Category Archives: Latest News

The Makings of a Compassionate Code


We create technology, and in turn it creates our society. We may like it or not, but our technological creations define our lifestyle, decision making, economy, relationships, and yes, even moral compass. We can say we are even birthing a new ethical identity.

When East-West Center had its Symposium on Humane Artificial Intelligence (Cultural and Ethical Diversity and The Challenges of Aligning Technology and Human Values) last September 7-10, 2019 at Imin Conference Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, it was attended by: Futurists, Educators and Professors from various backgrounds, Philosophers, Digital/Data Designers, Silicon Valley professionals, Business Consultants, and so on and so forth. You can imagine the dynamics and the wide-ranging sharing of ideas and suggestions that went on the whole time. AI and technology are as varied as the number of cultures and educational backgrounds out there. Sometimes we think that technology should be digested linearly, but to do so will be one of our biggest mistakes. Our differing perception and reception of it must be taken into account even upon conception of an AI program. Because if Equity is called into operation, then social respect and justice conversations must have contributions from different cultures, religions, generations, and philosophies. This is where an interesting observation takes place in the presentation of Danit Gal. Her talk titled: “Human-Centricity in AI: Between East and West” exposes the cultural experience, with respect to AI, specifically of South Korea, China, and Japan. South Korea puts credence on Humans over Machines and treats AI plainly as a tool that functions only as an enabler and not a detractor. This is in line with their Anti-Social development policy, which highlights balance between individualism and the collective good. China sees AI as “conscious intelligent living becomings” and is seeing a Human-AI Harmony in the near future. Their Buddhism background made them approach AI techno-animistically wherein they set up principles for humans on how to treat AI; plus, there is the fusion of traditional culture and modern technology. An example of this would be Microsoft’s Xiaoice where this is more than just a chatbot, but rather an AI being infused with emotions. There is also an example of the Buddhist Monk “who” performs death rituals for the deceased whose families cannot afford to pay an actual monk. A quick story on this…when I attended a Futures Convention 2 years ago in Brussels, Belgium, one workshop of ours spewed a reality we projected to happen in about 15 years’ time. You guessed it! Our group forecasted Religious Leader Robots who will be administering the rites and rituals of different religious groups. So, when I heard about the Robot Monk, I did not expect it to be happening within 2 years’ time!! Going back, we now witness Japan’s treatment of AI as opposite of South Korea’s “AI as tool” outlook. “Japan’s Society 5.0” portrays AI as a partner, or a potential equal. This land of the rising sun sees AI integration and co-evolution as necessary and inevitable. Their 5.0 version of reality will be one that co-evolves and co-exists in a fully technological-enabled society. They also aim to utilize AI to address their pervasive national loneliness and super-aging society. Now this will be interesting to anticipate; how do you address loneliness with an “unfeeling” medium? Would their famous holographic wife enough to ease the pain? Or is it pushing people towards a psychological deadlock wherein the Japanese relieve themselves off of social obligation and transcendence? It seems in this circumstance that AI just amplifies the illnesses of our society. Moreover, this kind of dependency results to us de-skilling ourselves; ergo, decreasing our cognitive abilities. In the efforts to humanize AI, we must be careful not to dehumanize ourselves in the process.

Let’s move on to more ethical conundrums. Seeing that machines run with our human intentions embedded in them, is there even a possibility of uprooting human intentionalities? Is branding the marriage of our Attention Economy and Security Surveillance as Smart Capitalism really smart, or in a way deceitful? Are we seeing the free mining of data, its monetization and peddling as fair to all? In the midst of this Intelligence Revolution, I am personally worried that there might be a huge possibility that AI can replace human capacity and responsibility. In our state of constant conscious evolution then how do we create checks and balances on AI tech whose exponential growth is blowing our minds every minute? Can, say, a global AI entity keep up in governance? In this 4th Industrial Revolution, how do we encode ethics and humaneness in our digital DNA? Are we looking at a “Black Mirrores-que” kind of future, or are we a hopeful lot and trusting of human beings’ capacity to produce globally sound ethical parameters on AI development all the time? This is the part where it got me thinking, how do we develop the foundations of “Conscious and Compassionate” coding? Here I am banking on what De Kai said in his “Prescriptive versus Descriptive AI Ethic” presentation. He stressed that AI mindset may be the only effective solution to AI problems. How to grow a “good” AI mindset? He says let’s treat and raise it as how we do our children. From instilling respectful language and is respecting of opinions, to making them honor truthfulness via fact-based checking, and one that can co-evolve with society.


