News & Previews from the World Future Society
April  2001

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* Playing the Market
* Self-Healing Materials
* E-Book Asks, "Then What?"
* India's Future After the Earthquake
* Lester Brown's New Venture
* Dr. Tomorrow's Cruise
* FUTURIST Forecasts

People playing in artificial markets do just as good a job of predicting future trends as investors in real markets do, even though the players aren't using real money, according to a study by the NEC Research Institute (http://www.neci.nj.nec.com/).

Artificial markets include the Hollywood Stock Exchange (http://www.hsx.com/), where you can "invest" in the probable success or failure of Steven Spielberg's next project. The Foresight Exchange (http://www.ideosphere.com/) allows you to "invest" in questions of more scientific interest, such as whether a human will be successfully cloned by 2005.

"The prices of securities can be thought of as the market's assessment of the probabilities of the corresponding events," says David Pennock, lead author of the study. Although the players use artificial money, they care enough about their portfolios to make informed choices, so the gamers turn out to be as accurate in their predictions as stock-market investors, according to Pennock.

Trend watchers may do well to study these artificial markets to spot evidence of future trends, or even create similar gaming markets to collect information on other areas of interest, Pennock suggests.

For more information on the study, visit http://artificialmarkets.com/.

Bridges, airplanes, and other structures may one day be self-repairing, thanks to a new polymer spiked with tiny capsules of glue.

The glue capsules are incorporated into the matrix that forms a composite material, which consists of fibers of glass, carbon, or some other material. As a crack develops in the material, the capsules are ruptured and release the glue to "self-heal" the object.

Tests showed that the self-repaired material retained 75% of its original strength, according to aeronautical engineering professor Scott White (http://www.aae.uiuc.edu/Profs/White.html) and a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. They reported on their work in the February 15, 2001, issue of the science journal NATURE (http://www.nature.com/nature).

Self-healing materials could be enormously useful in cases where repairing a structure is difficult, dangerous, or expensive, such as computer circuit boards, bridges, aircraft, and spacecraft.

"There will always be a gap between our technology and our imagination," declares Jason Ohler in his new electronic book, THEN WHAT? The book combines storytelling with speculation in a multimedia format, including Ohler's own music.

Ohler teaches technology assessment and integration at the University of Alaska Southeast; he used the electronic book as an example to describe techniques of technology assessment in an article for the January-February 2001 issue of THE FUTURIST.

THEN WHAT?, a "Funquiry into the nature of technology, human transformation, and Marshall McLuhan" (http://www2.jun.alaska.edu/edtech/thenwhat) will be published this spring. Meanwhile, Ohler's previous book, TAMING THE BEAST, may be ordered from Amazon: click on http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0784208735/thefuturistbooks

"I am overwhelmed by such large numbers of inquiries about the earthquake devastation in India--and about my safety," says Rashmi Mayur, THE FUTURIST's contributing editor on Developing Nations. India suffered a 7.7-magnitude earthquake--its worst in 50 years--on January 26. More than 19,000 people were killed, according to Associated Press, and tens of thousands were injured.

The shock rocked Mayur's office in Mumbai (Bombay), and he thought his last day had come. Recovering quickly, he rushed to the epicenter to help with rescue efforts. He will give a first-hand report at the World Future Society's conference in Minneapolis July 29-31. (Details: http://www.wfs.org/2001sched.htm.)

Rashmi Mayur (mailto:iisfb@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in) writes about India's many environmental problems in the May-June 2001 issue of THE FUTURIST, which will be mailed to subscribers after April 11.

Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute (http://www.worldwatch.org/), will launch a new venture, the Earth Policy Institute, in May. He will continue to serve as chairman of Worldwatch.

At the new Institute, Brown will focus on writing short articles for dissemination on the Internet, as well as a book on what an environmentally sustainable economy will look like.

"Worldwatch and Earth Policy will cooperate in addressing issues such as biodiversity, climate change, water, and population," says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "The rapid deterioration of the earth's ecological systems and the recent failure of environmental leadership in Washington signal the need for all of us to step up our efforts. We wish Lester great success in his exciting new venture."

Vacations can do more than pamper your body--they can also pump energy into your brain, reports Canadian futurist Frank Ogden.

Known as "Dr. Tomorrow," Ogden recently participated in Crystal Cruise Line's new Crystal Vision Enhancement Lecture Series, sharing his visions of the future. Ogden describes the experience as ideal for audiences who have reached "certain levels of influence and affluence and are very interested in their tomorrows." Other topics in the series have included investment strategies, diplomacy and foreign policy, space photography, rocket science, and computer courses. Details: http://www.crystalcruises.com/index.asp.

Ogden directs 10 weekly Web-TV programs and has turned his previous newspaper columns into a Digital Diary, accessible on his Web site. Established 20 years ago, http://www.drtomorrow.com/ was one of the first 200 sites on the Web.

Here are a few of the forecasts you'll read in the May-June issue of THE FUTURIST:

* The next step of human evolution will be to "humanize" the universe, says futurist Michael G. Zey. As we conquer our environment, we will coalesce with other members of our species to conquer outer space. See "Man's Evolutionary Path into the Universe."

* Automated translation technologies will bring us closer to universal communication. This will aid business and tourism while allowing local cultures and languages to thrive. See "Babbling Our Way to a New Babel: Erasing the Language Barriers" by mass communications professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig.

* Devastation from mega-catastrophes such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and asteroid collisions could be reduced with "extreme" sustainable development. We'll build rapid-escape vehicles, deploy advanced technologies to safeguard water supplies, and put agricultural recovery on hyperdrive to get civilization back up to speed. See "Preparing for Armageddon: How We Can Survive Mega-Disasters" by disaster-prevention specialist Douglas Mulhall.

* Managers' infatuation with change for change's sake may soon be at an end--or should be, warns consultant Peter de Jager. Idea overload from the guru industry may force businesses to be more selective about what changes they actually implement. One way to start is to listen to those who are resisting the change. See "Resistance to Change: A New View of an Old Problem."

The May-June 2001 issue of THE FUTURIST was mailed to subscribers after April 11. To order a copy ($4.95 plus $3 postage), go to http://www.wfs.org/futuristorder.htm or call 1-800-989-8274.

The staff of the World Future Society was saddened by the death on March 13 of James Crider, who served as the Society's accountant from 1981 to 1998. He is survived by his partner of 50 years, Howard F. Didsbury Jr., who is the Society's director of special projects.

"Jim was a towering figure of strength and common sense, who kept this organization firmly grounded in fiscal reality," said Society President Edward Cornish. "He will be deeply missed."

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FUTURIST UPDATE: NEWS & PREVIEWS FROM THE WORLD FUTURE SOCIETY is an e-mail newsletter published monthly as a supplement to THE FUTURIST magazine. Copyright 2001, World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814, U.S.A. Telephone 1-301-656-8274; e-mail info@wfs.org; Web site http://www.wfs.org/.

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THE WORLD FUTURE SOCIETY is a nonprofit, nonpartisan scientific and educational association with some 30,000 members worldwide. Its mission is to help individuals and organizations identify and understand key trends and to create their preferred futures. Membership in the Society, including a subscription to THE FUTURIST magazine and numerous other benefits, is just $39 per year. For more information on the Society and all its programs, publications, and services, contact Membership Director Susan Echard, sechard@wfs.org, or visit www.wfs.org.

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