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James Woudhuysen
professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University in Leicester, columnist at IT Week, and co-director of audacity

Brands: forget the promise of a semi-religious experience, recognise the contribution made by price vs performance. Cities: mass-manufacture great homes to house the millions still coming off the countryside of China and elsewhere. Design: stop the narcissism, focus on reliability and durability. Energy: dispel irrational fears of the nuclear sort. Avoid finger-wagging microgeneration of energy in the home, go for large-scale tidal power. IT: make government projects successful, but not intrusive. Move to ubiquitous, speaker-independent voice operation, always-on videoconferencing, and sensors of the physical world. Mobile IT: make productive use of the face, RFID tags, vertical market applications. Play: keep it out of work and moderate its influence in schools. Don’t use it as an instrument to reach other goals. Work: rekindle Western interest in the idea, by making the activity of work intrinsically more exciting.

Possible solutions – clarify, visually represent and widely display:

  1. Real v perceived risks
  2. Relative v absolute risks
  3. How progress throws up new problems – which mankind tends to solve.

Issues for society to address:

  1. Forecasting Rehabilitating a sense of collective agency. The future is indeed what we make it – provided that the political will and the economic investment are fought for.
  2. Innovation The need for basic, long-term research and unpredictable experiment.
  3. Universities Generating new knowledge, not just transferring existing best practice.

James Woudhuysen is coauthor of Why Is Construction So Backward? (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA))

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