When I started
working at the World Future Society, one of the first authors I
worked with was Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute
and now president of the Earth Policy Institute. He wrote eloquently
and urgently in THE FUTURIST about the need to make more sustainable
choices in our lifestyles.
I took what Brown
wrote to heart when I decided to move to an apartment building that
was within walking distance of the office. I do own a car, but I
drive less than 4,000 miles a year. I feel that this choice was a
healthy one for myself and is in some small way contributing to a
cleaner future environment—at least in my own neighborhood.
We at the World
Future Society are looking for other stories about how the study of
the future, membership in the Society, or participation at a
conference made a difference. In short, why are you here, thinking
about the future? Why does the future matter?
Tell us (in about
500 words or fewer) either a personal story or an anecdote out of
the history of futuring that inspired you to take a deeper and more
active interest in the future—a story to help others see the future
with new eyes.
This isn't a
contest. We simply believe that stories told by the voices of
experience will help show young people and other potential members
exactly why thinking about the future is so vital to individuals and
to the world right now.
YOUR STORY to editor Cindy Wagner.
this short memoir by Ed Cornish and discover why others have
joined over the years.
have worked in Information Technology for over 40 years,
starting my career with IBM in 1967. I believe Technology
and Change are almost synonymous. Despite the changes I have
seen in my 40 years, the rate of change is accelerating and
the impact on society will be huge. In the last 5 years
alone, the use of the internet, personal devices, and social
networking have exploded. What about inthe next 5 years? Is
technology going too fast for us to keep up? I see, not to
far away, that we will be able to put a chip in our body and
have access to any information and to any body AT ALL TIMES,
i.e., permanently connected to the world. The implications
are awesome. Now, we have to figure out how to control
it. They need a few "switches" in that chip: on/off, pause,
filter, and on and on. Also, the implications to privacy
might be a little scary, but I'm not sure we have privacy
I was pointed to your sight by a networking group with the
understanding that the above is the kind of issue you look
at (plus many others). THAT IS WHY I AM HERE!
Why am I here? People involved in
trying to make this world/ country a better place invariably wonder
what their, or their government's, actions will do to change the
future. The more information and ideas you are exposed to, the more
forward-thinking people you interact with, can only help determine
your personal decisions, whether it's voting for the next President,
improving the environment, or influencing the direction of a
company. All this said, the reason I am here is to review what
others think in order to combine this information with my own
beliefs to determine a prudent course of action- both personally and
My name is
Joshua Gottlieb and I absolutely love your organization and
its expressed purpose. Although I have only recently found
out about the existence of the World Future Society, I feel
encouraged to be able to join such an important group of
like-minded individuals. Your website suggested writing to
you to express why I went to
the first place, and so here is my personal explanation.
I was a small child, the inequity of existence has become
more and more obvious to me, as I have continued to learn
about life and the universe in which we live. As I reached
my college years, it became clear to me that this inequity
actually leans heavily on the “wrong” side of things, in my
humble opinion. I had an astronomy teacher relate to me a
few eye-popping statistics that still resonate with me –
that of the 600+ man-made satellites orbiting the Earth,
only about 12-20 of them actually look out into space. In
addition, even though we are 100% certain that a Near Earth
Object (NEO) of sufficient size would wipe out not only
humanity but most of the rest of life on Earth as well, we
still choose to dedicate less than 0.01% of our GNP as a
nation to efforts aimed at identifying such objects and
developing solutions to the massive problem.
reality of the way science is funded in the present day
crushed my dreams of becoming a theoretical cosmologist. At
that time, cosmology was thought of as little more than
theoretical physics combined with fortune-telling (we had
virtually no data with which to compare against theory). The
more I learned about the Health Care industry, the more I
realized that the selective funding of only politically
useful or provocative topics is pervasive throughout the
scientific community. At the time I first explored your site
(about 30 minutes ago) it dawned on me that this pattern of
who gets the money and who doesn’t, actually extends into
the study of the future versus the study of the past.
