Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

The Future Post-Pandemic Home on the Informing Choices Minipod

I was recently honored to be invited as a speaker at Steve Wells Minipod series “Informing Choices” along with my fellow futurist and social scientist Alexandra Whittington. Listen to the episode below.

“As we have seen across the globe, the Covid-19 pandemic has morphed from a health crisis, to an economic crisis, to a social crisis, and increasingly a political crisis. And as society attempts to come to terms with changing how we live our lives during the pandemic, attention begins to focus the desirability or returning to “normal” compared to the advantage (or horrendous prospect, depending our one’s point of view) of transitioning to a “new normal”. The question to pose is, what might new normal look like? We are going to look at one aspect of this very broad question. So, to talk about The Future Post-Pandemic Home, US-based futurists Alex Whittington and Sylvia Gallusser join me on the podcast.” (Steve Wells)

Please find below a partial transcript of the podcast:

Informing Choices – Minipod, “The Future Post-Pandemic Home”

– Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, Sylvia Gallusser

Introduction

Hi, my name is Sylvia Gallusser. I am based in San Francisco, California. I am a Futurist – that is a Strategic Foresight consultant and a Future Fiction author. I am the Founder of an initiative called Silicon Humanism dedicated to the possibilities and impact of technology on our human and social future. I am also a Board Member at Grey Swan Guild, a sensemaking organization created 10 months ago and now counting close to 1000 members, where I have the pleasure to work with amazing individuals such as Alexandra.

How did the project come about and what are the motivations behind participation?

First of all, the Home seemed to be a key element of what was changing during the pandemic. The home became a place of work, a place of education, with increased hygiene constraints… Layers upon layers added in one place. This inspired me a Tetris metaphor. The space is constrained, time is accelerating, and we need to constantly reorganize blocks, furniture, spaces, kids, pets, work tasks, on top of more traditional chores. So it was a very personal experimentation of the home that got me into the project.

But while exploring this, I also came across signals of hidden violence: mental health issues, physical violence towards kids, abuse towards women, loneliness of the elderly, students being distressed. To share one statistic that really got me frightened. Save the Children revealed that half a million additional underage girls risk being forced into child marriage and one million additional are expected to become pregnant in 2020 as a result of school closure, education interruption and the economic impact of the pandemic.

That’s why along with 6 other contributors at Grey Swan Guild, I decided to engage into the topic of the Home as a field to conduct anthropological work.

What are the objectives for the project? 

Grey Swan Guild is a Global League of Sensemakers, created in the aftermath of the pandemic in April 2020. The Grey Swan Guild is always looking to generate ideas collectively and to support rebuilding a better human experience. In that specific case, we didn’t want to just produce a report, we also wanted to adopt a creative approach with multimedia material, future fiction, and crowdsourced artifacts, in order to:

1/ provoke thoughts, emotions, and empathy, 

2/ raise awareness towards current and future challenges, 

and 3/ provide resources. 

The output will be a landing page representing a home, with each of the rooms linking to a short content related to the room function (poetry reading, fiction text, essay, audio file, set of pictures, video, charts, etc.)

Form Factor of the project:

– Alex has written 3 wonderful future short stories. 

– I personally focused on mental health and studied the impact on specific demographics (women, kids, the elderly, the lonely). I have developed audio fictions, reenacting mental health hotline conversations, along with a team of mental health practitioners and hotline responders, led by psychologist Paul Krauss, in order to illustrate the despair and suggest potential ways out. We crafted 3 phone conversations featuring a young man single and living in precarious conditions in an infested home, an 80-year old woman living alone and falling with dramatic consequences, and a mother of three repeatedly abused and assaulted by her husband. These three episodes of 6-8 minutes will be included in the Pandemic Home project.

– We also created a Museum of Pandemic Home Artifacts. We crowdsourced pictures of everyday objects that gained place in our homes during the pandemic with the intent to reflect on what has changed, what has become more important, etc.

– I cannot wait to see the page live and share it with the public. It should be available within a week! 

What are some of the ideas you are already seeing in how families might live in the future?

Regarding the pandemic home artifacts, we noticed a change in everyday behaviors: in the way we eat, in the way we dress, in our hygiene routines. Not too surprising. What caught our attention however was a lot of creativity: renewing games and interactions with kids, turning everyday events into a creative and immersive experience. And finally the fact that we stick to physical objects to complement our online experiences of work and learning.

We also anticipate changes in the way we design and remodel our homes. By identifying underlying trends in home design, I came up with 4 archetypes of homes:

  1. Healthy homes. The ideal home will offer a repurposed entrance to leave our shoes, a sink near the door, a utility cupboard for our hygiene equipment. Easily cleanable surfaces will be favored, as well as air filtration systems, touchless faucets, and bacteria-resistant paint.
  2. Fluid homes. Modularity will be key, with more broken plans and less underutilized spaces. Rooms will be repurposed. Open plan areas will foster community living, similar to a WeWork space – or a WeLive space that will be reinvented along the day. Parents occupy the space during the workday, kids join for schoolwork times, family members come together to socialize in the evening.
  3. Sustainable bunker-homes. Solar panels, battery-charging stations, and urban farming will become more popular for self-sufficiency, so that we don’t need to rely on the exterior. The home will become a danger-proofed cell from a chaotic and threatening outside world. At the same time, it will contribute to a gain in sustainability. 

Compliant homes. The regulation that applies to office furniture and air quality in corporate offices will need to apply in our homes, from ergonomic kitchen chairs to humidifiers. Ambient technology will stimulate social interaction and preserve mental health. A hotline could be installed, so that the elderly, the fragile, the lonely can be cared for from a distance.

Advertisement

The 100 global thought leaders that will inspire you in 2021

“We stepped into the new decade over rocky terrain, uncertain about what the future had in store. But the human tendency of deriving wisdom through experience and passing it on has programmed us to be instinctively prepared in the face of adversity. And that is precisely the mission of the leadersHum community of experts and thought leaders.”

These 100 professionals have presented to the world their unique perspectives which uncovered the dynamism of the modern workplace and guided us to understand it through different lenses.

PeopleHum just published their list of 100 personalities to watch for in 2021 and I am humbled to be part of this pool of futures thinkers and builders. Discover the full listing here.

https://www.peoplehum.com/blog/the-100-global-thought-leaders-that-will-inspire-you

A Holistic Approach to Well-Aging

In the Episode #16 Part 2 of Future Hacker, our Silicon Humanism Founder Sylvia Gallusser addresses the topics of abolishing aging, rejuvenation biotechnology, ethics in scientific progress, treatment availability and inclusivity, as well as a holistic approach of well-aging.

You will find below the transcript of the conversation.

Future Hacker, Episode #16 Part 2 with Sylvia Gallusser – The Roadmap to Abolishing Aging

Our very first international interview was with Dr. Aubrey de Grey about the fight against aging. I understand this is one of your dear topics, as it could improve humanity’s life quality in general by considering aging a disease, which could be somehow preventable. It’s not about treating illnesses after they emerge but preventing chronic diseases from happening in the first place.Could you walk us through the roadmap to abolishing aging?

A dark vision of life-extension is that even if humans achieve to live much longer, their end-of-life condition won’t be a harmonious one, but a declining one. Even if we fight diseases one by one, some believe that we are unable to suppress the effects of the aging process. For centuries of conventional medicine, Aging has remained relatively unstudied while the focus has been on studying and curing individual diseases. But there is now a whole new field of study around the biology of aging itself and “how aging is making diseases more likely”, called Geroscience.

And slowly we’ve been moving from a model of independence among diseases (each of them being treated separately and aging being left aside as incurable) to a more recent model based on causation with aging at the center. This causation model relies on the hypothesis that if we delay aging (the root cause of chronic diseases), we will also suppress the symptoms and manifestations of aging, namely the single chronic diseases. Linked to that is the famous Gompertz Law of Mortality, according to which, after the age of 35, the human mortality rate doubles every 8 years. However, Gompertz Law is not a fixed law of biology. If we succeed in suppressing the roots of aging, we will flatten the curve and consequently decrease the probability and impact of chronic diseases. Some researchers even look to reverse the trend and to completely abolish aging.

One of the most popular and well supported theory is synthesized in The Hallmarks of Aging, a 2013 paper that defined aging as nine distinct categories (called “hallmarks”). The paper also explained how these hallmarks are intertwined and interact with each other to drive the development of age-related diseases. These hallmarks include cellular senescence, telomere attrition, genomic instability, stem cell exhaustion, or epigenetic alterations to name a few.

You were mentioning Aubrey de Grey, and I’m humbled to be speaking after him on the podcast – I’m a huge fan of his work myself, well the SENS Research Foundation (which he created) is an active player in Research Strategy for Aging and rejuvenation biotechnology. Rejuvenation biotechnology is one of the life extension strategies. It consists in reversing the aging processes and thereby restoring youth and health by acting on the hallmarks of aging, for example through stem cell therapy or senolytic agents.

So you are asking me about the roadmap to abolishing aging. A few factors are currently in favor of abolishing aging by 2040, such as economic incentive to longevity, as healthy people are net positive contributors to society. Also, investing in rejuvenation biotechnology will avoid spiraling costs of chronic diseases and end-of-life care. The biggest, most powerful companies in the world are putting more and more effort behind healthy life extension. Crowdfunding has become an alternative way of funding, to support the effort as well. In addition, transformational technologies of the fourth industrial revolution (nanotech, biotech, ITC, cognitive science) are becoming sufficiently mature to sustain the effort. We can also add that one million rejuveneers (engineers in rejuvenation biotechnology) are willing to collaborate. And finally, human beings are eager of equal rights and they demand positive action to counteract aging, as our civilization deeply value human life.

