Scanning Retrospective, No. 3

Foresight Snippets – No. 3

[Originally published] 15 December 2000

  • What price the “.tv” domain?
  • You’d better be good! Darth Vader is coming to the lecture hall
  • Everything old is new again: phone numbers vs URLs

Continue reading “Scanning Retrospective, No. 3”

Scanning Retrospective, No. 1

Foresight Snippets – No. 1

From the Foresight & Planning Unit
[Originally published] 17 November 2000
by Joseph Voros

  • Universities Begin Creating Palm-Sized Versions of Campus Web Pages
  • GM Goat Spins Web-Based Future
  • Stick Your Finger in Your Ear and Go “Ting-a-Ling-a-Loo!”

Continue reading “Scanning Retrospective, No. 1”

Futures Scanning – A Retrospective View

The background

In August 2000, I was hired as a strategic foresight analyst in the Foresight and Planning Unit (FPU) of the (then) Office of the Vice Chancellor at Swinburne University of Technology. Part of this role was to conduct futures ‘scanning’ – by looking at the education ‘landscape’ through a ‘foresight’ time-frame much longer than is usual in conventional strategic planning; in our case, it was 10-20 years out. This obviously means that today, in 2021, the ‘future landscape’ being ‘scouted’ back then has since come to pass and become history. Hence the motivation for this experiment – to look back at what were picked up then as impending signals of change, and to compare what was reported in those days as future possibilities with what eventually came to pass as historical actualities. It has taken two decades to reach this point of being able to conduct such a ‘retrospective longitudinal assessment’ – and hopefully it should prove to be both interesting and instructive. It may also allow some real-world-data calibration of the utility of the heuristic principles for scanning described in the previous post. Continue reading “Futures Scanning – A Retrospective View”

Heuristic principles for scanning

As a futures scanner ‘back in the day’ (as they say), working in the corporate area of Swinburne responsible for undertaking organisational foresight and planning, and in the time since, I came to employ several heuristics or principles of scanning that I had found empirically to be useful. There are about ten of these that I can think of right at this moment, which I will enumerate below. But before I proceed, though, let me first explain one of the (many) models we used in our teaching in the old Swinburne Master of Strategic Foresight (MSF). Continue reading “Heuristic principles for scanning”

Evidence of the future in the present

One of the principal practices involved in doing futures work is known as ‘scanning’. This term has a few variants — sometimes ‘environmental scanning’, sometimes ‘horizon scanning’, sometimes something else again — and these are often used interchangeably. I prefer to use the term ‘environmental scanning’ when the scanning pertains to the more proximal environment(s) of the organisation or entity that is the primary perspective from which the scanning is done, such as the market or industry in which it sits, while reserving the term ‘horizon scanning’ for the more distal aspects of the wider social, national or even international contexts. This is a fairly loose heuristic, but to me it helps connote the relative ‘closeness’ of the organisation’s ‘operating environment’ vs the relative ‘distance’ of the wider contextual ‘horizon’. Continue reading “Evidence of the future in the present”

More Big History outputs

There have been two more formal publications on Big History recently: one a journal article – hinted at in the previous post – written in part to honour the memory of Erich Jantsch, the other a book chapter, as well as an informal podcast episode in the FuturePod series.

Continue reading “More Big History outputs”

Erich Jantsch’s 90th birthday…

Image of EJ relaxing in a chair during an interview.
Erich Jantsch, May 1972 from NW Mag (presumably taken during that interview, as a tape recorder is visible on the table before him). With many thanks to Leah Sciabarrasi for permission to use it here. (https://leahonthelake.com/erich-jantsch-biography/)

would have been today (Capra 1981, p.151). Instead, the world lost an incomparable polymath and genius on 12 Dec 1980, less than a month before his 52nd birthday, and we are all much, much the poorer for that loss (Capra 1981, Linstone, Maruyama & Kaje 1981, Zeleny 1981). Continue reading “Erich Jantsch’s 90th birthday…”

And that’s a wrap! The End of the Swinburne MSF.

Today was the last class ever of the Swinburne MSF (2001 — 2018) — something that has been coming for a long time (announcement of closure was back in May 2016).

There is a KudoBoard where people have posted their memories of the MSF.

Q: What now?

A: Trust emergence…

Is “Hoag’s Object” an “engineered” galaxy?

The question asked in the title of this post is one I have been pondering for the most part of a decade now, ever since I saw the image, shown in Figure 1, of the galaxy PGC54559 (popularly known as Hoag’s Object) in 2010, following several months of thinking about what Kardashev Type III civilisations might look like.

hoag_hst_big_full
Figure 1. PGC54559 (“Hoag’s Object”). Image credit: NASA & The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgement: Ray A. Lucas (STScI/AURA). Multiple formats and sizes are available from: http://hubblesite.org/image/1241/news_release/2002-21

Continue reading “Is “Hoag’s Object” an “engineered” galaxy?”

Big History and Futures Studies – what a cosmic perfect match!

