A selection of quotes for the Futures Lab of Future Fictions
Heidegger: ‘the fundamental phenomenon of time is the future – everything changes toward the future and constitutes it.’ (…) To be human is to seek to be directive of change. The essence of this action is prefiguration; it is design.’- Tony Fry in Becoming Human by Design p.112
“The future is simply a landscape defined by two natural (and non-temporal) boundaries. One separates the currently infeasible from the feasible, and the other separates the normalized from the un-normalized. The Field is manufactures out of the feasible-and-normalized. We call it the present (…).” – Welcome to the Future Nauseous
“The limitations of models of the future lie in their partiality. (…). Whatever the nature of the model, it can only be a subset of the entire set that makes up the future and that entire set cannot be determined. (…). Given the foregoing, what reliance can be placed on models of the future? A quick response could be ‘none’, but that would be too harsh a judgement. It is better to regard models of the future as idea or possibility machines (Shackle 1952), capable of challenging or breaking established perspectives and modes of thought.” Foresight: The Art and Science of Anticipating the Future, p.33
‘The idea that we can disassociate one aspect from another aspect is an illusion. It’s an illusion of a 17th-century Enlightenment model (…) if we isolate it, we can deal with it in an effective way. (…). Now, what is becoming apparent in the world we’re living in, is that in vitro modelling of the world isn’t able to cope with the complexity, i.e. the externalities all those models are generating.’ Indy Johar in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 49
“In these criticisms [of our ability to foresee the future] there is a tacit assumption that being able to predict the future accurately is the only useful kind of conversation about the future. (…). However, consumer electronic brands trying to compete in a new market are attempting to play a role in the future of that market. And in this case, it is not correctly predicting the market that is important, it is shaping it so that you can lead. (…). When there is a chance of agency in the future, then there is value in talking about it other than to predict it precisely.’ - Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow: a modest defence of futurology.
“IFTF brings people together to make the future—today. Whether you’re a strategic leader in a large organization or a community leader in a struggling neighborhood or a netizen who wants to mobilize global crowds, we have practical tools, research, and programs that turn foresight into the critical new insights that ultimately lead to action.” – Institute for the Future
“We shape a better world” – ARUP
“As new design fictions come flickering across our screens, we need to judge them not just in terms of the appeal of plausibility of their story-telling, but in terms of the quality of their thinking.” – Anne-Marie Willis.
‘there is a strong prospect that tribalism, as a coming together to constitute identities and action motivated by a will to survive, will be a crucial futuring factor for hundreds of millions of people. Clearly, they can take benign or aggressive forms. (…). More than just local groupings, regional tribal formations could well work together strategically to reconstruct some kind of civil society.’ ‘With the demise of the viability of the nation-state, a reversion to ‘societies without a state’ may take place. (…) this is not the end of the political, for whenever social innovation takes place (and with it a reconfiguration of power), so also does the political re-emerge.’ (…) The exercise of imagination can serve to prefigure how such a political situation might be engaged.’ - Tony Fry in Becoming Human by Design, p.202-203
‘Sustainment is the essence of futural worlding wherein a viable relation between ‘the world’ and ‘(our) world’ is made possible, but simply making an appeal to it delivers nothing. It is essential to grasp what is needed to turn the idea of Sustainment, as a project and process, into a praxis.’ – Tony Fry in Becoming Human by Design, p.142
‘Sustainment does not give a damn how we live or act, so long as it makes time.’ – Tony Fry in Becoming Human by Design, p.158
“The promise of the sentient city does the same for us, producing consensus that we are all players, ready to take advantage of the action, just like the traders once we have enough technology. But just as those traders are increasingly ephemeral (…) so too the new city threatens that we will become ghosts, like the last inhabitants of Venice.” - Kazys Varnelis in Sentient City. Ubiquitous computing, architecture, and the future of urban space, p.201
“(…), the Internet of Things will bring about rich experiences for many of us in the overdeveloped world, but it will also make very small number of people unjustly wealthy.” – Trebor Scholz in Sentient City. Ubiquitous computing, architecture, and the future of urban space, p.211
‘According to [Indy] Johar, the most critical narrative today is the shift from the command-and-control approach of the industrial age to the distributed, shared, intelligent and networked ecosystems of the information age. This is (…) simply the way things will be organised in the very near future.’ – Rory Hyde in Future Practice, p.43
“Design (…) is a conscious practice, and we should feel guilty if we are unconscious of the impacts that we are having. (…). We have the capacity to make things compelling; what should we use that for?” – Bruce Mau in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 35
‘Design is about imagining the future and systematically working to execute that future. (…). So if you think about design as leadership methodology, it goes back to your earlier question, ‘Should we feel guilty if we are unconscious?’ Yeah actually, because you have a leadership role and you have to accept the responsibility of leadership and exercise that responsibility in order to contribute the most.’ – Bruce Mau in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 35-36
‘The role of architects is huge, but it’s about place-making as opposed to the design of a physical product.’ Indy Johar in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 50
‘(…) that brings us to the real design as politics question. If you really want to change the city, (…), then it would require engaging with things like public planning, government, large-scale institutionalised developers. I think that’s where the real struggles lie. (…). I do believe that architecture and design as a combination of pure speculation, rhetorical poetics and technical capacity could play a role in politics. It could reshape certain discussions and therefore create its own inevitability.’ Wouter Vanstiphout in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 96-97
‘I don’t think architects have to shed their visionary status, their ‘good’ arrogance, or their speculative powers, if only they would realise that things are contextual. (…) So there are ways to really use architecture to change, to give a real alternative, to have a real effect, to be visionary.’ – Wouter Vanstiphout in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p.100
“How can small objects speak of much bigger things? We’re using these props as catalysts for the visitor’s imagination.” – Fiona Raby in Are nuclear trains and cars made of skin? The future of Travel? By Oliver Wainwright, April 30, 2013, The Guardian.
“We are very suspicious of the idea that designers should think on behalf of people (…). Historically there has always been the master architect or designer, showing us what the world should be. But we see our role as sparking thinking about the future.” – Anthony Dunne in Are nuclear trains and cars made of skin? The future of Travel? By Oliver Wainwright, April 30, 2013, The Guardian.
“TTT is about imagining alternative futures” - Liam Young in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, p. 231
“at the core we are interested in the roles of futures and fiction to pose questions, not just to find solutions to problems, but to identify new spaces for operation. They are narrative scenarios, positioned in such a way that the audience can develop an emotional and critical response to them, rather than just dealing with ideas in an abstract way. It’s all about prototyping culture, and prototyping new rules, not predicting the future.” - Liam Young in Future Practice: Conversations from the edge of Architecture, pp.230-231
Futures studies … is interested not in itself furthering any particular view of the future, but rather in furthering both narrowly professional as well as broadly participative inquiry into the future–understanding the roots and consequences of each of the manifold images of the future which exist in people's minds and in support of people's actions. -Jim Dator
The best attitude for a serious futurist is not pessimism or optimism, but a deep sense of engagement. -Bruce Sterling
The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed. - William Gibson
If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don't bother teaching them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking. -Buckminster Fuller
Integral Theory suggests that four irreducible perspectives (subjective, inter-subjective, objective, and inter-objective) should be consulted when attempting to fully understand any topic or aspect of reality. -Terry Collins & Andy Hines
At the heart of Embodied Foresight is the development of capacity to sit with uncertainty and not- knowing, to develop tolerance and acceptance of the discomfort that comes with doubt. A healthy relationship with doubt is seen as central to good practice within a conceptual understanding of the future as non-predictable and in-determinant. -Alex Burns
Zen is strongly grounded in practise; there is a program of training that supports the development of the practition- er rather than development of the practitioner's power to manipulate her or his circum- stances. The Zen practitioner learns to see with new eyes, and I think this is something that we strive for as futures practitioners also, to learn the uncovering of new potential futures through making our very way of seeing things transparent to ourselves. -Josh Floyd
Future studies give us in the Southern world a chance to break out of this shell of progressivism. Or, if you prefer, developmentalism or modernism. It gives us a chance to think about the future in our own terms, and without the constraints imposed by nineteenth century social theories and the categories popularised by social science disciplines, particularly developmental economics and history. - Josh Floyd, Alex Burns and Jose Ramos
Translating global insight, the forte of futures studies, into local action, the forte of action research, would seem to be a promising challenge yet social change as structure and agency are integral to each other. Foresight without action is meaningless, and action without foresight can be dangerous. -Jose Ramos
Critical futures studies is clearly a challenge to the distortion of meaning within society, seeking to be an agent for human emancipation. -Jose Ramos
