Barbara, a futurist from 2033, has traveled back in time to chat with her present-self about her work. Barbara's work involves helping organizations to prepare for the future by training for disruption.
"One of the biggest challenges is getting people to take foresight seriously," she says. "There's a perception that the future isn't urgent, that it'll take a good deal of time before things really change. But that's simply not the case." -- Future Barbara
In the interview, Barbara discusses her work as a futurist, the challenges she faces, and her advice for people who want to become futurists. She also shares her thoughts on the future of artificial intelligence and how it will impact our lives.
This is an fascinating conversation and a fun example of how you too can practise futures thinking. The more you practice futures thinking, the easier it becomes to envision possible trajectories of current developments, because they are similar processes in your brains.
Present-day Barbara: Hi, I'm here today with my future self. She came from 2033 to chat with me about her work as a futurist. Thank you for beaming over!
Future-Barbara: It's my pleasure.
Present-day Barbara: So, let's start with your work as a futurist. You have been at it since 2007, so you know from experience how uncertainty the future is. Or is it?
Future-Barbara: I define uncertainty as a lack of data about emerging disruption, so you can imagine that it's definitely one of the biggest challenges for executives. But uncertainty is also what makes the future so exciting. There are so many possibilities and it's my job to explore them.
I use a variety of tools and techniques to help executives deal with uncertainty. Together, we peel of those layers of contextual uncertainty that can be more or less predicted. For instance, we peel away the developments that progress slowly, like demographics or climate change. We also determine threshold values of faster developments, to let us know when they become critical to our industry. That way. we create time for more urgent and superfast changine developments like technology.
One of the most important tools I use is scenario planning. This is a process of imagining different possible futures and then thinking about the implications of each one. Scenario planning lets you think about the future in a more structured way, and to identify the most important strengths and weaknesses of an organization. Knowing what you can(not) manage also reduces uncertainty.
Present-day Barbara: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a futurist?
Future-Barbara: One of the biggest challenges is getting people to take foresight seriously. There's a perception that the future isn't urgent, that it'll take a good deal of time before things really change. But that's simply not the case and disruptions tend to sneak up on us because of this attitude. Like the pandemic in your time, that we did expect but not that soon. And climate change, and the AI revolutions, and the quantum hack...
Present-day Barbara: Can you give us an idea about 2033?
Future-Barbara: Well, artificial intelligence has become so sophisticated that it is now indistinguishable from human intelligence. AI-powered machines are used for everything from running our businesses to caring for our elderly.
The physical appearance of the AI-powered machines varies. Some are humanoid, while others are more like robots. Some are invisible to the naked eye, existing only as code in a computer. And others are made of living tissue and seamlessly integrate into our bodies so that we -- AI and humans, function on a level playing field.
AI is used for both good and evil in society. On the one hand, AI is used to solve some of the world's biggest problems, such as climate change and poverty. For example, AI-powered machines are being used to develop new energy sources and to create sustainable food production systems.
On the other hand, AI is also used for malicious purposes. For example, AI-powered machines have been used to spread propaganda and to manipulate people.
The challenges that we face in this new world are many. We are still learning how to interact with AI in a safe and responsible way.
Present-day Barbara: How do you think your work as a futurist intersects with your hobby as a baroque singer?
Future-Barbara: I think my work as a futurist and my hobby as a baroque singer intersect in a few ways. First, my work centers around strategic surprises and baroque music about musical ones. In my work and in baroque music, surprises are caused by complexity. I love unraveling the complexities in both.
Second, both of them involve creativity within strict boundaries. As a futurist, I need to be creative in order to come up with new ideas about the future but I have to do it within the boundaries of the purpose of organizations. And as a baroque singer, I need to be creative in order to express emotion and craftmanship, within the freedom the composer gives me. In both cases, I like to stretch creative freedom as much as possible.
Finally, both of them involve a sense of wonder. As a futurist, I'm always amazed by the possibilities of the future. And as a baroque singer, I'm always amazed by the beauty of the music of the past.
Present-day Barbara: What advice would you give to people who want to become futurists?
Future-Barbara: If you want to become a futurist, I would advise you to:
Practice mental time travel!
Be curious about the world around you and have a sense of wonder
Be open to new ideas.
Be willing to learn new things.
And most importantly, don't be afraid to dream big. The future is yours to shape.
Present-day Barbara: Thank you so much for your time, This has been a fascinating conversation!
Why You Should Take 10 Minutes to Write a Letter From the Future You
Hones your critical thinking skills. You will need to think about the current state of the world and how it might change in the future.
Develops your creativity. You will need to come up with ideas about what the future might look like.
Finally, this activity is a lot of fun!
Imagine that you are writing a letter to your present self from the year 2033.
Be sure to include specific details in your letter. What are the major technological advances that have been made? What are the political and social changes that have taken place?
Be creative and imaginative. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. What are some unexpected developments that have taken place?
Be hopeful. What are the positive trends that you see for the future? What are some of the things that you are most excited about?
Tell me in the commentx what you learned from this learning activity.
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