Learn more from your future than you do from your past

Verne Wheelwright is a pioneer in using foresight for personal development. The same methods that corporations and governments have used for the past decade are just as relevant for personal use as they are for shaping macro futures.

Many self help authors want readers to connect to their future selves, but none of them offer any practical tools for doing so. Such authors look too narrowly at the future to guide readers into visualizing multiple, plausible futures, and readers often give up or lose faith when their actual future turns out differently than they expected.

Wheelwright takes a different, less mystical approach with his award winning self-help book, It’s Your Future…Make it a Good One. He also offers some free downloads on his website which I strongly recommend, but the book provides readers with the perspective necessary to understand what these free resources are all about.

Most people view the future as either a hazy, cryptic event or a technological utopia. Neither of these views are true much less practical. The future is unpredictable, especially at a personal level. But the future can be forecasted into multiple scenarios to help organizations and (now thanks to Wheelwright) individuals steer their personal lives in a direction to achieve their goals no matter how the future plays out.

If you run your own business, no mater what size, this is the most important book you could read for your business success. As a business owner, your personal life is the rudder that steers your business, and to achieve success you need to align your personal future with the future of your company. Wheelwright even has a book coming out soon about applying these techniques to small and medium sized businesses.

Methods for learning about the future have been in use by businesses for decades, but the process was simply too complex for most individuals. The Personal Futures Network introduces some new, easily understood approaches that will help you to think and plan like a futurist. You will be able learn about and plan for your personal futures.

Think like a futurist? What does that really mean, think like a futurist? Well, each futurist may have some different thoughts, but generally futurists think about longer term futures, usually 10 or more years ahead. Futurists believe that the future is not predetermined, but that several futures are possible. If several futures are possible, then one of those futures may be better than the others, or a “preferred” future. Very important; futurists believe that individuals or groups can take actions in the present that will help determine the future.

That brief paragraph helps explain why most futurists don’t make predictions about the future, but rather suggest multiple possible futures, often in the form of “scenarios” or stories about the future.

The above quote was taken from Wheelwright’s homepage. The whole website is dedicated to helping readers understand how to look at the future in an effective and practical way. Read the book and begin learning more from your future than from you do from your past.

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Wearing IT to Work–repost from Shaping Tomorrow

Wearing IT to Work is my latest trend alert based on my report on wearables. I am also hosting 2 free webinars to cover the basics of the report (please see links below).

Wearable electronic devices, or simply wearables, have emerged from specialized markets such as the medical sector and the military and are aggressively entering the mass market. Fitness trackers such as the FitBit, smartwatches such as Samsung’s Gear, and head mounted displays such as Google Glass can accelerate a wearer’s access to information while offering greater convenience.

What is changing?

 Wearable computing is converging with the mainstream mobile sector and driving growth in both industries. Wearables will help expand the mobile sector, but they will also provide significant benefits for almost every other industry as well. Wearables can be categorized into seven primary areas of application:

  • Mobile: One Among Many – The wearables experiencing the biggest push in the market at the moment function as extensions of the wearers’ mobile devices.
  • Measuring Myself – These wearables draw data from the wearers’ activities and physical condition, and they help users better understand their daily activities – sleep, exercise, work.
  • Immersive Experiences – Augmented reality and virtual reality are both rising, and their applications in wearables promise to further immerse users in their digital interactions.
  • Spying on Myself – Wearable recording devices (i.e. cameras or microphones) – previously relegated to spy shops – are being used for liability purposes, personal/ mobile security, and recording personal or organizational legacies.
  • Thinking Outside the Brain – Neurotech is breaking out of the lab to help organisations and individuals gain greater insight on their behavior as well as control certain devices.
  • Wearing My Password – Biometric authentication can be more secure than passwords, but the real benefit will be the convenience of signing in to anything, anywhere with the wave of a hand.
  • Feeling the Data – Haptic feedback is very effective at alerting mobile phone users to incoming messages, but it can communicate more complex information – GPS directions and potentially news feeds such as stock quotes.

Implications

 Wearables accelerate access to information, and they increase the types of information made practical in a variety of industries. While maintaining a constant connection, wearers will be able to work hands free allowing wearers to track more information and multitask more effectively. Wearables will also increase security and play a part in improving memory. These benefits will enable individuals to optimize their performance of everything from exercise and driving to teaching and stock trading. One study has already indicated that wearables can increase productivity and even job satisfaction. Wearables will help ramp up the changes spurred by the advent of the internet, but they will also intensify the existing questions surrounding privacy, security and society’s definition of humanity. As the devices enter the mainstream, the cost for R&D will drop, and more organisations will be able to utilize the devices to their full potential. Employees will also want to wear their own devices to work (similar to other BYOD policies), and organisations will have to decide how to regulate their use. The trends and their implications are further explored in our latest trend report,Wearing IT: Trends Expanding the Wearable Web. In it, we also explore wearables’ benefits for:

  • Medical and caregiving
  • Security and defense
  • Training and simulation
  • Transport and logistics
  • Banking and finance
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Travel and Tourism

We are also hosting 2 free webinars that will cover the basic findings from the report. Both webinars will require the download of GoToWebinar software or mobile app to attend. Please register here:

Modern Memorials

Just as modern technology has changed the way we interact with the world and our understanding of it, new technological solutions are also enhancing our legacy and our ability to rest in peace.

