Typical. You think you’ve invented something brilliant and within a matter seconds find out it’s been around for years. I’m working on a timeline to celebrate 70 years of teaching humanities at Imperial College London (I know, who knew right?) and I’ve been speculating about things that might happen over the next 70 years. One entry was going to be ‘Sci-Po (science poetry or science fiction poetry) becomes a wildly popular course’. Been around for decades! There’s even a society dedicated to the genre that’s been going since 1978. Loads about science and technology poetry elsewhere online too,

On other matters, I’ve been thinking about how one can look at things from a very great distance in the sense of removing oneself from the deluge and detail of everyday drugery and see things from afar, especially big themes, patterns, shifts, trends and so on. I know from personal experience that one way to do this (on a country or regional level at least) is to live somewhere else for a significant time and then come back. I’m sure the use of psychedelics could work too (and who knew that Imperial had a department focussed on that!?!).

The Future of Urban Air

All good things come to those that wait. Here, finally, is the future of air info-graphic. Tomorrow (hopefully) I’ll post a link to the static map (PDF). Today, here is a rather spendid interactive version. (Click to enlarge and reveal hidden content).

Sometimes these maps are quite quick to create (e.g. the Future of Space) other times they take forever. This started out as a scribble almost 2-years ago. I then looked at weather maps, ancient cartographic maps and stylised images of sails, even breathing and wind, but eventually the scribble morphed into a street map. At this point I stumbled upon the work of an illustrator called Ed Fairburn and the scene was set for what I hope will become a great example of art/science collaboration.

The visual is a fictitious city street map with the face of a child hand-drawn by Ed over the streets. (the child was a quite deliberate choice, because children are linked to the future and, more importantly, it is far more provocative than if we’d used the image of an adult). Visually based tends, inventions and ideas then cluster around the eyes, sound-based thoughts cluster around the ears, smells around the nose and so on. But before I go on to explain what’s on the map, why does it exist at all?

I did a map looking at the future of water with Imperial some time ago. I’ve done food in the past too, so air felt like an obvious theme. Various people at Imperial were looking into air (as was Davos) and a quick Google search found there to be next to nothing about the future of air or the future of air in cities, which is always a good sign. Why urban air? Because most of the big problems and opportunities surrounding air in the future will be found in cities and mega-cities in particular. Of course, conveying ideas about something that cannot be seen (air) is challenging, but hopefully the map itself will help and there are a couple of entries of the map itself that might solve this too.

Maps generally are a powerful way to convey information, messages, arguments or ideas and hopefully this one will provoke some conversation about what is, after all, the most precious and perhaps most threatened resource of them all.

So, what’s on the map? Here’s a list. It’s not the final one, but it’s close and it does show some of the thinking that went into the map (things that got removed, debated etc.).  BTW, ‘head’ is a cluster that comprises some cerebral thoughts, along with things that frankly didn’t fit anywhere else.

Credits for the map belong to yours truly, Richard Watson, Maria Jeansson and Graciela Sainz de la Fuente with academic input provided by Dr Audrey de Nazelle.


Clean air as a fundamental human right

Smog refugees

Natural airflow architects

Air quality activism

Artificial thermal cloud management

Urban Wi-Fi free zones

Google smell maps

Memory enhancement during sleep via diffusers

Use of smell to influence public mood

Street misting to reduce temperatures

Databases of smell landscapes

Rising awareness of indoor air quality

Pollution as a business opportunity

‘Prescription’ of nature to address illnesses

Artificial noses to treat anosmia

Cognitive decline caused by air pollution

‘Open air’ movement

Atmospheric water generators

Socio-economic clean air divide

Clean-air lawsuit on behalf of future generations

Identification of terrorist threats using smell

Pollution harvesting ignites circular economy

CRISPR to increase CO2 adsorption by plants


Solar power generating windows

Artificial moons to replace street lights

Drone blocking around buildings

Artificial clouds

Printing of light using nanoparticles

Augmented reality to visualise pollution

Lasers to monitor air quality

Passenger & delivery drones

Nano-bionic plants to indicate pollution

Smart dust storms

Go away cloud machines*

Paramedic drones

Micro-wind harvesting

Proliferation of low-cost quantum sensors

Dark sky movement

Moss facades turn buildings into air purifiers

Indoor particulate sensing


Fresh air kiosks

Personal nose-plug air filters

Authentic smells movement

Taxation of unnatural smells

Digital scents

Breathable alcohol

Homes with air quality scores

White smells to mask odours

Air quality forecasting using HPC

Use of nootropics to influence productivity

Artificial noses for disease discovery

Artificial nose to treat anosmia.