However, Abolishing Aging advocates still need to remove roadblocks. Among these roadblocks: the current unstable environment we live in (environmental disaster, sanitary crises, economic collapse, political chaos, corruption, social breakdown). We might meet Research insufficiency (technical difficulties, lack of funding, or diversion of research effort even bigger since medical research budgets have been reallocated to COVID research). We might also lack positive collaboration with infighting and missed alliances. And most of all, there might be rejection by the public, with many people preferring aging acceptance. They want to minimize risks of social inequity, and the specter of an uncanny valley.

It seems to me that the tech advancements in this field will be accessible to only very few fortunate people, who will be able to afford those treatments. How do you see this becoming something inclusive in which everybody would benefit?

I consider research and social progress as two separate streams. On the one hand, aging and rejuvenating specialists dedicate their effort to solving the aging issue, so here we are talking about scientific progress and human augmentation. On the other hand, social movements, citizen actions, lobbies, political forces fight for making progress more inclusive – here we are talking about social progress. I don’t see well-aging as a topic that demands a specific inclusive effort. I mean, all scientific progress made since the beginning of times, should be accessible to all of us – or so is my belief. And advancements in aging technologies are just another instance of scientific progress that need to spread to all – same as prosthetic limbs, organ transplants, or medically assisted procreation, are becoming mainstream over time.

But we have to be realistic and the model needs to be economically viable as well – at first new enhancements are expensive and we need a few forerunners to pay for and benefit from them until scientific progress reaches all social-economic categories and most of us can afford it.

This is similar with technological progress in other areas such as transportation. At first, new vehicles such as the car were limited to a few. But capitalist processes being at work, when there’s increase in demand, there will most likely be increase in supply, and with economies of scale and competition, prices will ultimately drop, and new technology get democratized. In addition, public policies, insurance policies, and universal healthcare are means to achieve democratization, inclusiveness, and overall social progress.

Do you believe gene editing experiments and other related scientific studies should happen no matter what for the sake of future findings, or regulation and ethics discussions should take place sooner rather than later? The big question regarding investing in discoveries x enhancements – how far can we go here?

While I believe that all of us should enjoy the same available therapies (so social progress), I do not believe that all therapies or treatments are great for humankind (human progress). I believe in having ethical committees composed of multidisciplinary individuals, able to consider the many aspects of the question. I am not, personally, in a position to declare what enhancement is good or bad for humankind – and please note that I didn’t say I support rejuvenation and I didn’t say the opposite either. I profoundly believe in collective intelligence and wisdom of crowd to decide for the direction we want to give humankind. To give you an example related to the pandemic, I was recently part of a think tank dedicated to the reopening of schools in California. The think tank was composed of specialists in hygiene and healthcare, doctors, virologists, of educators, children psychologists, school administrators, and of parents as well. The variety of profiles helped to make a balanced decision and design the most viable reopening plan, taking into account sanitary requirements (social distancing, face coverings, fever control), parents’ constraints (need for child care, worries about their child’s safety), but also the educational and mental health aspects (young children need social interaction and experiential learning). Wise decisions, ethical decisions are better made in small groups of experts, practitioners, but also people who are directly exposed to the situation. In the case you are describing, gene editing, it would be hypocritical to not include people in need of such treatments in the discussion.

Another aspect I would like to mention, is that I don’t consider the topic of aging from the technology perspective only. We need to (re)place well-aging into a more holistic perspective, a multi-disciplinary approach. First of all, everybody can work on postponing their own aging with an appropriate lifestyle, based on nutrition and healthy eating, physical activity and regular exercising, social bonding and enriching community experiences, stimulating intellectual activities, creative and artistic expression, and spiritual openness based on gratitude. Then, only then medicine and nutritive complementation act as a prosthesis, when lifestyle is not enough. Finally advancements in biotechnology, robotics, bionics intervene at a third stage, or for individuals who have specific needs, following a genetic condition, a disease, or an accident. So perhaps, this last stage won’t be available to all of us at first, but there is still a lot we can do to prevent accelerated aging and to help people get empowered over their own condition. Well-aging can be accessible to most of us through awareness campaigns, on-going education, and individualized support to improve our lifestyle. I like to imagine jobs of the future, and I believe one of them could be “Holistic Aging Specialist” or “Well-Aging Life Coach”. These professionals could help us go through the full well-aging checklist and provide customized advice based on individual conditions.

(For people that are interested in knowing more about The Future of Aging, please note that Sylvia is offering a class about it. Stay tuned, at the end of our interview Sylvia is letting us know how to get in touch with her.)

Following that line of thought about how technology can improve and augment human’s life, we get into transhumanism, which is another focus of your studies, correct? As much as we could go back to the discussion about what’s acceptable or not, I do like something that you mentioned in a podcast – that many subjects that were once considered taboos in the past, such as blood transfusion, vaccination, birth control – are nowadays mainstream. Thinking about that, as the technologies evolve, humanity evolves as well. Still, we need to ask questions and provoke discussions (that’s one of the reasons we created Future Hacker after all!). Could you please share innovations in this field that are closer to come to a reality and how it will impact our lives?

That’s a great question. You have certainly heard a few days ago about Deepmind winning this year’s protein-folding competition and solving a 50-year old biology challenge with their AlphaFold2. It is a game-changer for analyzing the cause of diseases and it will definitely open up a brand new field for medicines and biological manipulation. More largely, solving this secret sauce of human body complexity adds to the possibility of reenacting the creation of human life. In other words, such an achievement positions humankind as capable to understand and reproduce its own design, making us closer to Homo Deus.

In addition to this recent piece of news, there are many things going on in different fields linked to transhumanism, but those I find most exciting are probably Space Colonization, Mind Uploading and Cryonics.

Cryonics are about high-fidelity preservation of the human body and brain in anticipation of possible future revival. Cryonics have been very present in our collective imagination for decades and we might get confused about the latest development and state of the art, especially because there are also hoaxes from organizations offering eternal life. If low-temperature freezing and storage of a human corpse is currently possible and even commercialized, the second part (resurrection itself) hasn’t proven feasible so far. Revival would require repairing damage from lack of oxygen, from cryoprotectant toxicity, from thermal stress (fracturing), from freezing in tissues, and finally we would need to be able to reverse the cause of death. Quite a program.

Mind Uploading consists in scanning the physical structure of a brain and copying it to a computer (in digital form). This type of brain emulation opens up a wide range of questions such as: Can we preserve and reproduce someone’s consciousness and sense of identity? What about multiple copies living their own life, do they keep a unique identity? Also: Where is the boundary, who is the most human, between an artificially-enhanced human with robotic prosthesis, a genetically modified human, and a robot with a downloaded human mind? It can become quite vertiginous…  Ken Hayworth, the President of the Brain Preservation Foundation, is hoping to achieve the preservation of an entire human brain at death—through chemicals and cryonics. But a full emulation of a human brain is not expected to happen before 50 years, one of the current challenges being to go beyond the capture of static map of neurons, and include electrical activity. So far researchers have been able to reproduce one “connectome” of 300 neurons and 7000 connections. A brain has approximately 90 billion neurons, so I’ll let you appreciate how much work still lies ahead.

A year ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said it would take 1000 spaceships and a million tons of vitamin C to make life on Mars sustainable, underlining that a colony would need to be self-sustainable. However, space traveling and terraforming is not enough for successful space colonization. Space Colonization is related to transhumanism in the sense that living on another planet would require us to artificially adapt or upgrade our organism to new conditions, in order to breathe, to get nutrients, to maintain a muscle mass, or to survive to higher or lower temperature and pressure. Philosophically it draws the question of our condition, not only as humans, but as Earthlings, and the potentiality for the development of a new human lineage in a separate environment.  Research in the field is not just about how to terraform alternative planets, but also how to cosmoform our human body to be ready for life in space. The topic of evolutionary mechanisms and environmental limits of living beings is currently recognized by the NASA Astrobiology Roadmap as one of the scientific objectives to be addressed. Different approaches developed by the field of synthetic biology, such as genetic engineering or synthetic molecules, could theoretically provide biological tools for a short-term adaptation for spaceflight, but adaptation in multiple space contexts has still some way to go.

Among these three future innovations, I would probably bet on Space Colonization and reengineering of the human body to embrace space life, as most likely to come to life. And this for diverse reasons: more incremental progress, already lots of experimentation done, significant funding in space research, many active private players in the field, and more urgency as we seek alternatives to life on earth given climate change, warfare threats, and pandemics.

Lastly, the question we always ask our guests: do you consider yourself optimistic about our future, and that we will be able to live in an inclusive and sustainable society? Or do you think that the road we are driving today is going towards a darker place?

That’s a great question, Maria. Here I need to split my identities between being a strategic foresight practitioner and being a future fiction writer.

I mentioned earlier that foresight practitioners thrive themselves to consider different scenarios and we need to go through this multiple-futures step constantly, every time we approach a new topic, so that we are not tempted to throw ourselves in the same biased direction all the time. Then I explore all of the scenarios with my clients and we design action plans to prepare for these potential futures, and I help them create their own preferred future. That’s what we like to call “urgent optimism”.

But then as a writer, I have developed an interest in exploring the sweet nostalgia topic: I have been an advocate of technology in many ways, helping numerous startups get their product out, so of course I love technology, but at the same time, I observe in many occurrences that human beings are attached to what I call “tech-free bubbles”. Human beings love to be connected but they also do enjoy very much the disconnecting, the return to nature, and the in-person communion.

Even super high-tech CEOs do like to spend their free time exercising, retreating, connecting with nature. And the pandemic has revealed even more how attached we are to keeping tech-free bubbles in our lives. As soon as we could, we’d rush out to breathe the exterior air, enjoy nature’s resources, lively neighborhood conversations, and practice sports or meditation. Arts creation has never been so flourishing. So I believe in a technology-supercharged world with tech-free bubbles and no-tech lands as I like to name them. That’s the very concept at the core of Silicon Humanism.

