Sunday, December 15, 2013

5 Reasons Why 2013 was the Best Year in Human History

5 Reasons why 2013 was the best year in human history - a quick summary of an article at
  1. Fewer people are dying young, and more are living longer.
  2. Fewer people suffer from extreme poverty, and the world is getting happier.
  3. War is becoming rarer and less deadly.
  4. Rates of murder and other violent crimes are in free-fall.
  5. There’s less racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the world.
While this is a good list, I suspect it's incomplete. What else would you add to it? For example, in 2013 there were probably more scientists working to solve more of the world's problems than during any year in history. Other thoughts?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Introduction to Complexity

This is a re-offering of our popular "Introduction to Complexity" course, with some new material, homework, and exams.

In this course you'll learn about the tools used by scientists to understand complex systems. The topics you'll learn about include dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks. You’ll also get a sense of how these topics fit together to help explain how complexity arises and evolves in nature, society, and technology. There are no prerequisites. You don't need a science or math background to take this introductory course; it simply requires an interest in the field and the willingness to participate in a hands-on approach to the subject.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Effects of Climate Change on Austin and Central Texas

Don't miss The Effects of Climate Change on Austin and Central Texas.
Date: 15 Oct 2013 6:00 PM
Marie Callendar's Restaurant 9503 Research Blvd. Austin, TX 78759
We intent to offer a series of topics covering the future of Austin and Central Texas this year. This month's meeting will be on the the future effects of climate change on Austin and Central Texas in the context of predicted global conditions.  The latest IPCC report on climate change came out just last week, making this a very timely meeting.  Carl Berman will present a talk on this topic, followed by a group discussion. 
Gathering will start at 6pm, with the presentation starting around 7pm.  This is a dinner meeting, with a charge of $20 for members, and $25 for non-members to cover the cost of the dinner and group expenses. 

Carl Berman's biography:
Carl spent 5 years in the US Navy and 25 Years in the NOAA Corps, working as an oceanographer and fisheries biologist for the US Government. He received his Ph.D. in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary in 1983 while on active duty. During this time he served on three ships, the last of which was the ALBATROSS IV which he commanded, and as a project manager with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (of UNESCO), in Paris. Carl Berman's on-line teaching activities include marine biology, general biology, meteorology, geology, environmental change, physical science, and computer science. He has also serve as an in-class lecturer for biology, geology, polar history, and physics. In addition, Carl presented several talks on Polar Exploration to the Life Long Learning Program at the University of Texas. He married Joyce Gioia, a professional speaker and Futurist, in December of 2009. They live in Austin, TX. Carl's interests include RV travel, reading, cooking, music, photography, writing, and riding his "trike."

Please be sure to go online to register for 
The Effects of Climate Change on Austin and Central Texas

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our Future in Cities

Humanity's future is the future of cities. Explore the crowded favelas, greened-up blocks and futuristic districts that could shape the future of cities -- and take a profane, hilarious side trip to the suburbs.

Stewart Brand: What squatter cities can teach us

Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto

Jaime Lerner: A song of the city

Robert Neuwirth: The hidden world of shadow cities

William McDonough: Cradle to cradle design

Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities

Paul Romer: Why the world needs charter cities

Kent Larson: Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city

James Howard Kunstler: The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs

A series of nine videos from TED. Clock here to see the whole set or select the ones you want to watch.

