Category Archives: forecasting

Cultural Dimensions and Possible Futures

There is a distinction between uncertainty and ambiguity.  We live in ambiguous times, not uncertain times.  There is relevant information available for us to better understand the possible future ahead.  The key to robust foresight is the ability to effectively combine distinct analysis tools to clarify the details of social change.

Central to the toolkit I teach to students and use with clients is a method of applied semiotics called Culture Mapping.  Culture Mapping allows us to analyze language as patterns of social change.  It provides a matrix to measure the way language migrates in meaning as it is used to express our affirmation or dissent from established societal codes.  

Other tools are useful in providing additional context to establish hypotheses for analysis. For example, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions allows us to establish benchmarks of distinct contextual meaning from county to country.  This is particularly useful when determining how social language might affirm or deviate from norms in a country.

The foundation of these cultural dimensions is very useful for discourse analysis.  The key is to see how the emerging language is deviating from certain norms. The signifiers of these deviations provide taxonomies that indicate the dynamics of change within that country.  Evaluation of the distinction between probable and possible futures is determined by that taxonomy more than any other factor.

In the examples, here, I propose how EV adoption might differ in China vs. the USA.  The language in the commercials provides examples of linguistic differences that confirm the hypothesis established by the cultural dimensions.  How EV adoption evolves in each country will reflect the expressed synergy of dissonance in each cultural power system.  How well each country trusts or mistrusts the social order they are in.

How South Korea emerged as the center of the beauty industry is another interesting case study of cultural dimensions related to the semiotics of everyday life.  Beauty in South Korea has become an expression of the tension of cultural dimensions.  The innovation in the category has a lot to do with the dynamics of rapid socio-economic growth, rigid competitiveness, perfection, and an emerging desire to break away from all that and be relaxed and comfortable in one’s own decisions.


‘The Era of Urban Supremacy Is Over’

From July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, “New census data shows a huge spike in movement out of big metro areas during the pandemic,” Frey wrote in an April 2022 paper, including “an absolute decline in the aggregate size of the nation’s 56 major metropolitan areas (those with populations exceeding 1 million).”

This is the first time, Frey continued, “that the nation’s major metro areas registered an annual negative growth rate since at least 1990.”

Your brain may not be private much longer

Neurotechnology is upon us. Your brain urgently needs new rights.

The risks are profound. And the gaps in our existing rights are deeply problematic. So, where do I come out on the balance? I’m a little bit of a tech inevitabilist. I think the idea that you can somehow stop the train and say, “On balance, maybe this isn’t better for humanity and therefore we shouldn’t introduce it” — I just don’t see it working.

Maybe people will say, “My brain is too sacred and the risks are so profound that I’m not willing to do it myself,” but with the ways that people unwittingly give up information all the time and the benefits that are promised to them, I think that’s unlikely. I think we’ve got to carve out a different approach.

Nita Farahany

VW Gets Ready to Reveal a People’s Car for the Electric Age

Volkswagen is about to do what Tesla didn’t during its recent investor day: show off an affordable electric vehicle for the masses.

Forget Utopia. Ignore Dystopia. Embrace Protopia!

“Either we’re headed for a dystopia or we’re headed for a utopia,” Mr. Kelly, 70, recalled in a recent interview, describing the prevailing attitudes about the future at the time. “Neither of those seemed to be feasible, or even desirable.”

So Mr. Kelly coined a term to describe a third option, meant to represent the reality in which he believed we already lived: protopia.

Resetting the Hero Code

by Marie Lena Tupot and Tim Stock

This morning, Robert C. Hockett, Cornell Professor of Law, discussed the Silicon Valley Bank situation on CNN. Hockett emphasized that the moment we are in is one of reindustrialization. We are back to making things. Hockett calls out the renewed importance of sector-specific banks, functioning as defacto credit unions and managed prudently. The situation has caught everyone off guard. Why? One reason Hockett cites is that the U.S. hasn’t had an interest rise like this in 50 years.

Agreed, but there is another phenomenon we are seeing. The narrative of hero code. Silicon Valley Bank has functioned along the lines of hero code. It was founded by former Bank of America managers in 1983 over a game of poker (Piscione, 2013). The most recent Wired Magazine‘s interview with Hockett asks “Is it sensible for a single bank to dominate an industry?” and uses words such as “rescue.”

With reindustrialization and a move back to maker culture, the notion of hero has long been losing its relevance.

This makes sense when we hear Hockett bring up the 1970s’ Volcker Era. PBS discussed Volcker in November 2022: “Ultimately, it took a crackdown by cigar-chomping Fed chairman Paul Volcker to break the cycle of rising prices and wages. Volcker slammed the brakes on the economy by raising interest rates to 20% — tough medicine to prove he was serious about getting inflation under control” (Horsley, 2022).

Heroes are not about “tough medicine.”

We can look at what hero code really means through the lens of developing AI and the design of ideal artificial moral agents: applying bravery, courage, integrity (Wiltshire, 2015). It’s a bit alarming though that in the age of ChatGPT, the most recent archetypal discussion looks at only the hero.

