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Foresight Education

The following foresight courses have been developed and taught at the university level by ASF to date. Visit FERN if you would like to join our volunteer foresight curriculum development group.




Undergraduate Courses

Foresight Development
Personal Foresight Skills Practice + General Foresight Education

Promoting the spread of required foresight curricula in universities the world over is a major priority for the ASF. Our community has developed a required (core) introductory undergraduate course in Foresight Development (futures studies education plus personal foresight skills practice). The first instance of this unique course, first taught Fall 2007, now exists at the University of Advancing Technology, a four year university in Tempe, AZ, whose mission is educating innnovators of the future.

Course materials for this fifteen week course can be found online at our creative commons-licenced wiki, Foresight Development - Course Wiki. All foresight educators are invited to use and modify this material for your own courses. Course slides are also available to qualified instructors on request.

Are you a foresight educator or researcher, practitioner, or advocate? Join ASF's Foresight Education & Research Network (FERN), a group of passionate people teaching, researching, and practicing foresight around the world. Help us spread foresight education globally!

Course Intro:

Today's students face a very different world than their parents did. They will live longer, change careers faster, learn new skills more frequently, and have more freedom than ever to choose their experiences, social networks, and values. The rollercoaster of scientific and technological (sci-tech) change runs faster every year, spinning us irreversibly toward a very extraordinary future. Our planet is wiring up into one vast, instantaneous, transparent and increasingly intelligent global network, just one of many sci-tech innovations that are creating amazing new opportunities for business and society.

Yet there are great challenges ahead as well. Fundamental problems (hunger, drought, disease, overpopulation, poverty, underemployment, corruption, human rights violations, violent conflict) persist in the developing world, and the most developed countries (MDCs) are gaining new problems (obesity, addiction, dependence, institutional educational decline, media centralization, erosion of democracy) related to their affluence. What’s more, several global problems (environmental degradation, climate change, global security, rising energy cost) are likely to get worse before they get better, and the world is now so interconnected that big problems anywhere are becoming everyone's problem. Most curiously, cultural change in developed societies the world over is in many ways "saturating," or heading for one common, stable type of future, while our technology continues to speed up and complexity all around us. Economic, political, legal, social, environmental, and even ethical standards in every nation on the planet are moving toward one common set (with small variations between nations) of global human rights and entitlements—and most of the developing nations are seeing the fastest changes and disruptions.

In our lifetimes, benefits and leverage from the positive use of science, technology, business, politics, and social activism will only get more powerful, while "immune systems" guarding against the rising potential dangers in our high-tech world will only get more important. Meanwhile automation, computers, robots, and avatars/agents are progressively exceeding our biological capabilities, and becoming increasingly intimate extensions and representations of our individual selves. There may come a time this century when our most advanced technology becomes 'organic' (evolved, not built by humans) and when our biological selves become 'technologic' (increasingly closely connected to our modern machines).

Circa 2020 the main way most of us talk to the web may be by speaking natural sentences, through what is called a 'conversational interface.' Shortly after that, many of us may be using intelligent software agents, or 'Digital Twins,' which will act like simple secretaries for us, and which will answer our questions (they will in turn ask 'the web') when we want to do any complex thing. These twins will model our values, interests, and personality, and will become increasingy useful advisors to us, improving our global 'digital democracy', and at the same time, better "copies" of us every year. When we die, our friends may continue to talk to these twins, as they will be the best available '3D digital scrapbooks' of our lives, our stories, and our personalities. Some of us may even allow them to continue to improve their intelligence over time, until one day they "feel" to our survivors like we are still "here."

Are you ready for the future? A good deal of it is already here in nascent (beginning, embryonic) form, as we will see in this course. Every choice you make today helps steer the future in a direction you choose. Humans have practiced creating, discovering, planning for, and benefiting from change since the dawn of our species. With the current pace of change, never has foresight been more useful. Come learn how.

Course Description:

Foresight is the act of looking to the future. This course helps you learn better global, business and personal foresight, so you can better enjoy and manage your own future. This course will explore the big picture history of accelerating change from universal, historical and technological perspectives, and consider global trends that are affecting individuals, society, businesses and governments. Additionally, the course will examine how organizations make bets on the future, and gives the student a chance to explore career prospects in a variety of fields. Finally, discussion of how biology, psychology, community and culture help and hinder personal thinking about the future will be discussed. We will explore four fundamental foresight skills: creating the future (innovating products and services); discovering the future (models, trend identification and analysis); planning the future (developing shared goals and processes); and benefiting in the future (achieving measurable positive environmental, social, or economic results). Assignments will be personalized to your own foresight goals, and include brief readings, writing, discussions, debates, visuals, film, podcasts and games.

Learning objectives include:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Integral Thinking
  • Systems Thinking
  • Foresight Development
  • Acceleration Awareness
  • Lifelong Learning and Study Skills
  • Evolutionary and Developmental Models of Change
  • Creating, Discovering, Planning and Benefiting Skills
  • Universal, Global, Societal, Organizational, and Personal Systems Thinking
  • Basic Technology, Economic, and Sociopolitical Literacy (History, Current Affairs, Futures Studies)

—Graduate Courses

Technology Acceleration
Technology Foresight + Professional Foresight Practice

The first draft of this course was taught in the University of Houston's Foresight MS program, Summer 2015.