Fresh air tourism

Rain ‘bombs’ to clean air


Windows that separate fresh air from noise

Open window legislation

Obligatory air-filtering for all buildings

Vaping of fresh air

People ‘snacking’ on fresh air shots

Pollution absorbing clothes

Outsourcing of air quality to private contractors

Air provided by utility companies

Sound ‘seasoning’ of food & drink (cusp of mouth)

Pollution protected pushchairs


Silence as a class issue

Silent fireworks

Use of metamaterials to reduce noise

Narrowcasting of sound

CRISPR for auditory augmentation

Addition of fake noises to silent technologies

Crowd sourced noise pollution maps

Sound sensing proteins

Quiet road surfaces

Conversation cloaking devices

Individual noise taxes

Silent cities movement

Ubiquity of EVs

Increase in noise due to voice interfaces

Sensorial interventions to influence public behaviour

Use of sound to influence public behaviour

The link to the interactive map once again. (click to enlarge and reveal hidden content).

Finally, some of the early scribbles….

Shifting Realities – Tech Foresight 2038

I usually speak on the future at conferences, so it’s a nice change to spend some time crafting presentations for other people. This event is on 14th June and there are some places available. See below for an overview and event link.

Enter the world of 2038, where things are not always what they seem to be, and where technological breakthroughs could change the way we enganige with and see the world.

Tech Foresight 2038 will bring industry leaders together with our world-class academics to unravel the impact of technological advances 20 years in the future.

Book your place to explore a shifting reality brought on by computer-assisted synthesis, nanophotonics, artificial scientific discovery, new data approaches, 4D printing and nutrition futures.

Map for High Performance Computing (far more interesting than it sounds)

Tech Foresight HPC map


So here’s a new roadmap showing how HPC (High Performance Computing or Super Computing as it’s sometimes known) is currently being used and what HPC might be capable of in the distant future (unspecified).

There are five key categories of applications: Modelling & Simulation, Healthcare & Medicine, Security, Fintech and Materials, Manufacturing & Engineering. We had Data in there too in the beginning, but removed it because most applications seemed to be subsets of the other categories.

In an ideal graphic the various entries would connect. For example, design of nano-water filters is materials & engineering, but it’s also modelling and it’s healthcare.

There are a couple of jokes on the map to keep people on their toes (or maybe not!) and the point of the map is dead simple. It’s intended to stimulate discussion about what HPC is capable of and where HPC might be heading (my personal favourite entry is aesthetics prediction btw).

The entries are all largely tech-push of course. In the real world you’d need to overlay things like energy, security, privacy, regulation and human psychology to get a clearer picture of what’s next, but it’s a start. As far as we can tell it’s also far better than anything currently out there in terms of info-graphics about HPC.

The main audience is obviously the global HPC community, but hopefully it will appeal to anyone interested in computing, Big Data, predictive analytics and perhaps machine learning and AI. (BTW, why HPC isn’t called Big Computing is beyond some of us!)

Below are a few pictures showing the development of the map, which originally started off in the shape of a question mark with the really big question being either where is this all going or what is this all really for?

The really interesting category to our collective mind at Tech Foresight is simulation and modelling. It brings up ethical and even philosophical questions about how simulations impact reality. For example, if you have data that suggests something will happen, what level of certainty would you require to then act and where is free will and human agency in all this?

BTW, thanks to Jolanta Leonaite, Gavin Bravery, Prof. Peter Haynes and Prof. Nick Jennings for their input.

Nice bit of coverage in Forbes already too. @forbes

Modelling & Simulation
Modelling impacts of climate change against specific species
Predicting M&A activity/hostile takeovers
Radiation shield modelling
Monitoring and monitoring of nuclear waste storage
Carbon sequestration modelling
Simulation of fluid dynamics
Subsurface water modelling
Prediction of technology breakthroughs
Preventing the invention of unnecessary technologies
Creation of artificial actors, singers, poets and painters
Individual volcano modelling
Real time national mood modelling
Hyper-local personal weather forecasts
Complete human brain simulations
Prediction of revolutions using social media feeds
Automation of scientific research
Finding new knowledge hidden in big data
Aesthetics prediction
Modelling tornado trajectory & speed
Oil well forecasting
Earthquake prediction
Whole city simulations
Pollution modelling & forecasting
Modelling impacts of bio-diversity loss
Space weather forecasting
Major incident modelling & simulation

Healthcare & Medicine
Mapping blood flow
Cardiac simulations
Dynamic prediction of life threating conditions
Whole earth pandemic modelling
Unravelling protein folding
Acceleration of drug discovery & testing
Foreign aid & disaster relief allocation
Dynamic simulations of muscle & joint interactions
Bone implant modelling
Longevity prediction for individuals at birth
Design of nano-filters for water purification
Dynamic patient simulation based upon medical records

Pre-trade risk analysis
Fraud and insider dealing detection
Automatic regulatory control & compliance
Dynamic allocation of tax revenues
Flash crash prediction
Whole economy simulation

Engineering, materials & manufacturing
Space station design
Design of new aeronautics materials
Zero gravity manufacturing & design
Predicting properties of undiscovered materials
Design of smart cities
Optimisation of crowd-sourced delivery networks
Design of ‘impossible’ buildings

Riot prediction
War forecasting
Virtual nuclear weapons testing
Real-time hyper-local crime prediction
Hyper-realistic war gaming
Simulation of cyber attacks
Missile trajectory simulation
Crisis management decision support