When you think about the future, what do you see? Is your version of the future a calm utopia, an apocalyptic nightmare or something completely different? Why does your version look different to mine?
When we set out on a journey, we can plan it in detail and follow a map. We can even look up Google Earth and zoom in on our destination, so we know exactly what it looks like and will recognise it when we get there. Not so with our journey into the future. We can’t be certain what shape it will take. We can only speculate. And that’s where the problem lies.
Julian Waters-Lynch is an industry fellow in enterprise and innovation at RMIT University. Julian gave a presentation at Florence Guild as part of the speaker series, ‘The Antidisciplinary Future’. The series narrative explores how we can look outside traditional disciplines to find better ways to live and work now and in the future.
In his talk, Julian discussed how our perceptions of the future are based on multiple factors including our culture, social status, and knowledge of past and current trends. For example, someone living in rural China is bound to have different feelings and views of the future to someone in central London.
When we look back on our past, we can see patterns in many areas such as economic cycles, governance, fashions, and war. To many, the current changes in technology and employment patterns look similar to those of the industrial revolution. We weathered those and benefited from the process, so, why would it be much different this time? However, others see this time as being different as the changes are happening very rapidly and in ways we could not have ever foreseen.
To help us make sense of the future, Julian outlined 4 possible ways of viewing it.
- As a series of disruptive trends that have a domino-style effect.
- As a fan of possibilities with probable, plausible and possible scenarios.
- As one of 4 key archetypes or stories that we project onto data.
- Business as usual
- Everything falls apart
- A disciplined society where we do more with less
- Everything changes
- As an iceberg with many layers where we can see the top but not what lies beneath.
All of these theories have multiple consequences for us on a personal and global level, but how do we wrap our minds around it all? How do we use our understanding of what the future might hold to make decisions for our careers, for our society, for our environment, and for our children?
Julian offered many useful insights into these theories and the implications they hold for us in his presentation. You can hear what he had to say by listening to the recording of his talk ‘Working futures in the new economy’ in episode 8 of our ‘antidisciplinary’ podcast series. You can also keep up to date with conversations with other thought leaders by subscribing to our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.