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 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 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 JohnMSmart.com and blog is EverSmarterWorld.com.
Smart is the principal advocate of the concept of “STEM compression,” (formerly "MEST 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 and exponentially less space, time, energy and matter (“STEM”) resources per computation, and more dense arrangements of these resources, to create the next level of complexity in their evolutionary development.  A similar perspective on the progressive efficiency of resource use in technological innovation, but not predicting accelerating resource density, is found in Buckminster Fuller’s writings on ephemeralization.
In the "developmental singularity hypothesis",  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. Developments in astrobiology make this a testable hypothesis. 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 and a techno-optimist. 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 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.
An advocate of foresight and “acceleration-awareness” in education, Smart has proposed a developmental categorization of futurist thinking, maintains a list of global futures studies programs, and has authored an open source required undergraduate course in foresight development, 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.
- Futures studies
- Strategic foresight
- Technological singularity
- Accelerating change
- Evolutionary development
- Fermi paradox
- 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.
- SYNCD - Video of John Smart about accelerating change and the unbounded complexity and potential of the "inner space"
- Interview with John Smart on "Developmental Singularity Hypothesis" and STEM compression
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter