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Club of Amsterdam Journal, May 2005, Issue 47




The Club of Amsterdam Journal appears 2 x per month.
You can find the online version at: http://www.clubofamsterdam.com
May 2005, Issue 47
the future of
NANOTECHNOLOGY, ECONOMY, ICT, WATER, PHILOSOPHY, URBAN DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION, MEDICINE, FOOD, MOBILITY, MUSIC, INTERNET, ENERGY, MEDIA, RELIGION, BIOTECH, POLITICS, BRANDING, TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY, TRADE, ARCHITECTURE, LEARNING, SENIOR CITIZENS, DEMOCRACY, SCIENCE, CULTURE

  CONTENT
 
 
June 1, 2005
   
 



  Articles
Humanoids on the march

PHILOSOPHY
John Cleese explains 'just what it is that philosophers do' [audio]
  Links
European Environment Agency

Religious Research Association

EuroHealthNet

International Fair Trade Association

Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program



Islamic Philosophy Online



 
 
 
     
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  .2004 World Robotics survey
 



2004 World Robotics survey
by
UNECE

 
  • Worldwide investment in industrial robots up 19% in 2003
  • In first half of 2004, orders for robots were up another 18% to the highest level ever recorded
  • Worldwide growth in the period 2004-2007 forecast at an average annual rate of about 7%
  • Over 600,000 household robots in use – several millions in the next few years

   
  • Double digit growth in the robot business
    In 2003, the robot surged by 28%, by close to 25% in Japan and by 4% in the European responsible for the UNECE/IFR publication. The modest growth in should, however, be seen in the light of the fact that with the exception European Union has had double-digit market growth since 1994.
  • What about the trends in 2004 and the forecast for 2004-2007?
    The UNECE/IFR quarterly survey on order intake of industrial robots, which includes most of the world's largest companies, showed that worldwide order intake increased by 18% in the first half of 2004, compared with the same period in 2003. It was the highest order intake of industrial robots ever recorded, worldwide and in all regions, except in Europe where it was the second best half year recorded.
    Worldwide sales are forecasted to increase from 81,800 units in 2003 to over 106,000 units by 2007, or an average of close to 7% per year.

  • How many robots are now working out there in industry? Worldwide at least 800,000 units (possibly the real stock could be well over one million units), of which 350,000 in Japan, close to 250,000 in the European Union and about 112,000 in North America. In Europe, Germany is in the lead with 112,700 units, followed by Italy with 50,000, France with 26,000, Spain with 20,000 and the United Kingdom with 14,000.
  • What is the forecast for 2007?
    A conservative forecast points about one million units worldwide, of which 350,000 in Japan, 326,000 in the European Union and 145,000 in North America.

  • Why invest in robots?
    In the last decade the performance of robots has increased enormously while at the same time their prices have been plummeting. A robot sold in 2003 would have cost about a fourth of what a robot with the same performance would have cost in 1990. In the last few years the price decrease of robots has, however, started to level off. Profitability studies have shown that it is not unusual for robots to have a pay-back period as short as 1-2 years.

  • And not hire people?
    In Germany, for instance, the prices of robots relative to labour costs have fallen from 100 in 1990 to 35 in 2003 and to 15 when taking into account the radically improved performance of robots. In North America, the relative price dropped to 28 and to about 12 if quality improvements are taken into consideration. "Falling or stable robot prices, increasing labour costs and continuously improved technology are major driving forces which speak for continued massive robot investment in industry", says Jan Karlsson. Even in developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and China, robot investments are starting to take off at an impressive rate. “As robots are used both for increasing capacity and for rationalizing production, robots investments are made also during periods of economic recession. When the economy recovers, production can then to a large extent be increased without necessarily hiring new labour”, concludes Jan Karlsson.

  • If robots are so profitable why is there not an even stronger rush to invest?
    Robots are not products to be acquired “over the counter”. In order to reap the benefits of robots, potential user companies must have sufficient in-house technological know-how as well as a thorough comprehension of their production processes.

  • How many robots per employee in the manufacturing industry?
    About 320 per 10,000 employees in Japan, 148 in Germany, 116 in Italy, 99 in Sweden and between 80 and 50 in Finland, Spain, France, United States, Austria, Benelux and Denmark (the figure for Japan includes all types of robots while for all the other countries only multipurpose industrial robots are included. The figures are therefore not comparable). In the United Kingdom the density amounted to about 40.
  • In the car industry?
    In Japan, Italy and Germany there is more than 1 robot per 10 production workers.

