When I tell people I'm a researcher at Institute for the Future, they usually follow up the inevitable flying car or Michael J. Fox joke with: You're a futurist? What kinda job is that? Over at GOOD, my colleagues Jake Dunagan and Mathias Crawford launched a new series of essays where they'll talk about "what we do at IFTF, what it is like to think like a futurist, and, more importantly, how to act like you care about what happens." The illustration above is by Claire Thompson, a hypertalented intern at IFTF who is researching co-creation and developing a toolkit for collaborative design. From GOOD:
The future is not an end state. Tomorrow will someday be today, which will fade into yesterday. As our world moves through this unyielding passage of time, how people act in our world will determine just which of many possible futures we end up with."What Futurists Actually Do"
When we transform our notion of "the future" into visions of alternative futures, we transform our relationship to the very idea of change. We move from thinking we are heading toward an inevitable destination to seeing the world as a dependent, contingent, and therefore actionable, possibility space for us to design. Pluralizing "the future" makes us both more empowered and more responsible for our ultimate outcomes. It may seem like a semantic triviality, but it represents an important shift in thinking.
Even though we can't predict exactly what will happen, we can make reasonable assumptions about what potential futures might look like, and in doing so we can begin to make choices today that can help us bring about the changes we hope to realize in the world.