Thank you so much Maria. This was a pleasure having this conversation with you and I wish Future Hacker a fruitful and happy future!

Growth, Collapse, Constraint, and Transform


In the Episode #16 Part 1 of Future Hacker, our Silicon Humanism Founder Sylvia Gallusser addresses the following topics:

  1. Becoming a foresight practitioner and developing a futurist mindset;
  2. The impact of the pandemic on the next generation, social inequalities, and mental health issues;
  3. The future of work, key success factors for remote work, and the worknet model.

You will find below the transcript of the conversation.

Future Hacker, Episode #16 Part 1 with Sylvia Gallusser – Growth, Collapse, Constraint and Transform

Hello everybody and welcome to Future Hacker. I am your host, Maria Athayde, and today we are talking to Sylvia Gallusser. Sylvia Gallusser is a Global Futurist based in San Francisco. As Founder & CEO at Silicon Humanism, Sylvia conducts foresight research on the future of health, well-aging, and social interaction, evolutions in retail and mobility, the future of work, life-long learning, artificial intelligence, the future of our oceans and sustainability, as well as the future of the mind and transhumanism. Sylvia has been advising 500+ tech companies for the past 15 years. She is a published author of Future Fiction with Fast Future Publishing.

1. You mentioned to me that there are usually two paths for people to become a futuristic – it’s either Academic, or you start at a specific industry, and at some point, you are caught up by futurism, which was your case. Could you share with us your path to futurism?

Thank you so much for having me Maria. And I’m glad you mention the path to becoming a futurist. The entry into futures thinking is quite fascinating and most futurists are able to pinpoint the “aha” moment, when foresight touched them for the first time, when they decided to dedicate their effort to futures literacy.

So I am delighted to tell you about my own path.

After graduating in Social Science and Business Arts (HEC Paris), I have been a strategy consultant for the past 15 years. I started as a consultant for tech companies with Accenture, then supported European startups in their international development as part of various government agencies and startup accelerators, mostly based in San Francisco. During that time, I advised a few hundred companies on their strategy for the U.S. market and helped many of them raise funding.

About 5 years ago, I started to notice that our approach was too narrow-sighted, and that we were focusing so much on the short-term profitability of startups (2-3 years) that we ended up missing signals of change and losing long-term vision. I began dedicating more time to side projects that would address this limitation: watch for new trends in HR management for a Professional Association of CHRO, investigating the future of banking for an Innovation Review, organizing a roadshow for a large retailer willing to modernize its physical stores. I gained more and more interest in foresight techniques, initially following the French prospectivist school, before becoming more aligned with the Anglo-Saxon futurist approach.

My true aha moment with futurism was following a rather tragic accident, let’s call it a brush with mortality, which completely transformed my approach to life and stretched my time horizon. I became obsessed with Futures Thinking, I started a new training program and finally got certified as a Foresight Practitioner with IFTF (Institute for the Future, based in California).

Today, futures studies and strategic foresight represent the biggest part of my activity. I have launched a research organization named Silicon Humanism, which focuses on examining our social nature and human future, and how technology is serving or hindering our species. The idea behind the concept is to engage in a dialog between technology and humanities (history, anthropology, sociology, mental health, moral psychology). My favorite topics include well-aging (a portmanteau word between aging and well-being), the future of work, the molding of the next generation of children, and ethics.

I could say, I have almost developed a second nature thinking about our potential futures and drawing my entourage, both professional and personal, into futures thinking. I actually believe this is the most important thing one can prepare for, and the current crisis has further convinced me of this.

2. You’ve been writing about post-pandemic scenarios and how it’s affecting our generation of children that have been deprived of social contact – you call it Generation Zoom. Which do you see will be the main challenges and impact for them? With so much pessimism and uncertainties we are currently dealing with, are you able to see a more positive path? Like, are we creating a more dependable and introverted generation or on the brighter side, a more resilient and socially aware one?

These past months I have involved a lot of my time into reflecting on the post-pandemic world with fellow futurists and professionals. I have joined a California school’s think tank to discuss the school’s reopening plan and to draw recommendations on hygiene, safety and education. I work closely with a fantastic group of sensemakers called the Grey Swan Guild on topics such as our very social nature and the pandemic’s impact along the whole life cycle. I took part in a debate on the future of our shopping behaviors. And we are now designing a creative project around postpandemic home and homelife. The place of children and the building of the next generation is crucial in our thought processes.

I am not too worried about the fact itself that students lost a few month of learning – and here I mean acquiring knowledge and skills – because the pandemic itself has brought alternative experiences of learning – online tools, resilience, being more aware and connected to what happens at the global scale.

However what worries me are the three following aspects:

  • Social inequalities: it spans from not being able to connect to online school and dropping out from the education system, to not being supported by parents just because they don’t speak the language taught in school, to not having school hot lunch programs anymore for some families, meaning no more healthy food, or even being exposed to domestic violence and abuse.
  • Young girls are especially at risk and the numbers are alarming. A new analysis from Save the Children reveals that half a million more girls risk being forced into child marriage and one million more are expected to become pregnant in 2020 as a result of school closure, education interruption and the economic impact of the pandemic.
  • Finally this results in Mental Health issues and long term consequences, such as social awkwardness, post-traumatic syndrome disorder, and sometimes depression and suicide. Here I should underline the amazing work done by mental health specialists, such as Paul Krauss (who also hosts an incredible podcast named the Intentional Clinician) and puts much effort into providing a national violence prevention hotline.

Thank you so much Maria, for mentioning our collective book Aftershocks & Opportunities by Fast Future Publishing co-written with a group of futurists dedicated to exploring the aftermaths but also the new opportunities brought by the pandemic. I have always loved to write and fiction is one of my favorite means to provoke hard empathy and engage people into a foresight mindset. Our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others – or in our future selves’ shoes – is a strong tool for bringing our entourage to envision alternate scenarios and to have them be as prepared as possible for whatever lies ahead.

You are talking about pessimism versus positive path. A part of our job is not to represent one future, but to build different scenarios. That is actually why we call the discipline Futures Thinking (plural) and not Future Thinking. A common futurist model consists in applying the 4 futures quadrant, based on 4 scenarios – growth, collapse, constraint, transform. And as a future fiction writer, I love to explore the transform one, and not give up to collapsology. I believe in our collective resilience and our capacity of reinvention. One amazing example of this is how we have been able to reinvent our rites of passage and holiday celebrations in a socially distant world – from online baby showers, online graduation ceremonies or mourning rituals through Zoom, to drive-in birthday parties, trunk-or-treat Halloween, or Thanksgiving dinner preparation streamed in a distance.

Finally, you are wondering whether we are creating a more dependable and introverted generation or a more resilient and socially aware one? It resonates with a study I have been conducting, surveying a few futurist colleagues. I had designed 6 different personae based on my research and recent signals.

Survey by Silicon Humanism, June 2020

As I polled fellow futurist researchers, almost none of them vote for Preppers and the Freakouts, so a minority opted for a future generation characterized by extreme fear. The Musketeers, Earth activists bond in collective action, were also not that popular. Eventually, the most frequent profiles chosen being the bubble children and the baby zoomers. So there is a relative hope for the new generation – scarred but in recovery.

3. When talking about the future of work, you mention how companies will have to adapt to a future that won’t be so office-centric, where people won’t be willing to put themselves into the commuting rush hours craziness we got used to. You talk about the work-net trend, instead of a fixed workplace. How should both companies and the next generation of workers get prepared for that?

I am glad you ask, as I have just finished writing a paper, along with my futurist colleague David Kalisz, on remote work and the work-net model. We conducted an analysis on key success factors of working-from-home as a dominant culture – why is it inscribed in California workers’ culture and why are European countries such as France still reluctant to implement it at a larger scale?

First of all, we investigated remote work under an historic angle and replaced office life in perspective. The workplace and the 9-5 work schedule is actually a rather recent invention. We can date it from the beginning of the 20th century with the creation of the first big corporations, whereas in the 19th century, people were either working locally in a mine, farm or in small workshops, or working from home as independent professionals, lawyers, doctors, scholars. After the celebration of corporate paternalism, office life, and the workplace as a strong component of social life, the return to working from home has been made possible thanks to technology advancement, such as the personal computer (1975), internet and electronic mailboxes (1990), Skype (2003), and Slack (2009). The first companies to offer remote work were American Express, IBM and AT&T in the 1990s. The size of the American territory, the working conditions (a couple of weeks vacation per year) and the transactional way of conducting business in the U.S. (versus a more relational model in Latin countries) turned distance working into a habit.

Secondly we looked at statistics and analyzed remote work under the angle of a social fact, following Durkheim’s method to study social facts. Remote work is significant enough in California, it is inscribed in the culture and applies a constraint onto the individual. It includes regularly working from home, letting your team know about your location, remaining available, checking in, and reciprocally accepting your colleagues’ own remote work behaviors.

Thirdly, we took a look at the economic impact. We investigated common arguments made about remote work being counterproductive and demystified this urban legend. The numbers actually show that remote work increases productivity! A recent study by Mercer proved that 94% of employees from 800 companies reported an equal or superior productivity compared to pre-pandemic. The link had first been proven in 2013 in a study conducted by Nicholas Bloom: Whereas a Chinese company called Ctrip wanted to compare administrative gains made by remote work versus costs generated by productivity loss, the study revealed that not only did the company gained in operational savings (no desk, less commute…) but it also gained in productivity by 13%! So why are some countries still reluctant to implement it or even advocate for it? We broke down the problem to the one core success factor: Trust. You need trust between employer and employee to have remote work. As soon as there is mistrust, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy: because you don’t trust employees to be fully dedicated to their work at home and because you over control or micromanage them, you end up with frustrated employees who will explore the slightest window of opportunity to enjoy some freedom. So to answer your question more directly, what should we advise to societies in which distant work is still a challenge or a taboo? We need to reverse the vicious cycle of mistrust into a social contract based on trust between employer and employee. Of course we should not underestimate social isolation or risk of burnout. And the paternalism of offering a workplace should be transferred to another form of paternalism: offering the worker a mobile workstation, contributing to developing a worknet (instead of a workplace), training and onboarding on distant technologies, and providing mental health support.

Wisdom of Code

This is an excerpt of my Future Fiction piece for Fast Future Publishing, on the topic “The Future of AI – Pathways to Artificial General Intelligence”. Through the Future Fiction format, I attempt to address the following questions:

  • Can we leverage the most advanced artificial intelligence developments in the field of politics?
  • What would be the benefits and weaknesses of a non-human/artificial leader?
  • What would be the shape and features of an AI-powered leader?
  • What would be the project milestones of creating an AI-powered leader?
  • What key factors might make us lose control over an AGI project?

The day we buckled our seat belts in the helicopter is the date humanity 2.0 was set in motion. Six of us, crammed together. A brain physicist. A bestselling political scientist. A neurologist specializing in neural pathways for empathy. A multi-awarded Harvard professor in leadership science. A robotics expert, co-designer of the first artificial brain. And myself, an anthropologist dedicated to uncovering the role and features of leaders in human societies. Given our pedigrees, we knew each other by name or from having crossed paths on panels. And while there was obvious respect, no particular affinities transpired. Perhaps because we all scored pretty high on the introvert scale or were suspicious of what lay ahead, hardly a word was spoken during the entire ride.

The helicopter descended on the top terrace of the glass building. Elie’s central and impressive headquarters were the logical choice for a kick-off meeting. After offboarding, an assistant ushered us through a maze of corridors while making us sign NDAs, waiver of rights, and other documents restricting our freedoms. We turned a final corridor and found ourselves with the who’s-who of the tech world, faces we mortals only caught a glimpse of on the cover of Times, cited in a top 10 billionaires, or enlisted for a Nobel. Here they were, mingling over coffee and pastries, like normal human beings. Were they actual friends despite the media creating animosity for sensationalism, or was the new project of such scope that entente was a prerequisite for success?

Their conversations slowly died out, and attention shifted towards us. I had always suffered from imposter syndrome, but couldn’t help notice disappointment flash through their eyes, as if we were not the group of saviors that had been expected.

Elie took center stage: “Democracy is slowly slipping away under the current presidency. Due to the unwillingness of the opposition to provide a sufficiently powerful alternative, our mission is to create one from scratch.” Being dramatic certainly was Elie’s forte. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to the four CEOs exposing their plan for the next seven years and the preliminary work initiated, from the creation of a new political party, FutureVision, to the full military, economic and judicial data compiled for training benefit. The goal was as clear as ambitious: present an AI candidate for the 2028 elections.

We were eventually asked to briefly introduce ourselves, provide a quick overview of our latest research, and high-level thoughts on the project. I could tell the same thoughts were spiraling in all our minds: our rationale brain rejected the insane proposal, yet if there ever was a group of people who could pull it off, it was these tech geniuses. They had gone their entire lives facing doubt, criticism, rebuttals, yet had proved their detractors wrong time after time, even while fiercely combatting each other. Together? Sky was the limit, just as it had been in 1969. And none of them wanted to walk out that room and risk becoming the new Nolan Bushnell.

The first months, we chartered the job description, scope of work, and required skills. With numerous egos in one place, discussions were harsh, outbursts frequent, and quick syncs could run through the night. A brainstorm on analyzing judicial data digressed into a trolley problem around the moral choices an artificial leader should make, further highlighting the radically different visions the CEOs held.

The longest debate by far was on the appearance our candidate should bear, raising more issues than it solved regarding selection of gender and race. Zack fought for a user-friendly interface, but would the public accept a virtual president as their representative? Building a robot with realistic human-like movements also raised the hardware requirements to an entirely new stratosphere. After desperate pleads, nasty emails and vicious lobbying, a consensus was reached: all efforts would focus on the state-of-the-art AI, while a humanoid would be built from the waist up only to deliver key televised appearances from behind the presidential desk. Appearance and personality would be determined from user votes during the FutureVision primaries. Democracy didn’t get much better than selecting temperament in addition to policies.

The next months and years flew in a blur of intellectual vertigo and coding frenzy – only delivering an artificial leader prototype mattered. Fifty of the world’s best engineers had been secretly hired to join the effort. The great unveiling to our sponsors occurred on a late January afternoon of 2024. For months they had insisted on catching a glimpse of it, ruthlessly reminding us they were the ones financing the venture. We combatted investment-lust by exposing risk of failure, postponing the event until we successfully crossed the desolated uncanny valley, riddled with skeletons of prematurely tested prototypes.

Mimicking a real-life presidential election, each team member had cast their vote, giving life to Minerva1, a strong-featured woman of Indian-Mexican descent with sparkling turquoise eyes. She uttered her first mesmerizing words, “Hello world”, to an audience in awe, before proceeding to expose her program, in short, clear logically-flowing points. Only when Jedd whispered to himself how incredible this unveiling was did I fully grasp what had been accomplished.

But the sensation was ephemeral. A milestone had been reached, but our final objective still lay ahead. Minerva was relentlessly tested and improved. How would she react to a mass shooting in Ohio? A devastating typhoon in the Philippines? The accidental death of a Head of State? A sudden economic slowdown? A global pandemic? The primary concern was to avoid another Tay fiasco, a Microsoft chatbot who became a fervent nazi 16 hours after public release. Our strategy of intertwining extra layers of empathy pathways within the core neural net and adding well-balanced random seeds within the circuits to prevent deterministic decisions paid off.

The sheer brilliance emanated from Minerva’s program to be entirely fueled by her electorate, with every single voter contributing the exact same weight to her decisions, the philosophy literally relying on ‘wisdom of crowds’ work, according to which the decisions of a sufficiently diverse group usually outperform those from any single member, no matter how experienced and educated on the topic. Despite individual extremes in our voting preferences and that a mere hundred had voted instead of millions, the choice of leader made by collective intelligence was incredibly wise.

Jedd and Zack demonstrated their business-acumen, promoting Minerva through their well-established platforms. Billy’s philanthropic efforts contributed to endorse the artificial candidate. Allowing Minerva to be legally added to the ballot required reinterpretation of key parts of the Constitution. Providentially, the sitting president who viewed the robot as a mere publicity stunt, also recognized a unique opportunity to appeal to the pro-tech voter base, and abetted the legal process. Minerva was officially approved for the 2028 elections.

Whether the excellence of the coding team, the critical distance of our multidisciplinary research group, the CEOs’ lobbying efforts, or a combination of all these, fact was Minerva became viral. Having underestimated the tech-savviness of the electorate – or its repudiation of traditional politics – the president was taken by surprise by Minerva’s growing success. Ill-prepared to face-off against a candidate radically different from his usual 80-year old white male opponents with well-established arguments, the president succumbed to Minerva’s overwhelming victory. Based on the election results, Minerva’s features were altered and she was rebaptized Caroline Voisin. The president-elect hadn’t even officially taken office that democracy was an active force.  

However having helped cut corners, the defeated president knew exactly how to invalidate the election, claim fraudulent results, and declare Caroline ineligible. The following months threw the country into turmoil, airwaves saturated by hearings, polls, debates, and expert interviews. The courts ultimately ruled in annulling the elections and the current government was renewed under extraordinary circumstances.

The experiment of a lifetime could have stopped there and then. We could all have congratulated each other for having gone so far already, and discussed for hours what could almost have been, never to see each other again aside from the occasional bump-ins at a conference in Zurich or Buenos Aires. We could all have gone home with something to tell our wide-eyed grandkids one day.

It could have, but it didn’t.

After packing my bags, I visited the main research lab one last time, capturing memories. The desk I had spent every single day those past seven years, earphones blasting rage rock as I furiously designed real-life scenarios to evaluate our AI’s performance and progress. The spot where Billy had slipped and spilled burning coffee over himself. The whiteboard through which Elie had punched. The lab was empty aside from a few researchers collecting their belongings.

As I drew closer to the elevator with a pang of nostalgia, I heard Elie screaming through the glass doors of the central server room for Caroline’s interface, which would have moved to the presidential office if all had gone to fruition. A chair flew across the room, bouncing off the table with a sound of crunching metal before it vanished from my line of vision. Now hunched over the keyboard, Elie frantically typed. I assumed it was an incendiary email to judges, journalists, or an open letter to the president. I never imagined he was focusing Caroline’s attention on her defeat, altering the raw inputs of her code.

Whether Elie had fully anticipated what would happen next is anyone’s guess and his true intentions were taken to his grave with him. He had wanted Caroline to be as enraged as he was, as all her electorate was at the latest outrage pulled by the president. ‘Wisdom of crowds’ works when the crowd is sufficiently diverse and extremes balance out. But on the night of the ruling, as the vast majority of Caroline’s electorate felt robbed of their voting rights, fury was the overwhelming emotion across the country.

One hundred million angry people does not make a wise crowd. Not even close.

Future Hacker Interview

Don’t miss Future Hacker‘s latest interview with Global Futurist Sylvia Gallusser. Along with the fantastic Maria Athayde, our Silicon Humanism Founder discusses the long-lasting effects of the pandemic on children and women, key success factors for remote work, as well as the future of well-aging, ethics in science, and space travel!

Listen to this two-episode conversation on your prefered podcast provider!

https://podcasts.apple.com/br/podcast/future-hacker/id1540292671

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8zZmI2ZDRhOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw?ep=14

The New Care Act at Work(-from-Home)

‘I Vaccinated Santa Claus,’ Fauci Tells Kids (December 19, NPR). From an apparently frivolous headline, this reveals so much about what we have been through and where we are at today. In one single sentence, we can read many subtexts.

