|Volume 12, Number 3 – 9/15/09PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENT|
Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “Even for those of us who have known John Petersen over the years, his insights into our revolutionary age still are enlightening, and often astonishing. As the Paul Revere of the early 21st century, his message is: The Future is Here! He is a visionary with an ethical dimension and a too little known national asset. This deceptively short essay is a primer for an explosive future that is already upon us. It should be required reading for the next President.”
by John L. Petersen
“Fear Disappears from the Market” was the headline of the news article I received recently from friend Paul Saffo. “Not only does the market continue to rally, but the VIX, sometimes called the fear index, is at the lows of the year.” It seems a lot of people think the problems are past.
I don’t think so. Seems to me that we haven’t even begun to experience the really big change and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, the financial issues are systemic – they are a product of the structure of the system and they are intrinsically not sustainable. If you really want to understand this, go to Chris Martenson’s website and watch his free Crash Course – www.chrismartenson.com. As Chris says, the system will continue going until it crashes. The crash is inevitable, it is just unknown exactly when it is going to happen.
This is no different conceptually than knowing that if you overdraw your checking account at some point the bank is going to bounce your checks. It’s that predictable. If you’re open to this possibility, the indicators abound. If you’re not – if you believe the same analysts who didn’t anticipate the last deep dive – then you probably are going to be surprised . . . . again.
The underlying indicators (the health of banks, amount of unemployment, reports of Fed buying back Treasury Bonds because there are not enough foreign buyers, et al.) alone are enough to convince me that we haven’t seen the last of this economic disruption – without even considering the fact that global oil production has been flat for three years and there are indications that more climate instability is on the way. Throw in a little swine flu and it is hard to come to the conclusion that the roller coaster ride is over already. On the plus side, discovery and development in the energy and technology sectors are clearly exponential, carrying with them the distinct possibility of threatening the continuity of some of the largest institutions in the world.
But the bigger, far more interesting question is whether this confluence of very visible events is part of some larger, much more profound change that will not return us to the status quo ante.
This is not some arcane, academic type of question. There are a large number of compelling indicators that suggest that this is the case. In my book, A Vision for 2012, I tell about how the cycles of American social history predict that a major disruption of the magnitude of the Civil War or the Great Depression is now due. The recession we are now experiencing doesn’t even begin to qualify as the defining moment that has always shown up at this point in the repeating sequence that has held true since the landing at Jamestown.
Elliot Wave theorists say that there is an extraordinary confluence of historical waves showing up now that presages huge change. Assessments of historical cycles of “novelty” predict big shifts are coming. Many indigenous prophets and shamans say the big change that has been prophesied for centuries is now upon us. And then, if you want to really reach out in unconventional space there are many psychics and channels who point to October or some time later (but soon) for a very significant disruption.
Why even mention psychics and channels? Well, we are living in a time of unprecedented, exponential change. There is no question about this in terms of population growth, species depletion, science discoveries, natural resource usage, technological invention, and information and knowledge growth (among many other metrics). The size and metabolism of the system in which we live is getting far larger and more complex at such extraordinary rates that it is now beyond human ability to understand it. (In the financial arena alone, the honest experts will tell you that at a fundamental level they don’t know exactly what they are doing in their manipulations of the national and global system because it is too complex to understand.)
So we have a system that is very rapidly growing and expanding in ways for which there is clearly no precedent. We do not have history or experience (or modeling) that will tell us how this platform that supports us all will behave and it is obvious that potential failure modes (because of size and interdependence) are far larger than ever before. There is far more risk.
I’d argue that in a situation like this, necessity should be the mother of invention – we need to be looking at every new and old (and unconventional) source and capability that we can find that might give us a fix on what might be on our horizon because if it changes in a hurry, the effects of the surprise will be exacerbated because we didn’t see it coming and didn’t do anything defensive. We also know from formerly highly classified programs that some of these intuitives have generated extraordinary and accurate intelligence for the U.S and Soviet governments in the past, i.e. it works. If it works, we should use it — always being diligent about quality control.
What do these unconventional sources say? They’re pretty universal in describing an epochal shift that could be described as nothing less than the largest punctuation in evolution that our species has ever experienced – extraordinary change in a very short period of time. Think about what that might mean.
The issue at hand? How do you alert people to a looming potentiality that is so large that no one alive has any reasonable means of visualizing it? How do you get people to begin to consider something that could be essentially unfathomable in any conventional terms? Some friends have suggested that a more “balanced” approach to reporting would be in order here. To know that an event of this magnitude could be in the works and to pull your punches in the face of it would certainly lack integrity and set people up for failure, so that is not an option. Somehow the size and significance must be made clear to those who are willing to listen, so that they can begin to do the things that need to be done to ready themselves for when and if the shift comes.
