WorldFuture 2012 Conference Highlights

This conference is concluded.

Download the WorldFuture 2012 Final Program

Order conference audio and handouts from IntelliQuest Media

The Society's recently concluded WorldFuture 2012 conference lived up to its billing as a gathering of futurists from around the world, an expo for cutting-edge start-ups, and an international media event. The list of speakers this year included Intel futurist Brian David Johnson; Lee Rainie, director and founder of the Pew Internet and American Life Project; Geordie Rose, creator of the world's first commercial quantum computer, the D-Wave One; world-renowned consultant Edie Weiner, representatives from the Silicon Valley and Toronto venture capital communities; as well as inventors, scientists, and public policy experts.

Below is a small sampling of the standout coverage the we received

Brian Bethune, senior writer, Maclean's :

The future, as we’ve all noticed and someone, surely, has already said, ain’t what it used to be. At least not in the West, that one-time inventor of the notion of progress. Elsewhere around the globe, where hundreds of millions have been raised from abject poverty in the past generation, people may believe that even better days lie ahead, but in the developed world the dominant cultural narrative is that the future will look more like The Hunger Games than The Jetsons. The outliers in this gloom are, of course, the professional futurists, optimists by nature, many of whom will gather in Toronto this weekend (July 27 to 29) for the WorldFuture 2012 Conference, discussing everything from quantum computers to new means of crime prediction (and prevention). And worrying over the prevailing zeitgeist.

Amanda Kwan from the Globe and Mail speaking to attendee Kel Smith:

Most people are surprised when they find out how much innovation is happening among people who have a physical disability or a child with a cognitive challenge or who live in poor communities – people Kel Smith, founder of technological-accessibility company Anikto, calls “digital outcasts.”

Companies don’t usually design products for them, but they leverage technology to fit into their own lives. Mr. Smith cites a mother who designed an app that would help her autistic son communicate his desires. She had compiled a binder full of pictures and would point to each one to ask her son if that was what he wanted.

Reporter Katie Daubs from The Toronto Star:

With any change in technology — especially one that can read your emotions — people can get squirmy. Who will have access to my data? What will it be used for?

“Especially as Intel’s futurist I feel an incredible responsibility, realizing that we’re this quite large global company that makes this complex product on a massive scale that’s going to touch the lives of every person on the planet,” he said. “The goal should be to make people’s life better and more efficient. We need to understand and own the fact that there is some anxiety, there is some fear; we need to deal with it, we need to talk about it.”

In his work at Pew, Lee Rainie is constantly asking some of the world’s smartest people questions about the future of our hyperconnected world. Most of the survey responses come back evenly split on the benefits and pitfalls of a high-tech life.

“Big data” is a phrase that is used a lot.

“It’s partly that our social media postings are now out there to be catalogued and captured and understood by Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Tumblr and places like that. We reveal things about ourselves and they can be sort of collected into an interesting dossier on us,” Rainie explained. “And so now lots of people, including advertisers, credit companies and potential employers and folks have vast stores of data available to them that they didn’t a generation ago.”

A Pew report released last week noted that experts believe that the huge amounts of information humans and machines will be producing by 2020 may enhance productivity, “but they worry about ‘humanity’s dashboard’ being in government and corporate hands and they are anxious about people’s ability to analyze it wisely.”

As the well-worn phrase goes, only time will tell.

Unless of course, you’re a futurist.

Kate Allen, also of The Star, spent some time with first-time attendee Gray Scott, long-time attendee Gary Marx, and keynote speaker Edie Weiner:

“Futurist” is a tough title to define. But for Edie Weiner, the keynote speaker on Sunday at the World Future Conference, the core of it all is imagination.

Why focus on the broken institutions and systems already in existence when we could be conjuring totally new ones?

“We could choose to imagine within a renaissance or within a ‘de-naissance.’ In a de-naissance, we take all of our imaginings, and all of our money, and try to fix what was. And that’s what we spend our imagination on,” she told a rapt audience.

“In a renaissance we break through ... we build the things that could be.”

George Dvorsky of i09:

Predicting future crimes was the topic of discussion at a panel held at the recently concluded WorldFuture 2012 Conference held in Toronto, Ontario. The panel consisted of three experts in the relatively new field of "predictive policing": Andreas M. Olligschlaeger of TruNorth Data Systems Inc., Tom Dover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and John Jarvis, who works at the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit.

A special thanks to all who helped make WorldFuture 2012 so successful. Missed this year's conference? It's not too late to subscribe to our newsletter and be on the lookout for early-bird special pricing for next year's event in Chicago.

See you in the future!

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel / 123 Queen Street West / Toronto, Ontario Canada / Phone (for reservations): 416-361-1000 (Toll-Free 1-800-325-3535)