In the late twentieth century, systems thinking developments in the form of chaos and complexity theories enhanced understanding of the dynamics of intertwined human and planetary systems. These theories provided a paradigm of change as an emergent property of complex, adaptive living systems, explorable but rarely predictable. -Wendy Schultz
Some have assumed that key to successfully dealing with uncertainty is to take a deep dive into the long-term future. Even when the difficulty of prediction is acknowledged, effort is still devoted to imagining alternative possible futures. (…) There is, in fact, a fundamental flaw in such approaches: it assumes that we can somehow successfully imagine the central aspects of the future. There is ample evidence, however, that this is not true. We do a terrible job imagining the future, sometimes with dreadful consequences” –Silberzahn & Jones
How can you craft strategy in nonlinear environment? […] instead of putting effort into better prediction (no matter how modest), in many cases strategists must take the opposite approach and learn to focus their effort purely on a better understanding of the present. [By] mitigating the impact of surprises [and] anticipating the consequences of their own actions. –Silberzahn & Jones
Ultimately, strategy is about a desired future and how to get there. So don’t ask what the future will be, but rather what future you desire, and how you will bring it about. –Silberzahn & Jones
Regardless of the quality of organizational forecasts, there is space for surprise to result from emergence. (…) In a world full of surprises the capacity to react must be considered a vital capability for the competitive capacity of an organization. -Miguel Pina e Cunha, Stewart R. Clegg and Ken Kamoche
The goal of forecasting is not to predict the future but to tell you what you need to know to take meaningful action in the present.-Paul Saffo
Cherish failure . Preferably other people's. We fail our way into the future. -Stuart Brand
My work is that of a limited man who must deal with a limitless situation –Paul Virilio
The most calamitous failures of prediction usually have a lot in common. We focus on those signals that tell a story about the world as we would like it to be, not how it really is. We ignore the risks that are hardest to measure, even when they pose the greatest threats to our well-being. We make approximations and assumptions about the world that are miuch cruder than we realize. We abhor uncertainty, even when it is an irreducible part of the problem we are trying to solve -Nate Silver
When designing for the future, designers regularly design for the hero, a trickle-down aspirational superuser intended to give us all something to hope for. But perhaps we could, for once, design for those innumerable, un-named characters of Hollywood, the extras, or background talent. - Nick Foster
All politics is design fiction, incrementally calibrating the message - Scott Smith
Disasters can open up weird little autonomous spaces of solidarity, shared adversity - a platform on which we start building stuff. - Justin Pickard
If it is too weird, it will be dismissed as art, and if too normal, it will be effortlessly assimilated - Dunne & Raby
I have realised that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. - Alan Watts
The way you live today reflects the kind of future you want to live in tomorrow - Justin Pickard
The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. -Winston Churchil
If I had an hour to solve a problem, and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask, for if I knew the proper questions, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. -Albert Einstein
A good scenario grabs us by the collar and says, “Take a good look at this future. This could be your future. Are you going to be ready?” -Peter Bishop, Andy Hines and Terry Collins
Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous (Dator’s 2nd Law of the Future) - Jim Dator
These depictions are not predictions: while based on probabilistic forecasts, their primary purpose is to guide exploration of possible future states. Their goal is to “disturb the present,” in Gaston Berger's words (1967). -Wendy Schultz et al
Essentially we put ourselves at an imaginative future vantage point and describe what is going on right now as if we were looking at what is happening today from the perspective of a future historian. – Kees van der Heijden
De 'alsof-strategie'. Die bouwt op een dubbele beweging. Enerzijds verplaatst een kunstenaar zich spelenderwijs in een specifieke maatschappelijke praktijk door het nabootsen van een set rollen, activiteiten, procedures, discoursen, attributen en ruimtes eigen aan die praktijk—net genoeg om er de dominante metafoor in het werk van te maken. Anderzijds wordt deze praktijk binnengeloodst in het domein van de kunst, waar ze—vrijgemaakt van haar eigen conventies —kan worden gemanipuleerd en bevraagd.(…) Alleen mogen we van dit potentieel van maatschappelijke innovatie geen sluitende antwoorden of oplossingen verwachten. Iets in de kunst blijft het denken en de verbeelding altijd openhouden. En even lijkt het alsof alles anders kan… - Sébastien Hendrickx
Next generation futures systems will therefore have to address the synthesis and interpretation of results in a way that is more substantial and useful than most crowdsourcing solutions today. -Noah Raford
The only thing that is predictable is change - Pema Chödrön
From Stuart Candy's thesis the_futures_of_everyday_life:
The great existential challenges facing the human species can be traced, in part, to the fact that we have underdeveloped discursive practices for thinking possible worlds ‘out loud’, performatively and materially, in the register of experience.