What is changing?

For funeral homes, the internet is disrupting the industry as online stores sell coffins and mourners arrange various types of memorials online, but funeral homes have begun adapting to the digital age with new services to memorialize the dead that better reflect the networked lifestyle of the deceased and their survivors. A digital sign can be customized for each funeral with videos and pictures of the deceased along with rich graphics and live feeds, and funerals can also be live webcasted or tweeted for long distance family and friends who could not make the trip. QR codes and microchips can be placed on grave markers, benches, or plaques to direct the curious to webpages with the deceased’s bio, pictures, videos, links, etc.

For surviving friends and family, the deceased’s online activity has become a significant concern in more ways than one. For years, mourners have created webpages or social media profiles of loved ones who have passed away, and Facebook alone has about 30 million accounts set as deceased. But what happens when these pages and profiles become outdated, archived, redesigned or given new privacy policies? What happens to the currency left in online accounts when passwords are not designated to the deceased’s heirs? Conversely, who can view the skeletons—of the deceased’s or their contacts’ skeletons shared in private messages—locked in digital closets when those passwords are found?  Who owns the data left behind, and who has the power to decide how it is used? Each social network and email service has its own policies. Some will send family the digital files of their profile and activity before deleting them while others retain all files but archive the profile to act as a digital tombstone.

For those planning for their deaths, companies are offering virtual services that could solve some of these dilemmas. If I Die is a Facebook app that posthumously posts messages to friends on certain dates after a profile has been designated deceased, and another company sends posthumous emails so the dead can always have the last word. Legacy Locker is a web service that stores online accounts and passwords to be given to pre-designated family members or friends. While offering this secure solution to ensure the safe delivery of data only to the right people is a great idea, it could also provide cybercriminals with a large target to hack and steal readymade identities. Legacy Organizer is an iPhone app that allows the user to create a personal record of their life and legacy as they want to be remembered complete with music, videos, life defining events, memoir, final farewell, and a will. LifeNaut is an online service that takes all the same information and plugs it into an artificial intelligence with an avatar that acts for the deceased. Other researchers are attempting to create lifelike robots with AIs based on an individual’s data to bring the dead virtually back to life. Such a robot could give that individual’s eulogy at their own funeral or provide company to spouses in need.

Why is this important?

Much of our lasting legacy is increasingly centered on our online activity shared with the rest of the internet community and housed in digital databases, and everyone with online activity will have to give greater thought to their digital assets and the data housed in their many online accounts as well as the online accounts of their contacts. How do users want these accounts to be cared for when they are gone? Who should be the executor of your online accounts, and how can your executor access these accounts?

Deceased profiles are already lengthening the mourning periods for many survivors who see the deceased’s profile image on their own accounts. Some psychologists say this may be healthy, but how much longer will that mourning period last if avatars and robots can mimic a deceased person’s personality with the ability for mourners to seemingly interact with the deceased? The idea of digital resurrection carries with it many issues that could improve society with better coping mechanisms and information analysis while also presenting a variety of issues for legal and social changes. Will people wish to converse with their great grandparents’ AI? Could we see a modern version of the ancient practice of ancestor worship? Could that make society wiser or perpetuate familial mistakes? As such technologies allow our loved ones to overstay their lives, will we begin to see a new emotion arise—one of mourning for a loved one mixed with joy and affection toward a machine housing that loved one’s digital resurrection?

Another important question for those thinking about their legacy, how long should your data last? No doubt new services will appear that could use the data in morbid or distasteful ways. Many old grave markers are defaced around the world. Could a deceased person’s data be used to deface their memory, whether 10 or 200 years from now?

While a number of concerns surround the rise of modern memorials, they also offer more people the chance to be remembered for posterity. These digital legacies might maintain accurate records for longer periods than ever before assuming the technology remains capable of accessing and organizing our data in a useful manner for later generations. The data should provide historians with greater insight into the lives of common people of a given era, and the potential immortality of our digital legacies could even help society, or at least the online community, maintain a cultural and historical foundation.

http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2012/10/24/modern-memorials/

Also, for an interesting look at how such practices are affecting more traditional cultures, check out this article about the New Zealand Maori: http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8129164/Maori-culture-adapting-to-presence-in-online-media

My Body, My Right?

