After a woeful absence from blogging, *so many people* sent me the news about how the Pope is tweeting that it begged to be written about.  Here it is folks, from @News_va_en:

Though the Pope did apparently send *a* tweet, it doesn’t appear that he will be tweeting in any personal manner anytime soon.

It’s important to note the very real difference between the Pope tweeting once via News_va_en (an effort by the Vatican to leverage new media for communication, sharing, and outreach) versus frequently tweeting for himself.

The Tradeoffs of Personal Tweeting by Public Figures

When other intensely public figures–take US politicians for example–tweet as individuals, the feeling is different (that is, unless those figures actually have interns or PR people tweet “as them.”)  The candor, spontaneity, and authenticity of the person can shine through and endear them to you.

On the other hand, they also expose themselves in new ways, becoming vulnerable and increasing public scrutiny, as we’ve also seen recently with the @RepWeiner incident and more recently as President Obama has started to tweet occasionally using @barackobama.  His staff do most of the tweeting, but tweets from him will be signed -BO.

I am interested to watch how public figures–including religious leaders–will weigh this balance. How will they strengthen candor to connect with their community in authentic ways versus expose themselves to vulnerability.


nid%3D3882%7Ctitle%3D%7Cdesc%3D%7Clink%3DnoneAuthor & neurologist Robert Burton visited IFTF today and treated us to a conversation building from the principles of his book, On Being Certain:  Believing You’re Right Even When You’re Not.

He’s currently working on a new book:  A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind; What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

Together with our staff, Bob talked about the conundrum of how the mind is the tool we use to study the mind, the knowledge of E=MC² versus the feeling of knowing that 2+2 = 4, the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind, and even dipped our toe into the neuroscience of forecasting.

Lots of fodder to consider, but one thing I found particularly interesting was the topic of the self, and how we locate the self in our own understanding.

It made me think about discussions of the global brain in a new light.  I would love to see a mashup of Pierre Teilhard de ChardinPeter Russell, and Bob Burton when it comes to our understandings of the self & the brain, looking ahead to the coming decades.


Do you know of other experts at this nexus with whom it might be interesting to connect?  If so, please be in touch (@Rachelkeas or  Thanks!

PS–Friend of IFTF Mark Schar was also part of the conversation today–he just finished his PhD in an area akin to innovation intelligence at Stanford, so we were all proud to say “Congratulations Dr. Schar!”


Also posted at IFTF’s blog FutureNow

Gallup and the New York Times have teamed up to find the happiest man in America (according to how his profile fits with the demographics of happiness).

Gallup said that the happiest person would be: male, Asian-American, a religious Jew, self-employed, living in Hawaii, married, has children, receiving a household income of at least $120,000.

Lo and behold, they found someone who fits this description!  In this Times article yesterday, they shared a profile of this gentleman:

Here’s a breakdown of how each of Mr. Wong’s attributes contributes to happiness, with links to some of our previous coverage on these correlations. But remember, as always, correlation is not necessarily causation.

RELIGION: On average, Jews have higher levels of well-being than their counterparts of every other major faith in America. Muslims have the lowest levels of well-being. In between, from happiest to least happy, are Mormons, atheists/agnostics, Roman Catholics, “other non-Christians” and then Protestants. For people of most religions, greater levels of religiosity (like frequent church or synagogue attendance) are associated with higher levels of happiness.

GENDER: Men, on average, report slightly higher levels of well-being, a score of 67 on a scale of 0 to 100, compared to women’s average score of 66.6. This modest gap is mostly because women score much lower on the physical health index, as measured by the presence of illnesses and various other physical ailments like neck pain and low energy.

RACE: Asians have by far the highest levels of well-being, followed by whites, Hispanics, blacks and then everybody who doesn’t fit into those defined categories. Asians beat out their non-Asian counterparts on five out of the six well-being sub-indexes: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to things like food and shelter. The one category where whites beat them, but just barely, is work environment.

MARITAL STATUS: Married people have far and away the highest happiness levels. The biggest differential between married people and non-married people is in the work environment index. Across the entire index, married people are followed in happiness by singletons; people with domestic partners and people who have been widowed (these two categories have equal levels of well-being); those who are divorced; and finally, people who are married but separated.

CHILDREN: People who have children are slightly happier than people who don’t.

AGE: Seniors — those age 65 and older — rank as the happiest, followed by Americans under 30. The people in the middle —the ones with mortgages, teenagers, car loans and midlife crises — are perhaps understandably the ones who are more miserable.

INCOME: Income tracks very neatly with well-being. People earning under $12,000 annually lead the least happy lives, and the more money they make, generally speaking, the better off they are emotionally and physically. This probably makes sense when you consider what goes into the index, things like good health and access to basic needs like food and shelter. You can’t afford to lead “the good life” if you can’t afford much at all.

GEOGRAPHY: In 2010 Hawaii topped the well-being list, and West Virginia was at the bottom. If you want to zoom in further, you can see well-being rates by Congressional district. California’s 14th district, one of the highest-income districts in the country that also happens to include most of Silicon Valley, ranks at the top. Michigan’s 13th district, an area of high unemployment that covers parts of Detroit and the wealthier Gross Pointe suburbs, is at the very bottom of the barrel.