myself, how many Futurist programs exist in universities
nation-wide versus History programs? How does the funding
match up? How many students are compelled to take History
classes for which they will never have any useful need? The
answers, which are pretty clear to anyone who has recently
gone through the college experience in the United States,
lean heavily towards History and against Futurists. In fact,
I graduated with a degree in Global Studies, and that is
probably the best analogue for a Futurist degree I can think
of, because it is dedicated to studying the effects of the
current trends in globalization and looking ahead to see
what will be happening in the near future. The unfortunate
part, besides the lack of funding for Future Studies as a
serious academic discipline, is the lack of understanding
(or purposeful belittling) of the importance of Future
Studies. I’m not saying it is the most important field of
study, but that we could probably use a lot less random
Historical societies that play no active part in shaping the
future and a lot more futurist groups like WFS.
taking the time to read my little rant. I look forward to
joining WFS and interacting with some like-minded
As a youth in junior high
school in Tyler, Texas during the mid-fifties, I read every
science fiction book in the city library. There was only one
small section of about 50 books. I think everyone would
understand the important stimulus this experience had on my
interest in the Future, duh!
The question is, why did I
seek out science fiction in the first place and why did my
interest continue though my life? Of course, there was the
current events in my life. I was a "duck and cover"
teenager, believing that the world might end before I
reached adulthood. But, I suspect my personal perspective
was the biggest factor: I didn't like the world the way it
was and wanted to "figure out" how I could make better. I
was hurting and scared. Survival instinct pure and simple!
It's taken me sixty
something years to transform to a more optimistic state of
mind, actually a passionate state of mind. Maybe though the
wisdom of my varied experiences and learning, I have not
only figured out what a better world can be, but more
significantly, through the media of the Web, I have
discovered "signs" of a large community of like-minded
people. For the first time in my life, I can justify Hope
and Faith in the future of humanity.
For now, that
like-minded community is represented by
the World Future Society.
Kenan Doyle Branam
Why am I here?
To make the future happen, not just for my children but all
One day I was chatting with a new employee in the hallway. The CEO
of my company walked by, then stopped abruptly, turned around and
alerted the new member that talking to me may soon translate into
having something to read – an article or even a book. I took that
as a compliment.
I am an avid reader and I’m known among my friends as the “walking
index,” always ready to point out an article or a book on whatever
topic the conversation may revolve around. The Futurist is one of my
main sources for retrieving meaningful content and a springboard for
further research. I discovered your publication decades ago and
instantly fell in love with it. It’s one of the few publications
that I read from beginning to end. I consider it the roadmap for my
life-long learning experience. It stretches the limits of my
imagination into directions that I can’t possibly think of on my
own. The articles are well written and inspiring. They are sparks
for creative minds, taking the reader into worlds waiting to be
explored. It’s in the juxtaposition of ideas that innovation and
learning happens, and The Futurist provides fertile ground for those
Having grown up multilingual and having a keen interest in foreign
languages and cultures, language structures, etymology and
semantics, I chose to become a linguist. I then began my
professional career as an indexer and quickly discovered that I had
a whole new world at my fingertips – content to analyze, structures
to build, topics to articulate, semantics to apply, words to work
with in new ways. I started to look at words not just from a
linguistic point of view but also from an information-management
point of view, and new worlds started to unfold under my eyes. With
the advent of electronic publishing, more and more opportunities
emerged for me in the field of information science, search
technologies and retrieval, product design and features, etc. The
forward-looking minds that The Futurist features had a tremendous
impact on my 26 years of post-graduate education. I learned to take
the tasks at hand and venture into other areas (disciplines that
were none of my business - or so some said) such as biology, design,
education, architecture, technology, gastronomy, interior
decorating, etc., to find solutions to unanswered questions. The
solutions to problems don’t necessarily lie in the area of one’s
expertise. Everything is intertwingled and, yet, there is so much
order in everything - if one can only see the patterns. In my
professional quest for knowledge, I have discovered how my findings
also apply to personal areas of fulfillment and happiness,
relationships, corporate management, teamwork, economic and social
networks, environmental issues, and on and on.
