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June 2014 • Volume 15, No. 6

In this issue:

Climate Change May Have Polarizing Effect on Typhoons

Cyclones have always been a tropical water phenomenon, but this is changing. A study published in the journal Nature finds that tropical cyclone activity (aka typhoons) is moving away from the equator and toward the north and south poles, with dangerous implications for coastal communities everywhere.


Typhoons Francisco and Lekima moving toward China and Japan on October 23, 2013. Credit: Tim Olander and Rick Kohrs, SSEC/CIMSS/UW-Madison.

Over the last 30 years, the tropics’ cyclones have been diverging into the Northern Hemisphere at about 33 miles per decade and into the Southern Hemisphere at about 38 miles per decade, according to the researchers. This means that the storms reach their peak intensities in latitudes much further north and south than used to be the case.

The warming climate may be driving the shift, according to Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor of atmospheric sciences, who co-authored the study with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate researchers James Kossin and Gabriel Vecchi. Cyclones most commonly form when the ocean water is between 82°F and 86°F; as the oceans in general grow warmer, more zones far outside the tropics exhibit this temperature range.

The researchers used NOAA cyclone data from 1982 to 2012 and charted where each cyclone in that time frame reached its peak intensity. In every ocean basin except the Atlantic Ocean, cyclones’ points of peak intensity trended further poleward decade by decade. Meanwhile, the number of cyclones occurring in the tropics declined.

It’s a troubling find, Emanuel warns: Many more areas of the world’s coastlines could be at risk of violent hurricane activity. —Rick Docksai

Sources: MIT and NOAA. The paper, "The poleward migration of the location of tropical cyclone maximum intensity" by James P. Kossin et al., was published by Nature (May 15, 2014).

Lie Detectors That Can Read Your Mind

While many studies have shown the ineffectiveness of polygraph lie detectors for determining people’s truthfulness, courtrooms still look to science for help in assessing the testimony of suspects and witnesses. Now, neuroscience may be the key, enabling a new breed of lie detectors that look directly into subjects’ brains.

An fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) device registers blood flow within a subject’s brain to map its activity—the more blood that an area of the brain is getting, the more active it is. This differs completely from a polygraph lie detector, which measures pulse, heart rate, breath rate, and any perspiration.

In a paper for the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Inquiry, law professors Edward Johnston and Daniel Jasinki of University of the West of England discuss the use of fMRI in criminal proceedings. They suggest that investigators could use fMRI to evaluate which areas of a witness’s brain light up during an interrogation: More activity in the memory area could indicate honesty; more activity in the creativity area would suggest fibbing. Such tests could also gauge jurors’ emotional responses, thus detecting bias.

This fMRI-based evidence is not yet admissible in British courts, but some international and U.S. courts are considering it. Johnston and Jasinki think that more may follow suit. In one study, interrogators found the fMRI readings to be more than 99% accurate in telling whether a subject was being honest while answering questions.

As science and technology accelerate, society needs to be vigilant about their impacts, the researchers note. "Indeed, for the sake of our adversarial criminal justice system, it is important for the law to keep up,” Johnston and Jasinski conclude. —Rick Docksai

Source: Inderscience Publishers. The paper, "Neuroscientific evidence: a criminal justice dream, or an adversarial nightmare?" by Edward Johnston and Daniel Jasinski, was published by the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Inquiry, 2013 (Vol. 6, No. 4).

Editor’s note: This subject will be addressed at WorldFuture 2014: What If in a session led by Clay Rawlings and Rob Bencini, co-authors of Pardon the Disruption. See Societal Impact of Moore's Law.

