coming year, and days at the beach (only lightly polluted, hopefully). Futures thinking is often seen as identifying the “next big thing” – technology and consumer trends. But that’s surface level futuring. Wave spotting. As a first step in raising awareness of change … Read More

Climate change – determination over despair

Robert Hickson Sep 19, 2019

  There is much to be despondent about looking ahead to the consequences of a changing climate. But adopting Jonathan Franzen’s defeatism isn’t the best response. Reducing adverse impacts of climate change isn’t as simple as regulating automotive emissions, banning a pesticide of refrigerant, or changing to LED lights. But nor is it as … Read More

Biology’s next revolution

Robert Hickson Sep 09, 2019

  A quarter of a century ago, when I thought my future was in science, automation and the idea of “big data” had just arrived for genetics. Automated sequencing, mathematical models, algorithms. Similar innovations spread to others areas of biology through things like better sensors, imaging systems, smarter radio tags for wildlife, data-loggers, and the like. Wet labs … Read More