John Smart

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John M. Smart

John M. Smart (born 10 September 1960) is a futurist, an evolutionary developmental systems theorist, and a professor of technology foresight. He is co-founder of the Evo Devo Universe research community, an international community of complex systems scholars exploring evolutionary and developmental processes of change at the universal and subsystem scales, and a member of the ECCO research group at VUB. He studied systems theory at UCSD under James Grier Miller (Living Systems, 1978), who mentored under process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He engages in multi-scale studies of evolution, development, and accelerating change from a comparative systems perspective.

John is CEO of Foresight University, a professional foresight learning and development community, and president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation (Milpitas, CA) a nonprofit technology foresight research organization. He is a lecturer on leadership and technological change at the Naval Postgraduate School and CA Command College, and has authored several next-gen IT foresight studies, including the Metaverse Roadmap, and Open Internet TV, and is a technical advisor to NextIT, a global leader in interactive virtual assistant (IVA) platforms.

John has an M.S. in futures studies from the University of Houston, an M.S.-equivalency in physiology and medicine (two years of medical school and the USMLE-I) from UC San Diego School of Medicine, a B.S. in business administration from UC Berkeley, and has done nondegree studies in biological, cognitive, computer, and physical sciences at UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego. His personal website is and blog is Email: Twitter.


Smart is the principal advocate of the concept of “STEM compression,” the idea that the most (ostensibly) complex of the universe’s extant systems at any time (galaxies, stars, habitable planets, living systems, and now technological systems) use progressively more spatially localized, miniaturized, and informationally- and dynamically-efficient sets of physical resources to create new versions of locally dominant adaptive complexity during their evolutionary development. This process is most fundamentally measurable in at least two ways: first as "STEM efficiency", the increasing space-time, and energy-matter (“STEM”) efficiency of leading complex adaptive systems, per standardized computation and physical capability, and second, as "STEM density", the increasingly dense and miniaturized arrangements of STEM resources employed in critical adaptive processes (information encoding, metabolism, defense) in all leading (competitively dominant) systems. Progressively increasing STEM-efficiency and STEM-density at the leading edge of adaptive systems can be measured in such disparate processes as encephalization and escalation in evolutionary history, urbanization and corporatization in organizations, miniaturization and nanotechnology in industrial technology, virtualization and neural network dominance in computing technology, and many other societally important domains. [1] A related perspective on the progressive efficiency of resource use in technological innovation, but one that also ignores our long history of accelerating STEM-densification, is found in Buckminster Fuller’s writings on ephemeralization.

In the "developmental singularity hypothesis", [2] also called the transcension hypothesis, Smart proposes that STEM compression, as a driver of accelerating change, must lead cosmic intelligence to a future of highly miniaturized, accelerated, and local "transcension" to extra-universal domains, rather than to space-faring expansion within our existing universe. The hypothesis proposes that once civilizations saturate their local region of space with their intelligence, they need to leave our visible, macroscopic universe in order to continue exponential growth of complexity and intelligence, and disappear from this universe, thus explaining the Fermi paradox.[3] Developments in astrobiology make this a testable hypothesis.[4] A related proposal may be found in the selfish biocosm hypothesis of complexity theorist James N. Gardner.

Smart has been criticized by some in the futures community as reductionist[5] and a techno-optimist.[6] His writings do discuss risks, abuses, and social regulation of technology, but usually as a secondary theme, subject to “inevitable” acceleration. In his defense, he claims universal and human-historical accelerating change (see Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar) do not appear to be simply a product of evolution but of some universal developmental process, one apparently protected, in a general statistical sense, by poorly understood immune systems in complex systems. In his public presentations [7] he calls for better characterization and use of existing processes of intelligence, immunity, and interdependence development in biological, cultural, and technological systems. He has critiqued systems scholars such as Jonathan Huebner, who claim that the rate of global innovation appears to be slowing down. His counterthesis is that innovation is increasingly conducted by and within technological systems, and is thereby becoming more abstract and difficult to measure by human social standards.[8]

An advocate of foresight and “acceleration-awareness” in education, Smart has proposed a developmental categorization of futurist thinking,[9] maintains a list of global futures studies programs,[10] and has authored an open source required undergraduate course in foresight development,[11] modeled after required foresight courses at Tamkang University in Taiwan. He has argued that just as history (hindsight) and current events (insight) are core general education requirements, the methods and knowledge base of futures studies (foresight), deserve inclusion in the modern undergraduate curriculum.

See also

External links

  • Acceleration Watch (formerly Singularity Watch) - Personal web site, includes extensive, print and web-published writings on accelerating change, evolutionary development, the technological singularity, and futures studies.
  • SIAI Interview - Video of John Smart about accelerating change and the unbounded complexity and potential of "inner space"


  1. Understanding STEM, STEM+IC, and STEM Compression in Universal Change , evolutionary development, the technological singularity, and futures studies.
  2. Intro to the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis (DSH),,developemental singularity hypothesis
  3. Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, 2005, p. 358.
  4. Smart, J., Answering the Fermi Paradox: Exploring the Mechanisms of Universal Transcension, J. of Evol. And Technology,June 2002
  5. Carrico, D., Smart's Laws on Technology[1]Amor Mundi,16 May 2006
  6. Eckersley, R.. (2006) Techno-Utopia and Human Values, KurzweilAI.netretrieved 2 Mar 2007
  7. Smart, J. Slide Presentations Archive,,retrieved 2 Mar 2007
  8. Smart, J. (2005) Measuring Innovation in an Accelerating World, Technological Forecasting & Social Change,V72N8
  9. Smart, J. Futurist (definition): (Twelve) Types of Futures Thinking,,retrieved 2 Mar 2007
  10. Futures Studies (ASF list): Global Graduate Programs and Resources
  11. Evo Devo Futures Studies I: Introduction to Foresight Development,,retrieved 2 Mar 2007