I was scanning and found a few articles about elective amputation. Electing to amputate a limb? Well, official elective amputation is reserved for those with diminished use of a limb when even a dumb prosthetic, much less a modern prosthetic capable of reaching and grabbing, would actually be better than their own limb. However, there was some suggestion that a minority of people might want to volunteer to amputate their completely healthy limbs. These people are dominated by a condition called body integrity identity disorder. They are usually completely normal in all or most respects with the exception of this one very odd obsession, amputating a specific limb at a specific point. In the above link, Dr. Michael First says one man with the disorder lost his arm in a car crash. Did he feel suddenly normal with a loss of a limb? No, because he wanted to lose his legs. He yearned to be a double leg amputee, and losing his arm did nothing to diminish this desire. The disorder has been known for decades, but prostheses are only now coming to a point where  sympathizers might defend the ethics of allowing such extreme desires.

I combined this strange disorder with Anonym’s story for my latest trend alert for Shaping Tomorrow which I will reprint below. Anonym is a biohacker. She is going straight DIY punk style to enhance her body to feel something  beyond current human limitations like magnetic fields. She has approached doctors, but they do not want to help her for ethical reasons. So she has resorted to implanting herself with special magnets using an anatomy book, scalpels, and buckets of vodka.

People with body integrity identity disorder may not believe themselves to be transhumanists, but any transhumanist who wants to be a cyborg may benefit from the ethical discussions these people pose. Actually, I found that Kyle Munkittrick beat me to the punch. While I was trying to write this trend alert, I found his blog post in Discover Magazine’s Science Not Fiction. I have a few reservations with Munkittrick’s narrow view of society, but he brings up some important questions about what the legal and ethical ramifications are of allowing people to do what they wilt in regards to asking doctors for help.

To see the rest of the sources for my trend alert, you may have to login to Shaping Tomorrow, but here is the alert as it appears in ST:

My body, my choice?

As technology advances to a point of enhancing human functionality and not just adornment or redressing loss, technology and the philosophy of transhumanism are influencing the way we define the human body by raising new ethical boundaries and issues about personal choice and control.

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Body modification has been happening for centuries with ear piercings and tattoos. Recent decades have even brought about the legitimate medical practice of gender reassignment in some countries. Yet when a young woman wants to extend her senses to feel magnetic fields, doctors refuse to help. Anonym is a biohacker who is implanting her fingertips with magnets in her own kitchen with medical books, scalpels, and buckets of vodka. Seeking to enhance her human experience, she is also working on a way to internally sense the magnetic poles–something scientists believe humans could be biologically enabled to do.

Prostheses are going fashion forward and adding greater benefit to the lives of the disabled. The curved blades worn by paraplegic Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius, are a prime example of practical prostheses which function better than those that look like natural legs, hands, etc. Researchers are developing prostheses with an increasing range of motions and functions which could eventually strengthen the ethical argument for voluntary amputation for people with body integrity identity disorder, a psychiatric condition marked by an overwhelming desire to have one or more limbs amputated. Official elective surgery is reserved for those patients with lost or reduced functionality in an attached limb, but some people with body integrity identity disorder are voluntarily freezing and damaging their limbs—often having to do so more than once—to force doctors to amputate.

Voluntary amputation and DIY implantation may be extreme examples, but gene therapy, brain enhancements, and possibly certain forms of life extension will also be part of the ongoing and ever more complex debate over what an individual can do to themselves or what they should be allowed to have a doctor more safely do for them. The behavior of such people is being defended and heralded by some bioethicists who align the individual’s right to amputation and implantation with abortion, euthanasia, etc. “My body, my choice” is the rallying cry for a growing number of people seeking more personal freedoms regarding health.

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In the future, there may be specialist doctors specifically trained to handle the needs of people seeking “transhumanist operations”. Transhumanists anticipate a time when technology is able to do more than supplement a lost limb but actually grant humans greater functionality, both mentally and physically, than that which nature provides. Eventually, society will have to address the concerns of transhumanists medically and legally, potentially revolutionizing society. Should legal and ethical systems protect individuals from themselves, or should personal rights prevail in voluntary extreme body modification and other elected enhancements?

Enhanced humans could play a mediator role between humans and robot workers. Eventually, people with certain prostheses may be sought out by employers to perform particular functions more efficiently. If that should happen, employers may even be willing to pay for an employee’s required procedure. Like most technologies, countries which do not allow such augmentations may cause greater social disparities, and such disparities would be heightened even more once scientists are able to enhance the brain.