Inequality for All

This week marks both the fifth anniversary of the fiscal meltdown that almost tanked the world economy and the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the movement that sparked heightened public awareness of income inequality. Yet the crisis is worse than ever – in the first three years of the recovery, 95 percent of the economic gains have gone only to the top one percent of Americans. And the share of working people in the U.S. who define themselves as lower class is at its highest level in four decades.
More and more are fighting back. According to Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor: “The core principle is that we want an economy that works for everyone, not just for a small elite. We want equal opportunity, not equality of outcome. We want to make sure that there’s upward mobility again, in our society and in our economy.”
This week, Reich joins Moyers & Company to discuss a new documentary film, Inequality for All, opening next week in theaters across the country. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, the film aims to be a game-changer in our national discussion of income inequality. Reich, who Time magazine called one of the best cabinet secretaries of the 20th century, stars in this dynamic, witty and entertaining documentary.
A professor at the University of California Berkeley, Reich is the author of thirteen books, including The Work of Nations, which is available in 22 languages; Aftershock and Supercapitalism, which were best sellers; and his latest, Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and our Democracy, and How to Fix It. He appears regularly on television and radio – you can hear him on public radio’s Marketplace – and blogs about politics and economics at

American Winter

The idea that certain historic events are cyclical in a central theme in future studies. Nicolai Kondratiev and Strauss & Howe likened this dynamic to the seasons. What generational theorists Strauss & Howe call the Fourth Turning or ‘Crisis’ era is also known as a Kondratiev winter. In other words, a season characterized by decline rather than growth. 

The depression of the 1930s was the last time the country was at this turning. Childhood poverty, one of the most pressing generational problems now in our Crisis/ Kondratiev winter is explored in a recent documentary timely called American Winter.

When in the wealthiest country in the world, between 1/4 and 1/5 of the total child population lives in poverty, it affects a whole generation, even most of the 3/4 who are not poor. Because in this one-strike-and-you’re-out reality everyone but a few financially secure people are just one paycheck, one mortgage payment or one recession away from personal disaster. And if you don’t live in a permanent zen bubble, that knowledge will eat at your nerve endings.

Please watch the trailer below. It will tug at your heartstrings and wet your eyes, but this is more than exaggerated cinematography. It’s actually true for very many families who are falling out of the middle class and into an uncertain future. If you don’t have time to watch the full clip, the dire message here comes about 1:23 minutes in.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Summary of The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change By Al Gore

This a brief summary of the book that was the basis of the talk given by Al Gore on C-Span. You can view the video here. I hope to continue our discussion that began after the group watched the video.

Ours is a time of revolutionary change that has no precedent in recent history. With the same passion he brought to the challenge of climate change, and with his decades of experience on the front lines of global policy, Al Gore surveys our planet’s beclouded horizon and offers a sober, learned, and ultimately hopeful forecast in the visionary tradition of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and John Naisbitt’s Megatrends. In The Future, Gore identifies six emerging forces that are reshaping our world:

  • Earth Inc.: Ever-increasing economic globalization has led to the emergence of an integrated holistic entity with a new and different relationship to capital, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past.
  • The Global Mind: The worldwide digital communications, Internet, and computer revolutions have led to the emergence of “the Global Mind,” which links the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and connects intelligent machines, robots, ubiquitous sensors, and databases.
  • Power in the Balance: The balance of global political, economic, and military power is shifting more profoundly than at any time in the last five hundred years—from a U.S.-centered system to one with multiple emerging centers of power, from nation-states to private actors, and from political systems to markets.
  • Outgrowth: A deeply flawed economic compass is leading us to unsustainable growth in consumption, pollution flows, and depletion of the planet’s strategic resources of topsoil, freshwater, and living species.
  • The Reinvention of Life and Death: Genomic, biotechnology, neuroscience, and life sciences revolutions are radically transforming the fields of medicine, agriculture, and molecular science—and are putting control of evolution in human hands.
  • The Edge: There has been a radical disruption of the relationship between human beings and the earth’s ecosystems, along with the beginning of a revolutionary transformation of energy systems, agriculture, transportation, and construction worldwide.

From his earliest days in public life, Al Gore has been warning us of the promise and peril of emergent truths—no matter how “inconvenient” they may seem to be. As absorbing as it is visionary, The Future is a map of the world to come, from a man who has looked ahead before and been proven all too right.

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, Al Gore, Random House, 2013, 558pp
Web Site: