Monday, November 3, 2008

”The Future: Collecting Solar Energy at Night

Just imagine the consequences of affordable "solar" technology that could produce electricity from internal light sources, light bulbs of all kinds, TV and computer screens, night lights and daylight within the room, as well as from infra-red light waves at night and the sun of course! Since the collection technology could be printed on wall paper, any smooth surface, indoors or out, you would have enough energy even on the cloudiest days. Let us assume that the above describes the existing situation. What might some consequences be? 1. Light which creates light which creates light (perpetual light machine?). 2. Dwelling energy independence 3. No restrictions on energy use 4. Demand for electric cars
And the consequences of number 1, Light which creates light: a. cities bright as day at night, b. the disappearance of electric saving appliances c. a portable computer that creates it's own electricity by shining all night on an electric converter pad. The consequences of number 2, Dwelling energy independence: a. homeless who use outdoor energy to light and warm their shelter, b. No more electric companies c. dams diminish.
Now that I have done two, do two for yourself. Try discovering the consequences of the consequences. Somewhere there you have the future of solar power in the long-range future.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New method for clipping grass

A lot of things are happening with horses these days. A particularly well articulated example is from Sweden where about a third of all the citizens of Sweden have in some form, contact with horses. The following trends are particular to Sweden, but have resonance for other developing countries.
People move to the country in order to be able to keep their own horses.
Horses are increasingly accorded human qualities.
The use of horses i therapeutic settings with, for example, troubled youth, prisoners and handicapped persons grows.
Increase in therapies for horses such as massage, working stretch points, acupuncture, stretching and homo pathology.
More communication and cooperation between different members of the horse industry.
Horse tourism is on the rise and there is a connection between increased riding and increases in mountain wandering, cycling and fishing.
More specialization in food production for horses.
Technical development in horse breeding such as cloning and embryo transfer and digitalized breeding registers.
Greater focus on protection of animals measured by increased reports of mishandle to authorities.
More horses put on diets.
The use of working horses as an environmental alternative in new/old areas: on farms, cutting park lawns, in school transportation and garbage collection.
The source is the report Future Scanning on the Horse Industry by the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) May 2008 Ask yourself if there is a score you wish was higher or lower.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"What is the economy for?"

Bill McKibben is not the only one questioning the economy in his book "Deep Economy:The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future" . Joel Arthur Barker speaks about paradigm change in terms of problems solved (Paradigms: The Business of discovering the Future 1993). New paradigms solve problems that the old one no longer can. The current economy is no longer solving problems, it is creating them. It is totally dependent upon growth for survival, more customers and new products are necessities for current economic health. The United Nations has noted that population has for the first time shown tendencies of slowing, particularly in so called industralized nations. We are seeing statistics for many countries like Japan, Italy and Spain that are at replacement level or below. That means that while the customer base is still growing, we can calculate it's downward turn. This is a first in human history.

The current economy has created huge pollution problems, many of which may never really be solved. The current economic measures only include what we produce per person as if items are the only things that are worth measuring. That means that weapons produced are counted and the loving care of a couple for a foster child is not counted. The distruction caused by weapons as in a war is counted as positive for the economy as the damage is repaired, but the lives distroyed and lost can never be repaired and often lead to new wars. Politically, corporations have taken over power from many democracies so that people have lost faith in both government and corporations.

One of several economic writers in Visionscentrets library is, Margit Kennedy who wrote a little book titled "Interest and inflation free economy" (1988) in Germany, in the same year, Marilyn Waring came out with "If Women Counted, A New feminist Economics" (1988). As indicated by the title, Waring digs deep into the gender bais of economic measurements on an international scale. Hazel Henderson, writing in 1992 and 1996, also covered economy from a women's perspective, but goes"Beyond the Battle of the Sexes" (Chapter 5) in "Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyone Economics"). While Paradigms gave ideas as to how a new system could work "Building a win-win World: Life beyone Global Economic Warfare" deepened her writing by offering new ways of measuring prosperity.

