Imagine a different future

Museum exhibit of the apartment of the future

Imagine it’s the year 2050 and you’re sitting in your apartment. The low hum of fog machines drones in the background as you skim the morning headlines citing worldwide crop failures while munching on your breakfast of mealworms, kale and mushrooms.

This is a new world, a world of empty supermarket shelves where humans have learned to adapt to survive.

This is just one possible future a new hero of mine, futurist Anab Jain challenged us to imagine at the conference I was at last month in Montreal.

Anab works for an organization called Superflux, a UK design studio dedicated to translating future uncertainty into present day choices by imagining and creating different futures. They run experiments, build prototypes and simulate possible versions of the future so companies and governments can make bold decisions today.

Superflux has learned the most powerful way to change human behaviour is to help people directly, tangently and emotionally experience the change.

Anab told us about how the government of the United Arab Emirates commissioned them to shape their energy policy. Superflux created a prototype of a device that emits vapour simulating what the air quality would be like in the year 2050, then invited the UAE delgation to breathe in the air. The next day the government announced they would invest billions of dollars in renewable energy.

One fascinating insight Anab shared is that for every advancement or breakthrough we’ve seen in society, there are always expected and unexpected consequences.

For instance, facial recognition technology is being used by law enforcement agencies, governments, schools and companies under the auspices of keeping our society safe, but for every positive intended consequence, there can be negative, unintended consequences.

A university in China uses facial recognition technology in its classrooms. The technology registers if students are paying attention and assigns an emotional response. Students say they have learned to not register emotion to circumvent the technology.

Anab also shared a scary statistic: 95% of facial recognition software is inaccurate. Not only is big brother here to stay, he is basing his decisions on inaccurate data.

The ethical implications of this are enormous, and exploring both the intended and unintended consequences of possible futures is a key aspect of Superflux’s work.

Another project involved imagining if in the year 2050, we were living in a world of scarcity and there was not enough food to feed the billions of people on the planet. They simulated an urban apartment, which was made into a museum exhibit.

At first glance, the one side of the space looks like a normal kitchen with shelves, a coffee maker, appliances. On closer look, you see signs of the new reality—a newspaper headline that reads, “Worldwide crop failures in 2049”. A book on the bookshelf called “Pets as Protein”.

You notice the other side of the apartment is filled with industrial shelving and fluorescent lighting, where the residents are growing their own food using fog. Oyster mushrooms are being cultivated on the top shelf while smaller plastic containers are full of live mealworms.

Freaked out yet? You should be. The future is looking scary these days. Trump. The resurgence of nationalism and isolationism. Global warming.

We can’t let the future happen to us. We need to imagine and fight for the future we want.

Want to be a futurist? It’s not as far out there as you may think. Google, NASA, even Ikea, have a futures team.

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This is Seth Godin live

Speaker Seth Godin

It’s not every day you get to see one of your heroes live.

Last month, I had the privilege of hearing Seth Godin live. If you are in marketing or communications, you know the name Seth Godin. Marketing guru, brand revolutionary, author of 18 best-selling books and changemaker. This is Seth Godin.

Screw E.F. Hutton. When Seth Godin talks, people listen.

In his opening keynote, Seth talked about the power of communication to connect people and culture. He said most organizations are at a crossroads. We are living in an age of distraction. We need to be telling human-centric, emotional stories to cut through the noise.

My favourite business mantra is “strategy eats culture for lunch” (Peter Drucker). You can strategize all you want, but if what you are trying to achieve goes against the culture of an organization, you will fail. And yet many leaders do not pay close enough attention to culture within their organizations.

Here were Seth’s insights on culture:

You can’t fake culture. Honour your past; define your future. Make symbolic changes, big and small. Have all oars in the water. Be humble, stay the course.

We are experiencing a revolution, and a renaissance for business communicators who will be key strategic advisers in the age of information.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find a hero and learn from them. Or you can adopt mine and sign up for Seth’s blog.

Find your true north

Ottawa River

One of the many things that makes this country great is the natural beauty of our landscapes, rich resources and biodiversity.

This summer, why not explore all Canada has to offer by visiting a Nature Conservancy of Canada property?

The NCC was founded in 1960 by naturalists who decided to take action to protect natural spaces and promote conservation. Today they have thousands of acres of natural properties across Canada and offer volunteer opportunities for Canadians to help in conservation efforts. They recently launched a new website naturedestinations.ca and are inviting Canadians to explore their properties.

There is probably a Nature Conservancy of Canada property near you and you don’t even know it. I just learned about three properties close to me: Whitefish Lake nature reserve, a 120 acre property along the shores of Whitefish Lake here in South Frontenac, Brighton Wetland, one of the last undeveloped shorelines on Presqu’ile Bay, and a property with the longest underwater cave system in Canada under the Ottawa River.

Some other land parcels worth exploring are the Green Mountains Nature reserve in Quebec’s Eastern townships, Cockburn Island in Lake Huron and the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast Natural Area.

Want to learn more about the work of the NCC? On August 23rd the NCC is looking for volunteers to restore habitat in one of their Warkworth properties in the Rice Lake plains.

You can also sign up for their blog.

Today’s #HappyAct in honour of Canada Day is to explore all this great land has to offer this year. Happy Canada Day!

Ed. note: If you are in Eastern Ontario, another great property to check out is the Depot Creek Conservation Area at 6329 First Lake Road. This 71-acre property was purchased from artist Kim Ondaatje who still lives next door in Blue Roof Farm.

The cottage life

I can’t imagine anything more Canadian than heading to the cottage for the long weekend.

Life is definitely sweeter at the cottage. It’s as if the kaleidoscope of life’s daily challenges stops turning the moment you turn off the paved highway onto the cottage laneway.

You roll down the window to drink in the fresh pine air, and slow down to a normal pace (and to avoid the potholes and washboard).

The moment you step out of the car, you leave the city and its troubles behind you. All that matters is whether you have enough wine, ice cream and bug spray for the weekend, whether it’s going to rain, and who the best Rummoli or Boggle player is.

I live on a lake but the lure of the cottage has never left me. I’ve been blessed over the years to have wonderful friends who have kindly shared their cottages with my family. They are always my most favourite weekends of the year.

Time stands still at the cottage. No one cares if you sleep in til 10, eat lunch at 2, nap at 3 and declare cocktail hour at 4. There is time to actually read…books of all things.

There’s more time outdoors, kayaking, swimming, boating, and playing horseshoes. And then there’s eat and drink (and lots of it).

But the thing I love the most about cottage weekends is the precious time spent with family and friends and the warmth and camaraderie of these gatherings that have created so many wonderful memories over the years.

This week’s #HappyAct is to experience the cottage life this summer. Here are some pictures from last weekend and our annual girls’ spring get-together at my best friend’s cottage north of Minden. It was the first time we invited Grace and Clare, “the next generation” to join us for a girls weekend.

Young girl on dock

Girls and dog at cottage

Girl in boatLake at sunset

Shut up and fish

Author with fish

I remember driving home years ago listening to the CBC, when this song came on the radio. It was about a guy whose wife gave him an ultimatum, saying if he went fishing that day, she’d pack up her bags and leave him. That was the first time I heard Brad Paisley’s The Fishing Song. The lyrics go something like this.

“Well, I’m gonna miss her,
When I get home.
But right now I’m on this lake shore,
And I’m sittin’ in the sun
I’m sure it’ll hit me
When I walk through that door tonight
That I’m gonna miss her
Well lookee there, I gotta bite…”

I mean really. Can you blame the guy? I would have went fishing too.

We went fishing tonight to cap off Father’s Day. Dave always said his favourite time to fish was Sunday nights, when the lake was quiet and he knew the cottagers were stuck in traffic on their commute back to the city.

It was a beautiful evening—still blissfully warm with blue skies and feathery clouds. A deer meandered down to the shore to drink in the cool lake water on our neighbour’s property as we cast in the weed beds. Owls serenaded us with their nightly calls in the distance.

Deer at lake

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many things I love about fishing is it is a time to be still and quiet. It’s great to talk and spend family time together, but sometimes it’s even better to just shut up and fish.

Clare and I each caught a rock bass; Dave had better luck the night before. Murphy sat on the dock and howled. It was a good night.

girl with fish

This week’s #HappyAct is to shut up and fish. Here is a video clips of Maddie and Tae’s Shut Up and Fish to get you in the mood.

Bring back Happy Days TV

Does anyone else wonder what happened to happy TV? Everything on TV is so dark these days.

Clare is a huge Archie comics fans, so when she heard they created a TV show based on the comic series, she was excited to start watching it on Netflix. I thought it might be fun to see how Archie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty and the gang were portrayed on the small screen, so I watched the first few episodes of Riverdale with her.

It became clear in the first ten minutes this was NOT the Archie comics I grew up with. Moose shot by a rogue serial killer, Veronica ordering hits on her ex-boyfriend, characters cruising the woods after dark looking for a potential hook up. WTF?!?

I miss the days of happy TV. The days of Friends, Seinfeld, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and yes, Happy Days, when teenagers were teenagers who hung out in soda shops or coffee shops, and when the biggest drama was who you were going to ask to prom.

We were telling Clare the other night about Fantasy Island, where people flew in (who can forget Tattoo yelling, “ze plane, ze plane”) each week to live out their fantasies and The Love Boat, where Julie, Isaac and the crew helped people find love by the end of each episode. Call me nostalgic, but I miss those shows.

When did shows like NCIS, Dexter, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead take over the airwaves? The next generation of dark TV is even darker, shows like 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things and Riverdale, ridden with themes like suicide, murder and blackmail.

No wonder teenage mental health is in crisis. TV used to be a place where we could escape the harshness of the world; today angst, anxiety and negativity washes over us from the airwaves.

This week’s #HappyAct is to boycott dark TV. Let’s all call on Netflix and HBO and the networks to bring back happy days TV, shows with positive messages and themes. Clare last week said she’s had enough of Riverdale. Let’s follow her lead.

Ten happy facts to put a smile on your face

bunnies

If you’re having a bad day, sometimes just thinking something silly or happy can clear the clouds. Here are ten happy facts to put a smile on your face.

  1. Young giraffes have kindergarten. One adult female stays with the young in a herd to watch them during the day. Their spot is on a hill so that the other mothers can see how they are doing. Adults rotate duties but scientists still do not know how it is decided.
  2. You were once the youngest person in the whole universe.
  3. There is a basketball court on the top floor of the U.S. Supreme Court Building. It’s known as the “highest court in the land.”
  4. A group of bunnies is called a fluffle and a group of hedgehogs is called a prickle
  5. Wayne Allwine (the voice of Mickey Mouse) and Russi Taylor (the voice of Minnie Mouse) were married in real life. 
  6. Male penguins use pretty pebbles to propose to their mate.
  7. If you took the whole solar system and shrunk it down so that the Sun was at your head and the orbit of Pluto was at your feet, Uranus would be just where you’d expect it to be.
  8. Elephants produce the same chemical that we produce when we see something cute when looking at people.
  9. The dot above an i or j is called a tittle.
  10. There is always the possibility today could be the best day of your life.

Have a happy week! Ed. note: Most of these I lifted from a conversation on Reddit.