Beyond the Future: Are We Lacking in Vision?

01/26/2012 03:04 pm ET | Updated Mar 27, 2012

What we do for the next 20 years, from now to 2030, will begin to create the template for the future; and what happens between now and 2050 will be a crucial period for establishing these patterns of change and getting them in place to serve for the long run. Yet how we are able to perceive and act upon the changes ahead will depend very much upon the patterns of human consciousness, that is, our cognitive, perceptual and instinctive structures.

Now, one of the things I do take issue with is how many future forecasts are established upon the current consciousness or way of thinking. By this I mean that they extrapolate the future based upon what has gone before; there is a lack of ability to discern the uncertain, the unpredictable and the unexpected. There is too much trend-based thinking going on that fails to foresee the complex, the chaotic and the unpredictable. Yet it is likely that the future will show different dynamics of development: not linear but rather through states of flux, sometimes erratic. It is more accurate to say that humanity has managed to arrive at the 21st century through a growing series of critical thresholds, moving towards current global, social and environmental limits. And it is at such thresholds where new, often unexpected, arrangements are forced into being. However, since the human mindset, and especially the "modern" mindset, has a preoccupation, or even obsession, with a linear view of history and progress, many forecasters are predicting various combinations upon the "business as usual" model. That is, the future will be an altered or adapted variation upon the model that has served us until now. This potentially dangerous view, however, does not take into account "system jumps," the tipping points (phase transitions) that characterize the fluctuations when rapid change occurs.

The upcoming decades will more likely be based around potentials rather than linear trends, forecasts and certainties. One de-limiting aspect of our current situation is the lack of vocabulary we have to describe these "potentials," since our human vocabulary is mostly geared towards describing what is, rather than that which can be beyond our current frames of reference. This illustrates one of the fundamental problems we now face: we lack the vocabulary and vision to comprehend beyond our current models. What our current mindset often ends up doing is projecting, or rather extending, from present "knowns," since we have not the tools to conceptualize the "unknowns." Rather than taking either a leap of faith (has it often has been termed), or lacking the vision of heightened perception, we fall back onto secure terrain. The end result is a projection that is an expanded/extended version of current models rather than a new model.

The extended-view model is a continuation upon current models that are themselves based upon, or are appropriated forms of, more ancient patterns of thinking. Human perception has yet to be developed to a degree that it is able to consistently and naturally perceive patterns and potentials that lie beyond the future. This is a significant issue for us in light of what many have termed as the "technological singularity." Yet I argue that what we face first is a "perception singularity": a boundary beyond which events cannot be perceived by the observer. In effect it is a perceptual and mental "event horizon," beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict. Linear models do not and cannot operate beyond this boundary; this is part reason why our vocabulary is proving inadequate to even begin to conceptualize the potentials that exist within a clearly different model.

This desire for the extended-view model represents within humanity the often unacknowledged wish for permanency -- that what we have attained can be kept and applied forever. We can call this the syndrome of the "permanent apple," whereby we want to have the apple forever in our hands, yet unable to taste it we lack the benefit of its nutrition. We possess the object yet fail to grasp its intrinsic value because we want to hold onto it forever rather than munching into it. A similar analogy is of having the vision to teach a child to crawl yet not continuing to the point where the child can walk. If a generation of thinkers are taught that the goal is to crawl rather than walk, what will be achieved? It is evident that we need to surpass the crawling stage. We are living in a world where our preparations have become our objectives. This is no longer good enough.

Let us be clear that ancient systems do not work in modern times if they have not been modified according to specific current factors. We often believe the old adage that "If it worked for us once, it will work again." Yet these are primitive and superstitious beliefs; and beliefs are just that -- they are neither fact nor necessarily true. When faced with a time or epoch that requires radical change we must begin to enter a period of mental pruning -- a stage of "cutting back" our outmoded belief-systems, ideas, priorities and excesses: a pruning back of our delusions. If human society, on a collective level, is going to develop strong and healthy beyond the next 50 years then we need to usher in a new vocabulary and way of thinking -- a thinking that rejects the old paradigms in favour of new models that are creative yet harmonious. The 21st century is an opportunity for a new visionary blueprint for taking human civilization forward into its next creative and evolutionary leap. We either shift into a new model, or find the current one is a sinking ship we were too idle to do anything about except patch the holes a thousand times until it sank.

I know there are already many people who are building new rafts and teaching people to swim. Let us join the ship-builders.

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