By the second day of the symposium, the room was divided into small groups to do AI Scenario-Building. Here, participants utilize fore-sighting tools to co-create four future scenarios; and the individuals’ identities, work and ethical commitments serve as drivers for the scenarios. Scenario 1 was about the “Rise of the Robots” and some talks on social and job inequalities; Scenario 2, the “Structural Dimensions of AI” underscoring its influences on different structures of society; Scenario 3 was about “Tech Company Hegemony” showing technocrats economic domination and all that jazz, and the 4th and last one, a “Big Brother” scenario where not only AI controls our behavior, but that “they” see us all the time, every time. It was interesting and curious to hear the groups’ outputs during the Plenary Discussion of the scenarios—even more so on the AI Scenario Strategy Discussions wherein participants are trying to make heads and tails of the 5 key strategic domains for actualizing commitments. The domains are: Dimensions of Governance, Equity: Inclusion, Human Flourishing, AI for Community/Altruism, and Education. I feel these domains were expected for these are the areas that are both the stimuli and aftermaths of the AI revolution.

Everyone in the symposium knows the benefits of AI to humanity, but everyone is secretly dreading the progression in this area because we know we need to assume exponential responsibility as well. We acknowledge the need to take on the responsibility, it’s just that our present state of technological dependency coupled with repeated disorientation gets us stuck in a swirl…on a loop. That kind of hyperbole of a situation already makes us dread the future of AI and leaves most of us, especially the AI illiterate ones, very fearful. This is the reason why when we mention futures of AI, a lot of people think about the alarming scenarios they picked up from sci-fi movies and TV shows. In terms of educating the mass about AI, I feel it is also essential to reveal all shades of it in order to move forward with the dialogue. There should be balance in any kind of planning towards progression and solutioning. There needs to be the right amount of caution and hope in the mix. We ought to highly consider too that AIs are integral, active, influential, learning, imitative “members” of our societies. They are still “intelligence” after all. Despite its operative artificial label, it’s still created to think and act (within bounds) like us. The reorientation of thinking: “Technology is US!” must be one of the key messages in AI 101.

One thing I wanted highlighted more during the Symposium was the recognition of the significance of Empathy. If we are to make AI humane, then we should not be tackling the matter using only identical perspectives.  Diverse and multi-perspective openness are the first steps to discovering how to encode equity and integrity. This must be inclusive of all races, genders, cultures, religions, and age. Take for example our constant overlooking of the children factor —children who are very much impacted by the digital age and AI revolution as presented by Sandra Cortesi’s“Youth and Digital Life: AI Ethics for the Next Generation” talk. We have repetitively disregarded the youth’s privacy and safety, their inclusion, their mental and emotional health and well-being, and stifled their creative motivation to do artistic work. The youth’s voice is somewhat lacking in existing digital and internet-of-things debacles. We made ourselves believe that adult values and reality are the only quantifiers in the equation.


Everyone, regardless of their prejudice and biases, must realize that the kind of AI future we want depends on our capacitating ourselves practical and ethical-wise. No one should really be left behind because AI is a commodity and like all kinds of articles of trade, it affects every facet of living. We, as the consumers, as always, dictate the characteristics and quality of products and services. As Alexander Means described in his presentation titled: “Computational Cities and Citizens: Silicon Valley Visions of the Future of Learning and Creativity”, educational development is indeed constrained by a value structure subordinated to 21st century capitalism and technology. True, it seems that our hypermodernity situation puts Market and Technology outside of human agency—out of our History even. Acknowledging this reality and not underestimating it help us demand for AI that is equitable and principled. We should anticipate psychological and philosophical predicaments too. We wanted something humane then we should not overlook the consequences or effects it can inflict on the human psyche; else, we are just simply tackling very human problems using very technological tools. This does not compute.

