Updates on travels to Burgundy, Manchester & Belgrade in the past weeks at a later point, popping this one off the stack first…
“The World in 50 Years & How Do We Get There” was the promising title of the recent afternoon-long mini conference put together by the Dutch Future Society. “The State of Futurism & How The Fuck Do We Get Past This” may have been more appropriate. Bit harsh? Maybe, but honestly I was kind of shocked at the level of the talks given. Brief histories, general overviews & shallow case studies may be passable for introductory client presentations, but for an audience supposedly consisting of professionals in the field? Kindergarten shit.
There will be Robots! Climate change is a thing! Have you guys heard of the Singularity? Fuck. Off. This isn’t a Michio Kaku Discovery Channel special. Futurism isn’t about Prediction? It’s impossible to foresee the future? You don’t say! Oh you made a list of signals? Tell me more!
No, seriously though. Tell me more. Enough of this ‘starting conversations’. This was a room full of people who have real influence on strategic & policy decisions in high-level government & corporate settings. How about steering conversations? What are desirable futures for ‘the world in 50 years’? What are the real world challenges you have encountered in the projects you’re describing? What strategies can be employed to embed the seeds of mid-to-long term desirable change? What tactics have you used to overcome biases in organisations blocking paths to these futures?
“The learning loop ‘Are you right?’ doesn’t seem to exist in this profession” – Mark Turrel
It’s a damn shame that the last talk, by a self-proclaimed ‘not-a-futurist’ was the only one to even scratch the surface of navigating futures in the 21st century. The ‘poll’ taken in the final workshop asks what kind of Futurist one is, and the two choices are basically that you do strategy or trends. During the discussion voices in the room lament the lack of cross-over from other fields, “in the US they have access to resources like Science Fiction writers, here we don’t have that so much”. You’re fucking kidding me, right? “We tried a thing with some VJ’s but it didn’t work very well because they hadn’t thought about this much in any depth”. Oh yeah? How about next time you actually research who you ask?
Keep flailing around with your crowdsourcing & your Foresight 3.0 (I shit you not, this was a thing), or actually go out and maybe find out what’s happening in your field. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. While you’re doing what are basically poorly designed Delphi method questionnaires online, entire new fields of exploratory practice are being developed. We have Critical Design, Design Fiction & Infrastructure Fiction to name just a few.
My twitter feed contains Critical Futures, Cynical Futures, Feral Futures, Unknown Futures, Planetary Futures, Thriving Futures, Retro Futures, Applied Futures, Gonzo Futures, African Futures, Optimistic Futures, Infrastructure Futures, Mystical Futures, Speculative Futures, the list goes on. All of those people know how to properly design a fucking slide deck too. I’m being harsh because I like you, Dutch Future Society, but you may want to step your game up.