We have come so far from that framework, and are now stuck with heroes. Some right-wing memes even take issue with extending the honor of hero to healthcare frontline workers, believing hero lives only in the realm of law enforcement.

A hero is only one archetype that makes the world go ‘round.

We need to diversify our understanding of human behavioral codes. Karl Jung established nine archetypes. They each play a role in human culture. We look at each archetype to better understand centers of gravity. 

The everyman, ruler, caregiver, innocent, lover, hero, jester, creator, explorer, magician, sage, and rebel. They all live out there at the same moment. To date, the hero stands alone having devolved into a dreaded narcissist. Hello, Russell Brand. Guardian columnist George Monbiot says he “once admired Russell Brand. But his grim trajectory shows us where politics is heading.”

We need a clear process of information gathering and intelligence to understand the cognitive spaces behind these discussions.

Director John Walker’s 2019 documentary Assholes: A Theory is onto something. “BAD behavior is as old as human history, something we all encounter at some point—whether on the playground, in the workplace or in public life. But the phenomenon seems to be amplified in an age of venomous social media and resurgent authoritarian politics.”

The academics, including Hockett, interviewed in support of the hypothesis are pretty remarkable. Although, the documentary makers are liberally using the term “theory” at this point. 

Works cited:

Horsley, S. (2022, September 29). Memories of the 1970s haunt the Fed, pushing its aggressive rate moves. NPR. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from,about%20getting%20inflation%20under%20control. 

Lichfield, G. (2023, March 13). Silicon Valley will still need a bank. Wired. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from

Monbiot, G. (2023, March 10). I once admired Russell Brand. but his grim trajectory shows us where politics is heading | George Monbiot. The Guardian. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from 

Piscione, D. P. (2013, April). Secrets of Silicon Valley: What everyone else can learn from the innovation capital of the world. Palgrave Macmillan.

Walker, J. (Director). (2019). Assholes: A Theory [Film]. A John Walker Production.

Wiltshire, T. J. (2015, February 14). A prospective framework for the design of ideal artificial moral agents: Insights from the science of heroism in humans – minds and machines. SpringerLink. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from 

The 15-minute city is already here. It’s called Paris

Is the “15-minute city,” a concept in which all of life’s necessary amenities are no more than a brisk walk away, a vision of urban paradise or a thinly disguised open-air prison? Town planning experts tend toward the former, conspiracy theorists toward the latter.

The maps, by the Paris Urbanism Agency (Apur), reflect the result of the latest triennial survey of shops, cafés, and restaurants in the French capital in 2020. The survey shows that there were 1,180 boulangeries (bakeries) and/or patisseries (cake shops) in the city. After declining in the first decade of the 21st century, their number has remained stable over the decade up to 2020. In the previous three years, 94 businesses had closed, but 91 new ones had started up.

Museums in the Future as Depicted in Popular Videogames: Looking Forward to Visit or Better Run-run Away?

This article relates to the role of museums in popular videogames as a possible indicator of how museums will be (or not) in the future. It aims to contribute to the ongoing discussion on the future of museums in the physical and the digital world. We focus on how the future of museum is represented in popular videogames. The spark of inspiration for this article was a presentation done by the authors for the “The Future Museum in the Future City” (authors, 2021) in Qatar, 2021. It is part of an ongoing research project on museums in popular videogames (MPVG), run by the Museology Research Laboratory of the Ionian University, Corfu, Greece.

Robots Won’t Save Japan addresses the Japanese government’s efforts to develop care robots in response to the challenges of an aging population, rising demand for eldercare, and a critical shortage of care workers. Drawing on ethnographic research at key sites of Japanese robot development and implementation, James Wright reveals how such devices are likely to transform the practices, organization, meanings, and ethics of caregiving if implemented at scale.

This new form of techno-welfare state that Japan is prototyping involves a reconfiguration of care that deskills and devalues care work and reduces opportunities for human social interaction and relationship building. Moreover, contrary to expectations that care robots will save labor and reduce health care expenditures, robots cost more money and require additional human labor to tend to the machines. As Wright shows, robots alone will not rescue Japan from its care crisis. The attempts to implement robot care instead point to the importance of looking beyond such techno-fixes to consider how to support rather than undermine the human times, spaces, and relationships necessary for sustainably cultivating good care.

Noam Chomsky: The False Promise of ChatGPT

For instance, a young child acquiring a language is developing — unconsciously, automatically and speedily from minuscule data — a grammar, a stupendously sophisticated system of logical principles and parameters. This grammar can be understood as an expression of the innate, genetically installed “operating system” that endows humans with the capacity to generate complex sentences and long trains of thought. When linguists seek to develop a theory for why a given language works as it does (“Why are these — but not those — sentences considered grammatical?”), they are building consciously and laboriously an explicit version of the grammar that the child builds instinctively and with minimal exposure to information. The child’s operating system is completely different from that of a machine learning program.