  • There has been a pandemic. We have found a vaccine.
  • Kids are within the confidence. Kids have become well-aware citizens to whom we have the responsibility to talk about serious things.
  • We will not give up the fight against the virus. We will celebrate the holidays, and if not the same way as we used to before, we will reinvent our celebration rituals.
  • This is a strong message of care that has been truly missing from the political discourse for the past year in the U.S.

Related to this message of responsibility, transparency and care, I believe that leaders should hold the same social responsibility for their collaborators. Inspired by Santa’s role model of generosity, business leaders could go beyond old-fashioned paternalism, to sign up for a redesigned care act towards their workforce, better suited to the new context of increased remote work.

  • First, remote work is here to stay. Twitter and Square announced their employees could stay home forever and many others are postponing office reopening such as Google or Facebook. And contrary to common belief, proof has been made that remote work increases productivity!
  • Secondly, there are a good number of signals showing that companies are willing to take responsibility for making remote work successful. Some reacted quickly at the beginning of the pandemic: Shopify, Twitter, Facebook provided their workers with $1,000 to set up their home office. 1 in 5 companies helped their employees pay for home office equipment in the U.S.
  • Then more than money, workers need trust! Trust is the key to a virtuous cycle of motivation-productivity at home. And we have been positively surprised to see how some companies repositioned their marketing recently to prevent “Employee Monitoring Software” from becoming Employee Spying tools. Many players are adding features to allow employees to regain control over their working-from-home practice.
  • Mostly, the challenge for leaders will be to smartly distinguish employees who need to momentarily disconnect to handle personal matters, from employees dropping out and isolating themselves because of a lack of engagement and care from their organization.

The question is then: Which components would such a future “care act” at work encompass?

  • The tools: Ergonomic desk, compliant equipment, working connection, training and retraining if necessary, onboarding on distance tools and processes.
  • The mindset: Responsibility and reliance at work, a social contract based on mutual trust, a more flexible way to touch base and conduct meetings.
  • The human connection: Empathy for personal situations, mental health support, reinventing social times and perks with online yoga sessions, boardgame happy hours, distance team building activities, holiday parties, etc.
  • Facilitators of this will be more-advanced collaborative platforms, team-engagement tools checking the pulse and boosting energy levels within your teams, and AR/VR/mixed reality solutions to reinduce a sense of physical presence.

As Dr Fauci told the kids three days ago, Santa Claus is vaccinated, Christmas is safe. A lot has happened this year and we have lost so much, but pillars of our moral, social, and spiritual life still remain.

Kashden Dunlap, of Enola, visits with Santa Claus, with safety protocols in place, at Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township, Pa., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. Malls are doing all they can to keep the jolly old man safe from the coronavirus, including banning kids from sitting on his knee, completely changing what a Santa visit looks like. (Dan Gleiter/The Patriot-News via AP)

Future of Work: How to Make Remote Work Actually Work?

Foresight Researcher Sylvia Gallusser at Silicon Humanism (California) and Futures Studies Professor David Kalisz at Paris School of Business (France) have just published a white paper on remote work.

We conducted an analysis on key success factors of working-from-home as a dominant culture – why is it inscribed in California workers’ culture and why are European countries such as France still reluctant to implement it at a larger scale?

From an historical perspective, office life is the exception, not remote work!

First of all, we investigated remote work under an historic angle and replaced office life in perspective. The workplace and the 9-5 work schedule is actually a rather recent invention. We can date it from the beginning of the 20th century with the creation of the first big corporations, whereas in the 19th century, people were either working locally in a mine, farm or in small workshops, or working from home as independent professionals, lawyers, doctors, scholars. After the celebration of corporate paternalism, office life, and the workplace as a strong component of social life, the return to working from home has been made possible thanks to technology advancement, such as the personal computer (1975), internet and electronic mailboxes (1990), Skype (2003), and Slack (2009). The first companies to offer remote work were American Express, IBM and AT&T in the 1990s. The size of the American territory, the working conditions (a couple of weeks vacation per year) and the transactional way of conducting business in the U.S. (versus a more relational model in Latin countries) turned distance working into a habit.

Remote work is a social fact, according to Durkheim’s definition

Secondly we looked at statistics and analyzed remote work under the angle of a social fact, following Durkheim’s method to study social facts. Remote work is significant enough in California, it is inscribed in the culture and applies a constraint onto the individual. It includes regularly working from home, letting your team know about your location, remaining available, checking in, and reciprocally accepting your colleagues’ own remote work behaviors. Already before the pandemic in 2019, the part of Californins who worked from home full-time was 5.8% (Source: CNBC). A large number of companies offer it tacitly when hiring. Between 2012 and 2017, telecommuters increased from 39% to 43% in California (Source: CNBC). Remote workers are accountable for their behaviors regarding coming to the office versus working from home: They are aware of the mandatory aspect of an important in-person meeting. It would even looked inadequate for a person employed in a California tech company to never proceed to remote work. When Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer tried to ban working-from-home, she received bad publicity from the employees in the tech industry as well as from the media. In California tech companies, remote work has become an integrated norm.

The false assumption that remote work decreases productivity

Thirdly, we took a look at the economic impact. We investigated common arguments made about remote work being counterproductive and demystified this urban legend. The numbers actually show that remote work increases productivity! A recent study by Mercer proved that 94% of employees from 800 companies reported an equal or superior productivity compared to pre-pandemic. The link had first been proven in 2013 in a study conducted by Nicholas Bloom: Whereas a Chinese company called Ctrip wanted to compare administrative gains made by remote work versus costs generated by productivity loss, the study revealed that not only did the company gained in operational savings (no desk, less commute…) but it also gained in productivity by 13%! So why are some countries still reluctant to implement it or even advocate for it?

Trust is the key!

We broke down the problem to the one core success factor: Trust. You need trust between employer and employee to have remote work. As soon as there is mistrust, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy: because you don’t trust employees to be fully dedicated to their work at home and because you over control or micromanage them, you end up with frustrated employees who will explore the slightest window of opportunity to enjoy some freedom. So instead of entering a vicious cycle of mistrust-control-mistrust, we expect modern companies to provide their employees with the tools, environment, and mental support to enable genuine remote work. Training on online productivity applications, onboarding on distant work processes, and attention to employee’s mental health are becoming key for employers to reverse the vicious cycle of mistrust into a social contract based on trust between employer and employee.

A new form of paternalism to avoid burnout

As we move to remote work, we should not underestimate social isolation or risk of burnout, which remain as acute as at the office if not even more. And the paternalism of offering a workplace with free food, events, and other perks, should be transferred to another form of paternalism: offering the worker a mobile workstation, contributing to developing a worknet (instead of a workplace), training and onboarding on distant technologies, and providing mental health support.

Well-Aging: How Close Are We To Abolishing Aging?

Well-Aging designs the process of aging while preserving one’s well-being. The challenge behind Well-Aging resides in the fact that we do not only wish for the individuals of our species to live longer, but mainly to live longer in improved health conditions and in a satisfactory social-emotional environment. It relies on the belief that the older age doesn’t need to be a declining one, defined by default compared to the other ages. It can be a phase of our life defined by positive associations.

We live at a turning point, as many technologies not only contribute to fixing or suppressing symptoms related to aging, but actually aim to improve and enhance the living of the elderly.

We have designed on online class on the Future of Well-Aging, in which we focus on the so-called “silver technologies” designed to improve our end of life, spanning from Biotechnologies preventing senescence, to Information and Communication technologies empowering the elderly, to Citizen technologies and the future of the “senior smart city”. Here is an overview of the first module of the class.

From conventional medicine to “geroscience”

In Jonathan Swift’s 1726 satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels, the name struldbrugg is given to those humans in the nation of Luggnagg who are born seemingly normal, but are in fact immortal. Although struldbruggs do not die, they do continue aging. Swift’s work depicts the evil of immortality without eternal youth.

A dark vision of life-extension is that even if humans achieve to live much longer, their end-of-life condition won’t be a harmonious one, but a declining one. Even if we fight diseases one by one, some believe that we are unable to suppress the effects of the aging process.

For centuries of conventional medicine, Aging has remained relatively unstudied while the focus has been on studying and curing individual diseases. But there is now a whole new field of study around the biology of aging itself and “how aging is making diseases more likely”, called Geroscience.

Two models of aging

Slowly we’ve been moving from a model of independence among diseases (each of them being treated separately and aging being left aside as incurable) to a more recent model based on causation with aging at the center.

In the independence model, each chronic disease – from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to Diabetes to Cancer to Arthritis, Heart Disease, and Stroke – has its own trajectory and needs its own investigation and its own treatment. In this model, Aging has been left aside as too hard to address.

Alternatively, the causation model relies on the hypothesis that if we delay aging (the root cause of chronic diseases), we will also suppress the symptoms and manifestations of aging, namely the single chronic diseases.

Gompertz Law of Mortality

Linked to that is the Gompertz-Makeham Law which states that the human death rate is the sum of an age-dependent component (the Gompertz function) which increases exponentially with age, and an age-independent component linked to external causes of death (the Makeham term, often negligible in a protected environment). According to the Gompertz Law of Mortality, after the age of 35, the human mortality rate doubles every 8 years.

However, Gompertz Law is not a fixed law of biology. If we succeed in suppressing the roots of aging, we will flatten the curve and consequently decrease the probability and impact of chronic diseases. Some researchers even look to reverse the trend and to completely abolish aging.

The 9 Hallmarks of Aging

Aging is not a single process, but a series of intertwined processes that include direct damage, accumulation of cellular waste, errors, and imperfect repairs, as well as the responses to them. These processes result in the familiar signs of aging and ultimately to the development of age-related diseases that eventually kill us.

