Friday, October 29, 2010

The world of tomorrow and post futurism

I was surfing the web on the weekend and accidently I came across some info and videos that filled an important gap in my understanding of a book that was meaningful in my childhood.

When I was in primary (elementary) school I came across a book called "The World of Tomorrow" and I was instantly hooked on understanding technology and increasingly the way it develops or doesn't. The book had great glossy photos of amazing looking vehicles. My older brother had railway sets and the photos looked liked they were based on a model but apart from the attribution to General Motors in the notes section there was no commentary on the photos themselves.

The book was interesting because it didn't present possibilities of the future it presented one version as a technological forecast. Although, the author missed the mark with various technologies he was quite accurate with an number of predictions to do with communications and electronics. The biggest failure of the book was that there was no role for societial / demongraphics shifts influencing the use of technologies. Today, we understand much better, but still to little, about how to understand the future. Thus one of my hobbies is collecting and reading old books that make technological predictions.

Anyway, on the weekend I discovered the photos come from the General Motors exhibit at the 1964 World Fair (New York), which they called Futurama II. There are some great videos on the web which give you the experience of their display.

Futurama 1, 1939 World Fair.

Futurama 2, 1964 World Fair.

Assembling Futurama 2

While, obviously such work ends up being being as much works of fiction as prediction they interset on how we understand innovation and the systems of institutions that turn them into reality. More importantly, we can learn from such work that there still exists a blurry space between traditional innovation systems studies (focussed on economies) and science and technology studies with its interest in culture, gender and other social issues.We can learn much from how the past understood the future.

Interestingly, for me there are clearly epochs in history when populations are captivated by the future being full of better possibilities and others when the prevaiding mood is more depressed or post-futurist. It would be interesting to characterise communities on the basis of such moods for their effect of the social innovation system as opposed to the business innovation system.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Nature of cities

This week the Journal Nature has an interesting series of articles, all with a focus on cities. A couple of the articles focus on the production of science in cities with a few references to the usual suspects in innovation studies.

However, more interesting are the articles on 'a unified theory of urban living' and the role of cities in climate change action. Just as it is with nations and economics which are bound in geo-politics and power, it seems that cities have more freedom to maneuver and take direct action. Once again we see the need for a re-balancing of governance powers. How many city governments take seriously their responsibility to interact with their educational institutions above the level of high school? How many city governments interact on industry / innovation policy? And how many are even recognised in national constitutions?

Money and power seemingly flows downwards but increasing the action needs to be in managing upwards.

Friday, October 1, 2010

September's interesting links

With the focus worldwide on stabilising the global economy and jumpstarting growth, a strong emphasis on directed pro-innovation policies can be a rainbow of hope for nations worldwide. Third in the series, the Global Innovation Index and Report 2009-10 brought out this year, like last, by the world's business school INSEAD in partnership with India's Confederation Industry (CII) has stressed the importance of innovation in country competitiveness and development strategies and is clearly one of the most comprehensive assessments of innovation-this time covering 132 nations.

Europe in figures – Eurostat yearbook 2010 – presents a comprehensive selection of statistical data on Europe. With just over 450 statistical tables, graphs and maps, the yearbook is a definitive collection of statistical information on the European Union. Most data cover the period 1998-2008 for the European Union and its Member States, while some indicators are provided for other countries, such as candidate countries to the European Union, members of EFTA, Japan or the United States. The yearbook treats the following areas: the economy; population; health; education; the labour market; living conditions and welfare; industry and services; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; trade; transport; environment and energy; science and technology; and Europe’s regions. This edition’s spotlight chapter covers national accounts statistics – with a particular focus on the economic downturn observed during 2008/2009. The yearbook may be viewed as a key reference for those wishing to know more about European statistics, providing guidance to the vast range of data freely available from the Eurostat website.

It all about how we use apps but don't necessarily surf the web.

This second edition of the OECD Economic Globalization Indicators presents a broad range of indicators showing the magnitude and intensity of globalization. This process is becoming increasingly important for policymakers and other analysts, hence the need for a volume that brings together the existing measures, based on national data sources and comparable across countries. Together, the indicators shed new light on financial, technological and trade interdependencies within OECD and non-OECD countries.Measures of globalization include indicators on capital movements and foreign direct investments, international trade, the economic activity of multinational firms and the internationalisation of technology. In addition, the 2010 edition also includes indicators linked to the current financial crisis, portfolio investments, environmental aspects and the emergence of global value chains.