Keynote Abstracts

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Ugo Bardi:

Resource Exploitation, the Human Factor

The management of natural resources is almost always affected by overexploitation. This is especially true for mineral resources, but even if the resource is theoretically renewable, it is exploited at rates higher than its capability to reform. This phenomenon is especially detectable in the case of fisheries, which offer several interesting cases in which resources were destroyed by those who would have had the most interest to conserve them: fishermen. There is no physical reason why a resource should be overexploited, the reason for the bad management is all in the human mind. This talk examines how the coupling of physical factors – mainly the reduced yield of production – couple with short term management to generate the destruction of stocks, a phenomenon that may take the disastrous shape of the “Seneca Cliff”; that is of a sudden collapse.

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Kerstin Cuhls:

Potential and Limits of Foresight

The tasks of Foresight and Futures Research broadened more and more. Even the definitions got more and more blurred. Nevertheless, after more than 25 years of having foresight even on national agendas, there is still unexploited potential in performance and a consistent theory is missing. In my keynote, I do not want to discuss if we need this theory or not, but describe our potentials in practical performance of foresight. On the other hand, we have definite limits in Foresight and academic Futures Research – of course, there are the limits in prediction, but also in participation, in the selection of issues and topics, in the identification of the relevant issues in systems and how complex systems behave, in reaching decision-makers for implementation or in addressing wicked problems. Foresight helps us to keep the long view but in quick daily reactions, we often miss to think about the long-term impacts; and decision-makers cannot wait with their decisions. And how can we educate Foresight? Who has to be educated if the long-term perspective needs to infiltrate system? …

This keynote is supposed to raise questions and our awareness about possibilities, chances and limits of our approaches, concepts, methods as well as quality control in Foresighting.

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Thomas Lombardo:

The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the Flow of Evolution

Presentation outline (pdf)

Determining what constitutes a good and positive future, and how to realize it, is not only the central challenge of human life but also the central question motivating the study of the future. My response to this challenge, grounded in holistic positive psychology and an evolutionary framework for understanding the nature of human existence, is as follows: The way to create a good future – defined as flourishing in the flow of evolution – lies through the heightening of future consciousness, which is achieved by developing a core set of character virtues, most notably and centrally wisdom.

This presentation will introduce participants to the central pieces of this theory: the nature of holistic future consciousness; the connection between heightened future consciousness and character virtues; and flourishing as a theory of human happiness, well-being, and the good. Key features of heightened future consciousness will be explained, including: basic psychological principles and empowering practices regarding self-control, self-identity, and self-narratives; our social, technological, and natural environments; emotion, motivation and purpose; learning and memory; thinking, foresight, and creativity; and the synthetic, coordinative, and evolutionary nature of wisdom.

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Sirkka Heinonen:

New Consciousness in Transformational Neo-Growth Society

The concept of futures consciousness is pivotal in creating the futures mindset, capable of tackling wicked problems. It originates from futures thinking, futures planning, futures studies, creating futures literacy – the capacity to “read” signals and streams for emerging futures in order to gain futures intelligence. Futures research is not just exploring alternative futures, but also proactively making the preferred futures happen.

Future is about Change. Change has many colours, though: it can be incremental, systematic, radical, fundamental or transformational.  The “Grand Theory of Futures” is concerned with the theories of change and transformation processes. If traditional social sciences see change caused by economy and culture, futures studies relies on systems theory – change occurs from a complex interplay of a multitude of different factors. Futures studies sees change not as incremental but transformational. Transformation means systemic, fundamental, radical and profound change, affecting the total system, not just its parts. It is also a quantum leap – transition – to another level of thinking and consciousness, in our society, on our planet, but essentially in our intertwined relation between humans, nature and technology.

Does change always imply growth? In our growth-orientated thinking growth is often synonymous to economic and technological growth – “More is Merrier”. However, the growth that wastes energy and resources, also endangers species on earth, including us humans. Growth is much broader a concept than mere economic growth – it encompasses all things human, even beyond that – all living forms on earth. Unsustainable growth is not a preferred future, but progress should be adjusted to the Limits to Growth and seen as covering all spheres of life. On the other hand, there are No Limits to Learning, increasing futures consciousness. The growing change in our values and lifestyles towards immaterial renewal and wealth is a desirable future. This kind of societal Neo-Growth model à la Malaska may also yield new techno-economic innovations, while basing its foundation in deep cultural and ethical pursuits.

In my keynote I will briefly present a transformational scenario “New Consciousness” that we constructed in an ongoing Tekes Project “Neo-Carbon Energy”. In total, we sketched four scenarios, which all are transformational. The most extreme  scenario probes the boundaries and potentials of our futures consciousness and willingness to adopt a profound change of thinking and lifestyles, and to renew ourselves, not just our energy system towards renewables. Does this kind of transformation require a preceding massive catastrophe to be a possible and preferable future, instead of remaining a ubiquitous utopia?

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Anders Wijkman:

In Search of a New Economic Logic

According to the dictionary a wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.

The title of my key-note will be ”In search of a New Economic Logic”. While the industrial society logic – with its emphasis of conventional growth – served us well for more than hundred years, I suggest we are in dire need of a new logic. The reasons are many. The main ones can be listed as follows:

– Infinite growth of energy and material throughput on a finite planet is not possible. We see evidence of the negative effects on the environment every day.

– Moreover, growth is no longer a guarantee for job creation. The rapid expansion of digital technologies means that automation and robotization substitute for a great number of jobs.

– A further example that the old logic has to be rethought is the rapidly growing disparities in wealth and income. Social capital as well as trust in society is at increasing risk. The “trickling down” effect seems to have more or less stopped – and rather been replaced by a “trickling up” effect!

– Finally the digitization of the economy challenges some basic postulates of conventional economics, e g the law of diminishing returns and the move in many applications towards a zero marginal cost.

So we are in dire need of a new economic logic. But it will be hard to achieve – hence the notion of a ” wicked problem” – because of culture and ideology – first and foremost the Republican Party – inertia within the economics profession and a lot of vested interests.

I will make an attempt to sketch out the main elements needed for the economy to serve welfare and wellbeing.

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