February 2012, Vol. 13, No. 2

  • Too Much Passenger Screening Is Making Airports Less Secure
  • Reducing Inequality in Europe Could Boost Growth
  • Tornadoes of the Past Offer Clues of Tornadoes to Come
  • Visionaries And Inventors to Gather in Toronto
  • IBM Gets Atoms to Remember Data
  • What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine

Too Much Passenger Screening Is Making Airports Less Secure

Ever stricter security measures in place in U.S. airports is making air travel less safe and airports more vulnerable, according to University of Illinois mathematics professor Sheldon H. Jacobson. The reason is too many resources are spent screening passengers who pose little risk, which steals time and money away from identifying real threats.

“A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system,” says Jacobson in a press release. “This actually makes the system less secure by over-allocating security resources to those in the system that are low on the risk scale relative to others in the system.”

Jacobson recommends airports work to distinguish high-risk from lower-risk passengers before subjecting every flier (and all that baggage) to zealous screening. More programs like the TSA’s Pre-Check, which expedites screening for eligible passengers by rating their risk against that of entire flying population, would help airports perceive security threats more accurately. His recently published paper also explores scenarios to expose security gaps.

Sources: University of Illinois.

Addressing Passenger Risk Uncertainty for Aviation Security Screening by Adrian J. Lee and Sheldon H. Jacobson, Transportation Science (December 2011)

Reducing Inequality in Europe Could Boost Growth

Rising socioeconomic inequality is one of the major risk factors portending an insecure future, warn researchers for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In a new report, OECD economists outline several policy proposals for reducing Europe’s wealth and income gap while simultaneously boosting economic growth.

First, the report recommends that governments adjust tax and benefits systems to promote “growth in the middle” i.e., reform tax codes that favor the wealthy, thus enabling tax burdens on struggling middle-income taxpayers to be reduced.

The 25% wage gap between temporary and permanent workers could also be reduced by offering more protections for temporary workers. Women’s labor-force participation could be increased with the provision of more affordable child care. And improving educational opportunities and outcomes for immigrants and disadvantaged groups will have long-term benefits to the economy, such as enhancing the quality of the labor force, according to the report.

“The main challenge facing governments today is implementing reforms that get growth back on track, put people to work and reduce the widening income gap,” concludes OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan.

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Tornadoes of the Past Offer Clues of Tornadoes to Come

People in the path of a tornado don’t typically know it’s coming until minutes before it arrives. But a new tornado prediction model could give them as much as a month or more of prior notice.

The model’s debut is particularly timely, as climate experts expect climate warming to intensify tornado activity. U.S. deaths due to tornado activity last year exceeded all tornado-related deaths for the prior 10 years combined. It is not conclusive that global warming is to blame, but the index’s authors hope that their model could help researchers find out for sure.

Meanwhile, NOAA tornado expert Harold Brooks is optimistic that the index will minimize future injuries and deaths. With advance warning, communities and relief agencies will have time to gather needed supplies, he says.

Source: Columbia University.

Why Should You Book Your Registration for WorldFuture 2012, Today?

Don’t miss your chance to meet visionaries and thought leaders shaping our understanding of the future such as Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project; Brian David Johnson, Intel Futurist; Geordie Rose, creator of the D-Wave One, the world’s first commercial quantum computer, named Canadian Innovator of the Year for 2011 by the National Post; Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc., and co-author of Future Think; Naveen Jain, founder of Moon Express; Josh Schonwald, journalist and author of the forth-coming book The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food; and John Smart, head of the Accelerating Studies Foundation and the Brain Preservation Foundation.

Get up close and personal with inventions and inventors who are defining innovation for the new decade, such as the makers of the Life Technologies Ion Proton™ Sequencer, which can read your genome (all 3 million base pairs) in one day for $1,000.

Register today!

IBM Gets Atoms to Remember Data

Researchers at IBM have succeeded in encoding data in just 12 magnetic atoms, an enormous improvement over conventional disk drives that use as many as 100 atoms to store a single bit of Information. The accomplishment could lead to future breakthroughs in nanocomputation and computer efficiency.

To make it happen, the IBM team had to look beyond the traditional silicon transistor and get specially magnetized atoms to “hold” information by spinning in one of two directions, to represent either ”1” or “0.”

“The chip industry will continue its pursuit of incremental scaling in semiconductor technology but, as components continue to shrink, the march continues to the inevitable end point: the atom. We’re taking the opposite approach and starting with the smallest unit — single atoms — to build computing devices one atom at a time, ” said project leader Andreas Heinrich in a press release.

Source: IBM

Call for Papers: Conference Essay Collection

The World Future Society will publish a collection of essays in conjunction with WorldFuture 2012: Dream. Design. Develop. Deliver, to be held July 27-29, 2012, in Toronto.

This collection will be published in a special edition of World Future Review, the journal of the Society’s Professional Membership program, and will be made available to all conference registrants.

Deadline for completed papers is February 20, 2012.


What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine? (Members Only)

A selection of articles, special reports, and other future-focused material on our Web site that you might have missed. Members may sign in to read and comment. Not a member? Join now at http://www.wfs.org/renew.

Thriving in the Automated Economy

Two management experts show why labor’s race against automation will only be won if we partner with our machines. They advise government regulators not to stand in the way of human–machine innovation. Read more.

Hard at Work in the Jobless Future

Jobs are disappearing, but there’s still a future for work. An investment manager looks at how automation and information technology are changing the economic landscape and forcing workers to forge new career paths beyond outdated ideas about permanent employment. Read More

What’s in THE FUTURIST magazine? (Public)

Rethinking “Return on Investment:” What We Really Need to Invest In

Innovation means more than inventing new products for the world’s growing populations to consume. Innovation also means solving the problems created by consumption. By investing in sustainable innovation and creativity now, we will enhance our future returns. Read more.