The Annual Conference of the World Future Society
July 11-13, 2014 * Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

News from the World Future Society's Annual Meeting

WorldFuture: What If is shaping up to be one of the most inspiring conferences yet, with keynote and plenary sessions like:

  • Learners Take Charge: Education in the Next 50 Years with Stacey Childress. As deputy director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 2010, Stacey has been leading the foundation’s investments in K-12 Next Generation Learning, and in July 2014 she will become the CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund.
  • What If We Took the Future Seriously with Paul Saffo. Paul is the co-founder and managing director of Foresight at DISCERN Analytics, and among his numerous affiliations are the Global Business Network, the Long Now Foundation, and Singularity University.
  • Sector keynotes (8:30–9:00 a.m.) and the What If Journey lectures (11 a.m.–noon) on both Saturday and Sunday morning will introduce you to important ideas and trends in the conference’s major tracks—Commerce, Earth, Futuring, Governance, Humanity, and Sci/Tech. Speakers leading the way include Karl Albrecht, Susan Alman, Clem Bezold, Brenda Cooper, Emily Empel, Jerome C. Glenn, Trevor Haldenby, Hazel Henderson, Kenneth Hunter, Zoltan Istvan, Zhouying Jin, Christian Kurz, Gary Marx, Robert Moran, Karen Moloney, Edwin Mouriño-Ruiz, Erica Orange, Elaine Raybourn, Gary Rowe, John Sweeney, Joe Tankersley, Ashok Vaseashta, Jared Weiner, and David Wood.

WorldFuture 2014 is just a few short weeks away, but there is still time to participate in this outstanding event.

Inventors and start-ups: Apply for a slot at Futurists: BetaLaunch 2014, the annual innovators’ expo held during the welcoming reception on Friday, July 11. F:BL has been described as a "technology petting zoo," but it’s also a way to showcase your ideas and inventions to a very enthusiastic audience of potential partners, media, and even investors. Deadline for submitting a proposal is June 15.

Start planning your WorldFuture 2014: What If journey now, using the scheduling tool at

Download a PDF of the preliminary program now! Register before June 20 and save $100 off the onsite registration fee.

Highlights from the WorldFuture 2014 Speakers Bookshelf

Many of the speakers participating at WorldFuture 2014: What If (July 11-13 in Orlando) are also authors; here are just a few speakers’ books to kick off your summer reading. To view the full list, visit the WorldFuture 2014 Speakers Bookshelf.

  • Networked (MIT Press, 2012; 2014), by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman: The "triple revolution" of the Internet, mobile devices, and social networking creates never-before-seen opportunities for individuals everywhere to connect with others for socializing, learning, problem solving, and creating mass movements for change, according to Rainie and Wellman. Taking issue with commentators who say that the Web isolates us and breaks down social bonds, they describe newly emerging Web-enabled social bonds and the profound impacts that they are already having on households, workplaces, and everyday life. Networked delves into the opportunities—and challenges—of the evolving world of networked individuals.
    During WorldFuture 2014, co-author Rainie will deliver the Saturday Keynote Luncheon presentation, "All In: The Internet's Turbulent Next Decade."
  • Public Therapy Buses, Information Specialty Bums, Solar Cook-A-Mats and Other Visions of the 21st Century (Patent Depending Press, 2013), by Steven M. Johnson: What if people who feel disaffected, alienated, or lonely could climb aboard public-therapy buses? In a 15-minute ride, onboard counselors could suggest referrals, summon medical aid, or even call the police. This is just one of the creative ways that cartoonist-inventor Steven Johnson has envisioned solutions for the future’s urban woes. Other visions include pedal-assisted trains (combining public transit with fitness), used car lots converted to open spaces for homeless campers, and Treadarounds (treadmills on wheels so we can work out and get somewhere).
    Johnson will present the Sunday Luncheon Keynote address, "An Artist-Inventor Sees the Future."
  • Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century: Out of the Trenches and Into the Future (Education Week Press, 2014) by Gary Marx: A series of forces will shape our world's future, according to Gary Marx, futurist and president of the Center for Public Outreach: economic pressures, environmental challenges, shifting demographics, and emerging technologies, among others. He lays these many change drivers out and forecasts the specific impacts that they will have on communities, countries, and the entire globe. Then he offers readers suggestions on how they and their organizations can engage with the change processes and stay ahead of the curve.
    Marx and Gary Rowe will co-host a WorldFuture 2014 session, "Get Ready for a Wall-to-Wall Reset."

