“The future is purchased by the present.”
I recently had a conversation about being a ‘futurist.’
When it came up I admit … I kind of sat back and tried to move on to another subject.
I respected who brought it up.
Big brain. Good thinker. Said with good intent.
I wrote in 2011 the whole ‘futurist’ career was bullshit … and thankfully suggested I could never be one.
The “Manifesto of Futurism,” written by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was published on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro on February 20, 1909. It proclaimed the desire of the author, and his fellow Futurists, to abandon the past and embrace the future.
The point here on the whole concept of a “Futurist” is that their very existence is disdainful of the present.
Should we have an eye to the future? Absolutely.
To not do so is to remain stagnant with regard to thinking.
Should we ignore the present? Absolutely not.
If there was ever a time that a Futurist discussed the present … now would be the time.
I still believe the same now as I did then.
Future thinking is purchased in the present.
In other words … something existing within the present – most likely some type of behavior … is the future opportunity.
Saying that permits me to say that I believe Futurists … or the label/title … is kind of silly.
Suffice it to say looking at trends and envisioning ‘what could be’ doesn’t need a title.
And you certainly cannot earn a living doing it if you get paid for successful futuristic prognostication.
Because the probability of being right is very very low.
Pretty much every so called futurist <excepting maybe Toffler & Drucker … who never called themselves Futurists> has had an incredibly poor success rate in outlining future trends & behavior <and sometimes even attitudes>.
Moving beyond simply slamming futurists … in my mind … I believe futurists shouldn’t predict … they should inspire thinking <which could beget the future>.
This kind of career activity is sort of like NASA.
Unintended innovations and learning.
<insert … ‘yikes’ … and how do you get funding for that these days?>
Speculating on future is all about inspiring thinking … thinking about possibilities and what ifs.
And ‘what could be’s.’
This also means not get attached to any one idea or ‘trend’ too much but rather simply embrace the only thing you know for sure … things will change … and embrace change.
And if ‘change is a’comin’ you always need to be thinking.
And not as predicting measured by success or failure.
Maybe the success objective is simply being in the realm of ‘not being surprised’ <or ‘well, that doesn’t surprise me’>.
How’s that for an objective?
I imagine more companies really could use this type of futurist.
The difficulty most likely resides in the fact a great thinking ‘futurist’ will typically not bear real tangible results in the present.
Their present successes almost always reside in ‘working on ideas which will be used in the future.’
Here is probably where I look at things more differently than any futurist in the world <which means I will never be a card carrying futurist because they will never give me a card> … the future is actually found in the now. Uhm. I mean that future ideas are actually found in the now.
Thinking about what is happening now <attitudes>.
Thinking about what is being done today <behavior>.
How can it be futuristic if it is just a derivative of something in the present?
<and feel free and insert a shitload of exclamation points in here if you would like>
To me real futuristic trending type thinking has to have a slightly pragmatic foundation residing somewhere in the minds of the rising generation. The real … the truly meaningful … behavior shifts occur not within a generation but within transition of generations. Therefore any pie in the sky type thinking has to be made up of some pie that <simplistically> the kids of the present have an interest in eating of.
For any future type ideation will live or die not with existing attitude generations but more so in evolving attitude generations.
To be clear.
People’s attitudes do, and can, evolve as they age and experience things <and they are exposed to new and different attitudes and behavior>. But that isn’t futuristic thinking … that is simply critical mass thinking.
It’s a different ability.
That is someone who can look at existing trends and attitudes … mostly looking at those that reside in fractions or in the minority of minds … and figuring out which ones will actually gain enough traction to attain the critical mass to ‘evolve’ the majority of attitudes.
I say that but also suggest that this is often a Sisyphean task.
Attitudes are imprints.
They are almost like tattoos. Once established they are almost impossible to remove.
Think about what I would consider the ‘biggies’ of this generation … climate change and marriage <for everyone> … I could also add in equal opportunity.
Please do not get stuck on the examples … just focus on the fact that while I tend to believe the past minority point of views have shifted to a majority more mainstream view acceptance … there still remains a solid steadfast unrelenting minority attitude system in place.
Evolution of attitudes is like glaciers. And they also tend to follow generations … and not single generations.
Early adopter generation transitioning to a vocal minority generation to a majority acceptance generation and ultimately a 4th <and last> generation who not only has the attitudes but behavior is established.
Back to what I consider a contrarian point of view on Futurists.
I will begin with a quote … and a thought on character.
“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.“
Ralph Waldo Emerson
That was harsh.
I will take back the nimwhit part.
Most are pretty sharp.
But claiming to be a futurist isn’t about claiming to be some intellectual … or some highly intelligent individual … it is more a reflection of character.
Their character is reflected in a view on how you see the world and how you think about the world … and frankly … how you see people.
More futurists should be paying more attention to their character than their predictions. I don’t have research on this and because I am not a futurist I am not qualified to predict future behavior … but … I would suggest that if futurists would do a self character attitude tune-up their actual professional behavior would most likely improve <their predictions would improve>.
<note: I am fairly sure I just got kicked off the futurist campus with that thought … especially the nitwit part>
Second <and lastly>.
Futurists have to look forward but seek truth in the young.
Their predictions will never come true if there isn’t a pragmatic realistic foundation to be found within the youth.
With no traction … the idea … shit … any future type idea … will die.
As I type this it sounds so obvious.
But it seems like futurists and trend identifiers seem to focus on today’s people and gaze at the horizon.
Paradoxically … future ideas are actually best found in looking backwards … at those who are coming up behind … the young.
What do I know.
I am not a futurist.