Chapter 1. Introduction – Our Emerging Foresight Field

I. Introduction

Inside Flap

Our world has more intelligent and helpful people, thinking in more truthful, useful, and beautiful ways about the future, than ever before. You’ll encounter quite a few of them in this Guide. This book will introduce you to two very important things: general futures thinking and the emerging field of professional foresight, people who get paid to think about the future for others. You may think you won’t ever do professional foresight, but if you look to the future for others, at any point in your career, you are doing professional foresight, and you owe it to yourself and your teams to understand best practices in that emerging field.

The Guide is written to help you get better at leading positive change, and to do that you need to have a better understanding of the future from personal, organizational, global, and universal perspectives. We call these the POGU Foresight Domains, and all four are fundamentally important areas of foresight education and practice. We introduce them in this order in the Guide, the first two in Chapters 2-6 and the second two in Chapters 7-11, and together they will help you see the great power and scope of the foresight field.

As part of the global and universal domain, the Guide will introduce you to exponential foresight, to the scientific, technological, and entrepreneurial levers that are doing by far the most to change our civilization today. While most areas of human affairs move quite slowly, our digital hardware and software tools and platforms, and the social value that entrepreneurs can create with them, get rapidly more powerful and intelligent with each passing year. As you’ll learn in this book, it is now obvious, to those willing to look, that many of these special systems will continue to accelerate for the rest of our and our children’s lives. In fact, some digital accelerations seem to be driven by the very laws of our universe, and the way it structured at the nanoscale. Good global foresight today begins with this recognition, and the resolve to steer these special accelerating processes and systems for human flourishing. They are increasingly dangerous and disruptive to some people and organizations, the faster they go.

This Guide will also offer a framework, evolutionary developmental (“evo devo”) foresight, to better understand what is predictable and what is unpredictable in the world, and to differentiate realistic from unrealistic futures. You owe it to yourself to understand why change occurs, and what we can most reasonably expect to create and lead in our lifetimes. This Guide certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but it will show you many ways you can use foresight today to make a far better world for yourself, your family, your teams, and your planet, and to see and avoid the pitfalls, blind alleys, and dystopias that we could easily get stuck in along the way.

In sum, the mission of the Guide is to help you see further, work better (improve your teams) and achieve more (create positive change). Get ready for an extraordinary future. This is a truly amazing and fortunate time to be alive!

Promoting Fearless Foresight – The Aim of this Guide

It is the goal of this Guide to inspire you to fearless foresight, to see the universe, humanity, yourself, and technology for what they really are, rather than what society or the headlines tell you. You will learn to look beyond the current debates, and understand the assumptions behind them, and make up your own clear-headed, evidence-based view of them for yourself and your teams.

A growing range of amazing, empowering, disturbing, and disruptive technologies are on the way, whether we want them to arrive or not. What we can control is the way they arrive, and how we integrate them into our societies. Long-anticipated futurist tropes like flying cars, smart robots, and eventually, even the much-debated technological singularity are coming, and many will be here much sooner than most people think. But the future’s not going to be the Jetsons. It will be something interestingly, and yet obviously, different.

For a key example of the different world we are creating, the kind of AI that is coming will be vastly more biologically-inspired, and far more personal, than most of us recognize. Our Chapter 8, on Personal AIs, is our exploration of what the emerging technological singularity is likely to look like over the next fifty years, to the average person, and all the ways that our currently overlooked and yet rapidly-learning digital selves can empower us, or lead us into dystopias that we need to recover from, if we don’t make the right choices with them as they grow up. The reality of these emerging digital selves is unavoidable, for every one of us that continues to use information technology. What we do with that self, whether we recognize it and take control of it or flee from and ignore it, is our social and moral choice, and those choices can empower or disempower us. Many different paths will be chosen, and not all of them will be productive, or safe.

As we’ll argue in Chapters 7 and 11, our species collective intelligence is growing at very fast exponential rates every year now, in both human society and in our new thinking machines. Groups of us are slowly coming to realize that we can build tremendously better futures, if we treat the future as seriously as we treat the past and the present. But how strong our foresight culture becomes, for individuals, teams, organizations, and societies is, like most things in the future, entirely up to us.

Helping our clients to uncover, create and envision better futures—to “level up” in the game of life—is what futurists and foresighters do. You will meet many of them in this Guide.

Let’s begin our journey with a brief introduction to the emerging and uniquely promising field of professional foresight. We need to start with a few definitions, and introduce a few key foresight types and categories. We will end this chapter with a brief and exciting vision of what our world may be like once it develops a stronger and broader foresight culture.

Welcome to the adventure.


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