In my view, futurism (“strategic foresight,” “scenario planning”) is a vaccination for our civilization’s immune system. It strengthens us. By introducing us to different possible futures, we become sensitive to those potential outcomes, and able to recognize their early signs. We can think about how we would respond to different futures, and argue about what would be desirable *before* it happens… if it happens. That “if” is important. Most of the forecast futures *won’t* happen, and even the “real” future won’t look exactly like our scenarios. It will have bits and pieces from multiple forecast futures, and some items that we didn’t catch. We’ll still be surprised by some things.
It turns out that planning for a set of different possible futures is a good way to prepare, even if the real future is different. There’s usually enough overlap, enough “economies of scope” allowing plans and solutions built for one issue to be effective for another. And even when reality takes us by surprise, the very act of thinking about, preparing for different futures gives us a better perspective. We’re more attuned to how seemingly unrelated factors can combine, leading to novel outcomes. We’re sensitive to the power of contingency. Diversity of ideas strengthens us; we’re more flexible and adaptive. We can’t let ourselves get trapped by thinking about just one future.
Jamais Cascio, The Future is a Virus
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Web anthropologist, futurist, author. My focus is the future, and the tectonic forces pushing business, media, and society into an unclear and accelerating future. more.
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GigaOM Research analyst and curator.
Also writing beaconstreets.com.
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