The Blog

Sunday Book-Thought 108

Despite all the computer printouts, cluster diagrams, and mathematical models and matrices that futurist researchers use, our attempts to peer into tomorrow – or even to make sense of today – remain, as they must, more an art than a science.
Systematic research can teach us much, but in the end we must embrace – not dismiss – paradox and contradiction, hunch, imagination, and daring (though tentative) synthesis.
In probing the future in the pages that follow, therefore, we must do more than identify major trends. Difficult as it may be, we must resist the temptation to be seduced by straight lines. Most people – including many futurists – conceive of tomorrow as a mere extension of today, forgetting that trends, no matter how seemingly powerful, do not merely continue in a linear fashion. They reach tipping points at which they explode into new phenomena, They reverse direction. They stop and start. Because something is happening now, or has been happening for three hundred years, is no guarantee that it will continue. We shall, in the pages ahead, watch for precisely those contradictions, conflicts, turnabouts, and breakpoints that make the future a continuing surprise.
More important, we will search out the hidden connections among events that on the surface seem unrelated. It does little good to forecast the future of semi-conductors or energy, or the future of the family (even one’s own family), if the forecast springs from the premise that everything else will remain unchanged. For nothing will remain unchanged. The future is fluid, not frozen. It is constructed by our shifting and changing daily decisions, and each event influences all others.
Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave (London: Pan Books Ltd, 1981 [first published London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1980]), p. 141.


Happy 2019!

Those four long-time readers of this blog will already know that I am big on making lists. This is why I love New Year’s resolutions: 1 January is the one time of the year when it is socially acceptable to openly and unapologetically love list-making. Any other time of the year and people just think you’re some über-keen loon who’s into wasting perfectly good stationary.

Last year I made my list of (academic) new year’s resolutions public. Making this list public made me feel like other people were holding me accountable for achieving those goals. No one was checking in to ensure that I had done what I said I’d do, but I wanted to make sure that I was ready on the off chance that someone did actually enquire.

If you’ve seen my list of resolutions from 2018, you’ll notice that I’m not into the wishy-washy large-scale life changes. I’m not going to resolve to ‘be my best self’ or ‘work hard’ or anything that vague – with those resolutions, there’s no measure of achievement, no milestones of success. Rather, my resolutions are clear-cut and actionable: publish a peer-reviewed article, practice juggling, yadda yadda yadda. And I did fulfil all of my 2018 resolutions, save for the one about travelling to three new countries (instead, I further explored multiple countries I’d previously visited).

So, these are my resolutions for 2019. Can you help me out with any of them? Can I help you out with any of yours?

Happy New Year, y’all!