“The Benefits To Women Embracing Futurism”

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Hello and welcome to the Dr. Nilda Business Foresight Strategies show. Today we have with us a very awesome guest. Her name is Alexandra Whittington.

Hi Dr. Nilda, Thank you!

I also have with me my co-host Rachel say Hello.


Alexandra is a futurist and educator, a writer and a researcher. She has been recognized for one of the world’s top, female futurist. She is a foresight director at Fast Future. She is also co-authored two books, several book chapters and articles and publications such as Financial Times and Lawyer Magazine. Alex also is also a published academic. She’s also published academically, and she is also an adjunct Lecturer at the University of Houston since 2009. She is a Future board at the Lifeboat Foundation and she occasionally is a contributor of the Lifeboat blog. Alex has a BA in Anthropology and she has her BS in Future study.

Welcome. How are you Alex?

Thank you so much.

So, I want you to begin to tell me your trajectory, like how do you begin on this journey with futures because your background is Anthropology and I know Anthropology is looking into the past. So, explain to me how you went from that past to the future?

Yeah, that’s true.  I do have a great interest in the past and  I actually came to Future studies as it was called when I studied it through my Anthropology studies. I’m kind of unusual, I think in the sense that I came to future studies through a very academic route. A lot of people find out about future studies once they’ve already entered the profession.  I actually found it through a college course called Study the Future, a class that I later ended up teaching myself once I had already gotten the master’s degree and been practicing futurists for a while.

You go from studying your interest in the past to the future. Tell me a little bit about that middle. What does that look like?

It’s all about, as an anthropologist, I’m very interested in the human experience as well, just another species trying to survive on this planet essentially. So I guess I look at the future as the conditions to which we will have to adapt as a species. And so that’s my interest in my perspective as a futurist is how are our technologies, our social systems, our various forms of economic and political systems,  helping us adapt or not to the future and continue to populate the planet.

You’re also the inspiration thinking behind this newest book, Fast Future “Beyond Genuine Stupidity” Ensuring AI serve Humanity and the “Future Reinvented”. We need you to explain that.

Those are actually two books. Fast Future Beyond Genuine Stupidity and the Future Reinvented the first one, like the play on words we have, they’re under title obviously relates to Artificial Intelligence, AI being Artificial Intelligence. We basically put together a collection of chapters that talks about how Artificial Intelligence is changing education, families, retirement, work, life, pretty much, you name it. We, looked at different futures for different parts of life and how that could evolve based on the growth and development of Artificial Intelligence.  So, that is a great sort of lay person exposure to the idea of Artificial Intelligence and how it might progress into the future. We aren’t computer scientists were futurist, all of us, the authors of that book. So we take this big picture view of how technology is changing things and where we might be in 10 or 15 years.

So, how might Artificial Intelligence, impact women in their future?

That’s one of the areas I’ve been looking at. I’m glad you asked me about that.  In one of our upcoming books, I’ve written a couple of chapters specifically related to AI and women.  So Fast Future has very generously let me explore my different ideas and theories about where we might be going in the future. One of them, Rachel, is about AI as a sort of technological revolution. And so with my Anthropology framework and thinking style, I started wondering where we might be going in terms of the direction of the future of families in the future of women.  Looking back at history, I observe, well the agricultural revolution introduced these very large families, right? Women had lots of children because they had to have, you know, the resources, the family size, so in the past, the land, someone to help them work the land, right. So, that then changed as we moved into the industrial revolution, which is when the nuclear family started taking shape. People were living in cities, you saw the women having fewer children, people working outside the home and increasingly the woman working outside the home. So my question here is now that we’re,  face to face with this new technology revolution, Artificial Intelligence, how might that change the family structure and the role of men and women in society? And I don’t know, but that’s just the thinking pattern futurists take when we’re trying to extrapolate different futures.

AI is a very male dominated field. So how is that for women, even though women have been working for quite some time, the Artificial Intelligence technology, actually the biggest draw right now is to try to get young girls interested in STEM. There aren’t a lot of women in engineering, math, and in science. So, what is being done from a futurist perspective towards that end?