EMPLOYMENT: Americans who own their own businesses were the happiest on average in 2010, followed by professionals. The least happy are transportation and manufacturing workers.

HEIGHT: Randy Newman was right: Taller people are generally happier.

Michael Chorost‘s new book World Wide Mind:  The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet is in bookstores as of today.   The 5 minute video below describes his thesis:

The worldwide mind is the combination of humans & the internet acting together in concert.  The combination of the two yields a being which is more powerful than either in isolation.  That, I argue gives you the seed of an intelligence that neither has by its own.

Together with his last book (Rebuilt:  How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human), World Wide Mind shares Michael’s own personal story of living with a cochlear impant and how this positive augmentation adds a computational element to his life that in some ways changes who he is.

For more on Michael, see this IFTF Futurecast we did with him in November 2010, or this New York Times review of his work from yesterday.

Additional key points from Michael’s video:

  • worldwide mind is a coming global intelligence (with intentionality and consciousness of its own)
  • the internet by itself is not going to become intelligent
  • using technology with the body, you can make the connection part of your own internal bodily experience.
  • there is a new way to think about how technology & human relationships can be brought together.  Right now people think of these domains as mutually exclusive.  Chorost thinks there is a way to put these togehter with physical integration of humans and machines (as exemplified by his own personal experience of having a cochlear implant)
  • technology can be used to create more humane connections between people


Note:  Also posted on the IFTF blog, FutureNow

IFTF Ten-Year Forecast Director, Kathi Vian

My colleague, Kathi Vian is the type of person who can engage with the seed of an idea that you have, talk with you about it for an hour, and leave you with enough food-for-thought for a year!

As I continue to narrow in on what my research wants to be (have given up on force-fitting it into what I want it to be), I have zeroed in on this question, at least for today:

What is the changing role of religion in the human project?

In some senses, the sacred has gone underground in the past decades. It has been splintered and siloed to the point where it is not really factored into the basic decision-making processes of business and policy.  I am beginning to form a forecast around the innovations and disruptions that are plausible under these kinds of conditions.

Back of the napkin forecasts?:

  • the health & well-being impacts of spiritual practices will be an all-around game changer in the next decade.
  • techno-spiritual practices will be a zone for innovation
  • extreme religious communities will use technology in highly disruptive ways

At the end of the conversation, Kathi (in her infinite wisdom), suggested a possible title for this inquiry that has really stuck with me:  The Disruptive Sacred.

Anyone who questions the linkage between robots and emotions clearly hasn’t seen the 1986 film, Short Circuit.  Are you with me fellow children of the 80’s?:

New Scientist‘s Catherine de Lange wrote a piece this week which casts the linkage between robots, emotions, and what it means to be alive in her recap of today’s robotic facial expressions and more.  A quote from her piece, Emotion 2.0:

“Robot” comes from the Czech word “robota” which means “work” or “forced labourer.” Indeed, in the early days, robots were seen as a way to make light work of tedious tasks. Who doesn’t want a robot that does the housework or makes the tea? But instead of creating a modern-day, indefatigable Jeeves, much robotics research today focuses on creating emotional machines. Robots started out conceptually as automaton-servants but are now helping us get to grips with what makes us human.

Jules, the posh robot from the University of Bristol, UK, is equipped with tiny motors under its skin, which means it can accurately mimic human facial expressions. Jules is a disembodied head though, and while its copycat technique is impressive, robots need to do more than copy us to be able to interact on an emotional level.

A step up the emotional adeptness scale, AIDA, the driving companion, uses its facial expressions to respond to the driver’s mood – looking sad if a seatbelt is undone, for instance, or detecting that you are tense as you drive and helping you relax.

How will robots play a role in the future of emotion?

One of the great points Rudy Adler of 1000Memories made during his talk today at Institute for the Future was that many of us (particularly in socioeconomically-privileged, stuff-oriented perspectives) experience the shoebox problem.  Come on people, you know what I’m talking about:

Photo Creative Commons Licensed via Flickr's syntaxoflife

We have tons of cards, photos etc. we don’t want to through away.  However, we have lackluster modes of storage and review of these precious artifacts of our lives.  As I mentioned here, 1000Memories is an interesting company in this space with an emphasis on artifacts of our lives that are either:

  • in memory of someone who has passed away
  • our own digital legacy which we increasingly want to proactively shape

Another interesting signal to watch is UK-based firm, Sentemental (spelling variance intended).  Here is Sentemental‘s value proposition in this space:

  • Store your valuable greeting cards in one place
  • Digitize your cards, kids drawings and photos so they are safe from theft or fire
  • Share your memories with friends and family
  • Easily access your favourites whenever you want
  • Save details with each picture for easy access
  • Recycle your printed materials

The fault lines of this future conversation?:  Who do I trust to keep my cherished artifacts forever?  Who owns these artifacts once I share them?  Are you making money on my memories?

Next Page »