The problem is complicated by the fact that specific futures are not predictable. There are too many independent actors who are influencing the process that you can be assured that every attempt possible will be made to put off a collapse or disruption as long as possible . . . which seems in fact to be happening. A number of sources were suggesting early in the year that a very big disruption was due in August/September. As we got closer, the tune started to change: things were slipping – now it looked like September/October. Then just weeks ago, some sources said that it was smoothing out . . . for now (all of that money being pumped into the system has to have some effect, one would think). But there are a bunch that still don’t see smooth sailing for many weeks. Almost of the authoritative ones say the break is inevitable; it’s just not clear exactly when it will happen. What I can say is that there are still a significant number of credible voices that are reporting that it is close at hand.
All that said, we have nevertheless decided that in addition to highlighting the indicators that point to the coming shift, we’ll begin to actively look for articles that suggest ways to actively deal with it. That’s a bit different from the “weather reporter” role I’ve always seen as the core function of a futurist. Prescription is certainly personalized, and I wouldn’t presume to know and understand anyone’s situation other than my own, but we’ll try to find some general suggestions that may be helpful. That will not absolve you from doing your own research and building your own plan. The web, after all, is loaded with stuff on this subject, and I suspect that you know how to use Google.
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
An emerging field known as sentiment analysis is taking shape around one of the computer world’s unexplored frontiers: translating the vagaries of human emotion into hard data.A robot have been developed that will self assemble inside the body, after the patient has swallowed up to 15 separate parts, and then aid the surgeon to carry out procedures.
On the Digital Frontline of Policing
Mining the Web for Feelings, Not Facts
On the Digital Frontline of Policing – (BBC News – September 9, 2009)
A new wave of policing increasingly relies on technology and immediate access to digital information. Analysts at the NYPD Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) use a powerful search engine to search files across an undisclosed number of local, national and even international government and law enforcement databases. Public and internal police records, parking infractions, newly digitized citations, mug shots, photos of evidence, and the main open-source database – the internet – can be queried for intelligence. Police officers at the scene submit evidence data to the RTCC via their laptops. In turn the centre performs “link analysis”, feeding back to the officers new leads for the investigation before they leave the crime scene. Web-like illustrations can be composed on multi-screens linking crime elements: Google maps with flagged locations, photos of witnesses, and weapons found at the scene.
Mining the Web for Feelings, Not Facts – (New York Times – August 24, 2009)
The rise of blogs and social networks has fueled a bull market in personal opinion: reviews, ratings, recommendations and other forms of online expression. For computer scientists, this fast-growing mountain of data is opening a tantalizing window onto the collective consciousness of Internet users. An emerging field known as sentiment analysis is taking shape around one of the computer world’s unexplored frontiers: translating the vagaries of human emotion into hard data.
Memristor Minds: The Future of Artificial Intelligence
A Skull That Rewrites the History of Man
Memristor Minds: The Future of Artificial Intelligence – (New Scientist – July 8, 2009)
Leon Chua, an electronics engineer with a penchant for mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, was fascinated by the fact that electronics had no rigorous mathematical foundation. So like any diligent scientist, he set about trying to derive one. And he found something missing: a fourth basic circuit element besides the standard trio of resistor, capacitor and inductor. Chua dubbed it the “memristor”. The only problem was that as far as Chua or anyone else could see, memristors did not actually exist. Except that they do. Within the past couple of years, memristors have morphed from obscure jargon into one of the hottest properties in physics. They’ve not only been made, but their unique capabilities might revolutionize consumer electronics. More than that, though, along with completing the jigsaw of electronics, they might solve the puzzle of how nature makes that most delicate and powerful of computers – the brain.
A Skull That Rewrites the History of Man – (Independent – September 9, 2009)
The conventional view of human evolution and how early man colonised the world has been thrown into doubt by a series of stunning palaeontological discoveries suggesting that Africa was not the sole cradle of humankind. Scientists have found a handful of ancient human skulls at an archaeological site two hours from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, that suggest a Eurasian chapter in the long evolutionary story of man. What has excited the researchers is the discovery that these early humans are far more primitive-looking than the Homo erectus humans that were, until now, believed to be the first people to migrate out of Africa about a million years ago.
