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Futurists gather in Seattle to see what’s ahead

Image: Glen Hiemstra, Futurist
Glen Hiemstra, the founder of Futurist.com, basks in the red glow of a corridor at the Seattle Public Library during the Association of Professional Futurists’ gathering. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Professional futurists are gathering in Seattle, for the second time in 15 years. But don’t expect to recognize them by their business cards.

Many modern-day futurists tend to call themselves something else – for example, foresight specialist, which is Jonelle Simunich’s title at Arup, an engineering and consulting firm based in San Francisco.

“I tell people I’m a futurist, and they say, ‘So, what, you’re like a psychic?’” Simunich told GeekWire today during the 15th-anniversary gathering of the Association of Professional Futurists.

The annual gathering is structured as a series of seminars for about 40 futurists, rather than your typical trade convention. The group that became APF had its first gathering in Seattle in 2002. “It didn’t even have a name yet,” Cindy Frewen, who chairs the association’s board.

This year marks “the first time we have ever been in the same place twice,” Frewen told attendees at the Seattle Central Library.

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Free e-book shares sci-fi’s ‘Future Visions’

"Future Visions"
“Machine Learning” by Nancy Kress is one of the tales in “Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft.” (Credit: Joey Camacho / Raw & Rendered for Microsoft Research)

When you’re developing technologies that sound like science fiction, why not use science fiction stories to show what you’re up to? That’s the motivation behind“Future Visions,” a free e-book from Microsoft Research that highlights the gee-whiz ideas its researchers are working on.

“We have a group of people who are trying to turn science fiction into reality, and it seems fitting that we’d want to tell that story with science fiction stories written by science fiction authors,” Steve Clayton, Microsoft’s chief storyteller, told GeekWire. (And by the way, Steve, how did you get that job title?)

The authors are top-drawer: Eight short stories come from science-fiction luminaries Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire and Robert J. Sawyer. There’s also a graphic mini-novel by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal.

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