Old New Yorker piece on “The Wall”

In 2015, Andy Borowitz wrote a piece for the New Yorker on the dismal state of American infrastructure in light of a mandate to build a “giant” wall.

 

 

Peter Norton on “Big Projects”

Great video worth the time to listen (about 30 mins) about the history of “public works” in the US and around the world, and the term’s gradual replacement with “infrastructure.”

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ft-alphachat/e/58800747?autoplay=true

Thanks, dmf, for finding it!

 

3:1 — Future of Futuring — Post 3 of 3

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In the final post of the three part post (here are two and one), I take-on “futuring” as a way to know the future of the future. 

We make futures to increase our influence on our networks in ways that are perceived beneficial.  Futuring involves creating information about the future by extrapolating the patterns, anticipating outcomes by contemplating future states of affairs, and leveraging this to generate insight to inform action.

In a world with where most of the inhabitants on this planet who struggle to foresee alternative pathways to procure their the next meal, we are reminded of the privilege it is to do futuring.  Most of the advanced tools of futures studies and foresight today were developed in the think-tanks supported by the defense industry. Its a diverse toolbox of quantitative and qualitative methods, that continue to be blended and sequenced in novel ways for different purposes and questions-at a high price.

My expectation is that the future of futures will be an expansion of access to futuring for more people, that affords many more to undertake informed action. The costs, technologies, information, and time necessary to wielding advanced planning and foresight tools are becoming more accessible.

I share the concerns with the previous poster’s concerns with algorithms – the best chess player used to be the human. Then it was a machine. Now it is a machine-supported human. Most routine manufacturing is done by already human-supported machines. In “lights-out” factories, complete automation allows for operate without human intervention – no lights, no heat, no toilets. The orders come in, widgets are manufactured or printed according to specification, boxed, and shipped out. The robots inside are doing things, but are unable to make non-routine plans in futures with humans in them.

3:1 — The Future of the Future — Post 2 of 3

After Jan‘s post earlier this week, I was moved by a comments to it, namely, the idea that it is, in fact, so difficult to talk about the future of the future, and, in particular, the good comment that “aren’t we always making the future?” I plain sense, I do think that we are always “making the future” in the process of doing just about anything; however, taken to its not-too-distant logical conclusion, this would mean that “making the future” is so obviously ubiquitous that it cannot — in and of itself — be special.

I confess, that did not encourage me much.

  • On the one hand, if doing the future is ubiquitous, then just “doing” and “doing the future” are synonymous (ack! nothing gained there!).
  • On the other hand, if it is ubiquitous, is there any imaginable consequence of not conceiving of just “doing stuff” as explicitly the same thing and not some other type of thing as “doing the future”?

It is the latter, not the former, that moves me, and to which I devote the next couple of paragraphs. It is from this vantage point that “the future of the future” might productively be discussed.

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Burden of choice: from ANT through Mao to game of Go and back

Blog, I am back!

I would like to invite you to read my, Andrzej Nowak‘s, new article The Burden of Choice, the Complexity of the World and Its Reduction: The Game of Go/Weiqi as a Practice of “Empirical Metaphysics”, where actor-network theory meets with game of Go/Weqi, with little help of Mao Zedong.

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Podcast recapping the Futures & Foresight Science Conference

After the Futures and Foresight Conference in Warwick in December, three members from the Association of Professional Futurists (APF), Andrew Curry, Wendy Schultz, and Tanja Hichert, sat down and recollected their takeaways and highlights from the conference and recorded it as a podcast. As the first in an occasional series of “Compass” podcasts, we were honored that Matt’s presentation was able to generate some laughter from them (you will find their recap of Matt’s talk at 15:30 about our work in this paper, this one, and this one). Perhaps readers of Installing Order would like to contribute some podcast material in the future (!?) — we would be happy to put it on the blog.

 

 

Happy New Year from ISO!

The blog is making some big changes in 2019: 

Cheers and Happy New Year! 

* image from: http://www.walkwithgod.org/where-am-i-going/

 

Teaching FS: House of the Future

This is the kick-off to a new and improved section of the existing blog, the “Teaching STS” section, which is just been transformed to the “Teaching STS/FS” section, and each new and old post in this section will be differentiated with a “Teaching STS” or “Teaching FS” in the title to help sort things out.

This image above comes from “plan59” and was found through a great blog, “paleofuture” (similar cool stuff on pintrest too). In the past, we’ve used this image, which is closer to the year 1900 than it is to present day, as a teaching tool.

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Using STS to study Futures Studies

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The field of futures and foresight science (FFS) has problems that science and technology studies (STS) can help to understand. Based on recent publications, insights from STS have the potential to shed new light on seemingly intractable problems that inevitably come with the scientific study of the future. Questions like: What is a scenario?

Consider this quote from a prominent scholar in the field:

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Planning Paradox

Planning practices — strategic planning, scenario planning, and the like — have taken firm root in both the public and private sector. Governments roll-out security scenarios. For-profit firms establish short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategic plans. More and more; on and on, the planning seems never to stop in our postmodern age.

Most folks are, thus, rightly surprised to find out that scholars typically do not know why planning processes work or, when they fail, why. The reasons are deep-seated and my co-author (Matthew Spaniol) and I (Nicholas Rowland) tackle a few of them in our new paper “the scenario planning paradox,” which builds on some of our previous work about multiplicitous notions of “the future” and plural “futures” as well as the social practices associated with the process of scenario planning in the first place. Below is the abstract and link to the planning paradox paper:

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Blade Runner is 2017?