The general purpose of futures studies could be regarded as the provision of tools for the invention and pursuit of preferred futures; that is, the reconciliation of hopes and expectations. But it begins and ends, finally, with what any individual does in relation to those things.
To design, futures brings a holistic and systematic view of the range of longer-term impacts of today’s decisions; and design brings a concrete, communicatively potent form of exploration and an ethos of pragmatic efficacy to futures.
My vision of what a futurist can and should be does not primarily entail telling people what the future can or should be, but consists in encouraging and enabling as many as possible to make such discoveries for themselves.
It is about developing the requisite tools to steer ourselves, and our communities, towards preferred futures. It is about furnishing the means intentionally to slide the probable future towards our preferred outcomes
futures is ultimately about becoming aware of, and then improving in the present, the range, robustness and rigour of our own images of the future.
we make our way ‘forward’ through thickets of possible worlds, carving a particular path, which by definition is only one of many possible paths. In this conception, you are at the apex of the cone, in the moment of pure presence and of zero potential; all possibilities expand off from this point of origin into the future
The ultimate reason to engage in futures work, then, and especially to create scenarios – which are merely tools to help us think – is to enrich our perceptions and options in the evolving present.
The world they imagine living in 30 years later may be going to hell in a handbasket, with bus strikes and terrorist attacks as far as the eye can see, but in the essay about themselves, there tends to be no sign of society’s challenges, their lives are mysteriously insulated. To recognise this mismatch, and begin reconciling personal expectations with those at the community level, is among the first signs of increased futures literacy.
As things are remade, when lines are redrawn, on however large or small a scale, the political is activated.
Our ability to imagine difference is undoubtedly imperfect, and limited, but we do have one, and it can be cultivated: indeed design, futures, and critical politics are all approaches to accomplishing just that.
People can and should indeed cultivate a habit of ‘thinking the unthinkable’. The difference is one of rationale – constantly to expand horizons, generate new possibilities, and pursue preferred worlds, rather than to prop up existing ways of ordering things.
We designed our way into this mess, we must design our way out.
Alternative possibilities exist, and failure to act is also a choice, in effect, for the momentum of the status quo.
To be sure, some of the largest challenges that humans presently face could be said to result from insufficient ‘futurity’ being built into the designed world (this is one way to restate the argument of Cradle to Cradle, for instance) and so, using alternative futures to produce things more wisely, in a more future-proof fashion, as it were, would be a way to address this.
Life in futures work entails constant labour on the frontier of acceptability. Those whose thinking would benefit most from a plural futures perspective are sceptical or uninterested, while those predisposed to be aware and interested for that reason do not need it as much.
We must go beyond ‘jamming’ existing futures communications, and actively elaborate alternatives.
A future scenario is a discursive technology at the what if end of the spectrum. It is first and foremost a thought experiment.
As Whitehead reminds us, it is the business of the future to be dangerous – which makes it our business to be able, at certain times, to conjure with that danger in order to navigate it more wisely.
Somewhere along the line the balance needs to shift from guerrilla futurist agitation, to a more mundane, ordinary, and embedded use of futures thinking.
A foresight culture therefore emerges at the dawn of the 21st century. It is a culture that routinely thinks long-term, takes future generations seriously, learns its way towards sustainability and brings the whole earth back from the brink of catastrophe.
Current futures practice is one of special occasions; here we are speaking of a futures of everyday life.
Cultivating new techniques of consciousness, psychedelic or shamanic, which could in principle represent steps towards a form of social foresight while leaving futures methods as we know them out of the loop
‘Future-shock therapy’ is concerned with creating maximum impact, ideally triggering some sort of realisation that a particular future scenario, perhaps insufficiently considered up until that point, may be possible. (…) Future-shock therapy is the guerrilla futurist’s tactic of first resort.‘Ambient foresight’ is a contrasting idea of building futures awareness subtly, into the mental environment. Rather than demanding attention with fireworks, an ‘ambient’ future awareness is gentle, or perhaps almost invisible. They are, then, a pair of fundamentally different ways of choreographing attention, polar opposites in a sense. Both are valuable, but for different purposes; they both adjust how we experience time, but use different temporal strategies. The former optimises for impact now, the latter for sustainability. One is explicit, uninvited, disruptive, provocative; the other is implicit, incidental, enabling, and subtle. Future-shock therapy is fireworks, ambient foresight is wallpaper. Ambient foresight contains the seed of an idea for gentle suggestions and decisional inputs, relating especially to you, right now, that may help.