By the last day, East-West Center challenged us by asking us how to go about the target of making AI scalably ethical. Reflecting and mulling on the presentations, workshop outputs, and remarks being thrown around the room for the whole of the Symposium made me think of an evidence-based practical application. I stand by my idea of having East-West Center push the envelope by working with the government (or various governments), community, and different sectors in order to find out what will prove fruitful as a Humane AI model. I am quite certain that there are numerous talks, workshops, or symposiums that that have been done, and will still be done. Talks that analyze and scrutinize the nitty-gritties—and in a macro & micro level—of AI development is (almost) rendered passé. We will constantly be both glossing and deep diving over different variables that we think make up a Humane AI. However, I believe with the level of subjectivity that each individual possess, plus the multitude of experiences, belief systems, and moral codes that exist in the world, we can never get close to the compromised (at least) equitability that we so want to achieve. This is why I revert to the seemingly simple notion of prototyping a Humane AI system via a city for the purpose of both research and benchmarking.

Throughout the talk the dimensions of governance bring weight to the discussion especially in search for resolutions or some kind of order. I see other dimensions’ need for governance in order to thrive, and even operate—as the case of worldwide automatic equity and inclusion. As Danit Gal puts it, there is utmost urgency now in dealing with AI; ergo, actions cannot be delayed anymore. As her cybersecurity background prods her to think about the massive effect that a rogue program may perpetrate. That statement alone made me imagine (and even I could not even imagine!) how grave the effect can be. She also informed the group that no legal implementation has ever caught up to the AI systems yet. This is what further bolsters my idea of utilizing cities to be testing grounds for AI development. It is not far from what is happening right now in South Korea with their Samsung Village. Cities indeed can be catalyst for momentous global change. If we still rely on the old route of creating a global force to govern, and implement AI policies, then it will be a never-ending squabble because as I’ve said, we have got way too many irreconcilable differences. Take a gander at the Climate Crisis. There will always be disagreements amongst self-governing entities for whatever intentions and reasons. We ask too, “Who’s watching the watcher?”. This makes us expect scenes where there will certainly be intense colossal power struggles. If we want to be AI-ready, then at the very least we need to study an intelligent governed system that has adapted to an ever-changing system. What better way to have that than putting the theories and assumptions to a test. This kind of localized trialing will put a spotlight on the inadequacies, injustice, glitches, and all of extant AI systems. It’s much easier working out the kinks on a city level rather than a global scale. I am in the thinking that we should rather be afraid of city-level corollaries and setbacks rather than be blindsided by a global occurrence when we unleash AI systems we thought looked good in theory or in paper. Besides, when do we learn best but through our own actual mistakes and experience. Moreover, I am very critical of the time component. I feel that even if there is a governing worldwide AI entity, it will still take them time to implement and carry forth their function for one, global efforts take time. Secondly, they have their own partialities to thresh out, and again, that takes time. By the time they have met in the middle a new set of AI products and problems would have sprouted up.

This tangible proposal of mine was also inspired by Alexander Means’s talk on Utopic Impulse, which lies on the acts of Solutionism and Collaborationism. I feel that the level of collaboration to happen inside a model city will stand strong (as long as no city is coerced, and this can probably be remedied via incentivization by both government and tech companies) due to the desire of cities too to be a yardstick of any kind of success, or in this case pioneering. Means also talked about “shareable cities” and mentioned that finding the common paves the way to proliferation and production of societal values. If our prototype city aka Humane AI Model City ver. 1 is given the goal of participation in order to develop a humanized AI, then the citizens in turn —consciously or sub-consciously—pick up on the need for injecting Empathy. Consequentially, they will demand nothing short of a mindful AI future. This might be the birth of a new era of technological consciousness that we haven’t witnessed nor experienced before. Allowing us to put a microscope on this said experimental city will help us understand more the ever-evolving complex relationship of technology and Man.