One of the most popular and well supported theory is synthesized in The Hallmarks of Aging, a 2013 paper that defined aging as nine distinct categories (called “hallmarks”). The paper also explained how these hallmarks are intertwined and interact with each other to drive the development of age-related diseases. These hallmarks include cellular senescence, telomere attrition, genomic instability, stem cell exhaustion, or epigenetic alterations to name a few.

Rejuvenation and the promise of the eternal youth

The ultimate goal of rejuvenation biotechnology is to make chronologically old and chronologically young people, at every physical level, indistinguishable from one another. It covers advanced medical technology that directly addresses any of the various aging processes in order to restore tissue and organ function to a more youthful state, thereby ameliorating, delaying, or preventing age-related diseases.

Aubrey de Grey created the SENS Research Foundation which is an active player in Research Strategy for Aging and rejuvenation biotechnology. Rejuvenation biotechnology is one of the life extension strategies. It consists in reversing the aging processes and thereby restoring youth and health by acting on the hallmarks of aging, for example through stem cell therapy or senolytic agents. But how close are they to completely exterminating aging?

The roadmap to abolishing aging by 2040

Researchers in aging have designed a roadmap to abolishing aging. A few factors are currently in favor of abolishing aging by 2040, such as economic incentive to longevity, as healthy people are net positive contributors to society.

Also, investing in rejuvenation biotechnology will avoid spiraling costs of chronic diseases and end-of-life care. The biggest, most powerful companies in the world are putting more and more effort behind healthy life extension. Crowdfunding has become an alternative way of funding, to support the effort as well.

In addition, transformational technologies of the fourth industrial revolution (nanotech, biotech, ITC, cognitive science) are becoming sufficiently mature to sustain the effort. We can also add that one million rejuveneers (engineers in rejuvenation biotechnology) are willing to collaborate.

And finally, human beings are eager of equal rights and they demand positive action to counteract aging, as our civilization deeply value human life.

The roadblocks to abolishing aging

However, Abolishing Aging advocates still need to remove roadblocks. Among these roadblocks, we are living in a particularly unstable environment characterized by environmental disaster, sanitary crises, economic collapse, political chaos, corruption, and social breakdown.

In addition, we might meet Research insufficiency, with technical difficulties, lack of funding, or diversion of research effort even bigger since medical research budgets have been reallocated to COVID research. We might also lack positive collaboration with infighting and missed alliances.

And most of all, there might be rejection by the public, with many people preferring aging acceptance. They want to minimize risks of social inequity, and the specter of an uncanny valley.

If you want to know more on this topic, I am giving a class on the Future of Aging. Contact me through my Contact form or via LinkedIn to know more about the class and our actions at Silicon Humanism.

The TETRIS Home Life Style

My life has become a Tetris game. Not the Gameboy one I played in the 1990s. More like the 3-D version with its colored blocks falling at warp speed. But if you lose at Tetris, you miss your place on the podium. If you missed too many tiles in your home life, you can really lose your mind!

My home has become a slider puzzle. You need to fit in limited space work tasks, housekeeping chores, school assignments, parenting duties, and hygiene new constraints, for all its members – given that all this evolves over time and that priorities are constantly reshuffled. Our home used to be our haven of peace from the exterior world. But we let the fox into the henhouse. 

All day long, rooms, furniture, apparels, are repurposed. Our entrance presents a cupboard of clean masks. Our sink is dedicated to the soaking ones. Shoes decorate the doorsteps, aligned next to the pumpkins. Hand sanitizer is placed at every corner. 

Only one will win the prime spot – the soundproofed room. One will do her homework from her bed. Another will aim at the outdoors table. Another will follow carrying a chair. Our furniture has become movable. But one fits all in a limited cubic space.

I work, teach, plan, and fail, on the kitchen table, next to the hot tea station that keeps me going everyday. Regularly I am interrupted by my kids doing their PE over my head. Another gap in the whole structure, I am not going to make it. 

Sometimes I just need a hide away. A fraction of a couch. A fragment of silence. A pause in my brain. Game over.

During the first part of the pandemic, we’ve been mainly trying to survive. One more school project, one more zoom meeting, one more outing to the grocery store in our anti-COVID gear. Blocks after blocks, we’ve been trying to pile them up, hoping there wouldn’t be too many to reach the top, to crumble our sanity. 

An everyday life deconstructed. Blocks crushing us.

More bad news, number of cases rising, hospital overboarding, death count climbing. Protecting the kids, keeping them safe, turning the masquerade into a masked ball. Cosmic kids yoga, Mo Willems tutorials, posters and teddy bears on the windows. A smile on their face, this is priceless. Another line of blocks eliminated! Another task list checked.

And yet I am so thankful to have so much space, my playboard is large. I wonder how this Tetris game can be played in a small city apartment. In a mobile home. In a narrow room in a community building. On a college campus. In a nursing home. 

We are reaching the tipping point. We need to change the tiles, make them smaller, move them in the right direction, learn how to rotate them faster. We need the board to be more spacious, more space to move things around and rearrange for our newfound needs – multifunctionality, soundproofed rooms, moveable furniture, downtime environment, hiding area, access to outdoors, zen place.

An everyday life to reconstruct. Bricks to realign. 

Some solutions are already being explored by real estate players, home developers, home interior designers, and furniture designers. 

Post-pandemic design will be more thoughtful. Our new homes will meet new criteria: hygiene-centric, more flexible, sustainable, bunker-like, and more regulated. 

  • Healthy homes. The ideal home will offer a repurposed entry area to leave our shoes, a sink near the door to wash our hands and face coverings, a utility cupboard for our hygiene equipment. Easily cleanable surfaces will be favored, such as cork, copper and brass with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties replacing plastic, glass and steel which keep the coronavirus alive for the longest time. Developers now include air and water filtration systems, touchless faucets, and bacteria-resistant paint in new houses. 
  • Fluid homes. Modularity will be key. Floor plans will adapt with more broken plans. Underutilized spaces will disappear. Rooms will be repurposed. Open plan areas will foster community living, similar to a WeWork space – or should we call it a WeLive space? The space lives and gets reinvented along the day and its alternance of individual time slots, quality time with family members, and end-of-day social rendez-vous: Working-from-home parents occupy the space during the workday, kids join for schoolwork times, before family members come together to socialize in the evening. Storage will gain in importance as people seek more ways to conceal personal and household items.
  • Sustainable bunker-homes. Urban farming, air filtration systems, and energy-producing equipment such as solar panels and battery-charging stations, will become more popular for self-sufficiency, so that we don’t need to rely so much on the exterior. The home becomes a sort of danger-proofed cell from a chaotic and threatening outside world. That will also contribute to a gain in sustainability. More people will grow an indoors garden, or develop an underground basement with a garden, mini cheese factory, or a winery. Plus, gardening is calming. A zen space will become a must-have. Music, scents, vibrations, calming pets, will be part of the therapy. Walls will be repainted, furniture rehabilitated, backyard cabins remodeled. 
  • Compliant homes. The regulation that applies to office furnitures and air quality in corporate offices will need to apply in our homes. Kitchen chairs need to be replaced with an office chair that enables ergonomic and productive work. That same chair must be portable to be easily moved out when the user switches to the traditional cooking or dining settings. Humidifiers will become more popular. Ambient technology, and dominetics will contribute to stimulate social interaction and preserve mental health. A hotline to a mental health specialist could be installed. The elderly, the fragile, the lonely will be cared for from a distance. Closed at home, but connected to the world. Social animals in a safe harbor. 

An everyday life to re-learn. Rules to reinvent.

Above all, we will apply the no-rule rule. Each home will need to be personalized, so each of us feels comfortable in their own space without the anxiety of wanting to leave when there is no viable escape outside. 

The game is hard. But rules are not set in stone. 

Embracing Our Local Economy

The following text is the opening statement held by Sylvia Gallusser in defense of our local economy during the Great Grey Swan Debate.

1. We are social animals

Do you know that song Where Everybody Knows Your Name? There is a part of us which is just like a Cheers character, who likes to have their drink mixed where everybody knows their name! Most of our consumer behaviors are actually driven by peer pressure and a desire for social bonding.

I will not contest that sometimes we seek the comfort of a good brand (Nutella, Heinz ketchup) and volumes of toilet paper that our local business is not equipped to provide. That necessity and crisis made us go fill our primary needs first in a pent-up demand situation. That low-income households do not really have the pleasure of choosing between local or global. That online ordering was the only option at some point, when lockdown was in its more severe form as we sheltered-in-place.

But let us rise one step up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — from physiological and safety needs to “belonging”. The COVID-crisis reminded us that we are and remain social creatures. We realized that we crave in-person interaction — we missed our family, our colleagues, our gym, our hairdresser, our artisan bakery.

Credit: Roman Kraft

It takes a village to raise a child and the crisis has proven it over and over. We do not want a giant platform where all students attend the same class with a robotic teacher and standardized worksheets. We want for our children a personalized school, with a human eye to review homeworks, reinvented recess times over bingo and scavenger hunts, learning pods, and virtual playdates. Haven’t your kids told you how much they love their breakout rooms — where they definitely do not get work done, but hang out with their peers?

We love buying local for the same reasons. We want the interaction, we want the sharing, we want the personalized relationship! According to Accenture, 56% consumers have been shopping in neighborhood stores, with 80% planning to continue. Even more because the whole world shattered, we want to feel that we matter and go get comfort where everybody knows our name!

2. We are animals of habits

We find reassurance in the realm of rituals. And for a while our habits were the Walmart next to our office, the Burger King takeout on the way back home, the Starbucks detour before an early morning meeting. Until the pandemic disrupted our routine and opened us up to new possibilities: Running down to the local grocery store, sharing recipes, kids activities or the latest deals with a resident around the corner. I never enjoyed that much chatting with my neighbors! When I peaked my head out of the door, I scanned around to search for a human face, ready to listen to any survival tips from my entourage!

