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Envisioning the World of Tomorrow: a Catalog of Future-Looking Web Sites
David Brin   Sep 8, 2015   Contrary Brin  
What technologies are currently shaping our world…and which will continue to mold our future? In this special posting, we’ll take you on a tour of many wondrous web sites and other resources that aim spotlights at the future. And invite you all to chime in with favorites that I missed!

These visionary sites keep an eye on breakthroughs in scientific research and advances in cutting edge technologies. They offer insights into innovative trends that impact industry, education, energy, entertainment, transportation, economics, medicine, and war… with repercussions that spread through all aspects of society.

What progress is happening in artificial intelligence, computers, robotics, drones, biotechnology and nanotechnology? Examine disruptive technologies such as the peer to peer economy, the internet of things, 3D printing, wearable tech, augmented reality (AR), asteroid mining, smart cities, driverless cars that will transform our lives—which some of these futurists believe will lead to the “technological singularity.” Many of the sites host forums where you can join in discussions about this tense but exciting era.

Websites that explore the Future

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET)—a “technoprogressive” think tank—promotes the concept of positive technological progress and its ethical use to catalyze future human development. They publish articles on emerging technological trends, an academic journal and host conferences on future trends. Founded by Nick Bostrom and James Hughes.   

IEEE Spectrum: Advancing Technology for Humanity publishes articles on technology, engineering, and applied science—reporting on robotics, computing, gadgets, transportation, energy and biomedicine. 

Futurity: Research News from Top Universities - publishes updates on major advances in science, technology, health and the environment, reporting on recent research from dozens of universities such as Caltech, Yale, University of Chicago, Cornell, Duke and Carnegie Mellon.  

Singularity Hub (published by Singularity University) provides updates on cutting edge tech, news of breakthroughs in science, health, computing, VR, and digital currency, focusing on the human impacts of technological change.

The Science Network has launched a podcast titled Talking Science on TSN.  Features include scientific gatherings (from Beyond Belief and Brains R Us to Waking Up to Sleep and the Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa), and recording revealing conversations with scientists about their passion to know.

Futurism: this brand-new site (run by Alex Klokus) provides news updates focusing on breakthroughs in technology, computing, artificial intelligence, space, virtual reality, robotics, wearable tech, transportation, digital currency, and communication. Sign up to get their daily newsletter, This Week in Science in your inbox.

io9: We Come from the Future: is the go-to place for daily coverage of things science fictional… leaning toward the science side… plus reviews of popular culture, and ideas about the world of tomorrow, run by Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz with blogs by (among others ) George Dvorsky.

Innovation Watch : The Future is Here (compiled by David Forrest) offers links to news on robotics, renewable energy, population, the internet, medicine, and entrepreneurship.

The Edge: John Brockman’s site explores the big issues of tomorrow. He poses one big question each year, and brings together some of the best thinkers to contemplate. 2015’s was: What do you think about machines that think?

WT Vox: Where the Future Begins focuses on emerging and wearable tech. 

TED Talks and articles about the future. Here are a couple of mine.

The Good Judgment Project: “Harnessing the wisdom of the crowd to forecast world events.” This began as part of a government-sponsored (IARPA) forecasting tournament, and has expanded as thousands of people around the world predict world events. Led by Phil Tetlock, Barb Mellers, and Don Moore, the collected forecasts have often surpassed predictions of trained CIA agents.  

Singularity University offers seminars, conferences and educational opportunities - including a Graduate Studies Program  and Executive Program - for entrepreneurs and those seeking “to ride the wave of accelerating change.”

Teach the Future is an education initiative (begun by Peter Bishop) to incorporate thinking about the future in school curricula. They offer starter kits and training for teachers.

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): Seven Revolutions is an “ongoing research effort to identify and analyze the most important trends shaping the world out to the year 2035.”

Future in Review (FiRe) hosts a major conference for thought leaders on the intersection of technology, science, entrepreneurship and the changing global economy (led by Mark Anderson, publisher of the Strategic News Service) I’ve attended all but a couple of these terrific sci-commerce and innovation conferences, which give good play to science fiction authors and their insights.

Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies is involved with futures research, foresight and education, run by futurist Jim Dator. Foresight at the University of Houston offers a Masters level degree in futurism and foresight.

Discussing the Future: Podcasts

Future Thinkers Podcast takes on topics such as the Future of Politics, AI, the Singularity, Science Fiction, philosophy and transhumanism (hosted by Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova).

Review the Future: a look at the impact of near-future technology on culture and society (hosted by Ted Kupper and Jon Perry). 

The Future Human Podcast  “illuminates radical change, telling the stories of the thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs who are re-shaping life in the 21st century,” hosted by Jack Gwilym Roberts and Ben Beaumont Thomas.

The Future and You: discussions about the future, hosted by Stephen Euin Cobb.

Context for it all

Serious Wonder: The Future Has Arrived: a website that tracks futuristic technology, robotics, science, space, VR, design, transhumanism and science fiction, with regular podcasts posted.

Long Bets: The Arena for Accountable Predictions (founded by Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly with grants from Jeff Bezos) is “a public arena for enjoyably competitive predictions, of interest to society, with philanthropic money at stake. For instance Kevin Kelly predicted “By 2060 the total population of humans on earth will be less than it is today.” You can make your own prediction, challenge his, or discuss this prediction. When in San Francisco, visit the Interval Cafe - a bar for futurist types!  At the fascinating HQ of the Long Now Foundation.  Say hi to my Architechs co-star Alexander Rose.