CEF at the 5th Asia Pacific Futures Network Conference Bangkok, Thailand

Shermon Cruz Director at the Center for Engaged Foresight is one of the speakers and workshop facilitators at the 5th Asia-Pacific Futures Network Conference & 1st ASEAN Foresight Knowledge Exchange. Hosted in Bangkok for the second time, the 5th APFN conference intends to take a three-track approach catering for practitioners, academic researchers, and government leaders simultaneously. The organizers of the conference intend also to increase the profile of the work futurists are doing especially in the ASEAN region. This year Thailand is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Thailand is also actively discussing the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Digital Economy 4.0 and other futures-oriented themes.

This years’ conference seeks to understand the changing futures of Asia with a concentration on ASEAN. Our focus, in particular, is on ASEAN 2030. Thematic areas for the conference are economy, knowledge, and security. Based on current trends, what might the region look like in a decade? What are emerging issues/disruptors that could take change this trajectory? And what are the alternative futures of ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific. 

For more and registration please proceed to APFN 5 official link

CEF at the East-West Center Human 2019 AI Symposium, Hawaii

Peachie Dioquino – Valera, Futures Learning Advisor at the Center for Engaged Foresight, will be joining as a discussant at the East-West Center Human AI Symposium this September 7-10 Honolulu, Hawaii.

This symposium is part of an intercultural, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary East-West Center (EWC) initiative aimed at engaging the societal challenges and opportunities that are emerging with advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and big data. The purposes of the initiative are: to establish an ongoing forum for exploring differences in understanding the goal of aligning artificial intelligence with human values and societal wellbeing; to foster globally-shared commitments to equitable and humane artificial intelligence; and, to engage emerging perspectives on the evolving interplay of people, artificial intelligence, and related technologies.…/humane-ai-i…/2019-symposium

CEF listed as one of top foresight organizations by Global Foresight.Org

The Center for Engaged Foresight (CEF) is listed by Global Foresight.Org managed by Foresight Education and Research Network (FERN), a global community of foresight practitioners and network of institutions working to advance global foresight culture, as one of the top foresight organizations in the world.

The organizations and institutions listed as top foresight organizations that includes CEF “have distinguished themselves in one or more Primary Foresight Specialties, or take alternative foresight approaches, as seen in the variety of Foresight Frameworks.”

For more, please check—top-foresight

Korea Global Adaptation Week: Resilience Frontiers 2019

Shermon Cruz, founder and executive director of the Center for Engaged Foresight, will be joining as one of the 7-member facilitation team of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) Resilience Frontiers, a disruptive brainstorming conference on the future of resilience, which will take place at the Songdo Convensia, from 8 to 12 April, 2019, in Songdo, South Korea.

The event marks the beginning of a collective intelligence process on how best to respond to the deep societal transformations driven by emerging technologies and new sustainability trends, and to maximize our resilience to climate change beyond 2030.

It will be hosted by the Government of South Korea, during the Korea Global Adaptation Week. It is an interagency effort, undertaken by the UNFCCC secretariat in collaboration with Climate-KIC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Global Water Partnership, the International Development Research Centre, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Over the course of the five days of Resilience Frontiers, around 100 visionary thinkers and thought leaders from international organizations as well as non-profit, private and academic/research entities, working across fields and disciplines in all parts of the world, will be offered a variety of tools to experiment, discuss, reflect on, and co-create visions for our common future against the backdrop of resilience. Inspired by UNESCO’s well-established Futures Literacy Laboratory action-learning framework and by Futur’io’s Moonshot approach, the collective intelligence process in Resilience Frontiers has been co-designed so as to maximize participants’ learning, creativity and innovation.

Transforming Anticipation in the 21st Century


The first and latest book of UNESCO “Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the Twenty First Century” edited by Riel Miller is out and free for download at  Transforming the Future.

Shermon Cruz, founder and chief futurist of the Center for Engaged Foresight, and Ace Aceron, education development officer at UNICEF, contributed a case study that explored how the Filipino youth perceives, reframes and imagines the future of leadership in Filipino context via the futures literacy lab-collective intelligence framework. Shermon has a direct contribution to the theory and practice of futures literacy and a pioneer-member of UNESCO’s Global Futures Literacy Network.