"Binary Economics; A New Paradigm" (1999) by Robert Ashford and Rodney Shakespeare goes deeper into economics with an eye for the elimination of poverty and the discrimination that characterizes market economy. "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" (2004) by Joel Bakan (not to be confused with Joel Barker) looks at our economic system from a structural perspective. He presents a detailed history of the development of the corporate entitiy from the 17th century forward and suggests what we need to do to change this structure so that the economy will work for the people not just the corporations.

There is also a bevy of practioners who are actualizing the ideas of these writers and some of their own. All in all there is a growing "margin" from where one can become aware and inspired. The greater numbers of individuals who spread, discuss and try these ideas will bring us closer to a new economic paradigm. It will not be perfect, but it will solve the problems that the old system didn't solve and create some new ones of its own!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grape expectations

By looking at the latest brain research, we can begin to understand why. We tend to envision the near future as optimistic, and in addition, research has found that the brain tends to experience what it expects. One question is how do we find the people who have expectations like ours?

One of those places is within those of our own generation, to the time in history in which we were born. As Strauss and Howe point out in their theory of generations, we are very influenced by the generation (a period of approx. 22 years) into which we are born and with whom we experience historic happenings. (See Signs of the Times 0805).

Other theories refer to family placement: first born, last born, middle child etc. as shaping what we believe others expect to don't expect of us. "The basic idea is that people who grow up in the same sibling position predictably have important common characteristics." There is a natural order in families where the older children are leaders over the younger children. If things are relatively normal in the family they carry these expectations into their relationships and marriages. If the parents in some way exaggerate or distort these roles, such as by demanding way too much of the older child, his or her expectations of him or herself and the future will change.

The list of what causes us to expect what we do can go on. Advertizing tells stories about what is desirable and what is less desirable. Past experience and the experiences of others shape what to some degree what we expect.

Our way of handling change influences the expectations we have for the future, some of us are happy with the security of keeping things just as they are, some of us thrive on change and others like change in moderate doses. Foresight Styles and Innovation Diffusion are related theories of how change is made.

Still, we are told that with practice we can consciously control and choose what we wish to expect. Years ago I lost a good friend because she had expectations that, in her view, I didn't live up to. If she had realized that those were her expectations and not mine we might still be friends today. If I had expected that it was within the realm of possibility to be asked out for New Years Eve by a certain young man in my life it might have changed any number of things. Are we prisoners of our expectations, or can we consciously change them and therefore change our lives?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ties Between Memory and Imagination

"I remember the winter when it didn't start to snow until March. It was a long way between the out house and the cottage and it was cold.... "

“Psychologists use fMRI to Understand Ties between Memories and the Imagination?”

A theory of memory states that recalling the past uses the same neurological pathways as envisioning the future. Therefore, scientists think that if one cannot remember the past, it is very hard to envision the future. If one does not have memories of their own, it is still possible to substitute the general knowledge we have of the world around us, researchers found. Retelling of memories includes physical, visual and other memory fragments related to just that memory. Sitting around with good friends is the right time to exercise you story telling. You know how some people tell stories about the time something embarrassing happened to them and they laugh at themselves and how funny they were? That is one way to build up your memory. There doesn't have to be a joke at the end, it could be sad, or an experience you learned from, that you relate to others. Try to put in the details that make the story more memorable. Another time think about a time in the future and how you would like things to be. If it is a future that isn't just about you, but about your community, country, the world, and it is generally positive, then you are creating a vision of the future. Creating future visions gives you something to work towards. It provides material for future dreams and successes. Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

“Can Ranking Employees Do More Harm Than Good?”

