Every year the Association of Professional Futurists organizes a conference to explore an emerging topic. The 2017 theme was Global Health Futures: People, Planet and Beyond. I am pleased to report that it was a highly rewarding and educational professional development experience.
I went to the Oculus Rift offices in Seattle to try their demo. Honestly, I was expecting a more immersive experience, mostly because I only got to actually interact with the platform for only five minutes of the half hour I wore the headset. However, I enjoyed thinking about the implications of this new media for storytelling after watching a 360 short film called Dear Angelica.
The first conference session covered human health. My personal favourite was Brian Arbogast, Director of Water and Sanitation, and Hygiene from the Gates Foundation. He defied the status quo by rethinking and questioning the modern toilet and sewer system.
In the afternoon the conversation changed to planetary health topics, from buildings that give back more than what they take from the environment, to the importance of reconnecting with nature. Although oceans are still an enigma for humanity, water may be the key to finding life in other planets. John Delaney, Professor of Oceanography from the University of Washington spoke passionately about a submarine volcano project that combines A.I., self-driving vehicles, robotics and sensors to develop a series of devices that measure the seismic activity at the Juan de Fuca platein real time.
Speakers on air and space health took the stage. Brian Tillotson, Systems Technology Chief Engineer for Boeing Research and Technology exposed a compelling argument around asteroid mining as a more viable option than Mars or the moon. Although physically plausible, he also added that there are still some technological barriers to overcome, like the self-replicating machine to create a distributed network of miners across hundreds of thousands of asteroids. Marna Kagele, a Technical fellow from Boeing, reminded all of us that these futures are more than just technology. New frontiers also mean new challenges for our society. Traveling to space changes our bodies and minds, and if in the future our bodies are edited to make us less vulnerable to space conditions than what the implications will be.
Overall, I truly enjoyed going to this event. A good combination of inspiring speakers and insightful colleagues that resulted into a delightful weekend full of remarkable experiences.
Maria Romero is a recent graduate from the University of Houston Master in Foresight, a futurist and researcher at Fast Future. As a student she worked with Dr. Andy Hines developing new tools for the Framework Foresight method and scanning process. She has worked on projects for consultants, NGOs, for-profit organizations and government. She lives in Orlando, FL and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Venezuela, her home country.