Since 2015, futures literacy laboratories were held in Laoag City in partnership with the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, Antipolo City sponsored by the First Pacific Leadership Academy and most recently with UNICEF Philippines in Pasig City and the City of Manila.


This seminal book showcases case studies of futures laboratories undertaken by UNESCO with a number of partners like the Center for Engaged Foresight to define the theory and practice of anticipation or futures literacy.

The book provides a wealth of articles and cases that explains the concept of ‘Futures Literacy’ as a tool to reveal, reframe and rethink people’s and organizations understanding of anticipatory systems and processes.

The book probes topics such as:

• Futures Literacy and the Discipline of Anticipation;

•  presents evidence collected from over 30 Futures Literacy Laboratories and presented in 14 full case studies;

This is a must-have book for scholars, researchers, policy-makers, and students, as well as activists working on sustainability issues and innovation, future studies, and anticipation studies.

Here are some related videos, news articles, and resource about the book and futures literacy facilitated by the Center for Engaged Foresight in the Philippines:

Futures Literacy at UNESCO Bangkok

Transforming the Future

Pioneering Futures Literacy with the Filipino Youth

Resilient Cities, Brighter Futures

UNESCO Resilient Cities, Brighter Futures

#World Future Day ’19

The Millennium Project and its global network of nodes launched the sixth annual 24-hour conversation around the world, in cooperation with the Association of Professional Futurists, Humanity Plus, World Academy of Art and Science, and the World Futures Studies Federation.

Global thought leaders have shared around the world about the future of governing artificial intelligence, inventing future employment, building space elevators to orbital cities. reducing climate change, guaranteeing safe water and energy, fighting transnational organized crime, developing future forms of democracy, countering information warfare, incorporating global ethics in decisionmaking, enforcing safety standards for synthetic biology, and the future of humanity.

The conversations kicked off led off in New Zealand by Stephanie Pride of StratEDGY Strategic Foresight. Other time-zone hosts were Anita Kelleher(Australia), Shermon Cruz (Philippines), Asanga Abeyagoonasekera (Sri Lanka), Paul Epping (United Arab Emirates), Kamal Shaeer (Egypt), Marius Oosthuizen(South Africa), Heiner Benking (Germany), Mark Sackler (Connecticut), Rosa Alegria (Brazil), Guillermina Benavides Rincón (Mexico), Carlos Peralta (Peru), Diego Coca (Bolivia), Tony Carbonero (El Salvador), Oriana Beaudet (Minnesota), Kay Daniels (Texas), Lea Artis (Colorado), Mila Popovich (Colorado), Joe Murphy(California), and Brock Hinzmann (California).  For more about this annual global event to celebrate the future read Talking about Future Day, Healing with Robots, Remembering Heidi Toffler and for the 24-hour global conversation Millennium Project World Future Day Recap. 



#UrbanFutures at the Diverse Futures Festival ’18


Urban futures can be worlds apart yet share common approaches to sustainability. Shermon Cruz, Founder, and Director of the Center for Engaged Foresight discusses Global South cities that are vulnerable to natural disasters and the challenge of dealing with complex risks in interconnected systems.

Shermon’s session Resurgent Cities from a Global South Perspective

The Urban Futures sessions focus on the future of urban environments and the trends and drivers that are shaping them. Themes include technology, neuroscience and the resilience of cities.

Futures Festival ’18 started with the idea of diverse futures and grew into 20 sessions presented by 24 speakers working in 13 countries. It was broadcast online over a 12-hour period on October 27/28, 2018.

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF)  is a growing community of futurists. Members are dedicated to promoting professional excellence and demonstrating the value of strategic foresight and futures studies. APF members meet regularly and host active online discussions among practitioners. APF also delivers professional development programs and recognition for excellence in futures. The annual APF Futures Festival is an opportunity for people across the globe to share insights, experiences, and ideas.