Mass-production buying has historically been driven by economic choice (less expensive), trust in big brands (information available, traceability), and little knowledge of alternative options (less marketing and advertising). But trust in large corporations, famous brands, and even in our governance, has been challenged. We have developed mistrust towards mass production. And the COVID crisis has acted as a catalyst to adopt new habits.

As the pandemic started, we were limited in our choices (supply chain disruption, no more hot lunch programs, safety concerns towards packaged foods, budget reduction). This has pushed us to test new, more local-friendly options. Our horizon narrowed and we adopted new healthier habits, less driving, more cooking at home, and more sharing with our close ones. And according to Nextdoor, it should last: 72% believe they will frequent local businesses more often after the crisis.

Credit: Robert Collins

At the peak of the pandemic, we also realized how much we crave fresh air! We looked for more outdoors time, more nature treks, more greens around and in our plates. Some even developed a claustrophobia topped by hypochondria — a pure fear of malls, stores, and further germ-filled attractions. A study relates that at the collective scale, individuals are now having nightmares of shaking hands of infected people or being stuck in an infested airport.

Local restaurants in California were good at opening their terrasse to accommodate customers. In many U.S. cities, the government encouraged local buying, promoted local heroes, and helped our local businesses survive. It takes a city to support local shopping!

3. We are moral animals.

If the coronavirus has highlighted our worst fears, it also made our better angels resurface. Essential workers were celebrated. Small acts of kindness popped up in the everyday chaos. According to CNBC, two thirds of people tipped more during the pandemic!

Most of us will continue buying following economic calculation, especially as the crisis has made personal situations more challenging, schedules more complex, employment more unstable. However, the portion of conscious buying has increased as a consequence of the pandemic. Our buying choices are not only about personal economic power anymore, but a solidarity choice as well.

Credit: Lloyd Lee

According to Accenture, consumers attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits have changed and many of these new ways will remain post-pandemic. Consumers have used this life pause to reflect on their own consumption. They are striving to shop locally, mindfully and cost-consciously. Two thirds of the consumers have been limiting food waste and making more sustainable or ethical purchases, with 90% likely to continue with these behaviors.

There is no denial that a part of us is thriving to go back to the existing, but a more profound part of us has been awakened for good and the fact that we shared this traumatic experience at a global scale actually made our local conscience even more acute. According to Small Business Trends, 55% of small business owners feel positive about the future. Let’s not disappoint them and continue buying local.

It takes a pandemic to revive our ethical mind.

The Great Grey Swan Debate

On October 8, Grey Swan Guild hosted its First Great Debate that shone a light on discussions people are having about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and which way the future will tilt.

For the occasion, a group of 8 thought leaders were convened, with 3 topics and 1 goal: to sensemake around challenges that really matter to people in 2020 and beyond, namely Shopping Patterns, Surveillance, and Entertainment.

The event gave place to three rounds of debating between two teams of sensemakers captained by Andrea Kates (Team Magenta) and Greg Satell (Team Gold).

(Re-)watch the Great Grey Swan Guild Debate!

The topic of the first debate revolved around two lines of argumentation: 

Will the pandemic cause us to [re?]embrace mass-produced and trusted, recognizable large brands and products, retail and commerce?

vs.

Will the pandemic cause us to love ourselves for shopping local and embracing and supporting the local economy?
The following text is the opening statement held by Sylvia Gallusser in defense of our local economy.

I argumented in favor of embracing and supporting our local economy (Read the Opening Statement), whereas my colleague Jeannette Hana defended the position of mass-production, with a focus on the availability of a wide range of products in a simple click.

Our captain Andrea Kates concluded on a very subtle comparison: similarly as in the software industry, large platforms need smaller startups to fill in the gaps and create additional features and services to contribute to the ecosystem, in the retail world, large brands need small businesses to contribute to innovation and richness of options available to consumers!

Greg Satell was mostly annoyed by his local merchants exploiting customer distress with their exorbitant prices.

As often, the reality is somewhere along the spectrum. What do you think? What is your position? What arguments would you add to the conversation? We would love to get your opinion and have you contribute to our sensemaking exercises.

We had a fantastic audience of 40 supporters at our First Great Debate. If you want to attend our next debate and even be on stage and have great fun with incredible thinkers from all over the world, now is the perfect time to join the Grey Swan Guild and its League of Sensemakers.

Museum of the Future – Pandemic artifacts

What if everyday objects from 2020 became museum objects for our future generations to reflect on? Imagine a collection of pandemic artifacts. Post your own pictures on social media using the hashtag #siliconhumanism.

California, 2020. Collection of face masks during the 2020 global pandemic of coronavirus in a family of 5 during shelter-in-place. Kids aged 3-8 had built a box to contain them and choose a clean one from everyday. The collection includes some rudimentary hand-made masks, intending to turn the situation into a creative shared moment.

2021: A Breath Odyssey

2020 had been a whirlwind of a journey through an oxygen-deprived world.

A journey that kicked off with breath-taking hearings, indicators of the contaminated atmosphere.

A journey during which we were blind-sighted by a novel virus, forcing us to hold our breaths for a prolonged apnea our species was not equipped for.

A journey during which the lives of healthy individuals became suddenly and solely dependent on respirators.

A journey during which our elderly were confined in air-tight spaces, sharing love and care through windows and screens.

A journey during which dead bodies piled up faster than warp speed.

A journey during which business asphyxiated, unemployment skyrocketed, domestic violence exploded.

A journey during which our home crew inflated, our sanity crumbled, our anxiety saturated.

A journey during which we had to face our inner dragon, vaping, fulminating, in the family cave we shared in an organized chaos, desperately trying to grasp onto a life buoy. 

A journey during which a man on the asphalt suffocated I can’t breathe, under the pressing knee of a life-suppressor. 

A journey during which our democracy agonized, our institutions fractured, our people arose, craving fresh air, aspiring for a more breathable planet.

A journey which eventually brought us closer, stronger, more resilient against this collective asthma.

And just as we saw the air at the end of the tunnel, we were struck again. The wildfires. The scarlet sky, blurring our hopes. Back to the station. Back to air conditioning. Back to ventolin. 

We are a species on life-support. Short-breathed and short-sighted.

If only we were wise enough to think more than no steps ahead.

2021 is just around the corner. I can feel the air thinning, fathom an escape route, my eyes growing wider as the light shines through.

We will rise up from this collective trauma, step by step – distancing, testing, vaccinating, caregiving, socializing, reconnecting, recovering. Walk before you run, breathe before you walk.

We will plant our flag in a new territory. A new crew, a new hope. Restore empathy. Rehabilitate democracy.

We will rebuild our crippled systems and institutions, and trust new forward-thinking leaders, while cherishing our past mistakes from our fragile human history.

We will expand health coverage so that financial pressure never suffocates any of us, so that no health costs inhibits actual healing.

We will plant trees and greens onto that fertile ground. We will cure the lungs of our blue planet. So familiar yet so estranged. One of a kind. Unique, ephemeral.

We will provide for its diversity, its variety, its luxuriance. Challenge our individual consciences, de-bias our collective unconscious, re-insufflate our global governance.

We will talk and walk in our space gears, aim higher, jump higher, see further. 

Or should we proceed more cautiously this time around? One small steady step at a time. Perhaps our doom is wanting to leap too far. Tiny creatures in the vastness of the universe.

Let our egos cool down. The engines are overheating. Let the conquest take a break. 

Warning signs were always there. Yet we ignore them, again and again. What about we pause and face them now?

Yes the journey matters. But so does the destination.

Take a break to sit. 

Reflect.

And breathe.

Transhumanism: blurry boundaries between treatment and enhancement

“First of all, there is a very blurry boundary between human treatment and human enhancement. We have entered a field, where medical and technological achievements can both serve the persons in need and increase capacities of others. For example, we have found remedies for blind people to recover eyesight. But the same research enables to beam images from one person’s mind into another!

Secondly, the field of the “acceptable” evolves over time. Some medical advancements which were taboos yesterday become mainstream, such as transfusion, vaccination, antibiotics, birth control, IVF, gender reassignment surgery… So what about human cloning, downloading the mind in digital formats, controlling an exoskeleton or a second body from our mind? The transhumanist effort asks questions about our sense of identity, our consciousness and the potentiality of an eternal life.

Finally, we need to create an ethical framework to handle these topics, and there’s active debate around what is progress and what represents a danger for humankind…”

Futurist Sylvia Gallusser talks to peopleHum about a fresh new concept of transhumanism and what the future of mind means.

Watch the entire episode on the peopleHum’s plateform / Leadership series to know more.

The Lone Leader

This text is a fiction piece addressing the topic “Emergent Leadership in the Wake of a Pandemic” and focusing on defining one’s identity as a leader in the new paradigm. The fiction illustrates what it is like to be an entitled leader and still feel lonely and useless, as remote work has overly exposed us to each other’s private and family life. The full text has originally been published on the Grey Swan Guild‘s website.

8:53am

He regretted having gone for the longer loop around Hilltop Crest that morning. He knew it would be tight, but the challenge had been alluring. Seven minutes to make a coffee, take a shower, launch the video conference app.

9:04am

“Sorry I’m late, my previous meeting ran a bit over,” he lied to his reports after logging in. He quickly scanned the tiles, everyone was there, even Lori. Could they see through his lie? He looked at the tile video of himself; he still seemed pretty red in the face from the run. “Shall we go around the room for project updates?” He usually started by giving his own updates and top-down directives from his own manager, but still slightly out of breath, he didn’t want to attract too much attention to himself at the beginning of the call.

