Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

IV. Problematic Social Roles

The great majority of foresight practitioners do not fall into problematic types. It is generally more useful to focus on all the more productive varieties of foresight practice, and ways we might further improve them. But in closing advice, we should say a little about a few roles that foresighters and futurists should generally avoid, and help others to avoid when appropriate.

It’s usually not productive to try to change someone from their preferred way of engaging the future, unless they are asking for advice, and are able to act on it. But you can always recognize less adaptive views in yourself, and take steps to change. You can also have the courage to call out improper thinking in others when you think it is a moral responsibility.

Remember to show your respect for the amazing human beings you are critiquing, if critique them you must. It’s also best never to expect others to change, only yourself. “Hope you can” however, as Yoda would say. Being an advisor and friend who is both supportive and truthful, in gentle ways, is an ideal we can all strive for.

It is always a value judgement to classify another person’s foresight as maladaptive, but there are some easier classifications to make, particularly with respect to world views, and we will discuss a few of the more problematic societal roles below.

Empathy, humility, and a sincere desire to understand the person whose foresight differs strongly from yours, and to find common ground can often minimize the negative social consequences of such problematic foresight. But there are also times, particularly when resources are scarce and stakes are high, when conflict will be inevitable. One needs to not only understand common problematic roles, and seek truces where possible, but also be ready for some inevitable fights. Let’s look now at a few roles that are still more common than we may like them to be, and offer a few tips for recognizing and living with them.