For more lectures and sessions do check

Diverse Futures 2018: A Virtual Gathering to Explore Emerging Futures


Will Global South cities transcend beyond the narrative of trauma and disasters? Is there an alternative future for them? Would it learn from the past to innovate, act and create the preferred Global South city story?  What would a resilient, sustainable, empowered Global South city look like? How does it get there? Where will the change come from? From the perspective of truth to power – what are the grand narratives and worldviews that have shaped the past and that might continue to shape their futures? What are the values and myths that inform or that influence Global South perspectives of a resilient and resurgent city futures?

The Center for Engaged Foresight represents at the 2018 Diverse Futures Festival, a virtual gathering of futurists, organized by the Association of Professional Futurist (APF) this Saturday at 8:00-9:00PM October 27, 2018.  The topic “Resurgent Cities from a Global South Perspective” discusses CEF’s seven years of strategic foresight/futures work on alternative city futures. It used multiple futures tools and techniques and engaged approximately 7,000 participants held in classroom, workshop, conference, formal and informal settings to explore the futures of Global South Cities.

The Futures Festival is a 12 hours of non-stop interactive session featuring the work of 24 futurists around the world plus conversations on diverse futures.  Futures Festival is an annual virtual gathering hosted by the Association of Professional Futurists.

This year, Toronto, Ontario, Canada is the hosting locale for Futures Festival ‘18 and the theme is Diverse Futures. Therefore all times are shown based on GMT-4 (EDT), and sessions take place between 0700 and 1900 (EDT). Check out for your time zone.

Diverse Futures presenters are putting forward new ways of looking at economics, knowledge transfer, and pluralism. Moreover, they are confronting ethical considerations and challenging constrictive and outdated narratives.

Get ready for a fast-paced experience. Sessions are 30 to 90 minutes in length and also have at least 15 minutes for discussion. Presenters are futurists who want to know what you think. Therefore, you can expect a day filled with dynamic and challenging conversations!

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is a growing community of futurists, dedicated to promoting professional excellence and demonstrating the value of strategic foresight and futures studies for their clients and/ or employers.

For more information and to register check out Diverse Futures




Asia Imagined: Disruptions and Alternative Futures


The Center for Engaged Foresight will present at the 4th APFN Conference this August 2018.

This time in Bangkok, Thailand. The 4th APFN conference takes a two-track approach to cater foresight practitioners and researchers.  This years’s conference seeks to understand emerging and distruptive futures of Asia. This conference focuses on how Asia is imagined in the long-term and explore how might the shift to solar energy and intelligent/autonomous cars transform the design of Asian cities? Will Asian cities become green, smart, and clean? How might disruptions in capitalism – the shift toward the sharing economy, for example, transform the economic landscape of Asia? Will advances in AI create new jobs or ensure a jobless future for all? Will meditation and yoga by integrating our various selves not only lead to inner bliss but enhance productivity? As policymakers often desire precise answers to these questions, futurists have learned that these are best answered as alternative futures, as scenarios of the possible, plausible and preferred.

Along with alternative futures, case studies of foresight in practice from government, the private sector, and the community arena will be highlighted.


  1. To imagine Asia’s future; explores disruptions, and seeks to create alternative futures
  2. To share important methods, tools and innovations for futures thinking and foresight
  3. Through case studies, to motivate and enable the participants to apply the appropriate methods
  4. To promote cooperation and networking among participants as well as share experiences between members of different organizations and backgrounds
  5. To increase the profile of futures thinking and foresight in the Asia-Pacific.
  6. Create awareness for the need of creating future literacy with future (younger) leaders

For more about conference fees, venue, accommodation, how to participate and present please visit the official 4th APFN Conference web link.



Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels

“May your futures always be preferred!”-

John Sweeney (his informal toast on last day’s party)

The Centre of Expertise Applied Futures Research|Open Time of the Erasmushogeschool Brussel and M HKA co-designed a 3-day Futures conference that is not only collaborative, but interactive and creative as well. Partners in the DDT are: The Association of Professional Futurists, The Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, Teach the Future, Graduate Institute of Futures Studies and C-FAR of Tamkang University, Journal of Futures Studies and Agence Future, Etoile du Sud, and our very own, Center for Engaged Foresight. The conference, headed by Dr. Maya Van Leemput, senior researcher of Erasmus’s Applied Futures Research and creator of Agence Future, was indeed a success! As repeatedly remarked by participants during the last day’s Fishbowl Landing, “it has been the most fun conference of my life!”.

