How to Be A Futurist

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On December 6-7 2016,  the 92nd Street Y and the Future Today Institute convened  top research scientists, technologists, ethicists, policy makers, authors, elected officials, academics and artists to take stock of where we are—and where we are going. All parties were engaged –in provocative conversations about where we’re headed.

Over two unforgettable days at the Future Today Summit held in 92Y, there was an  ignition of a global conversation—from the stage in NYC, to simultaneous worldwide meetups in Austin, Johannesburg, Haifa, Dublin and Ruschlikon—about how our decisions today have the potential to change the course of history.

The idea behind this summit is that the  future is not something that will take place in a lab. The future is not for a select few. It is something that we build together. The gathering served as a means to explore  wide-ranging look at the questions we all have to grapple with now to determine the shape of our future such as :

  • Is it irresponsible for us not to be using AI? With IBM Waton’s Chief Technology Officer; The New Yorker’s cartoon editor Bob Mankoff; Backchannel’s Jessi Hemple and more.
  • What happens to all of the social media posts, webpages and data we are currently creating? Will it be around forever? With Note To Self’s Manoush Zomorodi and authors Jon Ronson and Douglas Rushkoff.
  • What free speech protections will we afford to machines that are capable of mimicking human expression? With former NYT investigative reporter Judith Miller, Yale Law School’s Jack Balkin and Jay Stanley from the ACLU.

The summit included two days of interactive activities from attendees who got a chance to explore IBM Watson, to try out VR, to sample futuristic foods and to hear from world-renowned thinkers. The future is not destined, but rather something that we build together.

Meet A Futurist : Conversation with Amy Webb

Amy Webb describes herself as a futurist, she is the CEO and founder of the Future Today Institute, that has been around for 11 years-  we sat for a brief interview at the summit. We are professional futurists with academic backgrounds and forecasting  she said,  her job is to advice along with her team other organizations on how to plan for the future. Amy said, they have worked with a car company on what is the future of driving will look like in ten years, her company has advised the White House and State Department on issues related to digital diplomacy and cyber security. She says her point of view as a professional futurist and job is to use data as evidence, model out scenarios and test those scenarios to figure out the probability of those things happening. The whole point of this she says is to reverse engineer back to the present so that we can start making better decisions and plan better. Amy says there is elasticity of time that we function in as futurist and that is what she does. Her company comprises of a close team of fifteen who do work all over the world. Amy advises foreign companies, fortune 500 companies and large foundations, she also teaches future forecasting at the NYU school of business and has a brand new book called The Signals Are Talking, she says it entails all of her tools used to forecast the future and she believes that everybody should be able to do what she does . “I want to democratize the tools of a futurist”, she said. Adding that It is very important to her especially as science and technology becomes more complicated that we take an active role in shaping what is to come;  the only way to do that is to use the tools of a futurist and that is why she wrote the book.

Why The Summit?

Amy said that this is her first time in partnership with the 92Y and the reason for doing this is that she is  very concerned everybody is sort of marveling at science and technology  like its a wonder or people are very fearful and either way she just doesn’t see why people are critical and not engaging in constructive conversations and asking questions. Amy says that normally when you see people talking about tech or science it is usually marketing or sales people and the data scientist and chief tech officers, policy people are reserved for very specialists’ meeting and she wanted to bring in fellow experts in the field in front of an audience and have them talk to each other so that we have greater understanding. The whole point of the two day summit is to expand our worldviews , to think differently – for example to have a panel on Artificial Intelligence (AI)  which is not about AI taking our jobs because AI is much more than that. The problem she identifies is that when emerging tech is reduced to headlines, we miss having important conversations for people to be reflective and introspective and to pause and think through ‘what does this all mean?”

What Should We Expect Of The Future?  

Amy said that AI is a big thing like machine learning, consider Biohacking And bioengineering in the mix of future technology; their annual big reports was recently published here.


A Tech Expert Breaks Down The Future Of Tech Applications:

Kabir Bolatito is a young software application automation contractor for Fortune 500 companies working from New York, I consulted with him to get a breakdown of how the technology we think of as the future is being applied today.

Technology has increased greatly over the years, from IBM Watson AI intelligence machine, mitsuku chatbot, IPsoft Amelia raising AI, he said. Considering the concept of data analysis, data analysis which could harness the information of an individual could transform the data into something presentable. Data analysis can be used to predict an occurrence, for example; collecting the health information of a person, collecting and saving the data and matching/comparing any symptom to an existing disease or illness and if non-categorizing it as a new disease..

