Stanford PDV-91 — How to Think Like a Futurist: Improve Your Powers of Imagination, Invention, and Capacity for Change




Can you picture the three most important technologies in your life twenty years from today? Could you tell a vivid story about the single biggest challenge you’ll personally face five years from now? What about the biggest challenge the world will face in fifty years? Thinking about the far-off future isn’t just an exercise in intellectual curiosity. It’s a practical skill that, new research reveals, has a direct neurological link to greater creativity, empathy, and optimism. In other words, futurist thinking gives you the ability to create change in your own life and the world around you, today.

In this course, you’ll learn essential habits for thinking about the future that will increase the power of your practical imagination. These futurist habits include counterfactual thinking (imagining how the past could have turned out differently); signals hunting (looking for leading-edge examples of the kind of change you want to see in the world); and autobiographical forecasting. We’ll discuss the scientific research that explains how each habit can have a positive impact on your life, from helping you become a more original thinker to making you a more persuasive communicator. By the end of this course, you will have the playful and practical tools you need to imagine how the world (and your life) could be very different—and to use your newfound imagination to create change today.

Jane McGonigal, Director of Games Research and Development, Institute for the Future

Jane McGonigal created forecasting games for partners like the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Public Library, and the American Heart Association. Well known for her TED talks on creativity and resilience, she is the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Reality Is Broken and SuperBetter. She received a PhD in performance studies from UC Berkeley.


  • Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, ISBN:978-0143110378,
  • Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken, ISBN:978-0143120612,
  • Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, ISBN:1608465764
  • Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, ISBN:978-0143110378, paperback: 2017-06-06.
  • Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken, ISBN:978-0143120612,
  • Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, ISBN 1608465764,

De-Anonymizing Web Browsing Data with Social Networks | Su, Shukla, Goel, Narayanan

Jessica Su, Ansh Shukla, Sharad Goel, Arvind Narayanan; De-Anonymizing Web Browsing Data with Social Networks; draft; In Some Venue Surely (they will publish this somewhere, it is so very nicely formatted); 2017-05; 9 pages.


Can online trackers and network adversaries de-anonymize web browsing data readily available to them? We show—theoretically, via simulation, and through experiments on real user data—that de-identified web browsing histories can be linked to social media profiles using only publicly available data. Our approach is based on a simple observation: each person has a distinctive social network, and thus the set of links appearing in one’s feed is unique. Assuming users visit links in their feed with higher probability than a random user, browsing histories contain tell-tale marks of identity. We formalize this intuition by specifying a model of web browsing behavior and then deriving the maximum likelihood estimate of a user’s social profile. We evaluate this strategy on simulated browsing histories, and show that given a history with 30 links originating from Twitter, we can deduce the corresponding Twitter profile more than 50% of the time. To gauge the real-world effectiveness of this approach, we recruited nearly 400 people to donate their web browsing histories, and we were able to correctly identify more than 70% of them. We further show that several online trackers are embedded on sufficiently many websites to carry out this attack with high accuracy. Our theoretical contribution applies to any type of transactional data and is robust to noisy observations, generalizing a wide range of previous de-anonymization attacks. Finally, since our attack attempts to find the correct Twitter profile out of over 300 million candidates, it is—to our knowledge—the largest-scale demonstrated de-anonymization to date.


  • Ad Networks Can Personally Identify Web Users; Wendy Davis; In MediaPost; 2017-01-20.
    <quote> The authors tested their theory by recruiting 400 people who allowed their Web browsing histories to be tracked, and then comparing the sites they visited to sites mentioned in Twitter accounts they followed. The researchers say they were able to use that method to identify more than 70% of the volunteers.</quote>

‘Design Thinking’ for a Better You, promoting Bernard Roth’s ‘The Achievement Habit’ | NYT

‘Design Thinking’ for a Better You; Tara Parker-Pope; In The New York Times (NYT); 2016-01-04.


Bernard Roth; The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life; HarperBusiness; 2015-07-07; 288 pages; kindle: $13, paper: $15+SHT.


  • Bernard Roth
    • professor, engineering, Stanford
    • a founder, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford
    • The Achievement Habit
  • Method
    1. “empathize”
      i.e. requirements extraction
    2. “define the problem”
      i.e. scope it, limit it.
    3. “ideate”
      i.e. develop the set of alternatives; e.g. brainstorm, make lists, write down ideas, generate possible solutions.
    4. prototype or plan (as appropriate)
      as such
    5. test, get feedback
      as such
  • The article reframes the method away from engineering towards social success
    • finding a spouse (getting a date),
    • weight loss
    • self-acceptance (of weight that will not be lost).