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Our Vision

Our General Vision: A more informed, foresighted, optimistic, and empowered world community.

More specifically, we'd like to do our small part to promote the emergence of a wiser and more antifragile noosphere (human-machine civilization), both in societal (scientific-technological-economic-environmental-political-social) and psychological (emotional-moral-spiritual) dimensions. For one of the better-known early visions along those lines, see Teilhard de Chardin, The Human Phenomenon, 1955. Teilhard was a Christian, but his vision was universal. The idea that our universe is a place that appears strongly biased—and self-organized—to evolve and develop ever more ethical and adaptive minds, at an accelerating pace, is a hypothesis that we share, and it transcends any particular religious heritage.

Our Research Vision: Progress in Acceleration and Evo Devo Studies (AEDS)

As good data and theory should inform human action, our research vision is to be a catalyst in the development of academic programs in Acceleration and Evolutionary Development Studies (AEDS) in coming years.

Advances in evolutionary developmental ("evo devo") biology, cosmology, astrobiology, complexity studies, and the philosophy of science and technology are providing glimpses of a new paradigm for the understanding of universal change, one that involves the operation of both evolutionary and developmental processes at multiple systems levels. Stochastic processes (randomness within constraints) which create biological complexity exhibit both evolutionary unpredictability and developmental predictability. By applying the meta-Darwinian insights of evo devo biology, where evolution is broadly restricted by previous developmental path dependency and physical law, we are learning to recognize predictable developmental trajectory and constraint in both pre- and post-biological systems, concurrent with the chaos and contingency of evolutionary adaptation which has historically been more evident in the life and natural sciences.

As we envision it, students and practitioners of AEDS should seek to better identify, analyze, and falsifiably forecast predictable developmental trends in accelerating scientific and technological change that presently appear to be occurring on our planet. Due to the special physics of the universe we inhabit, such trends appear particularly evident in such domains as the growth of computing capacity, communications capacity, storage capacity, database sophistication, hardware and software performance, informetrics, sensor discrimination and ubiquity, simulation capacity, energy efficiency, miniaturiation, dematerialization, virtualization, and other areas. A data-backed understanding of the developmental components of these scientific and technological trends may also improve our models of development in economic, political, and social domains, including GDP growth, political and economic liberalization, globalization, transparency, violence minimization, energy consumption saturation, sustainability, and other areas. At the same time, a better understanding of evolutionary process at all scales will help us understand the limits of development and the fundamental unpredictability and generativity of evolution.

Through promoting the academic and professional development of AEDS, we also aim to catalyze the emergence of a better and more theoretically grounded futures studies. This would allow for better forecasting for predictable social and technological development, for better scenario planning for unpredictable social and technological evolution, and for better ways of discriminating between predictable developmental and unpredictable evolutionary processes.

The promise of a grounded field of foresight has existed for more than 100 years, beginning with H.G. Wells call for "professors of foresight," and a "science of prediction" in his speech, The Discovery of the Future, 1902. (Here is a PDF of Well's complete works). Only recently, as we have come to understand the irreversible physical nature and and predictability of a range of accelerating computational and communications capacities has this promise appeared within reach.

In the process of formulating and advancing a curriculum and practice in AEDS, ASF will work to network a range of presently isolated groups, including:

acceleration researchers
actuaries and statisticians
competitive and business intelligence analysts
complexity researchers
computer scientists and technologists
demographers, sociologists and anthropologists
economists and econometricians
engineers and systems analysts
evolutionary development researchers
forecasters
futures studies practitioners
futurists
information theorists and communication scientists

innovation and entrepreneurship researchers
military and intelligence analysts
operations researchers
physicists
political scientists and globalization researchers
science and technology historians
strategic planners
systems theorists
technology assessment and policy analysts
technology roadmappers

Much work remains to be done. Today, most futures studies practitioners do not attempt to forecast probable developments, or to test those forecasts against reality. Few forecasters employ futures methodologies, including scenario planning. Computer scientists, who see accelerating computational trends, are not well integrated with the forecasting community. Operations researchers, who are working toward a general theory of efficiency as a "science of better," do not yet see efficiency in developmental terms. In the biological and complexity sciences, few evolutionary theorists and developmental theorists talk to each other, and fewer still are familiar with the emerging paradigm of evolutionary development.

As Mike Korns observes, recent scientific research increasingly demonstrates the value of modeling the universe and its subsystems in terms of information theory. Today's leading cosmologists find value in thinking of the laws of physics as analogous to computer programs and the universe as something like a computer, engaging in simultaneous processes of evolution and development.

Within this fascinating emerging paradigm, one that provides context to accelerating technological change as a universally-aided process, ASF's most personal service mission might be: "How can we profit, spiritually, financially, and emotionally, by anticipating and guiding accelerating changes within our environment, and by modeling ourselves in more universal terms?" ASF's core proposition is that somewhere within the many positive sum answers to this question, lie the solutions to our basic human needs. 

 

 

 

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