West Wing Wednesday Night #10

Written by  //  January 13, 2009  //  Alexandra T. Greenhill, West Wing (WWWN)  //  No comments

As the weather outside is frightful, and the snow no longer delightful, we have decided to have fun next week Wednesday, January 14th , with hopes that the BIG melt will be done by then. Brrr… for all of you still on holidays, Vancouver ain’t a pretty sight right now…

Anyway – we have much to celebrate – a new year has begun and it’s the last one of this decade! We are now firmly ensconced in the 21st century and I feel like inviting you to spend sometime gazing into the future. The NYT magazine “Year in Ideas” edition did a particularly fine job of that this year – go have a look at their interactive site

To start us off further, let’s just consider a few factoids:

  • 300 years ago, there were no horses in North America – the Europeans imported them when they came
  • 50 years ago, a woman could not get a loan or buy property in BC unless she had a man sign for her
  • less than 15 years ago, was introduced the first graphical browser to the Internet.

Over ten years ago, Marvin Cetron and Owen Davies published “Probable Tomorrows: How Science and Technology Will Transform Our Lives in the Next Twenty Years” and predicted that by the year 2010:

  • Personal computers will offer the power of today’s supermachines and artificial intelligence.
  • The US-reversing a decades-old trend-will link its major cities with high-speed railroads.
  • Airplanes will be capable of leaping halfway around the world in just two hours.
  • Consumer goods will be produced at prices so low the poor of tomorrow could live as well as the rich of today.
  • Scientists will have learned to purge the air of pollution, closing up the ozone hole and ending the threat of global warming.
  • Heavy industries can move into space, so that Earth can recover from our past environmental follies.
  • Dramatic advances in gene mapping and organ transplants will extend the healthy human life span well beyond the century mark.

So seriously what will the future look like and how is technology transforming our lives? Internet shopping, self-check out counters – been there, done that… So what is new? What is next? Well, what is next includes:

  • the transformation of games – http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/03/lucas200803 and http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/david_perry_on_videogames.html and apparently they are recession proof (see Economist article at http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12815694 ) even though Vancouver’s Electronic Arts laid off 10% of their workforce last month
  • the evolution of the pop vending machine – the future is already in Japan – see http://www.thestandard.com/article/0,1902,23283,00.html
  • the advent of robotic friends – after the incredible electronic dog Biscuit- furrealfriendsbiscuit.com , go see the story of unemployed 33 y/o engineer from Ontario who built in one year in his garage a life-like robot called Aiko- she can do Speech, Reading, Color, Face, Object recognition, tell Weather, have a conversation with understanding of over 13,000 sentences in English and Japanese, can learn, solve math, distinguish simple drinks and foods, and objects and mimic human physical touch – see

The other issue worth zeroing in is of course the economy. Starting with intriguing questions such as “What would happen if Canada deliberately slowed its growth rate to zero between 2010 and 2035? Would there be enough jobs? Would poverty go up? Would greenhouse gas emissions fall? Would governments be able to finance their operations?”, let us consider the new book by York University economist Peter Victor, called “Managing Without Growth – Slower by Design, not Disaster”. He seems to enjoy a particularly good timing for the publication of his theories… let us discuss the merits and probabilities of ideas that stretch our assumptions! That and the rise of positive deviance, the recent actions of various political leaders we keep track of and let’s not forget the recent actions of Jim Flaherty and his entourage of 11 wise advisors.

Last, but not least – dreams of Cascadia are back. A talk last week by Vancouver Sun journalist Douglas Todd who is the author/editor of “Cascadia, The Elusive Utopia: Exploring the Spirit of the Pacific Northwest” examined whether the unique and powerful qualities of Cascadians (BC, Washington and Oregon residents) can boost their growing degree of tolerance, reverence of nature, and wise use of resources to become a model society for the 21st century. Related to that, some of you will remember the conversation we had last spring on the efforts to save the last working farm in Vancouver – the UBC farm located on Musqueam traditional territory is currently under threat as housing at UBC expands. There is now a petition to sign and they are a few signatures short of the 6000 people goal so go have a look at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-ubc-farm?page=77

So, don’t stay home – come to think, discuss, be inspired, and exchange ideas and insights, all you of interested, interesting, informed and informative folks in town. For the new invitees, the description of the Wednesday night concept and other important logistical details can be found at www.wednesday-west.ca (click on “About us” at the top menu)

And above all, please, RSVP quickly. A “yeah” or “nay” on whether we can expect you and what topics you want to tackle makes the moderator’s life so much better plus guarantees you a seat, for the list of attendees has grown considerably since we started!

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