"It's Hard To Make Predictions, Especially About the Future"

Lust, Longevity, and FDA reform at the World Future Society Conference

Minneapolis—The hoary aphorism headlined above, variously attributed to Yogi Berra, Neils Bohr or Mark Twain, didn't stop the 1000 or so people gathered at the World Future Society's (WFS) annual meeting, including me, from trying their hand at prognostication. I was also invited to give a keynote talk entitled "The Great Ecological Restoration Begins."

The WFS claims 25,000 members in 80 countries around the world. Timothy Mack, president of the WFS, told me that the membership skewed 70-30, men to women. I was also struck by the amount of grey hair in the audience. My guess is that the average age of attendees is around 60. Talking with people in the corridors between sessions, it appeared to me that the older participants tended to think that the future was dire, while the younger set was anticipating the next big technical innovation. I also have to say with some disappointment that a lot of futurists I've encountered at the meeting uncritically accept politically correct notions of impending environmental doom. In addition, a high percentage of the presenters are consultants who make a living by providing insights on future products, services, and other consumer trends.

The WFS meeting is a protean affair with lots of concurrent sessions, so one person can't report on it all. The titles of some of the sessions should give you a flavor of the proceedings:

• "Clash to Confluence of Civilizations: A Spiral Dynamics Perspective on Global Integration and Human Emergence"

• "Cognitive Transition and the New Consumer Mind"

• "The Future of RFID"

• "An Examination of the Future of Wind Energy"

• "What Use Are Men?' The Future of Gender Roles in Society"

• "The Evolution and Future Direction of Marriage"

• "Technological Prospective as a Driver for Innovation in High-Complexity Products"

• "The Future of Teams: Emerging Imperatives for Managing in a Complex and Virtual World Data by the Yottabyte by 2050"

• "Holy Terror: Thinking the Unthinkable"

And these sessions are just a few of those that were held on Monday.

The Future of Love and Family

The WFS conference started with two keynote talks. The first was by Rutgers University anthropologist and the chief scientific officer of the web dating site chemistry.com, Helen Fisher. Her interest in human sexuality drives her academic research, and she is the author of a number of popular books on the topic, e.g., The Sex Contract, The Anatomy of Love, The First Sex, and Why We Love. The title of Fisher's presentation—"The Future of the Family: Lust, Romance, and Attachment"—was titillating enough.

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  • ||

    The future of love and family? The future of biotech? I want a hybrid hovercraft! And sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads, dammit!

    OK, so maybe that last one is somewhat related to biotech.

  • ||

    Remind me again why anyone cares what a bunch of incompetent sci-fi authors have to say about the future?

    I'd have better luck, for less money, calling a telephone psychic.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Minneapolis-The hoary aphorism headlined above, variously attributed to Yogi Berra, Neils Bohr or Mark Twain....

    I would have guessed Ed Wood. It sounds like dialogue from Plan 9 From Outer Space.

  • ||

    "Greg Stock is a personal friend, but I don't let his brilliance..."
    If he is so fucking brilliant why isn't he rich? I by rich, especial biotech and the future, I meand minimum 100 million?
    If he is so fucking brilliant why is he still in school? Why isn't he applying his brillancey in the real world?
    And don't give me the horse shit that he has a PHd. It seems a PHd is more likely to weld a mind shut then open it up.

  • ||

    What's the matter, Terry? You can tell Uncle Jason.

  • ||

    Jason blow me.

    Problem is that term "brillant" is used far to often.
    It used to be Einstein was "brillant" and others were "very smart".
    Today it seems Einstein would be labeled "mega briallant" and every other Tom, Dick and Jane, "brillant".
    Well, I want facts now, supporting evidence.
    If they really are "brillant" it shouldn't be hard to give it.

  • ||

    Terry: I'm just curious, when did Einstein make $100 million?

    As for Greg, in the "real world" he actually started a biotech company 3 years ago that has gone through two rounds of venture financing for several million dollars.

  • Randolph Carter||

    See ya later Saint Franny, ya schmuck. Hey, guess who's better than Van Gogh? Well let's see... adjusting for inflation, almost everybody! He made nothing! I'm better than you, brainiac.

    It's Worthington's Law, bitch.

  • ||

    Einstein won a nobel prize and probably should have won a few more.

    Okay, now we are getting somewhere.
    What is the name of the biotech company?
    Are you invested in it?
    See, specifics, proof, its nice.

    BTW: I asked this before, does anyone know of a mutual fund that is run according to libertarian principles?

  • Paul||

    anthropologist and the chief scientific officer of the web dating site chemistry.com, Helen Fisher.

    I cannot effing believe that all of these words appear in the same sentence. I'll bet she earns more than anyone here, too.

  • ||

    One can easily imagine someday concocting a biotech love potion consisting of oxytocin or vasopressin analogues that one could slip into the drink of the object one's affection to nudge him or her into thinking more favorably of your charms.

    I imagine vodka would work with this method, but I don't recommend it for moral and libertarian/legal reasons.

  • Paul||

    Fisher believes that this process is a return to an earlier era of gender equality that existed before the advent of agriculture ten thousand years ago.

    Hey Ron, was Ms. Fisher wearing any headgear fashioned from tinfoil?

  • Paul||

    "What we are seeing is a return to life as it was 100,000 years ago." What did she mean? Well, among other things, Fisher argues that modern serial monogamy is similar to what happens in hunting and gathering societies in which men and women often have two or three spouses over their lifetimes.

    Well, I'll be... sounds like my ex-wife is so 100,000 years ago.

    Ok, I'll stop now.

  • Paul||

    Fisher claimed that women are more openly expressing their sexuality, beginning sex at earlier ages, having more partners,

    Ok, I can't stand it...

    Young girls in Burien, Wa have been on this train for a long time. Average age of motherhood: 13

  • ||

    Burien? Where is Burien?
    Do you have to pay for the girls or just promise them a visa or a coke?

  • Paul||

    Burien? Where is Burien?
    Do you have to pay for the girls or just promise them a visa or a coke?

    Burien, Wa. Suburb of Seattle. It's so damned ghetto, ghetto people make fun of it.


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