The conference was a cornucopia of panels, workshops, performances, exhibits, breakout sessions, and most importantly, both formal and personal conversations with diverse contributors and participants. The first day was started just aptly, with keynote speaker, professor em. Jim Dator of Hawaii’s Manoa School, briefly describing his 4 Generic Images of the Future. These futures are: Continued Growth, which is the most common of the alternative futures, continuously highlighting “economic growth”; Collapse, the second alternative that should not be portrayed as the “worst case scenario”, for in every disaster there are winners as well; Discipline, the future whose requisite is to orient our lives around a set of fundamental values; and lastly, Transformation, which talks about the emergence of a “dream society” as the successor to the “information society. This last future focuses on the transforming power of technology—especially Robotics and A.I. These 4 futures paved the way by serving as the looming theme of the conference. And this is seen visually via the venue of the second and third day of this foresight summit.

M HKA Museum, the main venue of this confluence of futurists, was just the perfect place. The ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ (ATFI), composed by the museum, is the binding element of the “Design Develop Transform” event. The exhibit was truly captivating for it showcased 9 artists’ take on the future, and 4 futurists’ artistic manifestation of their researched futures. Alexander Lee, a Tahitian artist, was given the privilege to paint the museum’s walls (and paint he did for 3 months!) according to Dator’s 4 Futures.

Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels

Day 2, (UN) CONFERENCE, was nothing short of busy. Day started by the welcoming of M HKA’s ATFI curator, Anders Kreuger. After the opening remarks and morning panel, it was immediately -with gusto- followed by games. The gamification portion is an enjoyable connected learning that created incentive for sharing. Lunch was followed by more panels, and workshops such as “Prototyping for a Preferable Sustainable Future” by Christianne Heselmans & Linda Hofman, and “Cultivating Physiological Coherence with Possible Futures” by Tyler Mongan. Whole group was divided-depending on their interest that afternoon-into the Education Cluster and Story Telling & Science Fiction Cluster. One performance was presented that day by TOMI DUFva & Matti Vainio entitled “human and a robot DRAWING”; perfectly capping the day in the visual sense.

The last day served as an open space for the public. Exhibiting Futurists were: Stuart Candy, Mei-Mei Song, John Sweeney & Ziaudin Sardar, Maya Van Leemput & Bram Goots. Exhibiting artists were: Alexander Lee, Myriam Bäckström, Nina Roos, Michel Auder, Guan Xiao, Darius Žiūra, Simryn Gill, Kasper Bosmans and Jean Katambayi Mukendi. Tours in the morning was guided by curator Mr. Kreuger, and the afternoon one was guided by curator Ms. Leemput. Apart from art exhibits there were also book presentations and numerous topics (both pre-listed and bring-your-own-style) to attend to. An interesting afternoon walk was crafted by An Mertens wherein Trees were observed and studied as a Futures thinking tool. This was the perfect way to end the day since the notion of trees as our future is very much highlighted. Peachie Dioquino-Valera, a representative of Philippines’s Center for Engaged Foresight was asked by Ms. Mertens to share her culture’s beliefs when it comes to trees. She made everyone present participate in a gentle exercise which is “talking to the trees”. Here, she explained what was to be done, which was for individuals to choose a tree which they resonate with. Then, their left hand was to be put on the trunk, and with their eyes closed, send a message to the tree, or even ask a question, and hear their response. Replies came knowingly through a gentle breeze, and the first thing that pops into their mind. Ms. Valera asked everyone to not rationalize, and let things flow. The purpose of this activity is to send forth a message that these living beings are messengers from the future. They tell us their secrets, woes, and ancient knowledge. The bridging of such primeval tribal practices to access the future is what made the activity an apt ending. This is where we see the past connect with the future. The activity also brought the lesson of reflections on our environment: whatever we do to the environment, we do unto ourselves.