I’ve had a new paper accepted for a special issue of the SAGE journal World Futures Review, on Foresight Education, edited by Peter Bishop. It is yet to be assigned to a volume/issue (UPDATE: it is most likely to be Vol.10, No. 4, Dec 2018), but has had a formal DOI assigned to it to allow for web linking prior to final publication, and is available through SAGE’s OnlineFirst system. I am also allowed to link a version from my University’s research repository, Swinburne ResearchBank. It is an accepted manuscript form, which SAGE allows to be placed in a university repository, rather than the final officially-published version, which they do not. Always look to the pagination of the final published version if you are going to be quoting things from it… Continue reading “Big History and Futures Studies – what a cosmic perfect match!”

Chapters and an Article

The book chapter from which I took the posting on the Futures Cone last February has now been published online by Springer International. It is available to those who have SpringerLink subscriptions (many universities do, so try logging-into your University library and looking for the SpringerLink database) via the doi: link given below. I’ll be checking whether the possibility of self-archiving exists, which means I would be able to deposit a pre-publication (note: not the final) version of the chapter at Swinburne ResearchBank for wider availability. Continue reading “Chapters and an Article”

Quo vadis Humanity?

I mentioned last year that I had made a presentation at the Big History Anthropocene conference held in December 2015 at Macquarie University and organised by the Big History Institute. The presentations from that conference can be viewed on YouTube, with the full playlist available at this URL. They are almost universally terrific — it was one of the most engagingly informative conferences I’ve been to, so I encourage you to dip into the playlist. Continue reading “Quo vadis Humanity?”

Celebrating the Master of Strategic Foresight

Last year I noted that the Master of Strategic Foresight (MSF) — with which I’ve been involved since its inception at Swinburne in 2001 and into which I’ve taught for almost as long (through guest lectures firstly, then as a formal member of teaching staff from 2003) — was being shut down, and was to be taught out over the next year or so. My fellow foresight conspirator for much of that time, Peter Hayward (aka “Captain Foresight”), retired at the end of last year, but not before we were able to celebrate the fact that the MSF had existed at all. That was what we chose to call the “MSF Wake”. Continue reading “Celebrating the Master of Strategic Foresight”

The Futures Cone, use and history

From time to time people ask me about the Futures Cone, and how it came about. Let me give a brief history of how I came across it before adapting it to suit my use of the concept. I first began using an early version of the Futures Cone diagram (i.e., with fewer categories) in 2000 when working as a foresight analyst for Swinburne University (before becoming an academic in the Master of Strategic Foresight).  The text in this post is excerpted from a chapter I submitted to the Handbook of Anticipation, ed. Roberto Poli (Springer International). The “formal” citation for the chapter/book is:

Voros, J 2017, ‘Big History and anticipation: Using Big History as a framework for global foresight’, in R Poli (ed.) Handbook of anticipation: Theoretical and applied aspects of the use of future in decision making, Springer International, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-31737-3_95-1,

while the text in this post is from the section of that chapter entitled ‘Types of Alternative Futures’, pp. 10-13, and the “cone” diagram itself is: Fig. 4, p. 11.

Continue reading “The Futures Cone, use and history”

How Futurists Work/Think

Last year a colleague at the International Big History Association (www.ibhanet.org) asked me how futurists work/think. This was for a book she was writing for high school students on Big History. The final chapters of these types of books tend to focus on the future, hence the request for some ideas from someone who does this for a living. I tapped out a quick, off-the-top-of-my-head answer and sent it off. In thinking about how long since I’ve posted here, I thought I’d better get back into gear, especially as there are some ideas to share coming soon… Here is the essence of what I wrote: Continue reading “How Futurists Work/Think”

Q&A with a (Big History) Futurist

Here is a Q&A I did with Kathryn Ford, Project Coordinator at the Big History Institute at Macquarie University, for Issue 6 of the BHI newsletter, Threshold 9.

Interestingly, ‘Threshold 9’ (i.e., the ‘next’ Threshold in the 8-so-far main Thresholds of Big History) has been on my research agenda for quite a few years now, so it is a great pleasure to be able to talk more widely about the broader long-term future (as well as Threshold 9) in an issue of BHI’s Threshold 9 😉

I hope you enjoy it. Once the videos from the conference are uploaded, I’ll be writing about and linking to some of them in later posts.

Until then, remember: “keep looking to the future”. (I wonder what that would be in Latin 😉

Big History Institute newsletter Threshold 9 Issue 6: Q&A with a Futurist.

Welcome to The Voroscope

On December 21, 2015, a group of graduating students in the Master of Strategic Foresight program that I teach into at Swinburne University presented my colleague Dr Peter Hayward and I with caricatures of our likenesses – Peter was dubbed Captain Foresight, and I was named The Voroscope.

The latter is, of course, a most utterly perfect name for a blog that might seek to examine the whole of the Universe as well as the future, hence the coming-into-being of this blog.

So, welcome to The Voroscope – “an instrument of science and the future,” for examining everything that may exist in the totality of space and time, everywhere and everywhen, from the Hot Big Bang to the Big Chilly Rip, and for examining all manner of potential futures, from the Projected to the Preposterous! – and beyond…

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