Year in Review: Top 10 Articles on FuturistSpeaker.com

by | Dec 31, 2011 | Business Trends

Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker year in review
The sixth law of the future states, “The “unknowability” of the future is what gives us our drive and motivation.”

The fact that the future is unknowable is a good thing. Our involvement in the game of life is based on our notion that we as individuals can make a difference. If we somehow remove the mystery of what results our actions will have, we also dismantle our individual drives and motivations for moving forward.

There is a whole lot that we don’t know about the year ahead. Yes, it will be messy. Important people will die. We will not cure cancer, just yet. And we won’t find a solution for war. But there is great value in the struggle. Our greatest achievements will come from these struggles.

We can learn much about where we’ve come from, and for this reason I’d like to give you a quick overview of the top articles in 2011 on FuturistSpeaker.com, based on popularity. They touch on jobs, education, crime, food supplies, and most importantly, the future. Join me as we take a look at the future through the eyes of the past.

10.) Four Fundamental Myths Derailing Academic Change

When we think about Benjamin Franklin, we instantly think of the author, scientist, inventor, diplomat who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence and has his face on the one-hundred dollar bill. Ben Franklin was a truly remarkable person, yet he had less than two years of formal education.

I recently came across a study that examined the lives of 755 famous people who either dropped out of grade school or high school. The list included 25 billionaires, 8 U.S. Presidents, 10 Nobel Prize winners, 8 Olympic medal winners, 63 Oscar winners, 55 best-selling authors, and 31 who had been Knighted.

With names like Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Will Rogers, and Joseph Pulitzer, being an academic failure still left you in the company of some incredible luminaries.

Going one step further, adding the names of well-known college dropouts to the list, names like Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bill Gates, Buckminster Fuller, Larry Ellison, Howard Hughes, Michael Dell, Ted Turner, Paul Allen, Mark Zuckerberg, and virtually every famous actor, actress, and director in Hollywood, and the dropout list becomes a venerable Who’s Who of American culture.

So what are we missing here? On one hand we are being told that the path to success is through academia. Yet, we have literally thousands of examples of wealthy, successful, business leaders, industry icons, and some of our greatest heroes that took a different route. Continue reading here.
Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker when industries collapse
It was roughly two years ago, October 15, 2009, when I got a call from a desperate lady, panicking, as she asked for my help.

Being a futurist, I don’t get many calls from people who urgently need my help. Futurists are rarely first responders.

As she described the situation, telling how a young boy’s life was at stake, and the situation was far too complicated for normal emergency rescue crews, she somehow thought of the DaVinci Institute.

“You work with some of the brightest minds in the world and this situation is going to require a very ingenious solution.” Her voice was dripping with trepidation and fear.

Moments after receiving her call, I turned on the television because the problem she described was quickly unfolding across the nation, gaining national attention, as a six-year old boy named Falcon had somehow gotten trapped inside a small weather balloon that was flying over the Midwest. Yes, this was the legendary balloon-boy incident, gripping the nation in panic and fear until the entire hoax started unraveling.

At the DaVinci Institute, we often tackle complex problems to find solutions. But in today’s world, one of the biggest problems threatening society today is complexity itself. Here’s why. Continue reading here.

8.) Hoping the Crime Rate Goes Up

How many laws are governing you at this very moment?

Driving across America we find ourselves constantly driving through invisible barriers where new laws come into play and old ones fade away. We have no clue as to what laws they are, or even how many, but these laws have the potential to ruin our lives.

In a country that claims to be the land of the free, the number of people under the control of the U.S. corrections system has exploded over the last 25 years to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. The actual number of people behind bars rose to 2.3 million, nearly five times more than the world’s average.

But true criminals are not the problem.

Headlines in the New York Times have repeatedly showed us the irony of our current dilemma – “Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling,” “Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rate Drops,” “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” and “More Inmates, Despite Slight Drop in Crime.”

Logically then, if crime keeps falling, we simply won’t be able to build prisons fast enough.

We can only hope that real crime goes up so our criminal justice system will have real criminals to go after. Continue reading here.