  • Are we seeing any service robots in our homes?
    At the end of 2003, about 610,000 autonomous vacuum cleaners and lawn-mowing robots were in operation. In 2004- 2007, more than 4 million new units are forecasted to be added.

  • How are service robots for professional use doing?
    Medical robots, underwater robots, surveillance robots, demolition robots and many other types of robots for carrying out a multitude of tasks are doing very well. A stock of some 21,000 units was estimated at the end of 2003. In the period 2004-2007, another 54,000 units are projected to be added to the stock.

  • In the long run service robots will be everyday tools for mankind.
    They will not only clean our floors, mow our lawns and guard our homes but they will also assist old and handicapped people with sophisticated interactive equipment, carry out surgery, inspect pipes and sites that are hazardous to people, fight fire and bombs and be used in many other applications described in the present issue of World Robotics 2004. Huge military investment in service robots will give spin-off effects both for the market of professional service robots and for the market of consumer products.
     
 




  .News about Robotics
 
 


Robotic Surgery
When Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, took a seat at the instrument control console of the da Vinci Surgical System on April 27, 2001, he prepared to make history yet again – becoming the first cardiothoracic surgeon in Southern California to perform heart surgery using a robot.

The da Vinci Surgical System consists of a surgeon's console, a patient-side cart, a high performance vision system and proprietary instruments from Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

Using the da Vinci Surgical System, the surgeon operates while seated comfortably at a console viewing a 3-D image of the surgical field. The surgeon's fingers grasp the instrument controls below the display with wrists naturally positioned relative to his or her eyes. The da Vinci Surgical System's technology seamlessly translates the surgeon's movements into precise, real-time movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

   

VolksBot RT
by Fraunhofer AIS

For the first time the VolksBot RT (Rough Terrain) was presented at the RoboCup German Open 2005. VolksBot is a flexible and modular mobile robot construction kit, designed to fit the needs in research and education as well as in application-based rapid-prototyping. The component-based approach offers a plug-in architecture in electronic hardware, software and mechanics.

VolksBot is a modular construction kit for mobile robots designed for applications in research, university and industry.

The modular concept of Volksbot enables the user to enormously reduce his own development expenditures in the area of mobile robotics.

By recombining VolksBot components, variants of robots for different application can be build with little effort.

Open interfaces in software, hardware and mechanics allow a faster integration of own hardware modules, rapid prototyping of new applications and testing of new procedures.

 
  .News about the Future
   

Dog Forest
“Animal theme parks represent a new model for pet sales, and a serious strategy that envisions the market a century from now.” Makoto Suematsu, President of MK. Suematsu, Inc.

“Dog Forest” opened in 2003 in the idyllic setting of Izu-Kogen, 100 kilometers from Tokyo. Instead of being just another theme park, Dog Forest also breeds and sells dogs. Before being turned over to their owners, puppies receive their necessary vaccinations and live with their mother for the first three months to allow their health to stabilize.

“The reason that we located Dog Forest so far from Tokyo is that we don’t want people buying these living creatures on a whim. I don’t think that anyone willing to travel all the way to Izu is going to be an impulse buyer."

   


 

A spiritual connection
by The Economist

Technology and society: Around the world, mobile phones seem to have a spiritual or supernatural dimension that other forms of technology lack.

THOSE who go into the priesthood are said to have a calling from God. Now the purveyors of faith the world over are using mobile phones to give believers a call in a more literal sense. Catholics can sign up for daily inspirational text messages from the pope simply by texting “Pope On” to a special number (53141 in Ireland, for example). The Irish Jesuits offer a service called Sacred Space, accessible via smartphone, which encourages users to spend ten minutes reflecting on a specially chosen scripture for the day. In Taiwan, limited-edition phones made by Okwap, a local handset-maker, offer Matsu wallpaper and religious ringtones, along with a less tangible feature - each one has been specially blessed at a temple to Matsu. And Muslims around the world can use the F7100 handset, launched last July by LG of South Korea, both to remind them of prayer times (the phone has an alarm system that works in 500 cities) and to find the direction of Mecca using the handset's built-in “Mecca indicator” compass.



..Next Event: Wednesday, June 1

the future of Robotics
Wednesday, June1, 2005
reception: 18:30-19:30, conference: 19:30-22:15
location: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prins Bernhardplein 200, Amsterdam [next to Amstelstation], free parking.

Léon Rosenkrantz: AIBO as an intelligent robot
Bart de Boer: Robotics for AI and AI for Robotics
Christoph Bartneck: Social Robots



.
.Notes Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age


Notes Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age
by Milverton Wallace

The kid enters the coffee shop and is greeted excitedly by her friends. They jostle to exchange high fives, knuckle greetings and finger snaps with her.

What is the cause of their admiration? Her Rocaway jeans? Her high tan Jimmy Choo boots? Her Armani sun-glasses? Her Karl Lagerfeld jacket? Nah! It is the gleaming silver object dangling from a pair of white wires plugged into her ears.

It is an iPod, the must-have digital gadget of today's young people. With this tiny digital audio player Apple stole Napster's thunder and replaced the CD player as the cutting-edge portable music player of choice.

But if you think this is just another device for playing pre-recorded music, think again. Within two years of the iPod's debut, developers had created software to allow anyone to produce audio content -- words and music -- for it and other portable digital players. This technology, known as podcasting, turns consumers into producers, and every wannabe DJ and talk-show host into broadcasters. It is a distribution channel that plugs directly into the hippest, hottest communication network on the planet.

In advanced industrial countries, and increasingly in less-developed regions, social life is being digitised. Cheap camera phones and videocams allow everyday activities to be recorded and stored on personal computers or online services; more and more conversations are conducted via email, IM and SMS; private thoughts, opinions and reflections on public affairs or private passions are instantly posted on weblogs. Because they are in digital form, all these different types of record -- moving images, photographs, sounds and texts -- can be stored on computers. And the Internet makes it possible for all of this to be shared with family, friends and strangers.

Welcome to the agora of the 21st century, a space where a diverse array of digital modes of communication intersect in cyberspace -- email, instant messaging, text messaging, multimedia messaging, weblogging, audioblogging, moblogging, mobcasting, podcasting.

Like it or not, this is the new cultural landscape for learning, entertainment, and communicating with each other. And it is being constructed without consultation with, or permission from, regulatory authorities or self-appointed gatekeepers.

All well and good, but what is the point of all this digital g-soup when school-leavers cannot spell and do sums, or believe Winston Churchill was an insurance salesman? Relax. This is not the end of literacy, just a groping towards a new kind of literacy, which is capable of fulfilling the knowledge acquisition, informational and cultural needs of the digital age.


[...]

What are the competencies that should be included in any model of literacy for the digital age?

First, you should get used to interacting with screen-based devices for sending, receiving and viewing digital information because this is the way one interacts with the interface -- the collection of words, icons, buttons, menus, and other symbols -- connecting the user to the database which stores the data and the network which transmits it. To interact with your computers, mobile phones, PDAs, media players etc requires that you have the knowledge to understand these symbols and the tactile skills to manipulate them to achieve a desired purpose e.g., open a document, save a file, view a picture, play a song, send a message.

Second, you must be able to create a document, store it and retrieve it at a later date. By "document" is meant any information element or object in digital form -- words, pictures, sounds, still and moving images.

Third, you need to acquire some knowledge of the theory and practice of hypermedia [6], (Nielsen 1995) because it is in this space that information is communicated on the screens of computers and digital media devices. A paper document allows only text and two-dimensional images, while radio and television have been completely linear media. The hypermedia document, now the standard form in which information is displayed and communicated, is changing all that. By allowing interaction with non-linear, multi-dimensional documents to take place, it has radically altered the practice of reading and writing.



.Recommended Book
cover

Robo sapiens: Evolution of a New Species
by Peter Menzel (Photographer), Faith D'Aluisio

If you believe the children are our future, you're only half right. Photographer Peter Menzel and journalist Faith D'Aluisio traveled around the world interviewing researchers who want to jump-start our evolution by designing and building electrical and mechanical extensions of ourselves - robots. Their book, Robo Sapiens, takes its title from the notion that our species might somehow merge with our creations, either literally or symbiotically. The photography is brilliant, showing the endearing and creepy sides of the robots and roboticists and feeling like stills from unmade science-fiction films. D'Aluisio's interviews are insightful and often very funny, as when she calls MIT superstar Rodney Brooks on his statement that we ought not "overanthropomorphize" people. Brooks is an interesting study. Having shaken up the robotics and artificial-intelligence fields with his elimination of high-level intelligence and dedication to tiny, insectoid, built-from-the-ground-up robots, he now works on large, human-mimicking machines. But hundreds of other researchers, in Japan, Europe, and the United States, are working on various aspects of machine behavior, from the eerily lifelike robotic faces of Fumio Hara and Alvaro Villa to the monkeylike movement of Brachiator III; each of them casts a bit of light on the future of their field in their short interviews. Though it's clear that we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for a robot butler, Robo Sapiens suggests that much cooler - and stranger - events are coming soon. - Rob Lightner



.Radical Trends Guide


Radical Trends Guide
The hidden desires of tomorrows markets
David Bosshart, Karin Frick and Stefan Kaiser, GDI

The GDI, a leading Swiss Think Tank, has been observing and analysing new developments and trends in retail, society and consumption for more than 40 years.

