Born in post-war Germany and a boy during the future-fanatic 60s, my first perception of the future was a world of endless possibilities, wonders and immortality. Then, in the seventies, it all turned dark. “Tomorrow” mutated into a kind of wasteland, with catastrophes and decline. And there it stays until now. Look at a film, a book, or a discussion about the future: It is either about the unavoidable end of mankind, or the glorious promises and redemption that technology will bring. Since then, I work on understanding the REAL future. Is there a method, a formula, a hidden agenda for how things happen and unfold in time? Or is everything just random, an endless armada of black swans and unpredictable incidents? Can we do the job of looking forward better than with the educated guesses of common scenario making of the 80s, the Trend-Hype-Making of the 90s or the doomsaying of Club of Rome and their followers?
After 25 years of work in future science, things become clearer. With a combination of the new scientific approaches like behavioral psychology, evolutionary theory, system theory and dynamic game theory, we can mark out pathways of human development much better than ever before. We call this approach “Integrated Futurism“ – a synthesis of multiple new cutting edge sciences. Massive data, collected with the help of the internet, better model building plus simulation, and huge progress in understanding human psychology (and how it interacts with social, political and technological systems) enables us to make much better predictions.
But predictions are a tricky subject. Most forecasts we can make today with high(er) probability – oh yes, we can: about technology, society, politics – are ignored or just denied. Every company asks desperately for relevant future trends – until these trends show, that they have to change their organization and think in a different way. The future often seems like a product, a packaging, a marketing trick, used to confirm outcomes, which are convenient and profitable for the marketing department (also individuals have an own, inbuilt “marketing department“). We call this the “Prediction Bias“. You could also call it: The corruption of the future by self-interests. Futurism, as I understand it, is “productive irritation“. It is a mirroring of management, organizations, individuals, politics, the society as a whole.
GNOTHI SEAUTON – “Recognize yourself“ was the central motto of the Oracle of Delphi. The goal is to challenge and to re-work the frameworks with which we look at tomorrow. To overcome linear, under-complex thinking and to understand the differences between coherence and causality, probability and possibility, chance and probability.
On this way to a new, more complex and rich Futurology, I have held around 1.000 speeches, built up a small company named the Zukunftsinstitut (the Future Institute) as well as produced lots of studies and projects for big and small companies and politics. I have also built, with my wife and family, the „Future Evolution House“ in Vienna, a private laboratory for the lifestyles of tomorrow. No, there is no formula (at least not ONE). But there are astonishing new ways to understand the path of the evolution, of which we are an integrated part. And much more to know about the laws of change than we imagined.
Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, Co-Director, Sackler Centre for...
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