7.) Introducing the Eight Grand Challenges for Humanity

On Sunday I gave the closing keynote at the World Future Society’s “WorldFuture 2011″ event in Vancouver, BC. It was an energized crowd of inspired thinkers from around the globe, and I felt quite honored to be part of this event.

As I took the stage, my goal was to introduce the crowd to a series of Eight Grand Challenges, incentivized competitions designed to push humanity to another level.

But as with many crowds, there was a formidable issue in the minds of attendees, a hurdle of acceptance before these challenges would be deemed cause-worthy.

At issue was our obsession with solving all of today’s problems before we dare think about advancing humanity. How can we possibly justify advancing humanity when the money would be far better spent solving today’s massive problems?

Answering this objection first, was critically important, so here is the way I presented it.

If we only focus on solving today’s problems, we become trapped in the past. Every solution leads to another set of problems. Much like the whack-a-mole game at video arcades, as one problem gets pounded down, another pokes its ugly head out.

The only real way out is to advance civilization. By advancing civilization we change the nature of the problems we’re dealing with, and that is exactly what the Eight Grand Challenges have been designed to do. Continue reading here.

6.) The Coming Collapse of Bitcoin?

In 2008 the entire world was beginning to panic as our global financial systems teetered ever so close to total meltdown. Major banks were either failing or near failure, and the entire house of cards seemed to be one 10-of-Clubs away from becoming a meaningless flat stack in the middle of the table.

There was a growing distrust of banks, Wall Street, and our entire monetary system. We had allowed the wrong powerbrokers to gain control and business and industry were collapsing all around us. Visions of the Great Depression and its soup lines were haunting us, like a reoccurring nightmare, causing us to rethink our every move.

Many ideas were percolating in the background, but for one, the timing was perfect. Indeed, it is during the worst of times that we, as humans, often do our best work.

So it was in this collapsing chaos where people were grasping desperately for even the slightest ray of hope when on November 1st in 2008 a mysterious paper appeared on an obscure cryptography listserv describing details for a new digital currency called bitcoin.

It was from this seemingly innocent birthing chamber that this piece of monetary-replacement technology would begin its three-year rollercoaster journey, a journey with great lessons for our future. Continue reading here.

5.) Eight Critical Skills for the Future

On Monday evening I presented my thoughts on the “Future of Mobile Apps & Peripherals” at our monthly Night with a Futurist event. My talk was followed by a fascinating panel discussion with three of the industry’s brightest minds – Michael Sitarzewski, Lisa Calkins, and Gary Moskoff with Karl Dakin moderating the discussion.

Several people left this event saying their heads were ready to explode with all the fascinating new ground we covered, and I credit these four with helping us push the envelope on this topic.

At one point the conversation turned to social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and Buzz that encourage users to log in and share their location. This feature is packaged as a fun way to find friends and stay social. But there is a downside.

Michael Sitarzewski was quick to point out a new site called ‘Please Rob Me‘ that aims to make online tell-alls aware of the potential downside to public location-sharing.

‘Please Rob Me’ aggregates and streams location check-ins into a list of “all those empty homes out there,” and describes the recently-shared locations as “new opportunities.”

While this seems comical on one level, the dangers are quite obvious, and even more apparent is our poor understanding of the demands being placed on us individually, and the skills we will need to function in this unchartered new territory.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of the eight critical skills that we will need in the future that are not being taught in school today. Continue reading here.



Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker laws of the future

4.) 12 Laws of the Future

For several decades now I have been contemplating our relationship with the future.

Many of my colleagues think of me as that crazy guy who assigns human attributes to this thing we call the future.

On occasion you can hear me uttering phrases like, “I know it’s going to be a great day because the future is clearly happy with me today.” Or, “no, that’s not a good idea because the future is probably going to push it off a cliff.”

At one point I even tried to convince my wife that the future wanted me to buy a new car, but she wasn’t buying it.

So why is it so important to study the future? For starters, we all have a vested interest in it. We will all be living in the future. Continue reading here.



Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker 3d food printer

3.) The Coming Food Printer Revolution

Would you buy a product that was advertised as “Naturally grown, completely organic, printed food?”

Anyone who has an apple tree growing in their yard knows how difficult it is to grow one that is worthy of eating straight off the tree. Most have bruises, wormholes, or bird damage that leaves most apples somewhat marginalized. They may be perfectly good on the inside, yet they don’t look very good.

As we shop for apples in the grocery store, we find ourselves looking for the “perfect apple.” Only a small percentage of apples grown on the farm are worthy of making it into the major leagues of food – the fresh produce section of our grocery stores.

But what if we could take all of those bruised and damaged apples and turn them all into “perfect apples” – perfect size, perfect color, perfect crunch when we bite into them, and the perfect sweet juicy flavor and aroma that makes our mouth water every time we think about them.

This is the promise of food printer technology as we move from simply printing ink on paper, to 3D printing of parts and objects, to next generation food printers.

These aren’t the artificial food devices that science fiction movies have been promising. Instead, they are devices with the very real potential for turning real apples into perfect apples. But this is only scratching the surface. Continue reading here.



Great lies continue to be propagated

2.) Eight False Promises of the Internet

In early 2003 I had a conversation with Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of VISA. At the time we were interested in hiring him to be the keynote speaker at our upcoming Future of Money Summit, an event that would take place in November of that year.

Ten years earlier, in March of 1993, Hock gave a dinner speech at the Santa Fe Institute where he described his unusual organizational theories in managing VISA, describing them as “chaordic” a term that roughly translates into “ordered chaos.”

In 1996 he formed the Chaordic Alliance, later renamed the Chaordic Commons, for the purpose of furthering his notions that businesses can run more effectively when they are based on a “vital set of living beliefs” distributed through an organization, essentially replacing top-down command and control.

As we talked, his powers of persuasion were quite evident as he artfully described his “chaordic” theories, and by the end of the conversation I was a true believer, wanting to become a disciple of this new business gospel.

But as with many things that sound too good to be true the first time you hear them, Hock’s “chaodic” theories that somehow worked within VISA, proved non-reproducible in other settings, and have now largely been abandoned after numerous attempts to implement them in other companies.

As we enter the 2nd decade of the new millennium we find ourselves in a similar quandary trying to separate the fallacies from the promises of what works and what doesn’t on the Internet. With that in mind I’ve put together a list of eight of the founding theories of the Internet that have proved similarly deceptive. Continue reading here.



Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker future jobs

1.) 55 Jobs of the Future

One of my primary complaints with higher education is that they tend to prepare students for jobs of the past. The way a Midwesterner would phrase it, “they are constantly shooting behind the duck.”

Similarly, whenever a column is written about the best paying jobs of the future, jobs like civil engineers, registered nurses, and computer system analysts, they are all jobs that currently exist today.

Yes, many of these jobs will still exist in the future, but every one of them will morph and change as technology and communication systems make their impact.

As an example, technology research firm IDC predicts the amount of data businesses will have access to will grow 50-fold over the next decade. As data becomes cheaper, faster, and more pervasive, the nature of our work begins to change as well.

The first wave of baby boomers has now turned 65. As this generation grays, their needs will change. Their growing numbers and increasing medical needs will require a different kind of health care professionals to take care of them.

As a rule of thumb, 60% of the jobs 10 years from now haven’t been invented yet. With that in mind, I’ve decided to pull together a list of 55 jobs that will be in high demand in the future. Continue reading here.


Final Thoughts

We are in for a very exciting year ahead. It’s a year where many competing trends will collide, and through those collisions we will see new pathways emerge.

At the same time, many new trends are forming, some with enough steam to form entirely new movements, others that will run their course and splinter into other emerging ways of doing business.

The “new normal” is quickly becoming the “nothing normal,” and our daily routines, the things we use to maintain our own sanity, will need to morph and change if we hope to stay competitive in the emerging job market and even stay current in our own social circles.

The year ahead will be a wild ride. Let’s take that ride together.

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