According to Bolatito, technology is growing so big and rapidly that it is constantly transforming the health sector through data gathering, analyzing, manipulation and presentation with the aim of helping patients stay healthy, and preventing health failure. In an attempt to improve health across the world, the world which consists of people with a different ethnic background, different language, and orientation, the technology of today is constantly bridging the gap of language barrier through language translation program.

Health care just got better, several computer application which has enhance doctor collaboration across the world have enabled doctors to work closely with each other without having to be physically present. In addition, as doctor’s appointment waiting session increases in a hospital, technology have revolutionized doctor’s appointment whereby one can get medical treatment and appointment over the phone or through videos calling which have made it easy to access doctors irrespective of one’s location.

Even though we are able to access medical consultation over the phone, there is still need for constant health monitor without one’s conscious of it. Technology at it best, a wearable device which keeps track of our overall health and offers an array of a solution on how to improve it. I believe technology has enhanced our health through data collection, bridging language barrier, easy doctor access and doctor to patient relationship.

Based on the Future Today summit discussions and takeaways, Bolatito further provides a look at some applications of the technology of the future we should begin getting acquainted with:


The future of artificial intelligence is going to challenge the way the world operates Bolatito said. our daily activities will be shaped and the normal societal norm will be expanded and the ways business are conducted as complex business problems will be simplified. Complex mathematical equations can be simplified, trading platforms complex problems can be solved by the use of artificial intelligence….


Bolatito: Taking over the genetic code of life, altering the very genetic gnome of human building blocks. We have become so advanced in terms of hacking our very self, imagine a person who has lost an eyesight, with biohacking we can restore sight buy chipping the eye socket which will act as an interference between the eye socket and the brain, thus transmitting the data from the eye to the brain. Any damaged part of the body can be replaced with an artificial part which will replace the damaged part, interestingly the replaced part could be grown from the cell of the individual or printed using a 3D model. Interesting possibilities lies ahead of us in terms of biohacking, life span can be improved through reverse aging, developing smart drug which will fight against diseases and improve our immune system. Most interesting is the synchronization of our body with our smartphones or gadgets which will constantly measure, record, and inform us of an impending disease or an activities which could lead to illness. Considering the fact that the world population is constantly increasing, and the ability to alter the biology of plant seeds, we can increase the productivity of every farm produce to meet up the demand.


Bolatito: We are constantly generating recording and storing huge amounts of data every second and we have surpassed Moore’s concept which explained the capabilities of machines to store and process information would double every two years, we are stepping into a fragile cyber ecosystem which tampering would pose risk to all the data we have ever collected, we are not posed with the challenges of securing this data and information for future historian, how can we ensure that longevity of our data, how can we better preserve it, should in case we get wiped out, how will the future generation of human race have access to all these massive data collected and how can they interpret it? How can they interprets a pile of code written in so many different languages? Maybe we could achieve all these data into a book and store it somewhere safe, a continuous write-in and continuous storage.


Bolatito: Brain machine interfaces has proved itself over the years, we have a great theoretical physicist,  professor Stephen Hawking, (Professor Hawking, who has motor neuron disease, is only able to communicate by using a small sensor which is activated by a muscle in his cheek), uses a technology created by intel to communicate his thought and has accomplished a lot over the years, he has solved complex physics problem, contributed to the growing science community; imagine if we can increase the capability of these innovation we will be able to access our brain irrespective of our physical appearance, download contents from the brain without having to talk, write or even give a sign gestures. In a world which constantly streams data, the need to study more, assimilate more can be reduced by uploading contents into the brain, and focus on solving more problems. In addition to brain machine interface, I believe brain-machine interface will one day solve the mystery of SOUL CONCEPT(what is a soul), as we are gearing towards developing technology which can receive information through Telepathy (Telepathy is the ability to transfer information from one mind to another) we can broader understand the SOUL CONCEPT. Now the question is, will the soul concept enable us to understand consciousness? Or will it enable us to attain human technological transcendence?(a technology which seems promising in transcendence movie were Dr. Will Caster acted by Johnny Depp was able to create an artificial sentient machine). I believe with this technology human longevity can be increased, increase in IQ and/or probably live forever. Let’s get together, brew ideas and make it a reality.


The summit included two days of interactive activities from attendees who got a chance to explore IBM Watson, to try out VR, to sample futuristic foods and to hear from world-renowned thinkers. The future is not destined, but rather something that we build together.

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