Futurism's Blind Spot

Last week we shared the image of the cone with you. This week it is time to dive in a bit more. Why do we need plurality for the future? 

Recently Tom Vanderbild wrote in his article “Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot” for Nautilus that we often forget to take cultural change into consideration. One example he gives is the development of self-driving cars. In the 50s we envisioned self-driving cars with families playing boardgames in them. Today he argues we see self-driving cars as a way to free up time to do work. Another example he uses is a 1960s vision of the future office. While technological predictions we pretty accurate, the workplace had no women in it.

But we don't just have a blindspot for cultural development. We also have a habit of envisioning these future inventions in the midst of today's things. The image of the family playing a board game also illustrates this point. Now that we are close to self-driving cars, we have walked down the path of self driving cars and seen how the landscape has changed around us we know that the family probably won't play a board game. If they would play a board game however, they would play it on a tablet. So we don't just forget to take into account the cultural changes, we also don’t include other inventions. This isn’t bad in and of itself. Oftentimes we can not know. What we can do however, is leave space in our future visions.


The type of creativity a fiction writer needs to create the worlds in which his stories take place is also important for futurism and forecasting, both fiction and futurism are about envisioning an alternative world. It is about creating a complete environment that makes sense. Science Fiction writer Frederik Pohl once said "A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” Or translated, what real world effect will the technological innovation have once it becomes commonplace and what environment will it create? Forecasters and futurists also need to take these questions into account and even companies planning for the future will benefit from such a broader image of the future. 

So when we think of the future we have to take these questions into consideration to paint a better picture of a possible future world. There is not one future, there are many, we can make some predictions, see some signs of changes to come, but we may not see others yet. Thus, collecting as many different possible future can help us to keep our options open, to keep our futures flexible, and to create a more likely, more diverse, and more complete vision of the future. 


Images: http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/all-work-and-no-play-makes-self-driving-cars-a-dull-plo-1524354458