The trend of ranking employees by giving them grades based on a Bell Curve is not going to be long-lived, in spite of its popularity. I say this because anyone in the management world soon begins to realize that trends change from one year to another. In 14 years, Bain, a global business consulting firm, has done 11 multi-year surveys. The lists change from year to year, with some management tools and trends lasting and others disappearing.
In the recent past it was considered progressive to treat both employees and students as individuals. No one really knew how to do this, but they did realize that it made sense, given that no two individuals were ever alike, sometimes similar, but not alike. (Recent research shows that even identical twins have small genetic differences). During the time it has taken to develop truly individualized learning and evaluation methods, the world has moved on. Immigration has increased worldwide and forced people together from very different cultures, both in schools and in the workplace. Parents and workers, in many cases were from collective cultures, where a case of bad grades or performance reflected upon the family more than on the individual.
Economic shifts towards increasingly strict interpretations of market economy demand high performance and the ability to predict that performance. Stock prices and incomes must be kept high in order to deliver to stockholders. So the search for the best predictors of future performance is driven by the need to grade.
A series of changes, the movement from fossil fuel based energy to renewable energy, the worry of climate change, changes war from being country against country to internal conflicts and international terrorist activity, the need to change our live styles and much more make us nervous and unsure. We sometimes tend to grab onto the things we know best and in this case grades are the choice. Those who made good grades will probably be the most interested in using them as a measure. Here are three answers in a Metro newspaper article in response to the question “Is it good that employees get grades on the job?”:
“Yes, then one can fight a little more and get better results”, “Yes, it is, of course good, it keeps on working properly.” And “Yes, if management and personnel are in agreement, and help is given to help personnel be better.” Yet, this writer is not convinced.
There is a method that has been tried successfully in both schools and in the workplace. That is to measure one’s self against one’s own past performance not against others in the group. It takes more time, as employees have to learn how to evaluate themselves and then discuss differences with the boss or the teacher. The skills must be clearly defined, especially skills in personal relations and social competence. It has been known for some time that the individual always is tougher in evaluating themselves than is the boss or teacher. Instead of going ahead and perfecting this method, which admittedly is not easy in the beginning, the tendency is to fall back upon what is known i.e. grades. If grades are so good, why are students not getting them? In Sweden, many students are leaving school without fullfilling their gymnasium requirements. This gives students and employees a low picture of their worth, their place in society and expectations for their future.
In the business world, grading employees is more a fad than of a trend. See The real trend might be the search for ways to measure performance.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The functioning of not-for-profit, philanthropic, or “civil society” organizations

Let me wish you a happy new year! Maybe I should say I hope you had a happy 2007 and fulfilled everyone’s wishes for you! As you may have noticed, we took our usual break in December. This time we were busy moving both Visionscentret Framtidsbygget (The Vision Center) and our household. For a Futurist it was a very short-term, strategic thing to do. The logistics was unbelievable.

Now we are here in the country and I am writing from our new office. The naked trees still stand out in front of a grey-blue sky as darkness approaches.I have written before about alternative money systems and the need for revision of corporate legislation, that is give incorporated business more social and environmental responsibility.

This current Sign-of-the-Times has an American University and the United Nations working together to look at unsung contributors to the DNP (Gross Domestic Product), non-profit and volunteer sectors. In 1978, Hazel Henderson opened the subject for me with her book “Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics”. In it she has a cake with each layer representing a different contribution to the economy. Most of the layers have never been considered a part of the official economic measure, GDP; the earth's resources (Mother Earth) and Sweat Equity, the whole non-profit and volunteer sector including home based production, unpaid household and parenting and more were left out. The only thing that counted was the private and public sectors.
I spoke to Hazel and asked her where she thought we were now in the trend to change how we measure the economy, figuring that it started with her book in 1978. Think of a trend as an "S" curve.

Hazel indicated she thought we were still on the upswing, but not at the highest part of the curve yet. She said that acceptance for change was high but that the biggest hinder was academicians who were deeply invested in their market economic paradigm. The inference here is that more inclusive ways of measuring our economic and social success will revolutionize our economy and that is a scary proposition for those invested in current methods. There is evidence that high percentages of Europeans understand that GDP doesn’t work, so there is growing grass-roots support for new ways to define success. Many new ways of measuring our success on the planet are already developed and have been described in earlier Signs of the Times. See “Previous signs of the times”, August 21, 2003 titled “Increase in holistic measurement of human development and quality of life” (near the bottom of the page) at: There may be a measurement for your city, region or organization.