Well, I think that by exposing regular people to futurist thinking more can be done about it. I’m not really sure what’s being done other than encouraging women to pay attention to these technologies, educate themselves on it, get their daughters up to speed on it, bring their organizations up to speed and recognize the benefits as well as possible pitfalls of these powerful technologies.

So, you realize that this is my mission, to get the average person, and I use that word very carefully because nobody’s really average, but to get people who are business owners and people who are doing very notable things in life, trying to get them to understand. One of my mottoes is if I could just open their minds, the jar just a little bit so that they could it just to peak their interest. If they look a little further, they will be more interested. With that said, these are the women that also, leaders of their homes, their mothers they have children and as they’re learning a lot of this stuff, they’re also depositing a lot of this information to their children. So, I think this is great. So, it’s really about educating the general public about futures and what direction that’s going.  Is that correct?

I agree with that and also educating about technology and how it’s not just this benign naturally occurring thing. It’s actually designed with human intention. So when we, for example, choose that to give an AI gender and say this is a female AI personal assistant that speaks to you with a woman’s voice, for example, a named Alexa or Siri or whatever the feminized name might be.  There’s a new robotic device they’re using in Walmart. It’s a floor cleaner, floor cleaning robot, but they gave it a name Emma. It’s a woman’s name. I mean, it’s not to say that Walmart is sexist or the AI designers are purposely trying to design machines that carry women’s names and therefore personas there it is a fact that these things are going on and they’re not really being questioned and explored as much as I think we could if we wanted to make sure the technology retains the values that we want to retain in our society.

So, what is actually being done to be able to train women or be able to take this mission out in the world. From your perspective as a futurist, what are you guys doing on your end or what are you doing to be able to preach this gospel of futures?

Well I will definitely reiterate that we do that at Fast Futures through our publishing, you know, of course through my teaching I’m always working with students and exposing new people to future studies and futurism. But I think that there’s a lot of value in the content that we put out on the, in our book and even in our newsletters on our website, which help people envision different futures about what it looks like when you work side by side with a robot for example, and how do gender or other personal issues come into play. And those stories can really help people relate to the trajectories in a more personal way and maybe come up with some of their own ideas.

Tell me a little bit about Fast Futures publishing. What exactly is it? What do you publish? Is it just books? Is it articles? Is it, is all of the above? Tell me a little bit about that.

Basically, all of the above. We publish books authored by our own staff and also authored by some of the world’s best futurist. One of our earlier books “The Future of Business” has something like 62 contributors. So we’re not just trying to push the content, we’re also always looking for great contributors and people who want to write and think about the future with us to contribute a chapter or short story. I’m working on several collaborative books where people have submitted short stories about the future,  and their different areas. You can probably relate to this. You never got people from different industries coming in to talk to us about what they think the future might be. And so putting those ideas together is really our purpose. Bringing people together to think right, talk about the future. Of course we do the presentations in the workshops and all of that consulting as well. But  right now we’re really all about the writing.

When these publications go out, how will they be promoted? This would be Rachel’s field because she’s the marketer. Are they being promoted it or they’d be marketed to the general public or are they being marketed to future other futurists?

We definitely write to the general audience. We don’t expect our readers to know anything about scenarios or what major trends are. We spell all of that out because we are researchers at heart, right? We’re all researchers, you know, as a futurist the main part of your job is just keeping up and knowing what’s going on and understanding these big complex topics and problems and stuff. So yeah, we were researchers and so we’re constantly just getting that information out there through our stories who are articles and  yeah, we spread the word through social media. I’m sure Rachel can relate, you know, just all the same kind of avenues.