It seems to me that the final aim, the noble end-game for the futures profession (albeit rarely articulated within the field), as being actually to make itself redundant. In a social foresight culture, the job description ‘futurist’ would probably be unnecessary.
In a society where futures are a reflexive, ordinary part of everyday life, we would be constantly envisioning, forecasting, fine-tuning and collectively deciding what to do next. We would be designing and redesigning society on a collective, ongoing basis.
It's an acknowledgement of the need for collaborative, grassroots futures work, as opposed to the more predictive guru model, the long history of which clearly overshadows participatory, exploratory approaches to the future in the public mind.
Later, when I had lost this happiness, I clearly understood these connections without deriving the slightest benefit or comfort from them. When something precious and irretrievable is lost, we feel we have awakened from a dream. In my case this feeling is strangely correct, for my happiness did indeed arise from the same secret as the happiness in dreams; it arose from the freedom to experience everything imaginable simultaneously, to exchange outward and inward easily, to move Time and Space about like scenes in a theatre. And as we League brothers travelled throughout the world without motor-cars or ships, as we conquered the war-shattered world by our faith and transformed it into Paradise, we creatively brought the past, the future and the fictitious into the present moment.
It is spoken (…) of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them. –Aleister Crowley
…A work that would let us escape the limited perspective of the individual ego, not only to enter into selves like our own but to give speech to that which has no language, to the bird perching on the edge of the gutter, to the tree in spring and the tree in fall, to stone, to cement, to plastic… -Italo Calvino
There is freedom of nothing solid and secure - egolesness, inquisitiveness, adaptability, playfulness & joy - where all usual schemes fall apart. -Pema Chödrön
Whenever there is doubt, that creates another step on your staircase. Doubt is telling you that you need to take another step. Each time there is an obstacle, you go one step further, beyond it, step by step. -Chögyam Trungpa
Each breath corresponds to one year of human time; and each breath corresponds to a century in the various pathways of the long night of ignorance -Lü, Tung-pin
All these images – the starship, the space colony, the lapis – are precursory images. They follow naturally from the idea that history is the shock wave of eschatology. As one closes the distance with the eschatological object, the reflections it is throwing off resemble more and more the thing itself. In the final moment the Unspeakable stands revealed. There are no more reflections of the Mystery. The Mystery in all its nakedness is seen, and nothing else exists. But what it is, decency can safely scarcely hint; nevertheless, it is the crowning joy of futurism to seek anticipation of it.
– Terrence McKenna, “New Maps of Hyperspace”, pp. 101-2 in The Archaic Revival
In the latter case the course was easier and more material. With suitable mechanical aid a mind would project itself forward in time, feeling its dim, extra-sensory way till it approached the desired period. Then, after preliminary trials, it would seize on the best discoverable representative of the highest of that period's life-forms. It would enter the organism's brain and set up therein its own vibrations, while the displaced mind would strike back to the period of the displacer, remaining in the latter's body till a reverse process was set up.
The projected mind, in the body of the organism of the future, would then pose as a member of the race whose outward form it wore, learning as quickly as possible all that could be learned of the chosen age and its massed information and techniques.
Meanwhile the displaced mind, thrown back to the displacer's age and body, would be carefully guarded. It would be kept from harming the body it occupied, and would be drained of all its knowledge by trained questioners. Often it could be questioned in its own language, when previous quests into the future had brought back records of that language.
If the mind came from a body whose language the Great Race could not physically reproduce, clever machines would be made, on which the alien speech could be played as on a musical instrument.
The Great Race's members were immense rugose cones ten feet high, and with head and other organs attached to foot-thick, distensible limbs spreading from the apexes. They spoke by the clicking or scraping of huge paws or claws attached to the end of two of their four limbs, and walked by the expansion and contraction of a viscous layer attached to their vast, ten-foot bases.
– H. P. Lovecraft, An H. P. Lovecraft Anthology
As a matter of fact, in reality our relation both to the past and to the future is far more complicated than it seems to us. In the past, behind us, lies not only that which really happened, but that which could have been. In the same way, in the future lies not only that which will be, but everything that may be.
The past and the future are equally undetermined, equally exist in all their possibilities, and equally exist simultaneously with the present.
By time we mean the distance separating events in the order of their succession and binding them in different wholes. This distance lies in a direction not contained in three-dimensional space, therefore it will be the new dimension of space.
This new dimension satisfies all possible requirements of the fourth dimension on the ground of the preceding reasoning.
– P. D. Ouspensky, Tertium Organum