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Posted: September 10, 2013

The futurist: The Museum of Future Inventions, Part 1

Inspiring a better world ahead

Thomas Frey

What images come to mind when you think about the future? Do you think about near-term futures with 3D printers, driverless cars, and robotics, or do you think about more distant futures of space travel, human cloning, and teleportation devices?

People make decisions today based on their understanding of what the future holds. In fact, your vision of the future permeates virtually every decision you make in your life. So if you change your vision of the future, you actually change the way you make decisions, today.

With this brief intro, I’ve tried to capture the true potential for creating a Museum of Future Inventions. It’s all about changing your vision of the future.

Simply hearing about future technologies will create a small level of engagement. However, becoming fully immersed in a future experience, where you see images, videos and animations; listen to thought leaders, deep thinkers and futurists; with interactive models you can touch and manipulate. Together, these have the potential of becoming a truly transformative experience.

Realism creates viability. So adding elements of realism to our visions of the future makes them increasingly viable. Inevitably this kind of influence will translate into massive new innovations, the kind of innovations we’ll need to drive our economies forward.

But unlike traditional museums focused on the past, this one will function as a working laboratory of the future, one where visions are constantly being built, rebuilt, and rebuilt again. The future is not a destination. Rather it’s a journey built on the backs of crazy, passionate people, with brilliant minds, dogged determination, and obsessed with making a difference. We see them as crazy, but history will view them as genius 

At the DaVinci Institute we started thinking about the Museum of Future Inventions 10 years ago and it’s still not a reality. However, with jobs disappearing at a record pace, we’ll need a whole new engine driving innovation. And the Museum of Future Inventions may just be the missing “flux capacitor” to drive this new engine.

History of the Future

How does the future get created? From the human side of this equation, the future gets created in the minds of everyone around us.

While we all have a vital role to play in creating our own future, there are a few people in history who have had a tremendous influence on how we perceived what the future would look like in the past.

Here are just a few examples:

  1. 1500 – Leonardo da Vinci – The series of hand drawings da Vinci did on the concept of flying still influences many in the aviation world today.
  2. 1870 – Jules Verne – As a French novelist, Verne’s epic works – Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days – paved the way for science fiction writers everywhere.
  3. 1934 – Alex Raymond – Even though the early Flash Gordon movies look pretty cheesy by today’s standards, when young Alex Raymond first started writing about this fictional character caused a whole new generation to start dreaming about life in space.
  4. 1962 – The Jetsons – The original series for the Jetsons consisted of 24 episodes that were produced between 1962-1963. Tony Benedict was one of the main writers and perhaps the true visionary behind the Jetsons. Yet, there is virtually nothing about him online.
  5. 1966 – Star Trek – Gene Roddenberry developed and produced Star Trek, perhaps the best-known franchise in science fiction history. Many of today’s technologies were heavily influenced by Star Trek.
  6. 1968 – Arthur C. Clark – Generally regarded as one of the most influential and far-sighted futurist of his day, Arthur C. Clark is best known for his epic film, 2001 a Space Odyssey.
  7. 1968 – Philip K. Dick – Blade Runner was the first of Philip K. Dick’s stories to make it to the big screen followed by such blockbusters as Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, and the Adjustment Bureau.
  8. 1977 – George Lucas – In 1977, the movie Star Wars shifted virtually everyone’s thinking about robots, space living, and the future.

Naturally there are thousands more that could have been mentioned, but in the future we will have a list far too long to mention.

Inside the Museum – Creating Visions of the Future

Inside the museum, each pavilion will serve as an industry-specific focal point for innovation. As an example, a future energy pavilion will focus on 3-5 key developments that will change the industry along with a combination of roadmaps, timelines and scenarios to help people understand the benefits, implications, and breakthroughs necessary to pull them off.

Pavilions, exhibits, and displays will be constantly updated and revised. Unlike traditional museums, where artifacts are artfully placed in a glass case and not touched for years, our understanding of the future is constantly evolving. This will require that each exhibit incorporate a combination of rapid prototyping, interactive multimedia production, concept visualization, storytelling techniques, and more than a few new processes to be invented along the way.

To start with, the Museum will include eight pavilions. 

  1. Reinventing Energy Pavilion
  2. Future Transportation Pavilion
  3. Nanotechnology Pavilion
  4. Future Education Pavilion
  5. Robots and Automation Pavilion
  6. Life Sciences Pavilion
  7. Space Commerce Pavilion
  8. Smart Home and Smart Living Pavilion

These titles are only a starting point and will likely be renamed along the way. In addition to the main pavilions will be a number of other featured areas to engage young and old people alike.

Young Inventor Laboratory

Built around a playful architecture, and entering through a series of exhibits featuring future inventions for kids, young visitors will find a thousand ways to tease their minds as they design and draft their own invention plans.

Challenging their inventive skills, one station will allow them to build and operate their own robots. Another will test their physical ability and give them tools for inventing their own exercise devices. A central theater will engage them in a variety of topics ranging from invention stories, to physics demonstrations, to demonstrations of light, magnetism, biology, ecology, and other sciences.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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