Here’s my survival kit for our children:
formal education often fails us miserably. It often takes the joy
out of learning. A linear theoretical approach is a miserable
approach towards preparing us for the world. I would encourage
everyone to plan to be a life-long learner. Learn to listen and look
behind the obvious. You are being shaped by what you find. Be a
things have to be taken literally, and others are there to be
tampered with. Make sure you know the difference.
to be different. Listen to the experts, scrutinize ideas, and then
do your thing but prove and validate, prove and validate along the
way. There are bullies everywhere.
out of the box? Does it have to be a box? Now you’re in the
innovation zone. Miracles can happen there.
architecture of both tangible and intangible things. Foundations
are the stronghold of systems. Build on them.
the laws of the universe. Work with them. There is power in
life. Ecology. Coevolution. Communication. The message and the
solution are everywhere. Let them inspire you. Biodiversity refers
to more than the obvious.
wisely. There is no monopoly on knowledge. Knowledge is power. It
the difference between form and function, fluff and substance, real
progress and sheer activity, price and value, honesty and deception
and keep adding to this list.
let technology blind you. It’s only as good as the one writing the
code. Tame it, it’s just an enabler in our quest to make this world
a better place.
a dreamer. Understand that imagination is a rare commodity. Be a
surrealist, but be practical at the same time. There’s truth in a
paradox. Life is full of contradictions. And that is a good thing.
matter. Everything has a context. Not all metrics are created
equal. Know what to count and what counts.
reality. You are not inventing the world, just reinventing it.
Rearranging, reconnecting, reshuffling. Know where your effort
is great power in proverbs. Expand them into stories. Reduce
stories to proverbs. Pass them on. It’s the wisdom of generations.
Produce. Enhance. Shed prejudice. Embrace. Then teach. Learn and
teach. Teach and learn. Give back to the family, the company, the
community, the world. They give back to you. Be a citizen of the
no destination just a complex path. Arm yourself for the trip.
Obstacles are new opportunities. They give you strength to grow.
Success does not come in gift boxes.
your friends. Adore your critics and your enemies. They make your
growth possible. They make life what it is.
in life is useless. It can always serve as a bad example. And that
applies to people too.
is no ego in greatness. Be generous. Give and give and then give
some more. Be tolerant. Be compassionate. Love unconditionally.
that your work never ends. There will be little appreciation.
Stand up for the right things, it is your duty.
your niche. Find something greater than yourself. Be passionate.
It is a natural “high.” Nothing great can be accomplished without
passion. It is not an easy road but a passionate life is a
fulfilling life. With passion you never have to “work” in your life
and, yet, you have to start from scratch and keep on scratching.
I've been an
environmentalist since the 70s, always recycling, reducing waste,
Now I drive a
diesel car that is powered by waste-vegetable oil. I don't want to
support fossil fuel/oil companies which do so much harm to the
environment by drilling and so much destruction to peace
But the most
important thing anyone who cares about the future can do for the
earth is become a vegan.
cause of greenhouse gasses is factory farming, not carbon emission
from autos, etc. You cannot be an environmentalist without being a
vegetarian. Nothing does more to destroy the environment than
factory farming which is the leading cause of water pollution,
greenhouse gasses, and world deforestation.
doesn't want to make the world a better place? Most people, believe
it or not. You can tell by the number of people who fail the (1)
Utilitarian Test: Which decision would do the most good for the most
people? (2) Self-defeating Test: What would happen if everyone did
what you did? and (3) Golden rule Test: Would we want others to
treat us the way we are treating them? It doesn't have anything to
do with religion though religion is responsible for the world's
ails. (Religion is about power.)