It’s funny because I think back to when I started college here in the eighties and I remember at that time you have to actually go to a library and you sit in the library, if you wanted to check out a book and somebody else, how do you have to wait till they were done with it and hope that you will the next person. Sometimes it was up a line of people for that specific book because they would have maybe like three of the books and so where were you in that line and they think of how far we’ve come with AI and all the progress that we’ve made. Sometimes I’ll have an idea at eleven at night or two in the morning and I’m like, let me get a line and see. I can’t even imagine how futures it would even operate the way that we used to do before because we would all be fighting for the same books we have to write our own. I think right now when I think back at how far that has come and how much better we’re doing today as a result of that, the feasibility of having Artificial Intelligence.

And even, you know, just since you asked you what we’re doing about it, well, what is those various ways technology is helping us. And I see this with my students a lot, It seems like social media has really empowered people to share new stories, breakthroughs and whatnot. I think that the advent of social media has helped us have futures in our dialogue on a day to day basis more often because we do tend to go on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. And you’ll see even if you’re not a futurist, you might see something cool that changing technologies or something that you might like or share. So it’s kind of elevated it into the day to day conversation.

I think personally social media has been able to, assist all of us in sharing that, because you could reach a larger audience that way. The beauty of social media is that this is kind of like how the millennials and the younger generation speak. They understand this language they have it on their phones, so it’s accessible to them.  It’s available to them at their fingertips. So, placing it all these platforms is a beautiful thing. So, Alexandria, so what are your upcoming books for Fast Futures?

The next book that I think is coming out, I’ll give you a preview of some coming a little further down the line because, those are the women in AI, chapters.  The name of the book is called “Unleashing Human Potential”, The future of AI in business. Since we’re speaking about that, this is totally focused on AI and this is another one of the books that we really enjoy doing because we have so many guest contributors. It’s actually, we’re not the key off of where the editors of this book and we’ve got a ton of people from the futures industry and outside the industry who have written about their experience and then their speculations about what we’re going with AI. My chapters in that book touch on various things like I’m a woman’s life. We were talking about How AI Can Affect Women, me and some co-authors, who are also women in Fast Future are an all-female research team. We wrote a chapter about what a woman’s life could be like from childhood to the elder years, assisted by AI in different ways, different things from being a little girl that gets assistance from an AI, from maybe a self-driving car taken from after school to a teenager and a college student using an AI tutor. A woman who’s working in her profession adopting a co-bot to sit with her and help her as her assistant. And then that co-bot would actually follow you home into your retirement years and then take care of you as an agent in your home.

Do you have an AI in the works that is going to talk about how to, you know, remove the stress level of a woman’s life? Actually, do the work for you. Totally like a clone,

To go back to my historical analogies, you know, think back and women’s history and the history of women’s liberation. We know for a fact that in the fifties and sixties, the invention of household appliances did a lot to liberate women, right? We were freed up for out from hours and hours of work from the washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, all those things. So maybe there’s some domestic applications and I see them happening. That robotic vacuums, you got the robotic caring robot that can be in your home, the little robot dog. Maybe these in home robots will do another wave of,  you know, independence for women in the home, away from the work of the home that we know we’re still stuck doing. Despite all these years of equality, women still do more work at home, more work raising kids in addition to their jobs these days. So that’s another way of looking at it. Maybe these machines are going to bring another wave.

I think a portion of that though is us not being able to cut some of that cord as women, we have to have hands on when it comes to our children and doing things at home. Some of it is just control. I think we’ll probably incorporate some Artificial Intelligence, but I don’t know if we’ll let it go completely no, not a woman. A man could just totally disconnect with no problem. I’ve seen it, you know, and they’re okay with it. They, what they called the nothing box, but women just constantly have to have their hands and their ideas, their thoughts in everything. Which is a, it’s human nature, but let’s see what the future holds.

Well, if it becomes a tool for that to make that control less stressful, more viable, and at the same time advance gender equality, I think that’s a really good thing.

One last question, how do people get a hold of these articles and how do they get hold of this latest information because this information is hot off the press. How do people not just futurists but the lay people, how do they get ahold of this information?

Well, to find our books, of course that’s FuturePublishing.com. We also have a blog and a newsletter and then if you’re interested in finding the information and that stuff that we’re writing, but we’re, we’re reading and getting these kinds of signals about the future. I mean we look across all of the future social media as well as all these futures website. We do research everything from blogs to YouTube to use science journal and we’re always looking for new signals of change and that’s part of our job is to monitor that.

Right. And so, with that said, you also have articles that you publish from that information that you need, sir.

Exactly, yes, we publish the books which are available and Fast Future.com. We also sell on Amazon. If you, if you look across,  our social media is probably the best way to see the different publications right now. Fast Future is a UK based company, so they’re mostly in a British publication, but the ones that you mentioned at the top of your show, we were in the Financial Times. We tend to appear in the end it pro portal. There’s such a range of publications that we get asked to contribute to. It’s nice they really seem to enjoy our futures angle on work issues, life issues and whatnot.

I want people to be able to read things about their industry, the direction that it’s going. AI is going to be very much a part of our everyday life. We’re probably going to be using Artificial Intelligence, augmented realities in everything. Eventually, I don’t even think we’re going to have a flat screen tv, we’re going to have 3D TV’s. I just have this vision of. The research is there, the information, the technology is there to give us all of this. So, our realities and I don’t think very far away between the next five to fifteen years our reality is going to be very different and very tech savvy. So, people that are in business really need to understand this. People that are looking into their, careers or even a career change really have to look into this because it’s really important. So, I look forward for them to be able to read a lot of this information and to be able to update themselves, educate themselves on what’s available and where do they, where do they go from here. Make sense?

I think educating yourself on it, it’s one of the greatest ways to feel more control and influence over it because I have had several people from students to, journalists asked me is it scary, is it, isn’t this frightening AI?  I think we need to maintain our sense of control over the technologies that we create and because we do control them.

Even if that’s an idea and how do they bring that idea to like a Hack-A-Thon or a Think Tank that they could actually. I mean, we’re using it, so we might as well contribute to it and getting more women, more women in the STEM, more women in futuring, because you know, those numbers are growing, they’re all going to be more women, so we may as well get into these fields and being able to be contributors maybe not dominate, but at least be very strong contributors of this change. Right. That was good. Rachel, do you have any last questions? 

No, this was very informative, and I want to thank you for all that information. I’m, I’m just, I’m still like stuck on how AI is going to replace some of our duties as women.

Absolutely I welcome that I have quite a few on the list for the thing you can create. That’s good. Anything that’s going to take my stress away. I just purchased my first Alexa. Very exciting. Yes. That’s purchased that. So, let’s see where it goes from here, right? What used to be at one time the world’s fair that would come every ten years we’re actually living that today. It’s constantly hot off the presses, researchers like us who are looking at things or looking at trends and looking at scenarios and looking at ways to change and I just want to get the information and everybody’s here as much as possible.

Wonderful. I think it’s a great mission. Thank you for doing it. Thank you for having me.

Thank you so much for coming. Okay guys. Thank you. This is the segment of foresight strategies show and I look forward to seeing you guys next week where I will be bringing another really fabulous futurist. I have to tell you; all of these futurists are absolutely amazing, and the idea is that you will be able to connect to any of these industries. Your able to connect to it because it’s a female or because it’s the industry, whatever the reason is, I want you to really pay close attention to what this means for you. Okay. All right guys. I’ll see you next week. Bye.

Our Guest

Alexandra Whittington Director at Fast Future. She is a futurist, foresight educator, writer, and researcher who has been recognized as one of the world’s top female futurists.

She has coauthored two books, several book chapters and dozens of articles for publications such as the Financial Times and Lawyer Magazine. Alex has also published academically. She is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Houston since 2009.
She is on the Futurist Board at the Lifeboat Foundation and an occasional contributor to the Lifeboat blog. Alex has a BA in Anthropology and an MS in Studies of the Future.

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Interview With Alexandra Whittington-“Women Embracing Futurism”
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