Two weeks ago, pioneering futurist Alvin Toffler died. Over at Medium, my colleague Marina Gorbis, executive director of Institute for the Future, reflects on Toffler's vision and why it's more important than ever for futures thinking to be a massively public endeavor. Marina writes:
Disorientation. Irrationality. Malaise. These were the sensations that in 1965 famed futurist Alvin Toffler, who died two weeks ago, suggested would run rampant in the face of the "revolutionary transitions" facing our society. According to Toffler, we would all suffer from a condition not unlike the culture shock experienced by travelers to foreign countries. He called it "future shock."
"Imagine not merely an individual but an entire society — including its weakest, least intelligent, and most traditional members — suddenly transported into this new world," Toffler wrote in a Horizon magazine article titled "The Future as a Way of Life." "The result is mass disorientation, future shock on a grand scale."
Arguably, we are living Toffler's future today. Many of us are in a state of shock as social media enables the rise of political figures who we could never imagine as viable presidential candidates, software eats people's jobs (according to some), massive data leaks allow loosely organized networks of journalists to uncover stories of global crime and corruption, and surveys consistently point to the loss of trust in most institutions across the globe. We are quick to marvel at Toffler's foresight. I would argue, however, that our "future shock" is highly unevenly distributed….
We need to make futures thinking a way of life for more people outside of the enclaves like Silicon Valley, corporate boardrooms, and academic think tanks. To accomplish that, we must distribute the tools of futures thinking and futures-making more widely. Envisioning and making the future must be a massively public endeavor.