Canadian Scientist Aims to Turn Chickens into Dinosaurs
Infections Speed Memory Loss
Artificial Life Will Be Created Within Months
Reverse Aging: Easier Than You Think
Stem Cells Link to Prostate Cancer
Canadian Scientist Aims to Turn Chickens into Dinosaurs – (PhysOrg – September 13, 2009)
Hans Larsson, the Canada Research Chair in Macro Evolution at Montreal’s McGill University, said he aims to develop dinosaur traits that disappeared millions of years ago in birds. Larsson believes by flipping certain genetic levers during a chicken embryo’s development, he can reproduce the dinosaur anatomy. Though still in its infancy, the research could eventually lead to hatching live prehistoric animals, but Larsson said there are no plans for that now, for ethical and practical reasons — a dinosaur hatchery is “too large an enterprise.”
Infections Speed Memory Loss – (BBC News – September 7, 2009)
Infections outside the brain may speed memory decline in Alzheimer’s disease. In a study of 222 elderly people with Alzheimer’s UK researchers found that getting infections in places like the chest or urinary tract could double memory loss. The Southampton University researchers think this leads to higher levels of an inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in the blood. Subjects with one or more acute systemic inflammation events (SIEs) during the six months follow-up had two times the rate of cognitive decline from their baseline score at the start of the study compared with those who had no SIE. And those patients who had high baseline levels of TNF and then suffered an SIE over the following six months had a 10 fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those who were SIE free.
Artificial Life Will Be Created Within Months – (Daily Mail – August 22, 2009)
Dr. Craig Venter – one of the world’s most famous and controversial biologists – said his U.S. researchers have overcome one of the last big hurdles to making a synthetic organism. The first artificial lifeform is likely to be a simple man-made bacterium that proves that the technology can work. But it will be followed by more complex bacteria that turn coal into cleaner natural gas, or algae that can soak up carbon dioxide and convert it into fuels.
Reverse Aging: Easier Than You Think – (AlterNet – August 26, 2009)
Three decades ago, Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a landmark experiment that suggested reverse aging needn’t be relegated to the realm of science fiction. Her revealing study, the many follow-ups it spawned and the implications of their findings are the subject of her fascinating new book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. The fountain of youth may in fact be the flood of chemicals in our brain that processes both internal and external messages about old age and dutifully passes them on to our joints, blood vessels and vital organs. Perhaps it’s time to start noticing these cerebral downloads and disregard the disempowering ones.
Stem Cells Link to Prostate Cancer – (BBC News – September 10, 2009)
A newly identified type of stem cell may cause some cases of prostate cancer, research on mice suggests. The cells, found among those which line the inner cavity of the prostate gland, can produce copies of themselves, and other, more mature cell types. But researchers showed that when the cells were deliberately mutated by switching off a tumor suppressor gene they rapidly formed tumors. The newly identified cells – a type of luminal epithelial stem cell – do not rely on androgens, the male sex hormones that control prostate growth, to thrive. This may give a clue as to why prostate cancer often becomes resistant to treatments designed to regulate these androgens in the later stages of the disease.
DISCOVERIES ENABLED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY
Oops, Missed That Fossil Iridescence
Most Ancient Colored Twine Found
Oops, Missed That Fossil Iridescence – (Science News – August 28, 2009)
Birds shimmered at least 40 million years before custom car paints, according to a new look at old fossils. Exquisitely preserved bits of feathers from Germany’s Messel Oil Shale deposits near Darmstadt bear swaths of oblong lumps some 1 to 1.5 micrometers wide. The nanostructures provide the first fossil evidence of bird iridescence, Jakob Vinther of Yale University and his colleagues report. Using scanning electron microscopy, the researchers examined bits of the feathers and decided that the lumps came from melanosomes, which are structures within cells that contribute to coloring. The arrangement of the fossil feather lumps shows more organization than bacteria could manage, the team reports. And the lumps also resemble melanosome arrays that create iridescent sheens on birds such as starlings.
Most Ancient Colored Twine Found – (BBC News – September 10, 2009)
A Georgian cave has yielded what scientists say are the earliest examples of humans making cords. The microscopic fibers, discovered accidentally while scientists were searching for pollen samples, are around 30,000 years old. Ancient humans probably used the plant fibers to carry tools, weave baskets or make garments. Some of the fibers are colored, and the scientists believe they were dyed using natural plant-derived pigments that would have been available to the Upper Paleolithic occupants of the cave.
World in Hot Water as Ocean Temperatures Rise
Mobile Phone Towers a Threat to Honey Bees
World in Hot Water as Ocean Temperatures Rise – (Fox News – August 20, 2009)
The National Climatic Data Center is reporting that the Earth’s water temperatures averaged 62.2 degrees Fahrenheit for the month of July, the highest average in the 130 year history of recorded water temperature. Due to this year’s powerful El Nino system, most of the world’s water (including the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans) is all a few degrees above normal. Most worrisome is the Arctic Ocean, where temperatures hover 10 degrees above average.
