Archive for Foresight

Post 7 Billion People: Peek Population

// November 4th, 2011 // Comments Off on Post 7 Billion People: Peek Population // Foresight, Opinion

Great data visualisation on population levels that is getting a lot of attention.

One of the interesting issues I’ve highlighted as futurist for the past 6 years has been that of a “peek population.” I originally got alerted by this paper:

The global macroeconomic consequences of a demographic transition – Professor Warwick McKibbin, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Working Papers in International Economics – November 2005 – No. 7.05


The world is in the midst of a significant demographic transition with important implications for the macroeconomic performance of the global economy. This paper summarises the key features of the current and projected future demographic changes that are likely to have macroeconomic effects. It then applies a new ten region global model (an extended version of the MSG-Cubed model) incorporating demographic dynamics, to examine the consequences of projected global demographic change on the world economy from 2005 to 2050. A distinction is made between the effects on each country/region of its own demographic transition and the effects on each country/region of the equally large demographic changes occurring in the rest of the world. It is estimated that the macroeconomic consequences of demographic change over coming decades are large for the world as a whole. For each country both domestic and foreign demographic changes are important.

Posting the above to the Association of Professional Futurists listserv I followed up with this missive which pretty much summarises my thinking at present:

I wish I had your clients: ones I could entice to explore an un-picking of assumptions and the multifaceted insights that can arise in the process.  Unfortunately, for my passions, I’ve often had to work hard to even get such data sets / analyses on the table to be considered at all, let alone looked at in depth.

I agree there are a huge number of factors involved in population levels, and any scenario, particularly simple trend extrapolations, are incredibly unlikely to be realistic. So the main thing I come back to is making it as simple as possible for people to digest *something* about this topic: high level assumptions, primary interactions and practical implications for today:

  • I see the main assumption being continued lowering of the birth rate, to a possible plateau, involving a clear ‘cresting’ of population numbers at some stage in the next 40-80 years.
  • The primary interactions that influence the scale and timing of the cresting, and if it is a slow or fast decline thereafter or establishes an unlikely stability in total population numbers, include technology (innovation/invention), carrying capacity/resource limits and socioeconomic stability (which are highly, dynamically, interdependent themselves!) as they impact on/are impacted by healthcare, food, education and capital.
  • The possible plateau in birth rates is the fundamental uncertainty point for me: it represents an echo of what the trans-humanists think of as the singularity: a lot could be said of it, most of it with little practical insight for the present;)
  • By contrast, the main practical insight I elicit for ‘today’ is that the ratio of productive labour v’s dependant populations will continue to skew heavily towards increasing economic dependency, and possibly, followed by rapidly declining population levels altogether.
  • Which leads to a clear challenge: how to prepare to better cope with increasingly aged populations who are living longer while the very foundations of our environmental-economic systems are fracturing?  How do ‘we’ survive and thrive in this context? Can ‘we’ even help humanity ride this wave?

All very interesting stuff, highly debatable, and incredibly challenging to grok and respond to in the present!

Foresight Links for Jul 18, 6:00 am

// July 18th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jul 18, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

Foresight Links for Jul 11, 6:00 am

// July 11th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jul 11, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

Foresight Links for Jul 4, 6:00 am

// July 4th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jul 4, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

  • The Illusion of Control in a Intelligence Amplification Singularity, Michael Anissimov @ Accelerating Future:
    From what I understand, we’re currently at a point in history where the importance of getting the Singularity right pretty much outweighs all other concerns, particularly because a negative Singularity is one of the existential threats which could wipe out all of humanity rather than “just” billions. The Singularity is (Read more…)
  • 2011-04-22 04:40:33, Guest Admin @ Institute For The Future:
  • Singularity Summit 2011, Michael Anissimov @ Accelerating Future:
    The press release for SS11 is posted. Featuring Ken Jennings, Christof Koch, Tyler Cowen, Ray Kurzweil, and many others. The venue will be the same as 2009 — the 92nd St. Y in New York City. The theme we are pegging this year’s conference to is the Watson victory. (Read more…)
  • Replying to Alex Knapp, July 2nd, Michael Anissimov @ Accelerating Future:
    Does Knapp know anything about the way existing AI works? It’s not based around trying to copy humans, but often around improving this abstract mathematical quality called inference. I think you missed my point. My point is not that AI has to emulate how the brain works, but rather that (Read more…)
  • The Final Weapon, Michael Anissimov @ Accelerating Future:
    It’s not really “fair”, but history generally consists of people getting better and better weapons, and whoever has the best weapons and the best armies makes the rules. The number of historical examples of this phenomenon are practically unlimited. The reason America is respected and feared today is because of (Read more…)

