Monday, December 7, 2009

Future Tourism

By 2020- the nature of traditional Tourism will have radically altered in many ways.
There has already been a reduction in overseas travel and this trend will accelerate, as more travellers become aware that air travel contributes 3%-4% of global carbon emissions. This will increase the popularity of local destinations in all countries, including exploring local wildernesses and heritage sites, as well as exotic city theme parks. Communities in city and country areas with common interests will also take advantage of local resources to a much greater degree, creating their own local travel themes independently of the larger operators.

Travel will also need to become more eco-friendly and socially responsible, with travel operators offering a choice of carbon offsets such as tree planting. And as tourists also contribute to the risk of damage to fragile archealogical sites and pristine wildernesses, they will be encouraged to volunteer their skills to remediate the environments they visit, as part of a holiday package.

By 2030/40- many ecosystems will have disappeared or be at risk- reefs, coastal areas, forests and glaciers etc, while thirty percent of animal and plant species will have disappeared or be endangered. Tourists will be banned from most national parks and will rush to visit the last great cultural sites and wildernesses on earth before they disappear or are closed to humans. Following today's trend, most wild animal species will be viewed solely in zoos and theme parks.

Major cities and surrounding areas will become the main tourist hubs, offering not only traditional entertainment and cultural experiences, but previously outdoor physical activities such as surfing, skiing, fishing and golfing; but now in controlled managed environments.

By 2050 tourism will have fragmented into myriad exotic experiences often transacted in virtual and augmented realites- simulating extraordinarily realistic and immersive environments,involving all the senses. Gradually such travel experiences will be indistinguishable from previous realities- allowing unlimited options- trips into space and under the oceans, back in time to historic events and forward into future civilisations.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Future Democracy 2.0

The Director of The Future Planet Research Centre- David Hunter Tow, predicts a number of indicators are pointing to a major leap towards a more public participatory form of democracy in the near future-a new model of democracy– Democracy 2.0
Democracy as with all other processes engineered by human civilisation is evolving at a rapid rate.

Web 2.0’s social networking, blogging, messaging and video services have already significantly changed the way people discuss and exchange ideas on the Web. In addition a number of popular sites exist as forums to actively harness people’s opinions and encourage debate about contentious topics, funneling them to political processes. These are often coupled to online petitions, allowing the public to deliver opinions and requests to Government and receive a response.

In addition there are a plethora of specialized browsers and analytical tools aimed at locating and interpreting information about contentious topics such as global warming and medical advances. These are increasingly linked to Argumentation frameworks, supporting the logical basis of arguments, negotiation and other structured forms of group-decision making. New logic and statistical tools can also provide inference and evaluation mechanisms to better assess the evidence for a particular hypothesis.

Such ‘intelligence-based’ algorithms are rapidly becoming capable of automating the analysis and advice provided to politicians, to a similar quality level as that offered by human experts. It might be argued that there is still a need for the role of politicians and leaders in assessing and prioritising expert advice in the overriding national interest. But a moment’s reflection leads to the opposite opinion. Politicians have party allegiances and internal obligations that can create serious conflicts of interest and skew the best advice. History is replete with disastrous decisions based on false premises driven by party political bias. One needs to look no further in recent times than the patently inadequate evidential basis for the US’s war in Iraq.

Democracy has a long evolutionary history. The current cyber-based advances presage a much more interactive public form of democracy and mark the next phase in its ongoing evolution.

The concept of democracy - the notion that men and women have the right to govern themselves – was practised at around 2,500 BP in Athens. The Athenian polity or political body, granted all citizens the right to be heard and to participate in decision making; while the City State demanded services from the individual in return. There is evidence however that the role of popular assembly actually arose earlier in some Phoenician cities such as Sidon and Babylon in the ancient assemblies of Syria- Mesopotamia as an organ of local government and justice.

Democracy, as demonstrated in these early periods, although imperfect, offered each individual a stake in the nation’s collective decision-making processes. It therefore provided a greater incentive for each individual to increase group productivity. Through a more open decision process wealth is generated and distributed more equitably. An increase in overall economic wellbeing in turn generates more possibilities and potential to acquire knowledge, education and employment, coupled to greater individual choice and freedom.