Mobile Phone Towers a Threat to Honey Bees – (PhysOrg – August 31, 2009)
An experiment conducted in Kerala, India found that a sudden fall in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cell phone companies to increase their network. The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the “navigational skills” of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies, said Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, who conducted the study. He found that when a cell phone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, leaving the hives with only the queens and eggs and resulting in the collapse of the colony within ten days.
World Faces Hi-tech Crunch as China Eyes Ban on Rare Metal Exports – (Telegraph – August 24, 2009)
A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a plan to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons. Some materials may be banned for export such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tons a year, far below global needs. China mines over 95% of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.
AUGMENTED/ ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Robots to Revolutionize Surgery – (BBC News – September 9, 2009)
Within ten years some doctors and scientists are predicting that all surgery could be scarless. They say by using the natural orifices of the body and the body’s own natural scar the belly-button, it will be possible to insert robots into the body which can help perform every surgical procedure. Prototypes are already in existence that can crawl and swim inside the body taking pictures of difficult to access areas. There are particularly big hopes for Ares (Assembling Reconfigurable Endoluminal Surgical System), developed by Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy, with the support of the European Commission. This is a robot that will self assemble inside the body, after the patient has swallowed up to 15 separate parts, and then aid the surgeon to carry out procedures.
Floating Challenge for Off-shore Wind Turbine – (BBC News – September 8, 2009)
Norwegian energy giant StatoilHydro has constructed the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine a couple of hours by catamaran from the oil town Stavanger, in the hope that one day vast wind farms could be constructed far offshore in water depths of up to 700 meters. The most interesting aspects of the turbine can be found in the depths of the sea, where a 100 meter long steel cylinder weighing 3,000 tons thanks to its ballast of water and rocks is anchored to the sea-bed with mooring lines. So-called slack anchors are used, allowing the structure to move with the seas. In spite of its apparent sturdiness, the 138 ton turbine is constantly moving.
Russia Bracing for Spread of Dangerous TB Strains
Swine Flu in China Grim
Legal Immunity Set for Swine Flu Vaccine Makers
New Malaria Poses Human Threat
Russia Bracing for Spread of Dangerous TB Strains – (Washington Post – August 29, 2009)
Russia already has one of the highest rates of TB in the world. In parts of its Far East, the infection rate is three times what the World Health Organization considers epidemic levels. The government has made progress in recent years, with infection rates falling from a peak in 2000, but health officials are worried that those gains are now in jeopardy. Preliminary surveys have recorded an uptick in infections, which experts say could be the start of a surge fueled by declining living standards and deteriorating medical care resulting from the country’s worst economic slowdown in a decade. Russian officials and health specialists also blame the government’s failure to order supplies of key medicines last year, a blunder that could strengthen antibiotic-resistant forms of TB and threaten wealthier countries that have all but eradicated the disease.
Swine Flu in China Grim – (BBC News – September 8, 2009)
China’s health minister, Chen Zhu, says the nation is facing a grim situation as it tries to contain a rapid surge in swine flu. China is the first country in the world to use swine flu vaccines, after conducting successful clinical trials. Priority will be given to young students aged between five and 19, vulnerable groups such as those with respiratory diseases and pregnant women, and front-line public service personnel. But the vaccination program would start with those performing in the National Day Parade. There are at least 200,000 official participants, plus thousands of security police. They have been pushed to the front of the queue not just because it is a huge public event that carries national pride, but because all the top leaders and dignitaries will be in Beijing. The authorities cannot afford the political risk of any infection there. So there will not be much vaccine left for others on the priority list for now.
Legal Immunity Set for Swine Flu Vaccine Makers – (Mercola – August 20, 2009)
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius has not only given immunity to the makers of Tamiflu and Relenza for injuries stemming from their use against swine flu, she has granted immunity to future swine flu vaccines and “any associated adjuvants”. The last time the government embarked on a major vaccine campaign against a new swine flu, thousands filed claims contending they suffered side effects from the shots. This time around, they will have no recourse.
