Recent Work

Reassessing the IT Revolution Part 1: Literature Review and Key Issues

A growing volume of reports in mainstream media makes it clear that the IT revolution is bringing with it a series of challenges that societies are ill prepared to face. While surprisingly large numbers of people unthinkingly renounce such of their privacy as remains for trifles, the idealistic hopes of early pioneers and freedom-loving ‘netizens’ remain largely unfulfilled. Benign notions such as ‘cyber democracy’ and the ‘information superhighway’ have all but disappeared. In place of these optimistic hopes and projections there’s a growing sense of uncertainty, disillusion and, in some cases, fear. One reason is that for many the digital realm is an elusive and obscure ‘nowhere place’ whose shadowy operations lie beyond the boundaries of human perception. Another is that a few vast corporations, and those with privileged access to their services, appear to have almost unlimited influence both for good and for ill. What is striking, however, is that in order to capture attention and encourage wide immediate usage it’s the presumed utility of emerging technologies that’s highlighted rather than the radical ambiguity that attends their longer-term use. The implications of this gulf or fracture need to be more thoroughly understood if positive measures to reduce or eliminate them are to be undertaken. Read more…

Note: this is a pre-publication draft of a paper submitted to Futures. Details of the published version will be added in due course.

How ‘Development’ Promotes Redundant Visions: The Case of the Queens Wharf Casino Project, Brisbane

‘Development’ is a term freighted with divergent meanings. To many it has positive connotations and is often linked with other contested terms such as ‘growth’ and ‘prosperity.’ But there is a dark side to development – at least as it is being practiced in and around Brisbane where it seems to denote ruthless ‘urban infill’ and the endless replication of poorly-conceived and badly constructed high rise buildings. Very, very few of these projects are being built with an eye to the future or the challenges and changes that it has in store. In other words much of what is currently called ‘development’ is based on redundant thinking, questionable values and what I argue in this paper are redundant visions. The Queen’s Wharf project now under way is perhaps one of the most perverse examples of this unfortunate trend. Whatever Brisbane ‘needs’ it is arguably NOT another casino placed in the heart of the government district and surrounded by one of the most tasteless and ill-conceived mega-developments ever undertaken. So in writing this article I tried to dig under the surface of the glossy advertising campaign to try and find out what is really going on. (Journal of Futures Studies 21, 1, 2016 pp 77-84.) (Read more…)

Academic Publishing in Transition: the Case of Foresight

Jim Dator’s introduction to the new series of World Future Review under his editorship, he made it clear that the focus of the journal would now be ‘on futures studies itself as an academic discipline and as a practical, consulting activity’ (Dator, 2015). A concern for professional standards in futures studies and applied foresight is has been around for a while and arguably represents one of the main ways by which the profession can advance and prosper (Slaughter, 1999). The reverse is obviously also the case. Either way, journals play a major part in this process since they perform a number of critically vital roles that include: reviewing professional activities, reporting on new and significant work, assisting in the dissemination of ideas, providing a platform for individual opinions and so on. Yet remarkably little attention has been paid to the question of standards within the journals themselves. Meanwhile, academic publishing is passing through a profound upheaval due to the continuing fallout from the ‘digital revolution.’

The paper begins by considering the declared aims and objectives of Foresight. There follows an outline of the method used to carry out the content analysis over several volumes and relate this back to the original study. The rest of the paper reviews the content and themes that emerged through four categories: social interests, methods, focal domains and capacity building. Mention is also made of special issues and ‘outstanding works.’ Finally, suggestions are put forward for further consideration and action. (World Future Review, 2016, 8, 2, 63-74.) (Read more…)

Beyond the Global Emergency: Integral Futures and the Search for Clarity

This paper argues that external, technology-led views of futures tend to be one-sided and overlook significant interior aspects of reality. Since everything is socially constructed it follows that no technology stands alone. They arise from social processes that are, in many cases, centuries old. Human beings also enact their own individual and shared interior worlds. An Integral perspective and the four-quadrant model gives equal attention to interior / exterior and individual / collective phenomena. It also helps us to embrace and respect the contributions of many different disciplines. Part one uses these distinctions to raise questions about the views of prominent Silicon Valley figures and their particular framing of the ‘Digital revolution’. Part two suggests how Integral methods help us to ‘see with fresh eyes’ and open up new and renewed strategies or ‘proto-solutions’ to pressing global issues.  (World Future Review, 2015, 7, 2-3, 239-252.) (Read more…)

The Denial of Limits and Interior Aspects of Descent

The primary purposes of this paper are as follows. Part one seeks to re-examine the role of denialism in the context of proposals advanced through the much-abused Limits to Growth (LtG) project. The wide-ranging consequences look increasingly like a ‘global trap’ for which humanity is manifestly unprepared. The paper suggests, however, that that moving from ‘collapse’ narratives toward those focused on ‘descent’ opens out new conceptual and practical spaces. Part two uses three sets of criteria (domains of reality, worldviews and values) to characterise some of the interior human and social aspects of the ‘denial machine.’ It uses these criteria to address some vital, but currently under-appreciated ‘interior’ aspects of descent. Finally it considers examples of promising work and concludes by advancing suggestions about ways forward in the light of the ‘global emergency.’  (Foresight 16, 6, 2014, 527-549) (Read more…)

Defending the Future: Introductory Overview of a Special Issue of On the Horizon on Responses to The Biggest Wake-Up Call in History

A primary objective in writing The Biggest Wake-Up Call in History (BWCH) (Slaughter, 2010) was to bring as much clarity as possible to some of the complex, multi-layered and profoundly challenging issues that face our world today. A second objective was to establish if there were, in fact, viable ways forward beyond what I saw as an increasingly compromised present, pathways that lead towards more humanly compelling futures. These twin purposes largely dictated how the book was framed and how it evolved. Part one focused on the nature of ‘the problem.’ Part two considered a range of possible solutions, some of which were at the conceptual stage while others were already being trialled in one form or another. I wanted to leave the reader with a sense that, while the outlook might initially appear very bleak, there were real and substantive grounds for informed hope and effective action. (On the Horizon, 21,3, 2013, 118-173.) (Read more…)