Surely this is a question that has been on the minds of many, and more in recent months. The “new normal”, restrictions, unforeseen changes in economic, social, and political issues … These are just some of the aspects that produce feelings of ambiguity in people in the face of such unexpected news
However, how is it possible that organizations, scientists, and entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, already spoke in previous years about situations similar to the one we live in today? Have they predicted the future?
The reality is that these people do not have any supernatural power that allows them to know the future. Their only “magic source” is their mind, or more specifically, their imaginationThey have managed to visualize, through a creative process, alternative scenarios of the future, which have allowed them to anticipate and be prepared for various situations.
It is not about predicting the future, but about imagining possible future scenarios that help us act in the present and be able to anticipate uncertainty. Anticipation allows us, as individuals, companies, and corporations, to be prepared in the best possible way for any unexpected experience or bump.
To imagine the future is a flexible process that we must articulate with planning, helping us with innovation, creativity, communication, and the design methods that help us to articulate those possible scenarios that will be of great use to us in the present.
How can we imagine these alternative futures?
There is no standard or systematic approach to future thinking and imagination; however, we can find many theories, methods, frames of thought, and tools (some more complex than others) to help us map multiple plausible scenarios of a future situation, so that, when things happen, we have the will and the means to respond efficiently and effectively.
One of these methods is the Four Alternative Futures or the Four Futures of Dator, by researcher and specialist in the field of professional foresight, James A. Dator. In his full article(1), Dator exposes how the scenarios of the future that humans imagine can be classified into 4 archetypes:
These scenarios are associated with the different ideals exposed in films, books, texts, narratives, etc., which most of us almost always reach when we do the exercise of thinking about the future.
In this future, Dator suggests that everything that exists now and has existed in recent years will continue to grow and change. It is the vision that all
governments, educational systems, and organizations have to keep the economy growing and changing forever..
It is the vision of the future driven by all the growing fears that could cause the collapse of our globalized world. Facts such as rapid global warming, excessive consumption, or new pandemics are some of the reasons for the fear (or expectation?) Of collapse.
We could say that, perhaps, it is the scenario with the most representation today, how many series and movies on Netflix have you seen about a global collapse?
Some people have this vision of the future when they feel that places, processes, resources, ways of life, and fundamental values are threatened or destroyed by allowing the incessant growth of the economy. They want to preserve or restore them.
A clear example of this future is the movie “Avatar”, where it represents a kind of tribe that fights against a capitalist regime that threatens its natural resources and the preservation of its species in the territory.
This future scenario focuses on the transformative power of technology, and specific fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic modification, etc. This image is the abrupt end of what we know today as “normal life.”.
When we create alternative futures, we integrate the most important components of the creative process. This is because we need the imagination to stage that future; curiosity and discovery to identify the different interactions on which this scenario will develop; creativity to generate action ideas about the desired future, and innovation to turn those ideas into transformative actions.
Think of these four archetypes as “filters” that you can put on your ideas for the future. This will help you boost your creativity to generate as many scenarios as possible. Remember that it is not about guessing something that will be true or false, what interests us is that those futures are sufficiently functional and motivating visions to guide us in our way of thinking and acting
But… what is this classification of scenarios for?
These scenarios are tools that form a conceptual framework that helps us explore and anticipate the uncertainty of a future horizon. These scenarios are tools that form a conceptual framework that helps us explore and anticipate the uncertainty of a future horizon.
In the end, the visualization of scenarios consists of descriptions of a future world, which allows us to understand the changes that have occurred in that possible reality, in addition to the challenges, consequences, or opportunities that this new world may bring.
Future mapping is an issue that as individuals, society, companies, and organizations, we must take into account to think and create based on where and how we want to be in a few years. The generation of strategies and changes that we adopt today will be consequences of tomorrow. For this reason, we must be aware of our reality and the impact we have on it when building the future.
What alternative futures can you imagine?
If this “predecting the future” attracts your attention, at Thinkers Co. we provide you with tools and examples that will help you focus your creative mind for the creation of new alternative scenarios of the future.
Updated at 14/12/2020