What Sort of Future do You Want?

What sort of future do you want? Future Day is a celebration of imaginative and rational thinking about the future where you can participate.

“Future Day is designed to center the impossible in the public mind once a year as a temptation too delicious to resist.” – Howard Bloom, Author and Publicist

You can use Future Day to harness energy, and help spread the importance of future thinking to a wider audience. Much like Earth Day has. Today with Earth Day there are campaigns to turn off lights, to be more aware of energy consumption, and focus on ecological problems. We hope that Future Day will influence people to take action for a better long term future.
Lets raise a toast to our power to create dramatic new solutions to the problems of today — and let’s have fun in the process. Let’s celebrate the amazing opportunities we have right now to work towards a beneficial future!

Reasons to be Hopeful

terminatorThere is a lot of doom and gloom out there about the future. Some futurists are labeled “Doomers” for their focus on real problems without easy solutions (ie nuclear danger, world sickness & hunger, population explosions, fossil fuel depletion and environmental degradation). It is helpful to emphasize that if these trends continue the future will likely be worse than the present. Living in an increasingly technological society, background scientific knowledge can help to negotiate the future. Though existing threats are no excuse for rampant pessimism without road maps for change.
Multitudes of the Hollywood movies and books written about the future are propped up by plot devices that appeal to our negativity bias. A successful strategy for selling stories is to out-compete the competition by vying for the attention of our Amygdala (a primitive part of our brain casually referred to as the ‘lizard brain’) – which uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for negative stimuli: it’s primed for bad news. Research shows that it is much easier to retain em>impressions rather than features – it turns out that negative memories are more distinct than positive ones, and retrieval is very rapid and therefore easily accessible.

“The human animal evolved to survive and flourish in a world that didn’t change very much or very rapidly. But thanks to our own wonderful intellectual and cultural advancement, we find ourselves instead in a world of accelerating change. To deal with this situation effectively, we need to re-focus our minds, individually and collectively, on the future rather than the past. We need to embrace the wild uncertainty and promise of the future with both rationality and imagination. And we need to do it now! Future Day is one step — maybe an important one — in the process of humanity reorienting itself toward accelerating change and future-awareness. After all, we already have a heck of a lot of holidays focusing on the past — it’s about time for one that focuses on the future!!” – Ben Goertzel, CEO Open Cog

Overbearing doom & gloom can instill a sense of powerlessness – people can feel helpless in the face of disasters, and for them it is a natural reaction to things that seem too large to control. This type of thinking does not bode well for our future; it is not conducive to problem solving. So instead of frightening people away with stories of inevitable downward spirals of doom (such that only heroes with special powers can save us), lets try to be a bit more positive, focus on solutions, and attract people to come on board to help engineer solutions to large scale problems.

  • There is a fine line between avoiding negativity and giving the impression of reckless abandon.
[/checklist] In our attempts at communicating a positive soundbite, careful not to steer people into thinking that we can dance our worries away with reckless abandon into a blissful idealistic utopia where responsibility and accountability are either not required or at most someone else’s domain.
Let’s not ignore danger just to maintain optimism – we don’t need to blindside ourselves to real problems that face us, after all the idea is to be able to confront big issues! However, lets go negative with caution. It is very important to enable people and empower them to help instead of portraying the impression that we are impotent or that making a better future is intractable. If we scare with scale, we’ll lose a lot of the people we are trying to connect with. If we empower with feasible steps, we will make social change. And what we are really after is social change.

cultivating-optimism_1Future Day functions as a catalyst, a motivator for people to become involved in the future, and do research on what will make a difference in the long term. Good research and sound future studies is not based plot devices, sound-bytes, or fantastic storytelling – it is not enough to think that a few science communicators and ‘Big Bang Theory’ are going to save the planet. If you think through the possibilities of a particular technology, you can better appreciate the consequences of using it. The world could benefit with more productive minds; more economy of attention and energy focused towards making a better future. We invite you to use Future Day as a tool to help celebrate constructive action in getting there.

“So few of us actively try to envision the future and change it for the better. Even small tweaks, such as coming up with a new way to explain a coming technology to the public, can have big positive consequences. Let’s use Future Day as an opportunity to promote the big goals, like extending the human healthspan, spreading freedom, and healing our environment.” — Christine Peterson, Co-founder, Foresight Institute

— by Adam A. Ford


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