It’s about making good questions
I’ve been working as a Futurist for over a year now (with a huge thank you to my mentor, Marcelo Cunha, for this opportunity!), and I can’t help but laughing at people’s reaction when they ask me what do I do for a living.
Future-what? Do you make predictions? Are you a tarot reader? How can I win the Lotto? Are we moving towards the next World War?
I confess I was also pretty intrigued when I first heard about the matter around 5 years ago. How do these guys do to tell us about what’s happening in the future, if we cannot know it for sure?? And how can we live as a normal person when we are daily emerged in a high-tech-futurist-sci-fi-intergalactic-unknown environment???
I had the pleasure to begin my never-ending journey in Futures Literacy with the amazing guys from Aerolito, led by Tiago Mattos, a leading Brazilian futurist. And I fell in love with it, thanks to their optimistic, broad, inclusive and embracing view of the future(s).
“Studying a single vision of future is as dangerous as not studying any. You become either blind by ignorance, or by indoctrination.” — Tiago Mattos
But what is then a vision of the future? Or the futures, in plural, to better say? Why is it so dangerous to see a single possible future?
When we talk about the future and someone makes a prediction (like a prophecy, let’s say), it is very likely that people connect to it and believe that it is going to happen. So, it’s “natural” that things start to take place in order to make it happen. Because we believe it will.
But isn’t it too biased? Someone unilaterally telling me what to do, as it was the only and the best possibility? It sounds more like indoctrination, or thought colonisation, than a nice way to think and build the future — right?
We know that nothing is binary. Nothing is solely right or wrong. Black or white. There is doubt, there is complexity, there is diversity, so, thinking about the future is about identifying and looking at the broad spectrum of things, and making good questions to embrace as much clarity as we can to reach multiple visions of possible futures.
I’ll take Aerolito’s definition of vision: a vision of the future(s) is provocative, intentionally simplified, fictional and open-ended. It is not about how it should be, didactic nor moralist. It is not a scenario nor sci-fi. It is about clarity, in a specific range of time.
“A vision is a glance of one of several possible futures, from the testimony of different objects of tomorrow and the analysis of different trends. It is simple and open-ended; it provokes feelings and reflections that invite people to co-imagine the process of a post-emergent future (5 to 10 years from now). Therefore, a vision is unique for every person meeting this vision, which serves as the starting point for questions that lead to real innovation. The vision only fully fulfills its role, without bias, when it belongs to a set of multiple visions.” — Aerolito
Oh yeah…. It’s incredibly simple as a concept, but it’s not a trivial task to reach clarity and make good questions. That’s why it is so powerful that people practice Futures Literacy and avoid that others colonise what is going to happen to their own future.
There is a powerful quote of Thomas Frey, a leading American futurist, that synthesises this idea:
“People make decisions today based on their understanding of what the future holds. So if we change someone’s vision of the future, we change the way they make decisions today.” — Thomas Frey
This quote invites us to seek for clarity (not certainty!), and to open up to the fact that many ideas of futures will concomitantly happen, since there is space to any of us to impact the decisions we make today.
So, people, children, companies, schools, organisations… everyone should be aware of the power of Futures Literacy to walk a more clear path towards the future.
There is another extremely powerful quote that also synthesises it and motivates our work, from another great leading American futurist, Bob Johansen:
So, after all, no, we don’t predict the future. No, we don’t have a crystal ball (unfortunately…). But we learn to look for different signs of tomorrow. To open up. To ask questions. That provoke good reflections. And help make better decisions.
OK, it sounds really amazing! But… the future seems so far sometimes… why should I spend my time (and money?) over it, while there is so much to accomplish today?
As said, it’s about making good questions. Having more informed action. Futures literacy may help you become an expert about it. So that you can also envision a great impact in the way you look to the present:
I hope it was enough food for a first thought!
Thank you for reading!