I like to
envision a future where everyone is kind and compassionate, not
disrespectful where life of all kinds including humans comes cheap
because there are so many of us, the way we are now. I envision a
politician somewhere tactfully creating a fair and sensible plan to
address overpopulation, instead of keeping his head buried in the
sand. Because let's face it, [too many] humans are at the root of
all of our problems. No one wants to be told they're unworthy of
procreating, so any plan would have to across the board & not single
any one group out.
many visions of the future, but none are positive. That's why I like
Futurists—there's a growing number of people who "get it." Hopefully
one day people with decision-making capabilities will listen to
Futurists, before it's too late. But I won't hold my breath.
tempted to answer such a question with one of the convoluted
arguments from the long debate. Unfortunately,
there is not enough space to have that much fun with it.
I am a social
scientist by nature and by training. I have made a life of
observing and attempting to understand human nature, and from this
life I have drawn several conclusions. For one thing, there is
nothing quite so dated as an era's vision of the future. The future
almost never turns out as we imagine it--at this point, we should
all be living like the Jetsons. A society's vision of the future
says much more about the character of the people than it does about
the future. A society that does not bother imagining the future,
has already found the answers for itself, and does not consider
change as progress.
When we look
to the future, it is because we value progress. Progress is a
fairly recent concept, dating from the Renaissance. The concept of
progress has its antithesis; it is possible to make things worse in
the future rather than better. Of course, better and worse are
relative. Is the modern industrial rat race really progress over
the sort of life one finds among isolated tribal groups in the
Amazon Valley? The answer depends upon your values.
thing, I have built somewhat of a reputation as being able to
predict future circumstances and events with some accuracy. There
is nothing mystical about this. For example when I wish to predict
government policies and outcomes, I simply pick the stupidest
possible course of action I can imagine for the policy decision, and
the worst outcome I can imagine that is still realistic. I have
other heuristics that work equally as well.
all my cynicism and pessimism (a pessimist is never disappointed
because if you are wrong it is because things are better than you
thought), I have trouble suppressing my hope. I look to the future
for resolution of the issues, solutions to the problems, the ending
of hunger and disease, and world peace. I cannot retain hope when I
think about the past. The past is the sum total of human folly; the
future is the sum total of human possibility.
Planning and Control Specialist
Engineering Services & Products Company
Getting hooked on future
studies in the late 1960s, when the famous Daedalus issue with
results from the Commission on the Year 2000 appeared, I shared the
optimism that existed then regarding the accuracy of such studies.
The first oil crisis put an end to that optimism, but there were
other signals of trouble, too.
Let me take a seemingly trivial example. I’ve been a runner, now
jogger, since the mid 1950’s, and I used to be alone on my jogging
path. From the late 70’s, though, a lone jogger no more: in Hyde
Park in London, in New York’s Central Park, even in Paris’ Bois de
Boulogne there was this stampede. Trivial, but not so trivial if
you’re in the shoe business, when a bit into the 1980’s, three
quarters of the American shoe market was for running shoes.
Not so trivial, either, this signal about a change in values and
attitudes. That was for me an eye-opener. Not only do we have
trouble forecasting economic and political change like the oil
crisis, we took values and attitudes as so unchangeable that we did
not even pay any attention to them. So one basic quandary would be:
what are (with a famous phrase) “the unknown unknowns”? How may
these be spotted? By definition, they may not – but then the
challenge would be to identify them before they reach center stage.
Such an ambition might be generalized to a striving for bringing
early attention to weak signals, weak signals that are growing to
become strong. (Or like with the positive side of self-defeating
future studies: knowing about something potentially disastrous or at
least negative may help us avoid it.)
The other theme to explore would be to undertake to map the now
known previously unknown, thus trying to establish concepts and
descriptors for, in this instance, “values, attitudes, and
life-styles” (to refer to one such attempt, that of Arnold Mitchell
of SRI International; there are others as well). How are values
created or perhaps rather imbued? How may they change and to what
extent are they constant, unchangeable? What are their effects on
our evolving future? How do they relate to something profoundly
affecting values, culture?