 

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‘Blade Runner’s’ chillingly prescient vision of the future” offers a (brief) review of the 1982 Ridley Scott film and how much 2017 appears to reflect Scott’s portrayal of the human-machine interface. With ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ coming out soon (today, I think), the short piece is a nice opportunity to return to the 1982 now-classic film.

As a sidebar: In terms of visions of the future, it is always interesting to me that “vision of the future” is characterized here as “look, Scott got it more right than he might have known;” however, his view of the future, a strict prognostication or even foresight, is not really consistent with the academic study of the future (not that the author of this piece should be held to that standard). On balance, there are “ethnographers of the future” looking into science fiction too, but there is also a growing linkage between STS and a small world called futures studies, ontological research on the character of the future as a concept, and even scholars that do not owe much of their intellectual heritage to either tradition making serious headway into managing multiple futures. Getting past “visions of the future made in the past were right or wrong” as a framework might make for some interesting discussion in the public media realm, provided readers want something past the all-too-easy “they got it right!” or “ha! They botched it” critiques leveled safely from the sidelines in retrospect.

Movement in Body Parts

See this terrific review of the interesting book, and there is a free introductory chapter for those interested:

Bronwyn Parry, Beth Greenhough, Tim Brown and Isabel Dyck (eds.) Bodies Across Borders: The Global Circulation of Body Parts, Medical Tourists and Professionals, 2015, 248 pp., Routledge, New York, paper $109.95 ISBN 978-1409457176.

*image: http://www.bioethics.com/medical-tourism

Managing Concurrent Futures: Prospective Action in Cardiology Care

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There is a paradox in clinical uncertainty management. While contemporary medical education and training dismisses prognosis in favor of diagnostic and treatment skills, prognosis is ever present in daily medical life. In fact, physicians arguably engage in more prognostic behavior than most other professionals because, bound by their duty to heal, they are routinely called upon to concurrently navigate short-term and long-term care goals. With new accumulating evidence establishing prospection (i.e., the mental simulation of possible futures) as a central organizing principle of cognition and behavior, and with more clinicians warning about the central role of prognosis in clinical decision making, concerns about the relative neglect of prognostic training are becoming louder. Yet, although there is much writing and some fairly robust guidelines about how physicians should do prognosis, very little is currently known about what the process of medical prognosis actually looks like on the groundI begin to fill this gap in my forthcoming book How Doctors Make Decisions, based on a three-year ethnographic study of hospital cardiology.

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Doomsday Arks

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With a trillion-ton iceberg cleaving from Antartica, and debate over the exact causes seems never to end, I wonder “what is the infrastructural equivalent of it?” 

One immediate answer is found the giant, offshore seed vault Svalbard (Norway), which was colorfully referred to as one of the “Arks of the Apocalypse” in the New York Times Magazine. The anthropocene stirs, no matter what the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) suggests, and seed banks are a fascinating reflection of this transition for so many reasons. 

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US: D+

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We have written about this previously, the state of American infrastructure and the problem that is not appealing to the masses, and we can report that not a lot has changed. According to ASCE, the US got a 2017 report card for infrastructure and the outcome is pretty static … D+ (same as it has been for the past half-decade or more). Part of that story has to do with the grading system in the first place, but most (near all) has to do with the dwindling state of infrastructure in the past decade of austerity policy that effectively kicks the proverbial can down the road such that the next generation inherits suboptimal infrastructure in the US.

New infrastructure paper

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Introduction: Infrastructural Complications

Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita

Over the past decade, infrastructures have emerged as compelling sites for qualitative social research. This occurs in a general situation where the race for infrastructural investment has become quite frenzied, as world superpowers compete for the most effective means to circulate energy, goods and money. At the same time, millions of people disenfranchised by trade corridors, securitized production sites, and privatized service provision seek to establish their own possibilities that intersect, disrupt or otherwise engage the high level investments that now routinely re-configure their worlds. The projects of the powerful and the engagements of the poor are thus thoroughly entangled in this contemporary drive to “leverage the future.”

Read the rest here.

Growing link between STS and Futures Studies

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There is a growing connection between a small research area in the business school literature called “futures studies” (wherein forecasting, scenario planning, etc.) and STS. Early thinkers in (what is now) this area are folks like Toffler; you might remember his books Future Shock or the Third Wave. In the link to STS, foundational thinkers that readers might recall are folks like Cynthia Selin (who I wrote about back in 2011).

Since then, I spent some time reading in “the sociology of the future” and we had a guest that spoke about forecasting (related to weather, Phaedra Daipha), although we have had some other perspectives, namely, some commentary about the future and rubbish.

Well, inspired by this, I started writing with a colleague at Roskilde University (Denmark) named Matthew Spaniol. Our first paper linked STS and futures studies through the notion of multiplicity in “The Future Multiple.” Our new paper, which is nearly out now, deepens this linkage, drawing upon some STS insights to address issues voiced from within futures studies about scenario planning, a process that unfolds, in the standard account, through a series of stages, phases, and steps. We offer a much more tentative understand of that process in “Social Foundations of Scenario Planning.”

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