Tomorrow is complex; created by millions — no, billions — of people, and we humans have our limitations, as we tend to think temporally.
When faced with the “new,” we might judge, or ignore/exaggerate. We need to train our time perception, and turn time into a strategic ability to expect and shape change. The future isn’t about ceteris-paribus — one variable we isolate and study — but defined by interconnection and changing realities. We need fresh views, and to question the obvious.
Texas was one of the most violent parts of the Wild West. However, it was not as bad as popular lore would have you believe. Historian Bill O’Neal researched documented shootouts during the “gunfighters’ era” and the results differ from the standard Hollywood line. In 1880, Texas had a population of close to 1.6 million, and one of the highest documented duel statistics of U.S. states. It counted 12 shootouts a year, or 1 a month. What’s surprising is that not only is the number of violent events very low, but so is the number of deaths.
The key challenge during a duel was much simpler than we imagine. It was satisfactory for the shooter to hit the adversary anywhere. Yet even aiming might have been difficult when we consider that many shootouts took place after some time spent at the saloon. Skilled gunmen aiming at flying bottles or coins hardly existed. The primary consideration in the Wild West was not speed, but “accuracy.”
We need to question much more, provoke, investigate, and experiment. In the words of Friedrich von Hardenberg, “The goal is to turn the familiar strange and the strange familiar.”
Our experiences allow us to deepen our knowledge in certain topics, the communities we belong to strengthen our relationships, and the day-to-day routine helps us to manage uncertainty and complexity. In other words, we simplify, filter and reduce — something we’re good at — and as a result, we create a pre-defined synapsis that allows faster, familiar decision making to avoid risks. We create what we perceive, and so our Mental Model represents only a “small-scale model of external reality.”
The downfall of a simple worldview is judgment, a limited perspective, seeing parts of society separated from each other, and shifts as non-existent. “Simple” is risky. It prioritizes the past, reduces the present and limits exploration of the future. We limit our interaction, perception and process to what we think is relevant. Because we don’t have a more holistic perspective, we don’t know about new opportunities. They just might as well not exist in our point of view.
Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne researched “The Future of Employment.” Their goal was to calculate the probability of computerization for 702 occupations. They found that especially those jobs and logics that follow a pre-defined and simplified process, and are non-personal, have a high probability of being substituted by advancing technology.
To prepare for the future we need embrace a fresh perspective, a broader view impulse by a curious mind. No trend reports, not a single person, no unique tool can be enough. The future is about the many. We need to investigate known premises, embrace intuition to identify patterns, and be more consciously aware of or biases.
We need to question our and societal Weltanschauung, the view of the world. Can we afford not to see differently any longer?
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