The evolution of democracy can also be seen in terms of improved human rights. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several ensuing legal treaties define political, cultural and economic rights as well as the rights of women, children, ethnic groups and religions. This declaration is intended to create a global safety net of rights applicable to all peoples everywhere, with no exceptions. It also recognises the principle of the subordination of national sovereignty to the universality of human rights; the dignity and worth of human life beyond the jurisdiction of any state.

The global spread of democracy is now also irreversibly linked to the new cooperative globalisation model, with the EU providing a compelling template; complementing national decisions in the global interest at the commercial, financial, legal, health and information-sharing level. The spread of new technology and knowledge industries also provides the opportunity for developing countries to gain a quantum leap in material wellbeing, an essential prerequisite for a stable democracy.

Dictatorships or quasi democratic one party states still exist in Africa and Asia with regimes such as China, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, the Sudan and Belarus seeking to maintain total control over their populations. However two thirds of sub-Saharan countries have staged elections in the past ten years, with coups becoming less common and wars waning. African nations are also starting to police human rights in their own region. African Union peacekeepers now deployed in Darfur and are working with UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the Freedom House Report, an independent survey of political and civil liberties around the globe, the world has made great strides towards democracy in the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1900 there were 25 restricted democracies in existence covering an eighth of the world’s population, but none which could be judged as based on universal suffrage. The US and Britain denied voting rights to women and in the case of the US, also to African Americans. But at the end of the 20th century 119 of the world’s 192 nations were declared electoral democracies. In the current century, democracy continues to spread through Africa and Asia and significantly also the Middle East, with over 130 states in various stages of democratic evolution.

However there is still a disjunction between the developed west and those developing countries only now recovering from colonisation and subsequent domination by dictators, fascist regimes and warlords. There is in fact a time gap of several hundred years between the democratic trajectory of the west and east, which these countries are endeavouring to bridge within a generation; often creating serious short-term challenges and cultural dislocations.

A very powerful enabler for the spread of democracy as mentioned is the Internet/Web. By increasing the flow of essential knowledge it facilitates transparency, reduces corruption, empowers dissidents and ensures governments are more responsive to their citizen’s needs. It is already providing the infrastructure for the emergence of Democracy 2.0; empowering all people to have direct input into critical decision processes affecting their lives, without the distortion of political intermediaries.

Over time democracy as with all other social processes will evolve to best suit the demands of its human environment. It will emerge as a networked model- a non-hierarchical, resilient protocol, responsive to rapid social change. Such networked forms of government will involve local communities from the ground up; the opposite of hierarchical decision-making, as implemented by current political systems. These are frequently unresponsive to individual and minority group needs and can be easily corrupted by powerful lobby groups such as those employed by the heavy carbon emitters in the global warming debate.

The networked architecture is now evolving supported by the Web and will provide more democratic outcomes for all populations on the planet. Decision processes will to be sifted through global community knowledge, resulting in truly representative and equitable global governance. Democracy itself will continue to evolve with new forms of e-government, which will include the active participation of advocacy groups supported by a consensus of expert knowledge via the intelligent Web.

A form of global consciousness will evolve, where the back channel of opinion will gradually subsume hierarchical filtered political processes. New forms of the democratic process at the community and regional level are already growing, pointing towards the emergence of a new form of truly representative public participation and cooperation- Democracy 2.0.

This trend ensuring a fairer and more peaceful society must continue if humanity is to survive the turmoil and uncertainty of dramatic change ahead.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Future Global Cooperation - Key to Survival

Global warming is now perceived as the dominant threat to humans and to present civilisation. This will manifest increasingly in more extreme events such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, heat waves etc putting at risk water, food and infrastructure resources; rising sea levels putting at risk two thirds of the world’s major cities and all low lying coastal areas; loss of biodiversity with the consequent crashing of food chains; increases in deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and in worst case scenarios the risk of escalating chaos and conflict in developing countries.

Gradually humans in all countries are realising that only through cooperation on a global scale can they effectively survive the major threats to their survival in the future. In the areas of health, technology, agriculture, trade, climate change and disaster management, global partnerships are beginning to make a significant difference to the lives of the disadvantaged.