Check out more WorldFuture 2014 Speaker Books here.

Spotlight on New Species

Say hello to the Tinkerbell Fairyfly, the Domed Land Snail, and the Olinguito. These are just a few of the approximately 10,000 new species discovered last year.


A Tinkerbell Fairyfly, one of 10,000 species discovered last year. Credit: Jennifer Read.

Each year, the International Institute for Species Exploration creates a top 10 list to showcase the thousands of new species of animals, plants, and microbes discovered around the world. While the "stars" of this scientific work are chosen somewhat arbitrarily (some apparently for their cuteness, some for their uniqueness, some for their potentially menacing natures), the purpose of the selection process is to demonstrate gaps in our knowledge about our planet’s fellow inhabitants.

This ignorance clearly is not bliss; in fact, it can be quite dangerous, as in the case of the microbes discovered residing in the "clean rooms" used to build spacecraft for exploring other worlds. The so-called Clean Room Microbes (Tersicoccus phoenicis) are bacteria that, if allowed to stowaway on Mars missions, for instance, could potentially contaminate our neighbor. —Cynthia G. Wagner

Source: SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Can Childhood Behavior Predict Workplace Crime?

The average company loses 5% of its annual revenue to employee theft, so employers are seeking better tools to make better hires. One possibility may draw from longitudinal research in child psychology.

In an effort to better predict which employees might have dishonest relationships with their employers, University of Texas criminology professor Nicole Leeper Piquero worked with data from the Dunedin Longitudinal Study to look at the relationship between behavioral patterns in childhood and workplace crime in adulthood.

The study examined two types of employment-related fraud—property deviance (e.g., taking money or falsifying receipts) and production deviance (e.g., intentionally working slowly or leaving work early). Piquero and colleagues surveyed 32-year-olds about their childhoods and their current workplace actions.

While childhood factors do not appear to correlate to work crime in women, chronically misbehaved boys were found to have a greater chance of developing deviant workplace behaviors in adulthood. Childhood stealing and bullying had a stronger correlation with later workplace crime than factors such as hyperactivity and impulsive aggression.

The study relied on self-reporting, which could perhaps account for the gender disparities, so take the findings with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, Piquero concludes, "Practically speaking, employers may want to consider obtaining information about persons' behavioral history, to the extent possible, and consider their adoption in the decision-making process about which persons to hire and/or which persons to give additional screening to." —Keturah Hetrick

"Can Childhood Factors Predict Workplace Deviance?" by Nicole Leeper Piquero and Terrie E. Moffitt, was published in Justice Quarterly.

As Tweeted: "Futureseeding"

Recently on Twitter, an idea for a futurist mentoring project emerged from this conversation:

@wendyinfutures (Wendy L Schultz): What does charitable futures work look like? Barefoot futurists? Jeanene and Johnny Futureseed? Dropping random futures in the alms box?
@WorldFutureSoc (World Future Society): I like the "futureseed" idea. Do you mean pro bono futures consulting/training, or institutional futurism in NGOs?
@wendyinfutures: either one; just taking riffing on the possibilities of grassroots futures dissemination via global walkabout.
@WorldFutureSoc: Cool. We could use a foresight “Fitbit” to assess trends in the field on our global walkabouts.
@wendyinfutures: What do you think sounds like an initiative attractive enough to go viral and become a Futureseed?
@futuresedge (Jamie Saunders): enhancing social foresight ... 'elders' & youngers among us... #futuregens
@wendyinfutures: That's the ticket: barefoot futurist scatters futureseeds during village green community fair
@WorldFutureSoc: How about futurists visiting classrooms on Futures Day (March 1), conduct primer visioning, scenario writing exercises
@wendyinfutures: you mean we don't already do that? Shame on us. Let's talk in Orlando
@WorldFutureSoc: Absolutely! #futureseed #grassroots #FutureDay2015

If you have interest in or ideas for creating a futurist-in-the-school "Futureseed" mentoring project for Future Day 2015, Tweet us up during WorldFuture 2014 in Orlando or at WorldFutureSoc!

