Futurist, computer engineer Earl Joseph

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2007 - 10:21 PM

The pioneering scientist "had the knack" of pulling research and trends together, a colleague said.

Earl Joseph, a computer scientist and a pioneering futurist who forecast a world to be, died of an aneurism in Minneapolis on Friday.

Joseph, a Minneapolis resident who was a native and longtime resident of St. Paul, was 80.

He would synthesize trends and probabilities in various fields to forecast the future, said his colleague, Brian Toren, a leader at the Minnesota Futurists group, which Joseph founded about 40 years ago.

"He had the knack to be able to pull various research areas and trends together and come up with some fairly accurate possibilities," Toren said.

In the late 1970s, Joseph "was talking about growing limbs and fingers," Toren said. "He was already looking at these possibilities and discussing them in public."

In 1981, Joseph wrote a two-part series about the computer-robot revolution.

"Advances in technology amplify our ability to accomplish tasks," Joseph wrote, citing the increased power of a plow over a hoe and a word-processing system over a typewriter.

With the increase in smart machines, "we as individuals will be able to do for ourselves what experts do for us now," Joseph wrote.

Joseph worked for Sperry Univac for 32 years until 1983. For 10 years in the 1950s and '60s, he headed the company's work on the military's Nike Zeus antiballistic missile system. He was a computer design engineer, and held three patents in that field.

In the early 1980s, he founded Anticipated Sciences, serving as a futurist for companies and governments around the world.

His daughter-in-law Terry Cox-Joseph of Hampton Roads, Va., said he enjoyed collecting data.

He "sat and digested information. He was brilliant at" marrying the technological and the creative, Cox-Joseph said.

According to the Minnesota Futurists' website, Joseph has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report and many other national publications.

He is the author and editor of futurist publications, and was the founder and editor of the journal Futurics.

He has taught futurist courses at the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.

In 1951, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

He was a Navy veteran of World War II.

His wife, Alma, died about 12 years ago.

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