Global warming and its impact on ecosystems and biodiversity is one of the most critical areas where cooperative research is essential, with the very survival of the planet at stake. Conserving ecosystems and the services they provide such as maintaining clean air and water, is now seen as vital to human self-interest and survival. This has now been recognised with the establishment of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into force 1993, with the goal of arresting the decline in global diversity by 2010. In addition, 190 countries at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development committed to achieving a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss.

Global Warming and the increasing awareness of the need to shift to less polluting energy solutions as well as conserve energy water resources has become a major issue for communities and business. In a very short timeframe all human developed social and physical infrastructure systems, including those of health, transport, education, communications, energy, building, computing etc will need to be oriented towards mitigating this potential global catastrophe.

The International Conference on Biodiversity Science and Governance in January 2004, organised by France and UNESCO, suggested a global network of experts be established, to increase knowledge of biodiversity and establish the scientific basis to achieve its goals. This requires broad based international cooperation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the creation of a UN Environmental organization. Agreeing on suitable indicators to measure this loss is obviously critical. The first step was taken in 2004 by this convention’s agreement on 18 indicators with France to include an environmental charter in its constitution in 2005. Researchers from around the world are also planning a global project to tag important marine species- The Ocean Tracking Project. This will cover 14 ocean regions and should provide insights into how climate change is affecting marine ecosystems and migration.

Another key long term initiative is the Climate Watch Pact, an earth observation summit, which defines how the US, Japan, Russia, China and the EU will apportion data collection among the earth orbiting satellites, monitoring future water supply, weather forecasting, drought mitigation, bushfire control, flood prediction, hurricanes and crop growth.

Global warming and related poverty is also linked to increases in major diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, tuberulosis and HIV/Aids. There are now thousands of medical research initiatives seeking to apply the new scientific breakthroughs in molecular biology to counter the pathology of disease. One critical area is the ongoing effort to find an effective vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Twenty million people have already died and 40 million more currently have the virus, reducing life expectancy by in some countries by 18 years.

The WHO summit recently hosted four hundred government and UN agency officials, donors and experts in human and animal health, to develop a global plan to build early warning systems to spot early outbreaks of infectious diseases, stockpile drugs and encourage vaccine research and cooperation at all levels. The WTO provides inexpensive drugs to the poor and allows Africa to import cheaper copies of patented drugs for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Tapping into the expertise of nationals living abroad is one example of cooperation. Because of the reduced support and interest by rich countries in finding solutions for problems of developing countries in the tropics, a consultative group on international agricultural research was established, which promotes sustainable agricultural development across the developing world, with a shift of research activities from the public to private sector. Another initiative was the creation of the Arab Science and Technology Foundation in 2002 in the United Arab Emirates to promote international cooperation on science and technology among Arab countries and other members of the international community.

All the above initiatives are critical to the survival of our civilisation and demonstrate the underlying imperative of evolution in reacting to environmental indicators that signal a threat to the survival of life. Cooperation through sharing and integrating the world’s knowledge and resources in the future to facilitate energy, health, education, food and water access and sustainability for all, will now be critical our survival.

Since the Indian ocean tsunami, which killed over 300,000 people in 2004, together with the recent disastrous earthquakes in China, Iran, Pakistan, Kashmir and Indonesia, it has been increasingly recognised that major disasters can only be managed and mitigated through cooperation and the sharing of resources on a global scale. These catastrophes have been the catalyst for cooperative assistance and long-term economic development in poorer countries. They have also served to raise humanitarian awareness beyond racial, social, religious and sectarian constraints in developed nations.

Global Cooperation must therefore continue to develop, to ensure human and life's survival and the full realisation of its potential

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Future Planet Foundations

The goal of this blog is to monitor and analyze the evolution of the health and sustainability of the planet and impacts on its life systems- covering climate, energy, food, water, ecology, ecosystems, biodiversity etc.

In addition it will examine the cultures, technologies and philosophies driving the evolution of human life and civilisation into the far future.

Green videos are also freely downloadable viz- the State of the Planet Series /Ecosystems, to be extended in 2010, from the website