Celebrating the Master of Strategic Foresight

the room is buzzing

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”.

The MSF Wake was held on the evening of Friday 25th November 2016 at the wonderful Kelvin Club in the Melbourne CBD (off Russell Street). We had around 150 people attend, a mixture of current and past students, as well as their partners, who were of course also invited to join us — since most partners of people doing the MSF tend to also “do” the course “by proxy”, as it were, it was wonderful to have them along, too.

We wanted to celebrate the MSF in style, so we made the event “Black Tie Optional” (i.e., “doll up to your heart’s content if you want to, but you don’t have to”). I even managed to convince The Captain to put on a dinner suit — photographic evidence of this admittedly outlandishly preposterous claim is attached below 😉

Lynne-JV-KarenRichard A. Sorcerer Slaughter, the Foundation Professor of Foresight at Swinburne and founder of the MSF program was also in attendance, and wrote his own reflections on the evening at his blog over at richardslaughter.com.au. As he notes there, it was a really very happy occasion, and continued long (and I mean long) after we had to vacate the ballroom at 11 pm. I think we were finally kicked out of the downstairs Bar around 1:15 am, although by that stage it was after far too many Martinis, so I am a bit hazy on the exact details (the adjacent image shows one of those far-too-many Martinis…). More images from the night can be found at the Kudo Board set up by MSF graduate (2015) Bec Mijat: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/4OarbE7n

As the last futurist from the original MSF four-some, it falls largely to me to teach out the program, along with some guest lectures from various of our friends and guest lecturers from years past (as well as a guest spot or two from The Captain…). The new teaching year commenced last week with what is (almost certainly: I’m a Bayesian, after all đŸ˜‰ ) the final intake of the foundational unit Foresight Knowledge & Methods 1. With this came the sheer fun of playing with introductory ideas about the future again after several years since I taught it last. I’ll have more to say in future posts about some of the key concepts we are covering in FKM1 (including Bayesian Inference, of course…).

Bthe fore-someut for now, here is a shot from the MSFwake of the Foresight Fore-some [sic] from left to right along with the caricatures which Bec and Dave had made of the four of us: Captain Foresight (Peter Hayward); Richard A. Sorcerer (Richard Slaughter); Madame To-Morrow (Rowena Morrow); and The Voroscope (me). A fun, fun night and a truly inexpressible joy to have been able to share it with so many of the MSF community, students, partners and other friends of the MSF. For more shots from the MSFwake, as well as remembrances from students of the MSF, head over to the MSF Kudoboard.

JV

Image credits: Top – SassNvibe (Facebook: @sassNvibe); Centre – Lynne Wintergerst (Twitter: @Twintergerst); Bottom – Bec Mijat (LinkedIn) using Richard’s camera.

The “e-maelstrom” of holiday email

keep-calm-and-delete-emails-1I’ve returned from the Christmas (and, here in the Southern Hemisphere, summer) holidays and, after settling back in to my office, I began the daunting task of dealing with the torrent of emails that came in over the 3 or so weeks I was away (hence a need to let off some nervous energy in a blog post… 😉

You know what I mean – a veritable maelstrom of email arrives during a break from work when you’re not looking. Hmm, a maelstrom of email: an “e-maelstrom”, if you will. 🙂

I’m not sure this qualifies for the Washington Post’s new words competition – take a word, change one letter and give it a new defintion – but it surely has resonance for many of us at this time of year (and especially here in the Southern Hemisphere where our holidays tend be longer owing to summer). And I’m sure the concept applies equally well to any return to work following time away from email.

Anyway, a new year has begun – but not, I would argue, on the 1st of January, which is an entirely arbitrary day in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Better candidates for clicking the numbers over might be one of the solstices or equinoxes, but my personal favourite is perihelion – the point in its orbit at which the Earth is closest to the Sun. The orbit is not circular but slightly elliptical, so there is a closest point – perihelion – and a furthest point – aphelion, since not all points are equidistant owing to the non-circularity. And therefore, although you might not have thought about it, the seasons don’t have the same length. Indeed, we lose a few days of summer here in the Southern Hemisphere as a result, while also getting a higher flux of solar energy than that experienced during summer in the North.

Owing to the variations of the Earth’s position and movements – the well-known  Milankovitch Cycles – the seasons (which are governed by the cyclically-variable axial obliquity or tilt of the Earth’s axis, as well as its axial precession) do not necessarily line up or have any connection with the independent variations in the shape and position of the orbit (including changes in its eccentricity or “ovalness”, as well as its own apsidal precession). However, in this epoch, perihelion occurs close to the December solstice (northern winter, southern summer) around Dec 22 and even closer to conventional New Year’s Day. Currently, perihelion is around January 3 or 4, depending on your time zone and whether we are in a Leap Year (which we are), so I think we should use the Earth’s physcially-meaningful perhelion as the natural starting point to mark the start of an orbit, and thus also of a year. It makes much more sense to do this, in the same way that 0 { }^\circ C makes much more (physical) sense than 32 { }^\circ F to mark the freezing temperature of water (at 1 atm pressure).

So Merry Perihelion everyone and a Happy New (apsidally-defined) Year! And I hope dealing with your own e-maelstrom won’t be so bad now that you can “name the Dragon” 😉

Now, back to it…

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 is Captain Foresight, and I am The Voroscope. (The image is from a tweet by Rob (@Like_Rob) taken at the time.

CF&TVS

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…