As Bruce Sterling says in Tomorrow Now, "The future is a process, not a theme park." What that means for Worldchanging, is that we don't practice imagining the future in order to be right, we imagine it in order to think more clearly about the systems in which we find ourselves embedded. We think about the future not in order to predict it -- that's essentially impossible in any meaningful sense -- but in order to see more clearly the ways in which we can act today to influence it. By using tools and modes of thought which encourage our foresight, we can anticipate new threats and opportunities, and better apprehend the nature of the tools we have at our disposal for acting in the face of those threats and opportunities.
Imagining the future, then, paradoxically makes us more innovative and effective in the present.
But imagining the future helps us with another important task, as well: remembering our duty to the people who will come after us.
Many of the best things about our society are the legacies of people who came before us and made the conscious choice to leave the world a better place. On the other hand, many of the biggest disasters unfolding around us are to a depressing extent the fruits of bad, greedy, shortsighted -- sometimes evil -- decisions made in the past.
More than any generation yet born, we have a duty to think carefully about the world we will leave behind us. If we act boldly and with wisdom, will could leave our descendants, our children's children, a planet with good options -- they will have problems of their own to face, but they will be more interesting problems than mere survival. If we flinch or shirk, we will leave them a greatly diminished planet, a shriveled husk of the world we were born into. Imagining the futures that will be created through our choices allows us to, as Andy Kerr put it, make ourselves into great ancestors.
That's why we spend so much time thinking about the future, discussing various visions of the future, pointing out trends and driving forces, talking about history, and in general trying to help think about the broad flow of events in these trying times: because knowing when you are makes you more effective at what you do, and more likely to do the right things. Knowing when you are makes you a more effective player of the infinite game.
Posts on Worldchanging about Imagining the Future:
Beyond imagining the future, we can focus on planting the future. When I plant a tree seedling, I can't accurately predict what exact form the tree will take, how well it will thrive or how long it will live. But I know that I've helped set a process in motion, a future canopy, branching out, dropping seeds of its own. Imagining is the start of creative acts - but only that. Without doing, imagining is merely describing, not creating.