Every now and then I get really frustrated that I won’t be around the see ‘the future’. As someone who labels himself as ‘a futurist’ that might make little sense but, thinking about the future and being present in the future, well those are two different things altogether.

To help understand just how completely different the future will be it is helpful to look back and envisage today as seen through the eyes of someone alive 100 or even 200 years ago. Much of today’s reality would have been completely beyond the scope of anyone but a select few dreamer’s back then – and those ‘dreamers’… well most likely they would have been merely tolerated by the establishment and the prevailing wisdom of the day.

Dog-birdBut the future is rarely dictated to by the masses. The future is usually something that unravels far beyond the limits and constraints that govern our conventional thinking and this is what makes it both so enticing and exciting at the same time. Life not only as it could be but life as it surely will be one day.

Elon Musk was recently quoted as saying that human life is a video game. He suggested that humans do not exist in any particular reality but are part of a video simulation controlled by some advanced civilisation.

Crazy? Maybe.

But I love the shift in thinking and perception such a thought poses. Musk is leading the charge in transforming the way we humans get around. He is redefining how far we go and how fast we get there be that through his battery powered Tesla cars or as CEO of Space X that manufactures reusable rockets. Then there is his investment in the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop enables travel in pods that would reach speeds of 600mph reducing the commute from London to Edinburgh to 40 minutes and more extreme applications of the same concept dreams of travel at speeds of 1600mph and being able to commute from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes.

Crazy? Sure it is crazy.

But then so too was the notion of 3-D printing and the possibility of printing our food, organs, houses and pretty much anything. NASA is at the forefront of experimenting with 3-D printing as this technology is seen as means whereby colonising Mars (and elsewhere) will be made possible. Then there is the notion of digital personal assistants and robots so lifelike distinguishing them from humans will be difficult if not impossible; earth being declared a ‘light industrial zone’ with the heavy manufacturing being consigned to space; virtual reality redefining reality itself and our understanding of an ‘experience’; thought controlled technology; gene writing (as opposed to mere reading and editing); current limits around age, trust, communication, value and almost any aspect of life that one can think of, being completely reshaped and overhauled.

Crazy? I think not.

And this is the future that I so wish I could see and not just get to talk about and attempt to envisage. It is a future that will reveal our current foolishness and short-sightedness in exactly the same way that we are afforded a lofty view of the past from our current vantage point. Why would we believe that we wouldn’t be subjected to the same smirks and shaking of heads that we reserve for those who have gone before us? The future will expose our limits, our stupidity and our ignorance.

Crazy? Absolutely.

Prominent Futurist, Jim Dator has said that any useful idea about the future needs to appear
ridiculous – this is known as ‘Dator’s Second Law of Futures’. When I had occasion to ask him why a ‘second law’ and not a ‘first law’ his answer revealed as much about the man as it did about his thinking: “Who ever remembers the first law of anything? But everybody remembers the second law”. And just to prove his point he cited the second law of thermodynamics and asked if I knew the first law on the subject. I didn’t.

We need to be a bit crazy in order to think our way out of the many inhibiting notions we have
around life, leadership and organisations. We need to tear apart the conventional, the script and be willing to think differently, understand things differently and I would suggest that this all starts with trying to see things differently. That is why I love the vision of the future that people like Musk (and several others) provide us with – a vision so audacious, so big and compelling that it takes our breath away.  It invites us to rethink our reality and opens new dimensions of possibility.

As a Futurist I get to play with such visions and I feel privileged to do so. But as someone who also loves the notion of personal and organisational leadership, I get to try my best to help those in leadership see something beyond the horizon and to spark a curiosity in what could be if only they paused to dream a bit. And every now and then that happens and when it does…well, those are the moments when things shift and can never go back to the ways things were. Those are the moments I live for as it is such moments that anything becomes possible.

Crazy? I hope so.

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