Bengt-Arne Vedin, professor emeritus, Sweden
I am here hoping to
find people who would be interested in designing the Earth's future
As it is now, the future of the Earth is being decided, but only to
an extent, by few, with those left out influencing the future very
More on the concept of designing the
future with the participation of everyone at
the grass, the smell of growth … as a young teen working the family
farm I had ample time to explore each blade of grass I chewed, each
bale of hay we stacked and each tree or bend of the creek where we
lived. For me, the acres around the house were an immense universe
of life that would continue forever; it was exactly this realization
one day that the same rock upon which I sat would persist long after
the memory of anything I would do, say or write that prompted me to
begin my thoughts of the future.
evolve through college, profession, marriage and fatherhood, the
essence of that solid stone points me to a broader future. It is
because of my memories of that natural space that I look to the
future and think, despite the humming of daily life, technology and
business, what can I do to ensure those blades of grass continue to
sprout, the dirt continues to enrich and all growth – of food,
humanity, knowledge, spirit and life – happens for longer than I.
While the hectic pell-mell of life occurs, for me, it is these small
memories that continue to drive me to think of the future.
thinking, I look across the swath of life, much as I looked across
the swaths of a mown hayfield, and see patterns – some driven by
machinery, some driven by wind, some by my own sweat and labor. It
is this looking at the world around, the noticing of patterns, the
recognition of the forces by which patterns form and the thinking of
how such patterns will adjust all of our futures that inherently
drive me as a futurist. Thinking through tomorrow’s scenarios,
planning for the uncertainty and weathering the unexpected storm or
calm is a natural and intense attraction for a child of the farm.
a social researcher, I see the world of people and the patterns we
create as my future universe. Much as I spent what seemed a
lifetime (if only a few years) on that small family farm, I now
spend a lifetime looking at new blades of grass, at new fertile
soils and at new growth of all people to see what the future
brings. Much as acorns sprout the largest oaks, I see social
pattern as sprouts to the diversity of the future. It is for this
reason, this life of seeking to understand and learn, I engage as a
Thank you for the opportunity to post, this was an enjoyable
Thank you for posing the question
about what one individual has done to think about the future of our
planet. It’s an important question.
Most of us think, “What can one
person do to make even the slightest dent in the health and
well-being of our planet?” But from my perspective, all the
seemingly small things each one of us does adds up in a big way,
just like compounded interest does when there’s money in your bank
account. Initially our small contribution seems like a mere drop in
the proverbial bucket, but as time passes and each of us does one
other small thing and again one other small thing, it’s like a
snowball rolling downhill, it picks up energy as it goes. Since
science has shown us we are all connected at the basic level, it’s
entirely possible for one small thought or one small action to act
like a lightening rod attracting more and more energy to it and
eventually it begins to affect the bigger whole.
As for me, I’ve done many small
things in my lifetime, but the one that comes to immediately to mind
is that I chose to only have one child. Even 30 years ago I
understood the fact that most of the problems and challenges we face
today on the planet are due to the fact that there are simply too
many people. It’s people who use the resources, create pollution
and generally disregard and disrespect our home planet. This planet
only has so much space and so many resources. Most of us seem to
believe these things are endless and keeping what we have clean and
productive tends to fall by the wayside when there’s a lot of money
involved. As one of the earth’s major inhabitants, and the one who
can and does cause the most harm, I think it’s up to each of us to
take a good hard look at how many children we bring into the world.
We need to ask the hard questions like, “What kind of place will we
leave our children?” Will we leave it a better or worse place than
when we arrived? If we can’t answer those questions in the
positive, then each of us needs to seriously consider limiting the
number of children we chose to have, or better yet, chose not to
have any. I chose to bring my actions into congruence with my
principles. And this is the same basic choice each of us must
make, to live by our principles. It’s the only way we will survive.
In love and light,
Women in Technology Director of Sponsorships.
7910 Woodmont Avenue,
Suite 450 Bethesda, MD 20814 Web:
www.wfs.org Tel: 301-656-8274 Fax: