2015, Issue 176

Welcome to the
Club of Amsterdam Journal.
We invite you to discover The Future Now Show .... and watch the presentations about the future of Metro Vitality, by Josef Hargrave, Arup, Dan Hill, Future Cities Catapult and Charles Landry.

Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman


Coming to Terms With the American Empire

The Future Now Show

VIDEOS about the future of Metro Vitality

Club of Amsterdam blog

The Asian Square Dance - The Role of the USA

News about the Future: Electric motor for aircraft / Smart Homes that Monitor Breathing and Heart Rate

DARPA Outlines Vision for the Future

Recommended Book: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World

Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design

Futurist Portrait: Mark Stevenson


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.Coming to Terms With the American Empire

By George Friedman, Chairman of Stratfor

"Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.

World War II and the Birth of an Empire

The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression.

The genuine American empire that emerged thereafter was a byproduct of other events. There was no great conspiracy. In some ways, the circumstances of its creation made it more powerful. The dynamic of World War II led to the collapse of the European Peninsula and its occupation by the Soviets and the Americans. The same dynamic led to the occupation of Japan and its direct governance by the United States as a de facto colony, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as viceroy.

The United States found itself with an extraordinary empire, which it also intended to abandon. This was a genuine wish and not mere propaganda. First, the United States was the first anti-imperial project in modernity. It opposed empire in principle. More important, this empire was a drain on American resources and not a source of wealth. World War II had shattered both Japan and Western Europe. The United States gained little or no economic advantage in holding on to these countries. Finally, the United States ended World War II largely untouched by war and as perhaps one of the few countries that profited from it. The money was to be made in the United States, not in the empire. The troops and the generals wanted to go home.

But unlike after World War I, the Americans couldn't let go. That earlier war ruined nearly all of the participants. No one had the energy to attempt hegemony. The United States was content to leave Europe to its own dynamics. World War II ended differently. The Soviet Union had been wrecked but nevertheless it remained powerful. It was a hegemon in the east, and absent the United States, it conceivably could dominate all of Europe. This represented a problem for Washington, since a genuinely united Europe - whether a voluntary and effective federation or dominated by a single country - had sufficient resources to challenge U.S. power.

The United States could not leave. It did not think of itself as overseeing an empire, and it certainly permitted more internal political autonomy than the Soviets did in their region. Yet, in addition to maintaining a military presence, the United States organized the European economy and created and participated in the European defense system. If the essence of sovereignty is the ability to decide whether or not to go to war, that power was not in London, Paris or Warsaw. It was in Moscow and Washington.

The organizing principle of American strategy was the idea of containment. Unable to invade the Soviet Union, Washington's default strategy was to check it. U.S. influence spread through Europe to Iran. The Soviet strategy was to flank the containment system by supporting insurgencies and allied movements as far to the rear of the U.S. line as possible. The European empires were collapsing and fragmenting. The Soviets sought to create an alliance structure out of the remnants, and the Americans sought to counter them.

The Economics of Empire

One of the advantages of alliance with the Soviets, particularly for insurgent groups, was a generous supply of weapons. The advantage of alignment with the United States was belonging to a dynamic trade zone and having access to investment capital and technology. Some nations, such as South Korea, benefited extraordinary from this. Others didn't. Leaders in countries like Nicaragua felt they had more to gain from Soviet political and military support than in trade with the United States.

The United States was by far the largest economic power, with complete control of the sea, bases around the world, and a dynamic trade and investment system that benefitted countries that were strategically critical to the United States or at least able to take advantage of it. It was at this point, early in the Cold War, that the United States began behaving as an empire, even if not consciously.

The geography of the American empire was built partly on military relations but heavily on economic relations. At first these economic relations were fairly trivial to American business. But as the system matured, the value of investments soared along with the importance of imports, exports and labor markets. As in any genuinely successful empire, it did not begin with a grand design or even a dream of one. Strategic necessity created an economic reality in country after country until certain major industries became dependent on at least some countries. The obvious examples were Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, whose oil fueled American oil companies, and which therefore - quite apart from conventional strategic importance - became economically important. This eventually made them strategically important.

As an empire matures, its economic value increases, particularly when it is not coercing others. Coercion is expensive and undermines the worth of an empire. The ideal colony is one that is not at all a colony, but a nation that benefits from economic relations with both the imperial power and the rest of the empire. The primary military relationship ought to be either mutual dependence or, barring that, dependence of the vulnerable client state on the imperial power.

This is how the United States slipped into empire. First, it was overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful. Second, it faced a potential adversary capable of challenging it globally, in a large number of countries. Third, it used its economic advantage to induce at least some of these countries into economic, and therefore political and military, relationships. Fourth, these countries became significantly important to various sectors of the American economy.

Limits of the American Empire

The problem of the American Empire is the overhang of the Cold War. During this time, the United States expected to go to war with a coalition around it, but also to carry the main burden of war. When Operation Desert Storm erupted in 1991, the basic Cold War principle prevailed. There was a coalition with the United States at the center of it. After 9/11, the decision was made to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq with the core model in place. There was a coalition, but the central military force was American, and it was assumed that the economic benefits of relations with the United States would be self-evident. In many ways, the post-9/11 wars took their basic framework from World War II. Iraq War planners explicitly discussed the occupation of Germany and Japan.

No empire can endure by direct rule. The Nazis were perhaps the best example of this. They tried to govern Poland directly, captured Soviet territory, pushed aside Vichy to govern not half but all of France, and so on. The British, on the other hand, ruled India with a thin layer of officials and officers and a larger cadre of businessmen trying to make their fortunes. The British obviously did better. The Germans exhausted themselves not only by overreaching, but also by diverting troops and administrators to directly oversee some countries. The British could turn their empire into something extraordinarily important to the global system. The Germans broke themselves not only on their enemies, but on their conquests as well.

The United States emerged after 1992 as the only global balanced power. That is, it was the only nation that could deploy economic, political and military power on a global basis. The United States was and remains enormously powerful. However, this is very different from omnipotence. In hearing politicians debate Russia, Iran or Yemen, you get the sense that they feel that U.S. power has no limits. There are always limits, and empires survive by knowing and respecting them.

The primary limit of the American empire is the same as that of the British and Roman empires: demographic. In Eurasia - Asia and Europe together - the Americans are outnumbered from the moment they set foot on the ground. The U.S. military is built around force multipliers, weapons that can destroy the enemy before the enemy destroys the relatively small force deployed. Sometimes this strategy works. Over the long run, it cannot. The enemy can absorb attrition much better than the small American force can. This lesson was learned in Vietnam and reinforced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is a country of 25 million people. The Americans sent about 130,000 troops. Inevitably, the attrition rate overwhelmed the Americans. The myth that Americans have no stomach for war forgets that the United States fought in Vietnam for seven years and in Iraq for about the same length of time. The public can be quite patient. The mathematics of war is the issue. At a certain point, the rate of attrition is simply not worth the political ends.

The deployment of a main force into Eurasia is unsupportable except in specialized cases when overwhelming force can be bought to bear in a place where it is important to win. These occasions are typically few and far between. Otherwise, the only strategy is indirect warfare: shifting the burden of war to those who want to bear it or cannot avoid doing so. For the first years of World War II, indirect warfare was used to support the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union against Germany.

There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey - supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.

This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.

Building a System of Balance

We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.

This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.

The Responsibilities of Empire

I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its powerful carelessly.

It is true that the United States did not genuinely intend to be an empire. It is also true that its intentions do not matter one way or another. Circumstance, history and geopolitics have created an entity that, if it isn't an empire, certainly looks like one. Empires can be far from oppressive. The Persians were quite liberal in their outlook. The American ideology and the American reality are not inherently incompatible. But two things must be faced: First, the United States cannot give away the power it has. There is no practical way to do that. Second, given the vastness of that power, it will be involved in conflicts whether it wants to or not. Empires are frequently feared, sometimes respected, but never loved by the rest of the world. And pretending that you aren't an empire does not fool anyone.

The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.

George Friedman
is the Chairman of Stratfor, a company he founded in 1996 that is now a leader in the field of global intelligence. Friedman guides Stratfor's strategic vision and oversees the development and training of the company's intelligence unit. His book Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe was released on Jan. 27.

"Coming to Terms With the American Empire is republished with permission of Stratfor."

.The Future Now Show

Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges - sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we're making - and what we need, from strategy to vision - to make the best ones.

The Future Now Show

.VIDEOS about the future of Metro Vitality

Videos from our event in London.

the future of Metro Vitality

A collaboration between
the Association of Professional Futurists and the Club of Amsterdam and hosted by ARUP Foresight + Research + Innovation.

Josef Hargrave, Associate - Foresight + Research + Innovation at Arup

Dan Hill, Executive Director, Futures and Best Practice, Future Cities Catapult

Charles Landry - International authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change

Moderated by
Nick Price, Association of Professional Futurists - APF

.Club of Amsterdam blog

Club of Amsterdam blog

Socratic Design
by Humberto Schwab, Philosopher, Owner, Humberto Schwab Filosofia SL, Director, Club of Amsterdam

The Ukrainian Dilemma and the Bigger Picture
by Hardy F. Schloer, Owner, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG, Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam

The impact of culture on education
by Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International and
Carel Jacobs is senior consultant/trainer for itim in The Netherlands, he is also Certification Agent for the Educational Sector of the Hofstede Centre.

What more demand for meat means for the future
by Christophe Pelletier, The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

Inner peace and generosity
by Elisabet Sahtouris,
Holder of the Elisabet Sahtouris Chair in Living Economies, World Business Academy

... and many more contributions.

.The Asian Square Dance - The Role of the USA

By Michael Akerib, Vice-Rector SWISS UMEF UNIVERSITY

The Role of the USA

The United States is today the hegemon, alone able to alter events to match its own strategy with the ability of fighting long wars far away from its home base. In spite of important engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, a large part of its air and naval capabilities are still in the Pacific.

Nevertheless, it does not appear to have followed a consistent policy in Asia. After conducting a strategy of preventing any country in the area from assuming a leadership position, it encouraged China's rise and tolerated exceptional shows of force against the country's population such as after the Tien An Men square. It was followed by the Asian pivot and the militarization of its presence in the area and an attempt to ensure that in spite of China's actions it will continue to have access to the South China Sea, a vital crossing point between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

The changes have been due to different considerations by succeeding administrations, with, more recently, President Obama declaring that the US was a Pacific nation. Russia's actions in the Ukraine and possible developments of this action in Europe is another issue absorbing time and resources.

With the rise of China's power, the US must commit increasing amounts of resources to counterbalance it. It should be expected that small states in the area will play the two powers one against the other.

The US has been running a very large trade deficit - estimated at around $ 300 billion dollars, absorbing the major part of the global capital flows - and it has been focusing on attempting to convince China to revalue the yuan. The Chinese government has in fact allowed the yuan to revalue slightly.

The US is simultaneously China's, India's and Japan's biggest customer. The US is also India's largest supplier.

The US could allow its currency to depreciate further to the point where its goods would be significantly more competitive than they are today. The country would also be a major attractor of foreign direct investment. China would then be the only country that would have a positive trade balance with the US due to its low labor costs.

The US might, alternatively, put pressure on China to encourage spending abroad. There have been no new developments in that direction, rather to the contrary.

The US is the protector of Taiwan which China has repeatedly threatened to invade and which it considers part of its own territory.

With regards to India, the US has agreed to a pact assisting India in its efforts in the realm of peaceful nuclear energy in the hope that this will prevent the country from strengthening its relationships with Iran and Russia.

The US' interest in India is a relatively new development since the recent past has shown the US concentrating on the Pacific and attempting to make it a US sea, somewhat in the manner that the Romans had considered the Mediterranean to be a Mare nostrum. The US has declared that the majority of its fleet will be deployed in the Pacific by 2020. Until then, the US has to rely increasingly on Australia and Japan, and allow APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) to flourish as a tool to spread the American doctrine of liberal trade - even though it has played as much in favor of China than in favor of the US.

The US has increased the strength of its marines on Guam, an island close enough to give support to Japan and has earmarked up to USD 1 billion for military constructions over the next five years. It has also increased cooperation with Australia and the Philippines.

The danger of a confrontation with China lies in an accidental hit of a component of either country's nuclear program, such as a launcher, or a disarming of a nuclear deterrent. If China were afraid of an intentional disarming, it may decide to use it early on in a critical situation, to prevent losing its nuclear capabilities.

To avoid any such misinterpretation of one another's intentions, an agreement has been signed between presidents Obama and Xi, his Chinese counterpart, whereby the two countries will inform one another of any major military movements.

Read also

The Asian Square Dance - Part 1
The Asian Square Dance - Part 2: China
The Asian Square Dance - Part 3: India
The Asian Square Dance - Part 4: Japan
The Asian Square Dance - Part 5: The Koreas
The Asian Square Dance - Part 6: Russia

.News about the Future

Siemens develops world-record electric motor for aircraft

Siemens researchers have developed a new type of electric motor that, with a weight of just 50 kilograms, delivers a continuous output of about 260 kilowatts – five times more than comparable drive systems. The motor has been specially designed for use in aircraft. Thanks to its record-setting power-to-weight ratio, larger aircraft with takeoff weights of up to two tons will now be able to use electric drives for the first time.

Smart Homes that Monitor Breathing and Heart Rate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: The evolution of ubiquitous sensing technologies has led to intelligent environments that can monitor and react to our daily activities, such as adapting our heating and cooling sys-
tems, responding to our gestures, and monitoring our elderly.

In this paper, we ask whether it is possible for smart environments to monitor our vital signs remotely, without instrumenting our bodies. We introduce Vital-Radio, a wireless sensing technology that monitors breathing and heart rate without body contact. Vital-Radio exploits the fact that wireless signals are affected by motion in the environment, including chest movements due to inhaling and exhaling and skin vibrations due to heartbeats. We describe the operation of Vital-Radio and demonstrate through a user study that it can track users’ breathing and heart rates with a median accuracy of 99%, even when users are 8 meters away from the device, or in a different room. Furthermore, it can monitor the vital signs of multiple people simultaneously. We envision that Vital-Radio can enable smart homes that monitor people’s vital signs without body instrumentation, and actively contribute to their inhabitants’ well-being.

.DARPA Outlines Vision for the Future

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) released its Breakthrough Technologies for National Security, a biennial report summarizing the Agency’s historical mission, current and evolving focus areas and recent transitions of DARPA-developed technologies to the military Services and other sectors, last month. The report’s release coincided with testimony by DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar before the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, at a hearing entitled “Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2016 Science and Technology Programs: Laying the Groundwork to Maintain Technological Superiority.” The full report is available for download

Breakthrough Technologies for National Security affirms that America is in a strong strategic position today, in large part because of its longstanding technological dominance. But it also notes that a number of challenges threaten that status, including the global spread of ever more powerful and less expensive technologies and the emergence of disruptive non-nation-state actors in addition to ongoing threats from peer adversaries.

“DARPA’s mission and philosophy have held steady for decades, but the world around DARPA has changed dramatically,” the report says. “Those changes include some remarkable and even astonishing scientific and technological advances that, if wisely and purposefully harnessed, have the potential not only to ensure ongoing U.S. military superiority and security but also to catalyze societal and economic advances. At the same time, the world is experiencing some deeply disturbing technical, economic and geopolitical shifts that pose potential threats to U.S. preeminence and stability.”

Those dueling trends of simmering menace and unprecedented opportunity deeply inform DARPA’s most recent determination of its strategic priorities for the next several years, the report says.

The report identifies the phenomenon of increasing pace as a central challenge and opportunity - from the need for ever-faster radio-frequency and information-processing systems that work on the scale of nanoseconds, to the need to speed up the development time of major military systems, whose timescales today extend to decades.

“In these areas and others,” the report says, “DARPA will pursue the strategic imperative of pace in part by continuing to be a bold, risk-tolerant investor in high-impact technologies, so the Nation can be the first to develop and adopt the novel capabilities made possible by such work.”

DARPA is focusing its strategic investments in four main areas:

  • Rethink Complex Military Systems: To help enable faster development and integration of breakthrough military capabilities in today’s rapidly shifting landscape, DARPA is working to make weapons systems more modular and easily upgraded and improved; assure superiority in the air, maritime, ground, space and cyber domains; improve position, navigation and timing (PNT) without depending on the satellite-based Global Positioning System; and augment defenses against terrorism.
  • Master the Information Explosion: DARPA is developing novel approaches to deriving insights from massive datasets, with powerful big-data tools. The Agency is also developing technologies to ensure that the data and systems with which critical decisions are made are trustworthy, such as automated cyber defense capabilities and methods to create fundamentally more secure systems. And DARPA is addressing the growing need to ensure privacy at various levels of need without losing the national security value that comes from appropriate access to networked data.
  • Harness Biology as Technology: To leverage recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, immunology, genetics and related fields, DARPA in 2014 created its Biological Technologies Office, which has enabled a new level of momentum for the Agency’s portfolio of innovative, bio-based programs. DARPA’s work in this area includes programs to accelerate progress in synthetic biology, outpace the spread of infectious diseases and master new neurotechnologies.
  • Expand the Technological Frontier: DARPA’s core work has always involved overcoming seemingly insurmountable physics and engineering barriers and, once showing those daunting problems to be tractable after all, applying new capabilities made possible by these breakthroughs directly to national security needs. Maintaining momentum in this essential specialty, DARPA is working to achieve new capabilities by applying deep mathematics; inventing new chemistries, processes and materials; and harnessing quantum physics.

Breakthrough Technologies for National Security includes two sections highlighting examples of DARPA technologies that have transitioned to the military or other organizations in support of national interests. One section focuses on technology transitions from recent programs to the Services. A second section, entitled “Success Stories,” looks at the long-term impacts of certain DARPA programs over a period of decades - a reminder that the benefits of DARPA research often extend for many years after initial applications get operationalized, sometimes in unexpected ways.

A theme common to all these examples is that many individuals and organizations - public and private - have been involved in each success. That reflects the importance not only of DARPA’s seminal investments but also of the Nation’s vibrant technology ecosystem, which builds on the Agency’s work and applies DARPA’s advances to the task of ensuring national security.

“DARPA focuses heavily on building collaborative communities of expertise in institutions across the country,” the report notes. “This approach helps the Nation by encouraging work at the boundaries and intersections of disciplines, while making the Agency itself an enormously supportive, interactive and satisfying place to work.”

Story and information provided by DARPA.

.Recommended Book

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
by Peter H. Diamandis (Author), Steven Kotler (Author)

From the coauthors of the New York Times bestseller
Abundance comes their much anticipated follow-up: Bold - a radical, how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools to create extraordinary wealth while also positively impacting the lives of billions.

Bold unfolds in three parts. Part One focuses on the exponential technologies that are disrupting today’s Fortune 500 companies and enabling upstart entrepreneurs to go from "I’ve got an idea" to "I run a billion-dollar company" far faster than ever before. The authors provide exceptional insight into the power of 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, networks and sensors, and synthetic biology. Part Two of the book focuses on the Psychology of Bold, drawing on insights from billionaire entrepreneurs Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos. In addition, Diamandis reveals his entrepreneurial secrets garnered from building fifteen companies, including such audacious ventures as Singularity University, XPRIZE, Planetary Resources, and Human Longevity, Inc. Finally, Bold closes with a look at the best practices that allow anyone to leverage today’s hyper-connected crowd like never before. Here, the authors teach how to design and use incentive competitions, launch million-dollar crowdfunding campaigns to tap into ten’s of billions of dollars of capital, and finally how to build communities - armies of exponentially enabled individuals willing and able to help today’s entrepreneurs make their boldest dreams come true.

Bold is both a manifesto and a manual. It is today’s exponential entrepreneur’s go-to resource on the use of emerging technologies, thinking at scale, and the awesome power of crowd-powered tools.

.Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design

»Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design«, the Vitra Design Museum sheds new light on contemporary African design. Showcasing the work of over 120 artists and designers, the exhibition illustrates how design accompanies and fuels economic and political change on the continent. Africa is presented as a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance – and as a driving force for a new discussion of the potential of design in the twenty-first century.

The exhibition focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from and with in Africa, who – as »digital natives« – address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent. They often work across several disciplines simultaneously and break with conventional definitions of design, art, photography, architecture and film.

»Making Africa« is divided into four parts. Over the course of the exhibition, we will – one by one – feature works and artists from each part in our Archive. The first part, Prologue, is concerned with the western preconception of Africa, but also poses a number of questions. Wo speaks about the continent, and how? The second part, I and We, explores how design provides an effective tool to communicate about ourselves, and thus portrays current and past social and cultural developments in Africa. The third part, Space and Object, is dedicated to the individual and their immediate environment – the city, technological developments and materials play equal parts in this space. The fourth and final part, Origin and Future, explores through contemporary African culture and its roots through objects and artifacts.

When the »African boom« comes up in the media, the reports tend to focus on the continent’s fast-paced economic growth or the rapidly expanding middle class – phenomena that will remain at the root of fundamental changes in coming decades. However, an other development has already altered the everyday lives of all Africans and yields a significant influence upon the work of artists and designers. At present, there are already 650 million registered mobile phones in Africa, more than in Europe or the US.

Mário Macilau, »Alito, The Guy with Style«, from the »Moments of Transition« series, 2013, photo: © Mário Macilau, courtesy Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd, London

Omar Victor Diop, »Mame«, photograph from the series »The Studio of Vanities« 2013 © Victor Omar Diop, 2014, Courtesy Magnin-A Gallery, Paris

Vigilism, » Idumota Market, Lagos 2081A.D.« from the » Our Africa 2081A.D.« series, illustration for the I kiré Jones Heritage Menswear Collection, 2013 © Courtesy Olalekan [] and Walé Oyéjidé

Kunlé Adeyemi from NLÉ Architects: "We believe that developing cities are the home of global advancement, and that they will provide the sustainable solutions necessary for the environmental, infrastructural and human challenges posed by this megacentury.”

Kunlé Adeyemi gave a talk at the Vitra Design Museum. The founder of NLÉ Architects based in Amsterdam, presents selected projects including the African Water Cities Project, which focuses on the development of Africa’s coastal regions in view of climate change and increasing urbanization.

Kunlé in Amsterdam about Makoko Floating School

Chicoco Radio Station, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, designed by NLÉ Architects, 2014, Rendering, © NLÉ Works Lagos, Amsterdam

.Futurist Portrait: Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson is an entrepreneur, author, broadcaster and expert on global trends and innovation

Mark is the author of the best-selling An Optimist’s Tour of the Future (Penguin/ Profile Books) which has been translated into 10 languages and was described by Wired “a very coherent and entertaining journey through the world of future technology” and by New Scientist as “a refreshing reminder that the future will always belong to the optimists”.

Mark has also written for The Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Intelligent Life, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and The New Statesman. His key skill is an ability to take complex or abstract concepts and make them understandable by non-specialists without trivialising the subject matter.

Mark: "I think anyone who would attempt to tell you what the world will be like in 100 years time is either intellectually vain or bonkers. If you look at the history of futurology what you’ll see is that the predictions were often an expression of prejudice or a wish list of the person who was asked. We’re quite good at seeing first order effects: If you invented the internet it’s not a huge leap to predict email. But do you then see the invention of social media? Or its role in the Arab Spring? No.

Because of what is happening with technology all bets are off; pretty much anything you can imagine is possible in the next 100 years." (Waters Communications)



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