Friday, September 04, 2015

Envisioning the World of Tomorrow: a catalog of future-looking web sites

What technologies are currently shaping our world…and which will continue to mold our future? In this special posting, we'll take you on a tour of many wondrous web sites and other resources that aim spotlights at the future. And invite you all to chime in with favorites that I missed!

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

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

Whether you're a scientist, engineer, entrepreneur, educator, writer, or interested citizen, bookmark one or several to keep abreast of the change-tsunami that's shaping our future. 

== Websites that explore the Future ==

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

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

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

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

Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence (by noted futurist, public speaker and author Ray Kurzweil) offers news, essays and insights about research in science and information-based technologies, including nanotech, biotech, the internet and neuroscience. It also offers videos, podcasts and reviews of recent films, TV shows and books.  Oh, and an email weekly newsletter.

The Verge reports on the “intersection of technology, science, art, and culture.” Edited by Nilay Patel, the site offers longform articles, reviews, video and discussion forums.

MIT's Technology Review covers the latest in technological innovation, particularly in the fields of biotech, materials science, AI, VR, robotics, computing, and energy technology, 
plus occasional fictional explorations of science — one penned by yours truly.

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

Even more with-it is the promise of Berit Anderson's Scout news site, which will offer investigative reporting on economics, ethics and future tech, "through stories, conversations and prototypes."

Next Big Future: Coverage of Disruptive Science and Technology (by futurist Brian L. Wang) provides updates on energy, space travel and science research, as well as advances in technology, robotics, quantum computers, Artificial Intelligence and medicine.

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

Innovation Watch : The Future is Here (compiled by David Forrest) offers links to news on robotics, renewable energy, population, the internet, medicine, and entrepreneurship. offers updates on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nanotechnology, as well as news on research in physics, medicine and materials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== Futurist Organizations ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

== Discussing the Future: Podcasts ==

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singularity Bros takes on topics dealing with technology's impact on the human experience.

== Context for it all ==

I'll start collecting sites that give overviews of history and the universe, next.  Here are some samples:

Big History Project attempts to understand human history within cosmic, geological and biological time frames.

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

== A few Futurist Blogs and Discussions ==

A list of Futurists on Twitter.

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

Sentient Developments, by George Dvorsky.

Overcoming Bias by Glen Hiemstra.

Paleofuture, by Matt Novak on Gizmodo.

Open the Future, by Jamais Cascio.

The Technium, by Kevin Kelly.

Beyond the Beyond, by Bruce Sterling.

Futurist Blog, by Ramez Naam.

Future Memes, by Melanie Swan.

Explorations in Science, by Michio Kaku.

Contrary Brin, by David Brin.

Impact Lab, by Thomas Frey.

Top Trends by Richard Watson.

Global Futurist, by James Canton.

The Futurist by Jeffrey Kutler.

Accelerating Times, by John Smart.

Futurist blog, by Jack Uldrich.

Foresight Alliance, by Josh Calder and others.

Heathervescent, by Heather Schlegel.

Steal this Singularity, by R.U. Sirius

Futurist Hub, by Andrea Ferrante.

BBC Future.

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

== Reader input: suggestions made by you folks under comments ==

The Space Review: Commentary on space, past, present and future.
Quanta Magazine offers mixed articles on science.
Science Daily Science News stories.
O'Reilly RadarBlog on what O'Reilly Media sees as upcoming. 
Hieroglyph ideas, conversations, science and science fiction stories.
Shaping Tomorrow keeps a running list of trends and relevant technologies.

== And finally... making a better future ==

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

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

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

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


Jumper said...

I check out MIT often
and for nuts & bolts, R&D Magazine is often good at finding stuff I don't see elsewhere.

Jumper said...

For example, 3D printing with molten glass, with video

Alfred Differ said...

When I sat on the board at the Space Frontier Foundation, I used to argue for making arrangement to accept small donations and adjust our processes so the donors could see what they were bringing about. I based my arguments on your Proxy Activism paper. It's a hard sell because of the costs to the organization, but I thought it could be justified. I say this to encourage anyone who wants to pitch small dollars at organizations who don't get it to push a bit. There is a moderate chance someone in the organization does and your small dollars are exactly what they need to improve their focus. 8)

Unknown said...

This is a fun one, with podcasts- Meanwhile in the Future, from Gizmodo.

John Kurman said...

Jumper, Looks like MIT automated Mark Peiser's Cold Stream Casting process to 3D print glass.
He did it in 2004, using a vitritgraph, which I think goes back to Rudy Gritsch, in the late '80s. Although vitreography goes back at least to the Egyptians.
I'd considered contacting Shapeways back in 2012 to fill molds with a colored silly sand 3D printer for glass casting, but you know, good ideas tend to already be done…

Nice to see the real technological phenom of new tricks for old dogs. Better still, hybrids of old and new tech. Exciting very large number combinations of old and new tech await us!

locumranch said...

Another 'Go To' site is 'The Futurist' @ for intelligent introductions to the AI, Education, Petrotyranny, Retirement & Misandry Bubbles that (by best-case scenario) can only lead to either an orgy of 'creative destruction' or destruction of the non-creative type.


Jumper said...

John, I like it because it has no voids and unlike particulates which can be filled with resin it's a lot more stable under heat. And automatic, of course.
Low cost wire welder printer. Love the off-the-shelf parts.

Alex Tolley said...

Some of my favorites not already mentioned:

The Space Review Mixed commentary on space, past, present and future
Quanta Magazine mixed articles on science
Edge Possibly the most interesting website devoted to topics from John Brockman's stable of authors.
Science Daily Science News stories
O'Reilly RadarBlog on what O'Reilly Media sees as upcoming. Faded from its glory days, but still has some interesting posts
Hieroglyph ideas, science and stories
Beyond the Beyond Bruce Sterling's blog posts
The Scientist

I look for a mix of real science to see where we are and likely headed, plus more speculative pieces about the future.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...
Hedgehog comet surface positioning

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - I'm not clear from the video why the hedgehog wouldn't just fly off into space as it moves by "jumping". I would have thought that any rover needs to pin itself down to the surface. A good way to do that is to attach anchored lines to the surface and traverse those lines. It's rather similar to mountain climbing, except that there is no force pulling you across the surface, and any movement away from the surface will require the lines to pull the vehicle back.

Jumper said...

Presumably when you get it to jump you also tell it how high.

Rene said...

Great list, thanks a lot for the collection! Even though self-promotion is a bit against the rules, I'd like to point to my tumblr It's a ragbag full of emerging tech, odd futures and socio-technological trends. More near (likely) future developments than visionary topics. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

tcguru said...

A great list. You might want to add Shaping Tomorrow ( which keeps a running list of trends and relevant technologies.

David Brin said...



Unknown said...

What a fantastic resource, thank you so much for putting this together.

siska said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.