Foresight Links for Jun 27, 6:00 am

// June 27th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jun 27, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

  • Forecasters around the world tuned their compasses to the Magnetic South, Lisa Mumbach @ Institute For The Future:
    teaser:  On June 24-25, people all over the world signed up to help the people of Christchurch, NZ, think about their future in the foresight game Magnetic South. Using IFTF’s Foresight Engine, the…
  • Robotic Arm Helps Surgeons, Patients, Team @ TFOT – The Future Of Things:
    Biomedical engineers created a robotic arm to help orthopedic surgeons, namely those who specialize in knee replacements, perform more accurate resurfacings, speeding up patient recovery time, reducing pain, and improving the overall results of the pr…
  • Mathematical Model for Carb Loading, Janice Karin @ TFOT – The Future Of Things:
    A researcher at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts has developed an algorithm for determining how carbohydrates are burned during marathon racing, enabling runners to calculate when to eat and h…
  • Crowd Sourcing Identifies 2 Parkinsons Disease Genes, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    The folks at personal genetic testing company recruited Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients from mailing lists and other means and compared their genetic variants with a group of 23andme customers who also got their genetic variants tested by…
  • New Nukes Coming Online To More Than Double, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    Globally the rate at which new nuclear power plants get turned on to start operating will more than double from 5 to 12 per year in the next 4 years. Assuming about five years for construction it can be expected that reactors will be coming online arou…

Foresight Links for Jun 20, 6:00 am

// June 20th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jun 20, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

  • Future News – May 14 – June 14, 2011, Rick Schettino @ – The Future News Archive:
    And, we’re back…  I’ve wrapped up some pressing matters and will try to post future related news links at least once per week going forward.  Today I’m posting links to some of the more interesting new stories posted by a few of my favorite…
  • We Each Have About 60 Unique Genetic Mutations, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    You are a mutant. Don’t deny it. Accept your role in the mutant horde. Each one of us receives approximately 60 new mutations in our genome from our parents. This striking value is reported in the first-ever direct measure of new mutations coming from ……
  • A New Way To Evaluate Dyslexia, Janice Karin @ TFOT – The Future Of Things:
    Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California have developed a new way to predict whether children with dyslexia will likely improve their reading skills over time o…
  • Electric Current Controls Impulsivity, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    If you want to turn down your impulses an electrical current will do the trick. London, 15 June 2011 – Inhibitory control can be boosted with a mild form of brain stimulation, according to a study published in the June 2011 issue of Neuroimage, Elsevie…
  • Olive Oil Cuts Stroke Risk?, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    A French study of 7,625 people ages 65 and older found that higher olive oil consumption is associated with 41% lower risk of stroke over 6 years. ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new study suggests that consuming olive oil may help prevent a stroke in older people. The research is …

Foresight Links for Jun 13, 6:00 am

// June 13th, 2011 // Comments Off on Foresight Links for Jun 13, 6:00 am // Digests, Foresight

  • How Smoking Suppresses Appetite, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    Smoking really does suppress appetite and some researchers at Yale and Baylor College of Medicine have narrowed down the appetite suppression mechanism to a particular class of neural receptors in the hypothalamus. This discovery opens up a target for …
  • Focus On A Chase Cuts Mental Notice Of Side Events, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    Boston police officer Kenny Conley, convicted of perjury for claiming he did not see a beating as he ran past after another suspect (who was the correct suspect btw), likely was telling the honest truth. Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Union College staged similar incidents to test …
  • Lower Cost Nanodevices, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    Getting closer to a medical tricorder. A simple technique for stamping patterns invisible to the human eye onto a special class of nanomaterials provides a new, cost-effective way to produce novel devices in areas ranging from drug delivery to solar ce…
  • DARPA Wants Living Foundries Biological Factories, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA_ is looking to fund the development of scalable bio-factories where cells or materials normally found in cells will make assorted products. A recent call for research by the Pentagon’s mad scien…
  • China Surpasses US In Energy Consumption, Randall Parker @ FuturePundit:
    BP’s 2011 Statistical Review of World Energy is out and the biggest news: China has become the biggest world energy consumer. BP, in its 60th annual Statistical Review of World Energy, said China accounted for 20.3 per cent of demand, compared with the…