Future Timeline: a speculative website of potential future history. Part fact, part fiction, this timeline (and accompanying blog) offers forecasts and predictions for advances over the next few decades, then more far-out speculations, extrapolating into the next few centuries, and then peering beyond into our distant future…   

Futurist Organizations

A sampling of foundations, think tanks and institutes dedicated to researching and exploring the realm of the possible. Many of these promote education and fund research, as well as future-oriented projects and prizes. Some are membership based, others depend upon donations. Many are worthy of your support.

The World Future Society is a nonprofit membership organization that studies how technological changes are shaping society and the future. The WFS releases newsletters, hosts conferences and publishes Futurist Magazine

Aw heck, let’s circle back and offer more info on The Long Now Foundation. It was created by Stewart Brand to ”creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.”  Besides hosting seminars and workshops, the foundation’s initiatives include the ambitious Rosetta Project (to create a digital library of all human languages), the 10,000 Year Clock (designed by Danny Hillis), and Revive and Restore, a project to conserve genetic diversity across the globe.


 The XPrize Foundation: Making the Impossible Possible (founded by Peter Diamandis) supports competitions that stir major technological innovations, “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” Challenges include the Lunar XPrize, the Tricorder XPrize and the Sensing XChallenge —sponsored by Google, Qualcomm, Nokia and Deloitte.

Humanity+  (founded by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce) explores how innovations in science and technology will shape the future of humanity and enable an expansion of human capabilities (transhumanism). Publishers of H+ magazine.

SENS Research Foundation  (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, founded by Aubrey de Gray) supports research into developing regenerative medicine, with an aim of curing age-related disease and extending the human lifespan. Similarly  the Methuselah Foundation offers prizes, and supports projects which seeks advance in regenerative medicine.  

Institute for the Future (IFTF) is a nonprofit organization (Director Marina Gorbis) that looks toward technology horizons, seeking methods of foresight that enable strategic planning for the future. They run a ten-year forecast program,  a government futures lab, workshops, and a futures blog.

Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford supports cross-disciplinary research in science and philosophy to look at the future of humanity and existential risks.

Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), at the University of Cambridge – is devoted to analyzing the potential risks that threaten the long-term future of humanity. 

The Foresight Institute: a think tank “focused on transformative future technologies, with an aim to “discover and promote the upsides, and help avoid the dangers, of nanotechnology, AI, biotech, and similar life-changing developments.”

A few Futurist Blogs and Discussions

Meanwhile in the Future: a podcast on future topics from Gizmodo.

Singularity 1 on 1 offers podcast interviews (hosted by Nikola Danaylov) with futurists, scientists, philosophers and writers, discussing the social impact of technology and progress toward the singularity.

I’ll start collecting sites that give overviews of history and the universe, next.  Here are some samples:
Big History Project attempts to understand human history within cosmic, geological and biological time frames.

Urban Observatory’s goal is to make the torrent of Earth/GIS data more understandable via better designed data visualizations.

r/Futurology on Reddit: links and discussions of future-based topics. by Glen Hiemstra.

Sentient Developments, by George Dvorsky.

Overcoming Bias by Glen Hiemstra.

Paleofuture, by Matt Novak on Gizmodo.

Open the Future, by Jamais Cascio.

The Technium, by Kevin Kelly.

Beyond the Beyond, by Bruce Sterling.

Futurist Blog, by Ramez Naam.

Future Memes, by Melanie Swan.

Explorations in Science, by Michio Kaku.

Contrary Brin, by David Brin.

Impact Lab, by Thomas Frey.

Top Trends by Richard Watson.

Global Futurist, by James Canton.

The Futurist by Jeffrey Kutler.

Accelerating Times, by John Smart.

Futurist blog, by Jack Uldrich.

Foresight Alliance, by Josh Calder and others.

Heathervescent, by Heather Schlegel.

Steal this Singularity, by R.U. Sirius

Quanta Magazine offers mixed articles on science.

Science Daily Science News stories.

O’Reilly Radar: Blog on what O’Reilly Media sees as upcoming. 

Hieroglyph ideas, conversations, science and science fiction stories.

Shaping Tomorrow keeps a running list of trends and relevant technologies.

BBC Future.

Discussions on Quora: The Future and Who are the best living futurists?

The Space Review: Commentary on space, past, present and future.

And finally… making a better future

Want more?  Better yet, want guidance to finding groups that you can join to help make a better world?  >For twenty + years I have promoted the concept of Proxy Activism… where busy people can nevertheless know that they are helping the world… by pooling money and effort with others who DO have the time!

Seriously, if you know of five things that you passionately believe should happen, odds are there are five groups working on those things exactly as you’d want to do, if you had the time!  Read my introduction to The Power of Proxy Activism... 

...and know this.  That it is a very simple, easy method.  Moreover, if you aren’t doing this… just this one easy thing, helping five+ orgs save the world the way you’d want it to be saved... then you are blatantly admitting that you are part of the problem.  Yes, you.

Come on.  Make the future. Make tomorrow. Forward the Federation!

David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."

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