Change and Opportunities at the World Future Society

Subject(s):
Timothy Mack's picture

Many of you may be aware that I am coming up on a decade of service as the CEO of the World Future Society. For family reasons, I find that this is a fitting point at which to step down and offer the opportunity to others. We have seen an influx of new faces on the WFS Board of Directors and the Global Advisory Council over the past few years, and it seems appropriate that it be matched by change at the senior staff level. My family and I will be moving to Washington State, where we are building a home on an island in the middle of Puget Sound.

The last ten years have been very exciting ones for me, and the Society has seen a lot of positive change. My incoming pledges were to enhance the international nature of the organization, expand the definition of a “futurist” to anyone in any field who is looking ahead, and to expand our programs for and participation by the next generation of futurists. It is my firm belief that great progress has been made in these and other arenas, but much more still needs to be done. Please support the WFS Board of Directors in their search for and selection of the new CEO and welcome her or him in the same generous manner that you welcomed me just ten years ago.

The WFS Board has formed a search committee. Would you like to apply? Or do you know someone you think would be a great candidate? You can find the job description, the committee's philosophy, and background information on the Society at www.wfs.org/are-you-next-ceo-world-future-society.

I expect to stay through the 2014 annual conference in Orlando, Florida. I hope you'll join me there to welcome the third president of the World Future Society. For details, visit www.wfs.org/worldfuture-2014-what-if.

Through my years with the Society I've found it was the dedication and enthusiasm of futurists around the world who made it work. Your thoughts are alway welcome at tmack@wfs.org. Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

signature

Timothy Mack
President
World Future Society

Comments

Application for President, World Future Society

Application for President, World Future Society
James Blodgett
bjames1@nycap.rr.com

“The World Future Society takes no official position on what the future may or should be like.” [Wikipedia] I see the value of this position, but I think it is wrong. Some potential futures are marvelous, others disastrous. We should advocate increasing the probability of marvelous futures, and decreasing the probability of disastrous futures. This approach will be controversial, but I think the controversy can be limited and acceptable. Indeed I think that this approach will improve the value of the organization to its members. This approach also might help to implement good futures, a really important objective.

Advocating good futures will be controversial because there is sometimes a difference of opinion as to what is good. We can limit the controversy by acknowledging that difference of opinion. An example is the utilitarian objective of “the greatest good for the greatest number.” Some might dispute whether consumer goods are an ultimate good, or whether moral goods are sometimes more important. Others might dispute who should be counted as part of the “greatest number”—are all humans equal in this count, or do owners, or workers, or transhumans, or robotic superintelligences, count more?

Despite potential controversy, I think there will be broad consensus about “no brainer” limits. For example, it is a good thing to expand options for ordinary people and to avoid harming them. Also, extinctions of species are to be avoided if possible, especially the human species. It may be necessary to take risks, but we should choose risks with highly positive expected values (probability times value) and avoid risks with highly negative expected values, especially when these values are denominated in human lives. Extinction of the human species, or its expansion by orders of magnitude (conceivable with asteroid resources) can generate big numbers here. We should not be blind to this level of risk or of opportunity.

I suggest that my policy of advocacy be stated gently and with caveats because of potential controversy. However, I also suggest that the World Future Society have a small advocacy arm that works for good things that are generally noncontroversial, things that steer in what most would see as the right direction. These could be vetted and kept noncontroversial by member oversight. I also suggest that we promulgate a relatively noncontroversial code of ethics, similar to the Hippocratic Oath. These will let most members be proud of what we stand for.

I would be a good person to implement this suggestion because I am an advocate myself, and because I advocate this policy. It also helps that I see its limits. The best person to advocate this suggestion would be the President of the Society, thus this application. It does not follow that I am the best candidate for President. I rather suspect that I am not. I partly submit this just to make my suggestion regarding advocacy. Nevertheless, I do have some qualifications.

Perhaps my best qualification is my recent publication in World Future Review: “Making the Difference: Finding Wise Choices at the Cusp of a Singularity,” May 2012 Pgs 6-7 (the lead article). That paper helps to explain my recommendation here. I am also Coordinator of the Global Risk Reduction Special Interest Group in American Mensa, I am an Advisory Board member and Chair of several committees (including the Grantsmanship Committee) in the Lifeboat Foundation, and I am a member of the Society for Risk Analysis. I attended a recent World Future Society convention, but I am not a member of the society. I was an advocate for improving collider risk assessment, and part of a group that persuaded CERN to conduct a second risk assessment. I have master’s degrees in business administration, sociology, and statistics.