New Malaria Poses Human Threat – (BBC News – September 10, 2009)
An emerging new form of malaria poses a deadly threat to humans, research has shown. It had been thought the parasite Plasmodium knowlesi infected only monkeys. But it has recently been found to be widespread in humans in Malaysia, and the latest study confirms that it can kill if not treated quickly. P. knowlesi has the ability to reproduce every 24 hours in the blood – meaning infection is potentially deadly. The researchers carried out tests on over 150 patients admitted to hospital in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, between July 2006 and January 2008 with malaria infection. Around one in ten patients had developed complications, such as breathing difficulties and kidney problems, and two died.
TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Underwater Laser Pops in Navy Ops
Showdown with Russia and China: U.S. Advances First
Strike Global Missile Shield System
Underwater Laser Pops in Navy Ops – (BBC News – September 8, 2009)
US military researchers are developing a method for communication that uses lasers to make sound underwater. The approach focuses laser light to produce bubbles of steam that pop and create tiny, localized explosions. Controlling the rate of these explosions could provide a means of communication or even acoustic imaging. Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory say the approach could be used for air-to-submarine or fully underwater communication. One of the peculiar effects of high-intensity laser beams is that they can actually focus themselves when passing through some materials, like water. As the laser focuses, it rips electrons off water molecules, which then become superheated and create a powerful “pop” – of some 220 decibels.
Showdown with Russia and China: U.S. Advances First Strike Global Missile Shield System – (Global Research – August 19, 2009)
In the March/April 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs, a publication of the American Council on Foreign Relations, authors Lieber and Press contributed a study titled “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy” which stated that “It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.” That possibility is apparently nearing reality. On August 13th the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency and Boeing announced a test of their joint Airborne Laser missile defense system, which “successfully tracked and hit the mark earlier this month during its first in-flight test against an instrumented target missile.” Employing a modified Boeing 747-400F prototype airplane, the adapted commercial airliner use infrared sensors against a missile and “found, tracked, engaged and simulated an intercept with a missile seconds after liftoff.”
Elimination of Food Waste Could Lift 1Billion out of Hunger – (Guardian – September 8, 2009)
Food waste costs every household in the UK between £250 and £400 a year. Producing and distributing the 6.7m tons of edible food that goes uneaten and into waste in the UK also accounts for 18m tons of CO2. But Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, explained that the land and resources freed up by cutting food waste would likely be put to producing and consuming other things, such as growing more resource-intensive and expensive foods, bio-energy or textile crops. “Now is the moment all parties should be searching out ways to define prosperity that get away from runaway consumption. Until they succeed, chucking out less food won’t make our lifestyles more sustainable,” he said.
Secret of China’s Economy: The Government Owns
the Banks Rather Than the Reverse
How China Cooks Its Books
Secret of China’s Economy: The Government Owns the Banks Rather Than the Reverse – (Global Research – August 18, 2009)
How can China’s stimulus plan be working so well, when ours is barely working at all? The answer may be simple: China has not let its banking system run roughshod over its productive economy. Chinese banks work for the people rather than the reverse according to Samah El-Shahat, a presenter for Al Jazeera English who holds a doctorate in economics from the University of London.
How China Cooks Its Books – (Foreign Policy – September 3, 2009)
It’s an open secret that China has doctored its economic and financial statistics since the time of Mao. Western media often portray Chinese book-cooking as part and parcel of a monolithic central government and omnipotent Beijing bureaucrats. But the process is much more complex. Local and provincial governmental officials are the ones who actually fiddle with the numbers. They retain considerable autonomy and power, and have a self-interested reason to manipulate economic statistics. This article examines the details.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH — articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
World’s Most Extreme Water Slide
South African Pigeon Faster than Broadband
World’s Most Extreme Water Slide – (You Tube – August 12, 2009)
Check out what some of the best of advertising looks like now. This is a pretty cool example of what are called “viral” ads. “But this doesn’t look like an ad. Are you sure this is an ad?” Yes. Go to www.megawoosh.com and see who paid for this commercial.
South African Pigeon Faster than Broadband – (BBC News – September 10, 2009)
A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country’s biggest web firm, Telkom. Winston the pigeon took one hour and eight minutes to carry the data 60 miles – in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data. Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm’s slow internet speeds. The idea for the race came when a member of staff at Unlimited IT complained about the speed of data transmission on ADSL. He said it would be faster by carrier pigeon. Winston took off from Unlimited IT’s call centre in the town of Howick to deliver the memory stick to the firm’s office in Durban. Hundreds of South Africans followed the race on Facebook and Twitter.
A FINAL QUOTE…
“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” — Hazel Henderson
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Ursula Freer, Vladimir Gagachev , Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Schwartz Report, John Steiner, Gary Sycalik, Unknown Country, and all our other contributors. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen
The Arlington Institute
World’s Biggest Problems
A Vision for 2012
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