That’s right, it’s another top 10 list. To be fair, we all love them (you know you do…) and they always prove to be popular. Given that Future Conscience exists slightly outside of the usual futurist circles, I thought that the readers here would appreciate a list of the sites that I often rely on when looking for inspiration about the future trajectory of humanity.
These sites represent my favourites at the time of posting – subject to change, requiring additions…enjoy!
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a ‘non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry’ and I have long been visiting their site not only because of the great work they do but also because of the publication they produce called the Intelligence Report. This is a quarterly magazine which is reproduced online that monitors trends in extremism in the U.S and is incredibly well researched and written. I have a keen interest in groups that foster extreme ideology of any kind, and it is undeniable that in an era of rapid change and social turmoil we must ensure diligence against any group or organisation that promotes an ideology of hatred and destruction.
This site is well known to those that tend towards the geekier side of life (i.e. awesome people). Primarily covering science fiction and comic-related news, the site also has a strong focus on interesting technology and futurist thought. Basically, from a love of science fiction comes a love of futurist news and its presented in a very accessible and entertaining way. Bite-sized but with depth, accessible without being asinine, io9 is a great site for anybody with an interest in the future to have as your homepage.
At first you might wonder whether this site could really be called ‘futurist’ at all, it’s almost completely a news site reporting on current events. However, it is impossible to have any insight into the future without an accurate understanding of the present and Antiwar.com provides one of the best daily overviews of global conflict that you are likely to find.
Of course, it wears its political leanings on its sleeve and I often find some of the comments from readers to tend towards the more conspiratorial side of things – but the news it aggregates comes from across all sources of media and the commentary from some of its columnists is refreshing in the attempt to get beyond partisan political standpoints and delve deeper into the issues at hand. There’s not much point thinking about the future if you’re ignoring what’s occurring right now, so make sure to put Antiwar.com on your reading list.
8b. Future Timeline
Okay, sometimes you miss something from a list that really does need to be included. Future Timeline is one such website that I overlooked when first publishing this post yesterday – and since Antiwar.com is not really a futurist website I figured it would be appropriate to rectify this oversight here. The site feels old-school in its design (like many futurist websites, funnily enough) but contains an almost encyclopedic overview of futurist topics and is one of the few sites to attempt to delineate a timeline of progression. If nothing else, it gives some perspective to the futurist field and makes you think about where you would place the different advances being discussed. With a relatively active forum that has built some considerable depth to it over the years, and a good selection of links and regular new updates Future Timeline really does deserve to be on this list – so here it is.
Originally focusing on the implementation of artificial intelligence, the Singularity Institute has widened its remit in recent years to include many forms of futurist thought that surround the concept of the ‘intelligence explosion’ or Singularity. This is where you have Ray Kurzweil (whose site Kurzweilai.net I’m including within this entry on the list) hanging out with Aubrey de Grey, Peter Thiel with Eliezer Yudkowksy – the Singularity Summit is one of the most discussed events on the futurist calendar each year and for good reason.
Having said this, I’ve always approached it with a slight degree of caution as those attracted to the Singularity Institute do seem to be amongst the more zealous and ideologically alarmist of the futurist community. Which is not to say that there isn’t concern warranted in the direction that humanity is taking, indeed it is the entire focus of this blog, but amongst all of the very deep and thought-provoking research and position papers there’s an underlying ideological conformity that’s worth noting. But as far as the futurist ‘rock stars’ are concerned – most of them can be found relating to this Institute in some shape or form, and for that reason alone its a central hub of activity. Speaking of hubs, I’m going to throw in Singularity Hub into this entry as well – a very good collection of futurist news and links updated daily.
For obvious reasons, a lot of futurist thought revolves around scientific advancements in technology and medicine; and one of the best sites for announcements and articles from reputable sources is Science Daily. It’s packed full of content and although the site layout is a bit dense (and also relies on the old ‘hide the Google ads’ technique) there’s enough here to keep you learning for a long time. It tends towards a pure science focus, and as such there is less exploration of the implications of the advancements being discussed, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great resource to keep on top of the latest scientific advancements from around the world.