The third day ended with a fishbowl landing which poured forth reflections and sentiments. The last and special day was capped with a farewell dinner and party which brought the participants much closer, and contact exchanges indeed was a harbinger of future networking and awesome futures projects.

Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels

Musings and ideas run aplenty despite the short period of time that accommodated such insightful and meaty topics. One universal belief that popped all throughout the conference; and it is best exemplified by our national hero, Jose Rizal’s famous quote: “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan, ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” And it’s true. As Dator explained about our present situation, that we are barely adapting to the new, when we have barely mastered the past. There is also the constant reminder that it’s impossible to look only at one future, and discard the others. This very thought also gives humanity a great chance and obligation to start over again. And what about conflict transformation? Unbeknownst to most, this is one of the ideal characteristics of futurology. This is embodied during our first day session with our very own Cesar Villanueva, Filipino board member of World Future Studies Federation & a peace futurist. His workshop “Creative peace futures workshop on futures of South China Sea” is the perfect living example of conflict transformation. As Einstein once said: “As long as there are men, there will be wars.” Humanity does not need wars. Futures or Foresight studies is very much essential to preventing this useless and unnecessary creation of man. This is one of the things worth fighting for…this is one of the things worth dipping our feet in futures for. This is where we connect all the dots and analyze all complications—its intricacies, nuances, and all. This experience of a conference truly demonstrated and taught us how to DESIGN our preferred futures via different thinking tools brought to the table by the contributors and partners. It also taught us how to DEVELOP our cooked-up ideal futures so eventually we can TRANSFORM them into reality. They say that Reality Check is necessary, but so is a Futures check. Else, we might end up with Utopian irresponsibility and drive us further away from a sustainable and preferred global future.

By Peachie Dioquino Valera, Futures Learning Advisor

For more please check the DDT link  Design. Design. Transform and DDT Conference Impressions

Future of Foresight in Asia: The 2nd Asia Pacific Futures Network International Conference

The 2nd Asia Pacific Futures Network (APFN) International Conference held at and organized by the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies Tamkang University Taiwan highlighted what works in futures and foresight and explored and introduced emerging tools and techniques to create and question alternative and preferred futures in Asia.

From a discussion of macrohistory to the future of Islamic banking, governance and city resilience, presenters shared lessons learned via case studies on foresight praxis and interface with corporate, state, academe, civil society and local government levels.

Mapping the after panel discussions and presentations of panelists, some keywords would emerge and probably are drivers or futures narratives that might influence, perhaps obviously, the way we frame and implement the social, political, technological and economic futures of Asia:

  • Grand transition
  • Regional security
  • Islamic banking
  • Water
  • Health
  • Play and Praxis
  • Gaming and Artificial Intelligence
  • Design thinking and public engagement
  • Foresight in national planning
  • Metaphor and poetry
  • Future Makers
  • Leading with culture
  • Linguistics
  • City futures

Looking forward to APFNs conference report hopefully this year.

Below are some photos from the APFN conference courtesy of the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies Tamkang University Taiwan.

Group Photo Day1.jpg
Day 1 participants of the 2nd APFN conference

Shermon Cruz (that’s me!) with Colin Russo (Australia) and Hyunhee Heo (Korea) discussing Urban and Health City Futures in Asia

Imtiaz Ahmed (Sri Lanka) with Seonwon Park and Nedal El-Ghattis shared some insights on the aspect of the Asian grand transition – security, banking and culture

Methods and Tools with Asian Flavour. Games! games! games! with John Sweeney (USA) and Ali Baradaran (Iran)

Ali Baradaran (Iran) co-facilitated the afternoon workshop with John Sweeney (USA) and Shermon Cruz (Philippines)

Let the games begin!

Shermon Cruz, Ali Barandaran and John Sweeney at the 2nd APFN Conference

Games! games! games!

The Graduate Institute of Futures Studies – Host and organizer of the 2nd APFN Conference!