What’s Hot in THE FUTURIST Magazine

If you’re only receiving Futurist Update, you're missing out on the wealth of information you'd be receiving each year as a FUTURIST magazine reader. Subscription is free with World Future Society membership. Join Now!

Here is what’s in the May-June 2014 issue:

Where Will the Century of Biology Lead Us?

By Randall Mayes

A technology trend analyst offers an overview of synthetic biology, its potential applications, obstacles to its development, and prospects for public approval. Read more.

Mission for Worldwide Innovation: An Interview with Eric Dyson

By Rick Docksai

In order to maximize innovation, the public and the private sectors need to cooperate. In order for innovation to grow around the world, developed and developing nations need to cooperate. To meet both of these challenges is the mission of CRDF Global, a foundation based in the United States with innovation-building projects around the world. Read more.

Rx Disruption: Technology Trends in Medicine and Health Care

By Bertalan Meskó

Doctors and patients alike are navigating wave after wave of new technologies that promise to alter how we manage our health. Digital technologies also offer opportunities for doctors and patients to become better strategic partners in medical decisions. Read more.

Euphoric, Harmless, and Affordable: A Trend Analysis of Sex

By Karen Moloney

A psychologist examines several technological developments affecting sex, assessing their potential to deliver safe, affordable, and fulfilling experiences, as well as the economic, social, and legal questions that they raise. Read more.

Sniffing Out the Future of Medicine

By Peter W. Huber

Labs on chips and low-cost genetic sequencing could vastly improve medicine in the coming decade, if we allow it. An expert in technology, science, and law argues that the next big revolution in medicine fits on a chip—and in patients’ hands. Read more.

Adventures in Personal Genomics

By Verne Wheelwright

The public may demand a right to know their own genetic information, but interpreting their medical destinies without professional guidance might be off-limits. Read more.

Extending Pet Longevity: Our Companions in Sickness and in Health

By Rick Docksai

Pet owners everywhere would like for their companion animals to live longer, and veterinary medicine is finally making that possible. Emerging developments in gene therapy, cancer treatments, surgery, and nutrition have the potential to give our four-legged friends many more years of life. Read more.

World Trends & Forecasts

Plus: Tomorrow in Brief, Reviews, and more!

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Recent Blog Standouts from THE FUTURIST Magazine

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Do We Know The Cost of Dealing or Not Dealing with Climate Change?

By Len Rosen

MIT's Robert Pindyck says we don't know the real costs of mitigating climate change. But a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts a $44-trillion price on switching to low-carbon energy between the present and 2050. The cost will be offset by the savings from reduced fossil fuel use and may even be better than breaking even. The caveat, however, is we have to begin now. Read more.

How Long Before I Can 3-D Print a Replacement Body for Myself?

By Thomas Frey

As incomprehensible as it may sound today, printing an entire replacement body may only be a decade or two away. But it is also a topic steeped in massive controversy, with moral, spiritual, and ethical implications that we haven’t even begun to debate. Read more.

Toward a More Persuasive Future

By Cynthia Wagner

Our friends over at BBC's Future blog posted an interesting piece by Tom Stafford this morning on How to Win an Argument. Not that I like arguments (and I always have said that the fastest way to end one is to stop talking), but the research findings that are reported in the story have a great lesson for futurists.
Read more.

Dreams, Machines, and the March of Progress

By Michael Lee

It’s not just conscience that guides the march of progress towards a better world. Imagination still lies at the heart of these advances. Take the greatest technology achievement of all time, the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing, as a prototype. This momentous event was a triumph of science and collective management and still looks futuristic today more than four decades on. Read more.