We have seen astounding changes in technology in the last century. What’s more, several types of technological change have accelerated over this time period, particularly those associated with digital and nanotechnologies. Some say accelerating scientific and technological change have in turn become the prime drivers and accelerators of business and social change. If this technology acceleration continues, we can expect profound new productive and intelligence capacities, wealth, and social change in coming decades. In a world where big data is growing 55% a year (IDC), and our leading mobile platforms (Google Now, Siri, Cortana, Viv) and predictive analytics foresight platforms (Palantir, Recorded Future, etc.), are now being trained using biologically-inspired AI hardware and software (eg, deep learning) and gaining new conversational, perception, and intelligence skills every month, it’s never been more important to assess what all this technology acceleration means for strategic foresight practice.

We’ll look at technology acceleration in six units over six weeks, using six complementary perspectives. In each unit, we’ll introduce some insightful books that may help you improve your strategic foresight practice. Each unit offers probable, possible, and preferable futures of technology evolution and development, both in the shorter run (next three to five years, our typical client interest) and the longer run (next ten to fifty years). You will be asked to buy, skim and discuss three of the listed books during the course, and present your thougths on them in a 5 min lightning talk to your colleagues.

The units and books are:

Unit 1. Universal and Evolutionary Acceleration
What is accelerating change from a universal perspective? What exactly has accelerated in universal, planetary, and human history, and why? Are technological systems becoming a better “substrate” for information processing, adaptation, and intelligence than biology? In what ways are they presently worse? Can we expect technology to emerge out of biology on other planets like Earth? We’ll look at some the arguments, and their strategic foresight implications.
Book: The Foresight Guide, Smart, 2015 OR Cosmic Evolution, Chaisson, 2001 OR Visons of Technology, Rhodes, 2000.

Unit 2. Technology, Wealth, and Social Acceleration.
As digital tech and nanotechnology accelerate their performance/price trends, they drive accelerating trends in every other technology market, and in wealth production, entrepreneurship and social actions (sharing, collaboration, and activism). These trends and actions are impacting all of the world’s greatest problems, to varying degrees, as various performance thresholds in the information, intelligence, and interdependence of these technologies are reached. Let's see how.
Book: The 2nd Machine Age, Brynjolfsson, 2014 OR The Birth of Plenty, Bernstein, 2010 OR Exponential Orgs, Ismael, 2014

Unit 3. Quantification, Simulation and Foresight Acceleration
As big data, open and social platforms, digital currencies, sensors, maps, simulations, and algorithms proliferate and accelerate, a variety of new collective and machine intelligence foresight tools and methods are emerging, including predictive analytics, statistical models, crowdsourcing, solving, funding, and founding, and ideation, innovation and prediction markets. How and how fast may all this technological change affect strategic foresight practice, and how can you continually find and use the best of these new foresight tools and methods for your clients?
Book: Predictive Analytics, Siegel, 2013 OR The Signal and the Noise, Silver, 2015 OR Open, Price, 2013

Unit 4. Biologically-Inspired AI, Intelligent Agents, and the Singularity Hypothesis
New machine intelligence paradigms like deep learning are making great strides in natural language understanding, machine vision, statistical inference, and many other types of analysis and pattern recognition. Many of these machines use parallel, collective, connectionist approaches, very similar to the way the human brain appears to process information. The better neuroscience gets, the more engineers are learning how to copy biological intelligence processes and run similar algorithms in our machines. In fact, all this work is increasingly “uploading” portions of ourself into the digital world, and we are now even seeing the emergence of sentiment and values maps in our social networks (the “valuecosm”), and personal intelligent agents (“digital twins”) that have crude models of our values, preferences, and even mental and emotional states. We’ll ask where these assistive technologies and human-machine partnerships may go coming years, and consider the hypothesis of the technological singularity (artificial general intelligence). Trustable machine intelligence might emerge in our cars, robots, and digital systems in coming years. We’ll consider why and how fast that might occur, and some foresight implications of increasingly intelligent and symbiotic machines and personal agents in coming years.
Book: Cognitive Computing, Fingar, 2015 OR The Future of the Mind, Kaku, 2014 OR The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil, 2005.

Unit 5. Globalization and Societal Convergence and Deceleration
As technology-enabled globalization and wealth production accelerates, developing economies show many convergent economic, environmental, security, political and regulatory processes, making some types of social futures more regulated and predictable than ever before. What’s more, several social change processes are today decelerating on several measures (population growth, conflict, pollution, individual energy use, Eroom’s law of FDA drug approval), and in speed- and cost-to-capability in many areas (health care, defense, litigation, patents, large construction projects), often in direct proportion to the wealth or technology of the country under study. How can better knowledge of these trends and social constraints help our clients?
Book: The Infinite Resource, Naam, 2014 OR Infinite Progress, Reese, 2013 OR The Difference, Page, 2008

Unit 6. Social Challenges and Failure States
There are many social challenges and failure states we might see in a world of continuing technological acceleration, including increasing digital and income inequality, erosion of democracy and privacy, terrorism and conflict, pandemic, failing education, addiction and dependency, resource scarcity, and global warming and other environmental catastrophes. Entrepreneurs and managers will also be challenged to use evidence-based management and to continually innovate or be overtaken by competitors. We’ll consider several of those challenges, and ask how better foresight and better design of "antifragility" or immunity into our systems. so they get stronger under stress, can help us and our clients achieve the best and avoid the worst of what may happen in an ever-faster technological future.
Book: Megachange, The Economist, 2012 OR Billion Dollar Lessons, Carroll&Mui, 2009, OR Antifragile, Taleb, 2014


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