Futurists are Hot

April 14, 2010

So, I always thought that this guy was a Futurist. Ben Franklin seemed to scope out the future needs of the nation, while also being a deep historian of the past. He wasn’t very hot – but need he be?  No, he was a guy who could look backwards and forwards and generally, we could agree, implement long-term thinking to a nation.

Now, my buddy Jake Dunagan, a futurist, has expressed to me that he thinks we should throw out the constitution because the long term thinking of the past does not meet the needs of today. Scrap it, he says, start over. I gasped with the thought of the anarchy of that idea and then he just smiled in a wily way, and said, “Yeah, that would really shake things up.”  Wasn’t that the perspective of Franklin back then? Shake it up? Think for the future, and then, change the present?

Long term thinking.

This is what futurists do – they think long. And, I didn’t know anything about them. But, in 2006 I was introduced to Stuart Candy (http://futuryst.blogspot.com/) who was a fellow at the Long Now. And, later he introduced me to Jerry Paffendorf.  And, then I was introduced to Jake Dunagan (http://www.iftf.org/node/3402 ) And, now, we are developing a project for the Academy of Sciences, and I sometimes need to try to boss Jake and Stuart about – ok, I try to push gently. But, I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart (it’s my job, and after 15 years of practice I have the stomach for it) because futurists are, by the by, Bad Asses, and don’t like being told what to do: they are hard-wired to question…well, everything. But, more about bad assed-ness later.

In 2006 when I returned from PopTech! (www.poptech.org) I wanted to know if there were futurists under the age of 59.  I am not being snarky here – I have respect for the agents of change that are many Futurists – yet there was something about the idea of long-term thinking that interested me as it related to a younger generation.  I noticed that the futurists I met were very much in the moment – quiet, listening, asking questions about how things have worked in the past – and then imagining multiple worlds for the future. I wanted to know if young people were embodying this wisdom.

So, I have met the young ones, most under the age 35 years old. And, they are as rowdy, opinionated, fierce, and silly as the Founding Futurists must have been – it’s like hanging out with a punk circus filled with PhD’s and a van ready to leave for Burning Man.

Oh, and did I mention they are simply beautiful. Now, I will take a good deal of crap for talking about their beauty – but I think this is key – they are lively, contemporary and they are perfectly comfortable with being in the public eye, and spreading their vision as a rock band tours the planet.

But, let me define what beauty is to me: that rare combination of comfort in one’s body, and the expression of that comfort/energy/passion through feelings/words.

Please see my point below:

Jane McGonigal

Jerry Paffendorf

Stuart Candy

Jake Dunagan

These are only a few of the faces of futurists – these are just the folks I know or am near living in the Bay Area. And, they tell me that there are women around the world who are moving thought around (Jane McGonigal is most known for her insights into world-changing through gaming), and people working within the neighborhoods quietly making change (Jerry is now living in Detroit and leading a movement to convert abandoned homes and warehouses into places for film/design and futures work http://7billionfriends.tumblr.com/).

This generation of futurists I know are like highly connected community organizers with a drive to change the way people see. They want people to see the consequences of actions as a way to push for social change. It’s an inverted form of civil disobedience – it’s civic dissonance.  These brave souls want to turn your head inside out to force you into a place to resist present terrible decisions for the earth – those that are creating negative, globally destructive, future consequences.

Long term thinking = long term change = long term global beauty (beauty: health, joy, freedom of thought, embodied living and connectedness)

Concepts of beauty have changed throughout time. And, we are a culture obsessed with the physical beauty of our bodies. Though, perhaps beauty is now more critical – for me beauty is the integration of the mind with intention: and I am watching these younger people, (who defy the cliché of a tweeting/snarky/ADD Gen Y – whatever that is) these Futurists, they think in paragraphs and in 3D: and, they have every intention to change the world.

And, to me, this is gorgeous. This is beauty. This is Hot.