Pursuing a Peaceful Future in South Sudan

By Rick Docksai

The world’s youngest nation has had a very rocky start. South Sudan, born in a July 2011 secession from Sudan, made it through two-and-a-half years of sporadic violence and uneasy peace. Then came December 2013, when an armed resistance loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer; rose up against President President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka. The newborn nation very abruptly unraveled into a deluge of tribe-on-tribe mayhem. Read more.

The Future of Search: Stop Searching. Info Will Find You

By Dan Abelow

All over the world, search has become the fuel that powers much of our lives. From getting directions to learning how to do something, from shopping to travel reservations, searching is one of the main ways we get things done. It’s so prevalent we can’t imagine life without it. Read more.

The New Right To Be Forgotten

By Ian Pearson

The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Google has to remove links to specific articles on (proper) request where the damage to the individual outweighs the public right to know. It's generated a lot of reaction. Lots of people have done things, or have been accused of doing things, and would prefer that the records of that don’t appear when people do a search for them. Read more.

Using Wikipedia to Track the Flu

By Keturah Hetrick

Each flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) get to work to track the spread of the influenza virus—but because gathering and analyzing this data takes time, the CDC’s results are 7–14 days old by the time they’re published. To find a faster way to track the flu, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital turned to an unconventional source: Wikipedia. Read more.

Will Improved "Vision" Make Us Even Better Than We Are?

By David Brin

Facebook's acquisition of the Oculus company shows that big players are starting to take Augmented Reality (AR) glasses seriously—leading the 22-year-old daughter of a friend to comment "that stuff looks really lame." But the question of whether something "looks lame" is partly a matter of implementation. In the future you will be at an extreme disadvantage without access to augmented reality tools. Read more.

Ending the Age of the Spectator

By John Renesch

Much of our society, for whatever reasons, has become a “spectator culture” in which we have removed ourselves from the field of play and have grown content to sit in the grandstands. This is commonly seen at sporting events, where we applaud the exceptional prowess of great athletes. And that’s expected. But we have also carried over this behavior to our engagement (or non-engagement) with other aspects of our lives including our children’s education, community issues and politics. Read more.

SUPERMONEY: The New Wealth Beyond Banks and Bitcoin

By Richard Samson

Bigger bucks ahead … because money itself is being re-invented! But it’s not really about the money; material wealth may be a secondary motivator. The new money is 100% Internet-based. It flows free and fast like electrons, and it comes with superpowers. Read more.

Governments Doing Scenario Planning: Could They Trigger Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?

By Freida van Duijne

Governments planning for potential events like the fall of the Euro may be interpreted as governments seeing those futures as likely or even certain. The next thing to be happening may even be that scenarios give rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can governments engage in scenario planning without triggering such a belief system? Read more.

From THE FUTURIST Archives

Science Fiction vs. Reality
Sept.-Oct. 2008

Where's the future we were promised? In the 1960s, television productions and movies like The Jetsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Star Trek invaded the American psyche with images of a glittering tomorrow where people commuted to work via flying cars, lived under the sea or in space ships staffed by disembodied AI programs, or even teleported. Forty years later, like it or not, the sci-fi clichès have formed our cultural expectation of the future.

In this special section, former White House advisor Marvin Cetron, George Washington University space expert Joe Pelton, and FUTURIST staff editors Aaron M. Cohen, Rick Docksai, and Patrick Tucker survey how those 1960s visions of the future panned out. Read more.

FUTURIST UPDATE: News & Previews from the World Future Society is an e-mail newsletter published monthly as a supplement to THE FUTURIST magazine.
©2014 World Future Society • 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814 • Voice: 301-656-8274 • Fax: 301-951-0394 • Email: • Web site: • Contributing Editors: Cynthia G. Wagner, Rick Docksai, and Keturah Hetrick • Publisher: Jeff Cornish

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