Why radical trends?

Major developments are preceded by speculations that slowly become part of our everyday awareness and take on a semblance of reality. The stories that circulate about the technology, economy, society and people of tomorrow act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread in human consciousness. Memes are ideas and secret desires that propagate in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘ that direct the imagination of researchers, developers, investors, politicians and consumers. In this connection, mass media and, in particular, films accelerate and amplify these trends by anchoring expectations of the future in our collective sub-consciousness.

No longer is anything impossible – everything is already there

The future frequently arrives faster than expected. In 1996, one of the world‘s most renowned biologists, Lee Silver of Princeton University, wrote that it is „impossible“ to clone mammals via cell-nucleus transfer – not simply difficult but impossible. As fate would have it, his book had not even reached the bookshops before scientists of the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced that they had succeeded in cloning ‚Dolly‘ the sheep. Only eight years later, in the spring of 2004, South Korean researchers obtained stem cells from a clone embryo for the first time. This experiment will change the world radically and shows clearly how even experts tend to underestimate future possibilities. Anyone in this situation who does not use his or her sense of possibility to reconnoitre the impossible is not a genuine realist.

Initially, the future is the realm of visionaries. They extend our intellectual horizon by staking out new areas of mental exploration. In many cases, major developments are preceded by speculations that slowly become part of our everyday awareness and take on a semblance of reality. For example, many of the technologies of the future created by George Orwell when he wrote ‚1984‘ in 1949 have long since passed into ‚normal‘ aspects of modern life. Biometric passports, spy satellites, intelligent security cameras, complete e-mail monitoring, hypertrophic databases with private data represent a set of tools that is no less perfect than the facilities available to Orwell‘s ‚Big Brother‘. Obviously, even the most depressing visions of the future have the power to stimulate innovations and inspire investors.

Memes power collective perception
The best way to predict the future is to invent it because the visions of the future created by research laboratories, think tanks, science-fiction authors and other visionaries not only form a matrix for the social perception of tomorrow‘s world but also open up the associated opportunities. The stories that circulate about the technology, economy, society and people of tomorrow act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread in human consciousness. Memes are thoughts and ideas that propagate in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘. Their discoverer, Richard Dawkins, defined them as a „unit of cultural transmission“ (Dawkins 1978), while Pulitzer prize-winner Douglas Hoftstadter coined the term ‚ideosphere‘ for the environment in which memes propagate, interact, adapt and develop (Hoftstadter 1985). The futures that come to prominence are chosen on the level of collective cultural imagination. Memes vie for people‘s attention and time, as well as a place in their memory, in much the same way as radio, television or newspapers. They work their way ‚egoistically‘ into the material world and use it for their own purposes.

Thus, the future belongs to those who tell the best stories about the future – and science fiction is the name of the game. For example, in the IT sector where CEOs of leading companies love presenting themselves as visionaries of a technically improved future. They point the way to an electronic land of milk and honey with intelligent refrigerators, thinking shoes, autonomous cars and online physicians. They advertise with futuristic design studies for the household appliances of tomorrow and carry us off into the future in the grand Hollywood manner. The IT sector knows how to tell stories of the ‚digital age‘ so that people see them as reality. Although the collapse of the New Economy and abortive strategic developments have put a damper on the exaggerated expectations of high-tech promises, these events have had little impact on the generally high level of acceptance for new technologies. The better stories keep alive the belief in an information technology that will ensure an easier life in tomorrow‘s world.

In comparison to the IT sector, representatives of the biotechnology sphere are more restrained in their predictions for the future. Their campaigns are designed to educate and breakdown fears on the basis of scientific facts. The argumentation is more rational and appeals less to the emotions. By contrast, the opponents of biotechnology employ pictures and stories that have a lasting impact. Thus, a modified picture or a new word can suffice to turn an abstract DNA model into a feeling that triggers social nightmares and awakens fears: it is hardly possible to associate positive ideas with images of a future dominated by ‚Frankenstein food‘, ‚terminator genes‘, ‚monster tomatoes‘ and ‚super weeds‘. Against this background, MIT economist Lester Thurow compares the widespread angst created by the notion of genetically- modified plants with the ancient fear of sea monsters that stopped us from discovering America for centuries despite the existence of the maritime technology required (Thurow 2003). Today, the fear of biotech monsters is preventing the exploration of this highly promising field of economic activity and the consequences for Europe are likely to be serious: the USA, not to mention many other less regulated nations, are heading for the unknown land of biotechnology alone and, after conquering it, will have a lead of fifty years over the ‚old world‘. Besides the cultural differences, Thurow‘s example underscores the significance of promising stories to which a technology can harness itself. Thus, without effective memes, the benefits of the previously acclaimed ‚biotech revolution‘ will bypass Europe in the foreseeable future.

Stories steer the imagination for new markets

In this connection, the effectiveness of such stories depends not on how true, probable or accurate they are. Stories about the future are not predictions in the generally accepted sense but intellectual experiments that aim to open up new possibilities and future markets. They explore what could become reality and, by directing the imagination of researchers, developers, investors, companies and politicians, give them the optimism needed to create new markets. After all, anyone who doesn‘t believe in the future is hardly likely to take entrepreneurial risks. Thus, memes are both stimulating and infectious ideas that spread within society like a virus.

Ideas of this kind need not be positive to be effective. The negative utopias and catastrophe scenarios that have always dominated the world of science fiction help us conquer our collective fears of the new and unknown. They warn against erroneous developments and unfounded, exaggerated expectations, and invite us to change course or resist undesirable developments. Thus, the gloomy prognoses made by the Club of Rome in ‚The Limits to Growth‘ at the beginning of the seventies triggered a sustained debate about the environment throughout the world and prevented – for the time being at least – the catastrophes predicted. Last but not least, memes, especially the gloomy ones, are increasingly the driving force behind new, future-oriented markets. The more people feel their personal safety and health is threatened, the more they are prepared to invest in prevention and security.

Mass culture programmes our expectations
Nowadays, collective expectations are dictated to a great extent by mass culture and, in particular, films. Via the media, images are concentrated into extremely influential and frequently repeated stories that reflect our hopes and fears with regard to the future, that stimulate our imaginations and influence our investment and consumption decisions. Accordingly, mainstream cinema is an excellent tool for analysing memes: at an early stage, the cinema presents new technologies and prognoses that are still at the laboratory stage. At the same time, it accelerates and amplifies these development trends by anchoring expectations of the future in our collective sub-consciousness. In this respect, the pattern is always the same: we unconsciously accept what we have been shown on the screen as real and existent – regardless of whether it was positive, negative, a gadget, a natural event or a form of social reality – as being possible. Consumer expectations are programmed in this way.

Many everyday expressions, such as „I‘ll beam the file over to you“, referring to immediate transport via the internet, also have their roots in film fantasies – in this case, the most radical vision of mobility, beaming as used in ‚Star Trek‘ – as do the trends to gate communities, strong or weak roles for women depending on social needs and the political yearning of Californian voters for a ‚Terminator‘ whose core area of competence holds out the promise of a more orderly society. In this connection, our problem solutions are not oriented towards the new but towards models and stories that we are already familiar with.

Accordingly, cinema memes function in the same way as myths. And, in common with secularised myths, they can also be programmed. A recent example of this is ‚ The Day After Tomorrow‘ (Roland Emmerich, USA 2004), a climate-catastrophe film against the policy of the Bush administration, the scenes of which aim, „to leave a lasting impression on the audience“ (Emmerich). It is the very exaggeration of such images and stories that creates a matrix of what might be possible and gives it a toehold in a culture. A good example of this is the pessimistic visions of society that permeate practically all science-fiction films made in the eighties and nineties: long before the sociologist Ulrich Beck produced an academic foundation for making a gloomy prediction about the future of Europe with his formula for the ‚Brazilianisation‘ of society, those concerned had already seen specific parts of his argument in the cinema and on television.

A guide to the secret fantasies of the market makers
This Radical Trends Guide provides an insight into the dreams, hopes and fears of the leading modern prophets. It reviews the most radical ideas from science and fiction for solutions to problems real and imagined, and explores the theoretical destinations of the most important trends that influence the dynamism of business and society today. What are the most extreme developments that the main intellectual forces from the various disciplines can imagine? Where are their imaginations taking them and which new markets will this ignite? And what comes thereafter? What other or opposing develop¬ments are conceivable? Which stories have the greatest power of attraction, the most sex appeal, the most powerful influence on our collective sub-consciousness? Our aim is to create a set of tools that will prevent us underestimating the future so much. In each chapter, the ‚Radical trends‘ section presents the various fantasies and stories created to solve problems in that particular sector. Parallel to this, samples taken from the research and development pipeline show how far or near we are from the radical trends (margins). Examples from the culture of the masses then indicate how widespread they have become and help interpret our collective dreams (‚Science fiction and memes‘ section). Beaming as meme on MTV: recent Beastie Boys video ‚The Day After Tomorow‘ (2004)

[...]

 



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