Mark Twain once wrote “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The same might be said about the future – with one significant exception: I don’t think people are talking about it nearly enough.
“But what about the energy crisis?”, comes the imagined reply. “What about global warming? What about the water shortages that are impacting significant parts of the world? Surely that shows we’re looking ahead to the future?”
No, it doesn’t.
Each of these examples cites a present-day response to a problem that could have been anticipated and acted upon decades ago. The information was available, the technology was feasible. What was lacking was the will to look beyond present-day motivations and the very immediate future in order to alter the way our actions affect the world.
Of course, there are some people who do want to look ahead. In July, over 1,000 futurists from nearly forty countries attended WorldFuture 2008 in Washington, DC. During this annual five-day conference of the World Future Society, attendees took part in courses, presentations, debates and discussions addressing future economic, educational, political, social and technological trends. It was an exciting event, full of ideas, inspiration and hope.
These futurists recognize the importance of foresight and planning in a world that is changing in profound and increasingly rapid ways. They’ll be the first to tell you that the future can’t be predicted – not in specific terms anyway. But they also know there are methods and tools to point the way. Trends can be analyzed and extrapolated; scenarios can be created to anticipate best, worst and preferred possibilities; roadmaps and models can be built; systems-wide thinking can be applied. All so that we can be better prepared for the changes and challenges that lie ahead.
If there’s one thing we can learn from this, it’s that we should all be talking more about the future. Our future. Perhaps then, and only then, we can start to do something about it.