The World Future Society is the preeminent organisation for global futurist thought, and The Futurist magazine gives on a bi-monthly basis the most comprehensive and authentic overview of the field available. The fact that a large proportion of current-issue content is available online for free is commendable, and although they don’t have the vast free resources of others that will be mentioned below there are for-pay archives available running back through to the 1960s (and at $0.10 an article I think we can call that fair enough).
Beyond the well-known magazine, they hold annual conferences and have an extensive membership network with meetings around the world. Unfortunately the website itself is falling behind the times a bit in terms of layout and design, and thus I can’t give the WFS the top spot on this list…but as far as futurist organisations are concerned, they certainly deserve it!
The IEET was amongst the first futurist sites that I really started visiting on a regular basis, and you can see its obvious correlation to the focus of Future Conscience. The site provides a great news overview that includes multiple posts a day, and papers from their peer-reviewed Journal of Evolution and Technology are available free to download.
The site does suffer like the World Future Society from having a slightly archaic look – but it gets the job done and it gives you the information and inspiration that we crave. Co-founded by Nick Bostrom, who is the Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute – another organisation well worth your time so I’m going to include them in this entry on the list.
3. r/futurology and #future
Reddit – the ‘front page of the internet’. Given the recent eye-opening news about Digg’s spectacular fall from grace, and the not negligable role that the humble narwhal that is Reddit played in that demise, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of my top recommendations is a user-controlled news aggregator along with Twitter, everybody’s favourite little microblogger that could.
With just under 11,000 subscribers on r/futurology, there’s a lot of people posting a lot of news, images, thought and generally inspiring things that you will want to see. Right now on the front page of r/futurology there are night-vision contact lenses, a graph showing the implementation of Moore’s Law, predictions for 2030, transhumanism, space travel, solar energy…the list is endless and changes every few hours. Beyond the external content, it’s the level of discussion the community generates on an endless diversity of topics that will keep you thinking and deserves such a high place.
Twitter hashtags such as #future (and to a lesser, but more focused extent #futurist) should also be one of your primary sources when it comes to getting an overview of the futurist zeitgeist at any particular moment. By following the people who post to #future and other similar hashtags you will receive a constant stream of futurist updates on topics you didn’t even know you were interested in.
One of the largest and most influential think tanks in the world, the RAND Corporation is controversial because of its close ties to the US government and armed forces. Although what their research is used for and by whom should be very carefully considered, the fact remains that the papers that come out of RAND are necessary reading for any potential futurist. Areas of focus cover all major socio-economic sectors and concerns, and the vast majority of it is filled with useful data, forward looking and projection based.
With over 10,000 research papers available online, papers that inform much of the foreign policy of the world’s largest superpower, the RAND Corporation influences our general perception of the future more than most people realise. If you’re looking for data on almost anything relevant to the futurist field, there’s probably a paper on this site that you can refer to. Whether you should or not, I’ll leave that up to you…
It’s kind of an obvious choice, but I have to give the top spot to Wired and in particular to their collection of blogs that explore on a daily basis our path towards the future. If I was pressed to choose, I would immediately say that Threat Level is my favourite blog not only on the Wired site but on the web as a whole. There are a lot of bloggers out there (and I include myself in this) who are okay at what we do and happy to comment on the world around us, but few have such detailed a grasp and depth of understanding on their chosen topic as the writers over at Wired.
All of their blogs are excellent and each one on its own deserves to be on this list, but Threat Level just picks up on such a fascinating aspect of the modern era (online privacy, crime and security) that I find almost every post there to be a revelation. The team of writers over at Wired are at the forefront of accessible reporting on often unfathomable cultural paradigm shifts, and their implicit focus on liberty and an overall concern for the collective wellbeing of society can never be applauded enough.
I’ve missed something, but what is it? Let us all know by leaving a comment below! And for all you futurist bloggers out there that feel left out, you haven’t been forgotten. Stay tuned…