Thursday, June 30, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage: A Futures Perspective

Last week's vote to legalize same-sex marriage in New York was a significant advance in human rights. While passage of the law in the state senate was a close thing, the trend in recent years has been towards equality for same-sex couples.

This trend was identified in the mid-1990s when I published my early timelines (1994 for the first edition; 1998 for the second edition). The 1998 timeline (download a copy here) identifies a periodic shift from progressive eras in which human rights are advanced to regressive eras in which few advances in human rights occur.

The eras in which major advances in human rights occurred in the United States are:
  • ~1785 to ~1815: The first major effort anti-slavery effort resulted in abolition in the northern states and outlawing of the slave trade.
  •  ~1845 to ~1870: Slavery in the southern states ended with the Civil War, while the women's rights movement began to develop.
  • ~1895 to ~1920: The women's rights movement gained strength and in 1920 women were allowed to vote.
  • ~1945 to ~1980: The civil rights movement brought about substantial changes in racial and ethnic equality, while the women's liberation movement made substantial gains in women's rights.
If these historic patterns hold, we are in the early years of a new era (~2005 to ~2025) during which we will see human right advance again. The passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriage in New York is a major step forward and will likely give momentum to efforts to expand this right throughout the country.

Interview with Rochester ABC Affiliate (13 WHAM)

The Rochester ABC affiliate was interested in my visit to the European Futurists Conference in Lucerne, Switzerland in late May. Here's the interview I did with them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Cassandra Curse

There is nothing more frustrating and disheartening than being able to foresee something and having people ignore your warnings.

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophesy by Apollo but was cursed when she didn't return his affection. The curse was that she retained her ability to foresee the future but nobody would believe her predictions.

While I'm no Cassandra, I understand some of her frustration. As a professional futurist, I have been working in the area of foresight for almost two decades. Many of the clients I've worked with are major corporations or large government agencies. Often I've been engaged specifically to provide insights into the future and help develop strategies that will allow the organization of deal with that future.

Yet, it is very common to have an organization essentially ignore the insights (or prophesies), which is incredibily frustrating.

It makes one wonder why so many people were unable to see what was so clear to Cassandra and why things haven't changed much in more than 2800 years.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Timeline of Trends & Events - 2011

In 1993 I began playing with the identification of long term trends using statistical data. I was taking a class in quantitative research methods and had a series of charts printed out. I was trying to compare the various charts and ended up with a pair of scissors, glue stick, and a roll of butcher paper. By the time I was finished, there were a lot of clippings on the floor and a rough version of a timeline on the wall.

As I played with that first timeline, I figured there needed to be a better way. I was just starting to work with some graphics software (a product called Freehand) and thought maybe it might be useful for laying out a variety of charts and other time-oriented information on a timeline.

By the time I finished that research methods class, I was intrigued by the potential use of timelines in forecasting and futures studies.

In 1994 I published my first timeline in full color in an 8-1/2 by 14 inch format. (Unfortunately, all of my printed copies of that timeline were given away or have been lost. The computer file for that first timeline also disappeared long ago.)

Four years later, in 1998, I published an updated and upgraded timeline that included significantly more information. While I no longer have any printed copies of that timeline, I managed to hang onto the original computer file.

It took me another decade before I did another update of the timeline. In 2008, in conjunction with Social Technologies (the futures consulting firm I worked for at the time), I added yet more information, increased the size of the timeline, and tried a new look.

Over the past couple of years I've been tinkering with more efficient ways to create the timelines and working at improving their look. While I'm far from done with that tinkering, I have some early examples that you can look at. (You can download PDFs of two examples here and here.)

In the next 6 months, I hope to have a whole new series of timelines available online, so stay tuned.