11:01am

1:1 with Lori. He quickly glanced through the Google Docs where he logged quick notes of all his 1:1s. Good thing with Lori, he had a few minutes to review and prepare. Main focus for the day would be to balance Lori’s time between her ongoing project creating a dashboard for marketing and the new task force meeting she had just gotten pulled into, given her subject matter expertise in SQL. He was upset to say the least, but those were VP-level decisions. A voice called out suddenly, “Hi Carl!”. He toggled screens and saw Lori in her now very familiar setting: an old wooden chair covered with marker stains, a stack of board games in a corner table, and a window which made for terrible backlighting depending on the time of day they synced up. “Hi Lori!”

12:17pm

He quickly shoved another forkful of pasta in his mouth, then used his other hand to cover his chewing. Wednesdays were perfect for lunching: over 50 people in an hour-long knowledge-sharing session, nobody would notice, and he saved some precious time. He would spend the remaining time of the meeting responding to emails, nodding from time to time; he might even ask a question toward the end to fake interest. Or if the pasta put him in a small food coma, he would just toggle through the tiles and observe people’s backgrounds. Finding little pearls was always fun. An older brother hitting a sibling. A spouse looking annoyed at a meeting dragging on. A baby tripping on a LEGO piece.

5:25pm

This was it, only a handful of minutes into his last meeting of the day, but given the status quo on who would be maintaining the data ingestion pipeline, not only had the last 30 minutes been a complete waste of time, they also screamed for a new follow-up meeting to be rescheduled. He had tried hard to avoid that, but Carol’s stubbornness had gotten the better of him. She repeated over and over, as she scratched the top of her ugly cat’s head, that her team had no bandwidth whatsoever.

5:31pm

Carl stared at his now silent screen. Some more emails had stacked up, he was hoping he could get a zero inbox before 6 pm, maybe 6:15. Then he would start cooking pasta again, but with less cream than yesterday, the leftovers hadn’t gone too well at lunch.

Pick up where he left-off in Netflix, and a bit of social media junk before calling it a day. While this was the quietest time of the day for him, he could visualize how crazy things were in the households of all those he had talked to today. More sibling-fighting, baby screaming, anxious pets, and furious spouses.

How he envied them all.

Generation Zoom children learning about their roots

This text is an excerpt from the Chapter “The Generation Zoom Classroompublished in the book “Aftershocks & Opportunities: Scenarios for a Post-Pandemic Future” by Fast Future Publishing. If you enjoy the text, feel free to read the full chapter and the entire collection of chapters, available on Fast Future Publishing’s store and on Amazon. Thank you for your support!

History Class, MLK High School, January 2037

“Let’s all turn our H-Story pads to page 183, where we left off last time.”

Sounds of virtual pages turned filled the classroom.

“As you might recall, to combat the spread of COVID-19, shelter-in-place was imposed in multiple States across the U.S., starting in March 2020 with California and New York. Unfortunately, while the measures did curb contamination and death rates, they remained insufficient to prevent the continued spread. The primary source of contamination were grocery shopping and healthcare facilities. Consequently, new regulations were put into place restricting days and times people could go shopping. Can anyone explain how it was established?”

“First, the elderly could enjoy dedicated timeslots – typically early morning,” ventured Rick from the first row. “Then last name became the main criterion, so families could go together”.

“Exactly! This new restriction, although not strictly enforced, did help. Numbers started to plateau a bit, and people got hopeful again. But then two independent events took place. 

The first was the premature attempt to relaunch the economy, which had come to a halt almost overnight. Non-essential businesses had to close, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed due to a combination of firings and hiring freezes. To avoid further deterioration of the situation, workers were incentivized to go back to work and minimal safety equipment was distributed in the workplace – masks, gloves, sanitizer. Shelter-in-place was eventually lifted in multiple States, and schools reopened before the situation had completely cleared.

Secondly, even before the vaccine for COVID-19 was manufactured, a derived strain of COVID emerged. Pharmaceutical efforts were redirected towards the development of a broad-spectrum multi-respiratory syndrome vaccine destined to protect from subsequent COVID variations. This, combined to the rushed reopening, had dreadful consequences, and  infection rates and death toll reached new highs.”

Andrea paused to catch reactions from the audience, the so-called ‘generation Zoom’ or Zoomers. Despite being part of the boom in births following the onstart of the pandemic, they seemed oblivious to the dramatic events surrounding their conception.

We (Will) Remain Social Animals

This text has been originally published on the Grey Swan Guild’s website. Read it in full.

The COVID crisis has separated individuals in many ways, but even when distant, human beings are resourceful and inventive at connecting.

All along the human life cycle, literally from cradle to grave, the pandemic has highlighted that we craved in-person social interactions more than we thought we would. Technology has helped partially bridge the social distance gap, but in every age group we have heard cries for more human interactions.

  • Distance learning in early year education proved to be more than limiting. Social Emotional Learning is – almost by definition! – not a discipline that can be transmitted via a laptop or a tablet. After only a couple of weeks, young children had reached their screen time limit, and wanted to meet, touch and feel each other again. While we used to worry about our children’s screen time, we have since been inundated by reports of parents bribing their kids to keep them in front of their virtual classroom! Screen-avoidance, tech-anxiety, and the loss of rituals shared with peers in a school-environment, have hindered young children in their social emotional experiencing of the world. A future challenge will be to integrate in a smart way the social-emotional component in a new half-distant half-physical learning environment.
  • Learning from home, working from home, and befriending from home, celebrated the ascent of Zoom, but soon enough individuals were overwhelmed with online meetings, virtual happy hours with friends in different time zones, and online lessons of yoga-sketching-russianmaths-you-name-it. But videoconferencing tools still fail to convey the full range of our social interactions – deficient eye contact, altered voice tone, lip sync lag, lack of body language and hand motion, decreased engagement. Soon enough, our human selves yearned to return to greener pastures and natural parks, playing around the rules to hike in company. And conducting dating and mating strategies in a distant environment has raised strong frustrations, with individuals defying bans to be able to meet other humans in a physical space. 
  • With the generalized lock-down, work-life balance has been reshuffled. On the one hand, companies have required work-from-home without checking whether homes can provide a quiet work space, consequently exposing spouses and children to work stressors, and generating anxiety in family members. The individual home has gone through a functional remodeling in order to adapt to the needs of multiple age groups with competing goals. On the other hand, we monitored positive effects of refocusing on the nuclear family. In the past, it was commonly accepted that you spend more time with colleagues you haven’t picked than with your own family members, whereas we now hear about parents joyfully spending more quality time with their children, closely following their learning efforts and personal development, and being actually able to share activities instead of just sending them to as many extracurricular activities as possible. 
  • Essential workers have shown us that not every job can be easily AI-ed tomorrow, that there is nothing as strong as a human smile to comfort you when you are sick. Clear masks and transparent face coverings have started to popup on health workers as a way to better display empathy. Mourning in a no-touch world has been nerve-racking for individuals seeing their loved ones depart with a glass between them. Funerals over Zoom offered opportunities to renew this rite of passage with attendees from all over the world, but were at loss to replace the warmth of a live hug.

Our social nature has revealed itself to be stronger than ever. The reign of artificial general intelligence will have to wait a little longer…

Rethinking Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) in the COVID era

Whereas Early Childhood Education (0-8 year-old children) relies on cognitive development, language mobilisation in varied contexts, sensory experiences, social emotional well-being, and moral support, this model of learning has been shattered by the imposed lock-down of students all over the planet during the COVID-19 crisis.

Physically distanced from their teachers and peers, living with parents poorly prepared and ill-equipped, lacking adequate resources, or submersed by technological tools, many young learners have showns signs of anxiety and developed new forms of school phobia.

In California, private schools have established think tanks to prepare for the reopening of institutions, while complying with new hygiene and safety guidelines, and still observing educational requirements for that age group. In certain cases, integrating traditional curriculum with new technology has proven successful. But in other instances, online tools have highlighted the limitations of fulfilling the younger learners’ tactile, social, and emotional needs.

At this point, educators have realized that programs, formats, and resources need a larger adaptation to create tomorrow’s learning plans, in a climate of increased sanitary precaution.

Read the full article (in French) in La Tribune: “Comment repenser l’enseignement expérientiel au-delà de l’écran”.

How to develop a Futurist Mindset – and why it is even more important now!

Interview Sylvia Gallusser – How to develop a Futurist Mindset and Futures Thinking skills

Sylvia Gallusser talks to Akanksha Kulkarni about transhumanism, the future of the mind and how to develop a futurist mindset. Watch the entire episode on peopleHum’s Leadership video series to know more.

[Transcript]

As futurists like to quote William Gibson: The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed. Futurists are more and more in demand in this changing world, in this changing paradigm. But you don’t need to be a professional futurist to develop this mindset. 

  • Futures Thinking can be practiced every day with small mental fitness to stretch your mind to envision the future. There are two fun exercises you can do, called “predict the past” and “remember the future”. Predicting the past is about remembering a fact from a long time ago and changing perspective on it (counterfactual memory). Remembering the future is about imagining a What If situation (counterfactual prospection). 
  • Hard empathy is a necessary skill to adopt a futurist mindset. It’s the ability to put yourself in some else’s shoes. To vary perspectives. Futures thinking is a first person exercise: what would I do if I had this role, in this future context. 
  • Another good exercise is called 100 Ways Anything Can Be Different. This is a powerful way to “unstick” your mind
  • Then, start collecting signals of the future. Search for signals of change in your specific field, read about new research, new products, listen to voices from the field, observe behaviors around you, talk with people. You will gain valuable insights.
  • Futures thinking is also collaborative work, as Marina Gorbis (IFTF) likes to remind us. Be part of communities in your field of interest to gain collective foresight.
  • And finally be part of the change. The future of work is not fully here yet, you can contribute to build your preferred one. Futures thinking is really about what we call “urgent optimism” (a term coined by Jane McGonigal), it’s about engaging into action. And you can do it, starting from now.