How to Imagine the Future by Getting Unstuck in the Present



The future. Who didn’t grow up with it? When you are young, it seems it is all there is. When we adults create the right conditions, children don’t worry about the future. They are pretty good at what the wellness industry calls ‘living in the moment’. Children also have a great imagination, but they usually apply it in turning their bedroom into a fortress, having some imaginary friends over for tea.


The future becomes more problematic when we grow up. Time passes by, we are shocked by the fact that we actually look more similar to our parents than we intended, there is more past every day. We are more conditioned by the present than we think and many may even think they lost their imagination growing older.


Research shows that humans’ ability to predict the future is all thanks to our ability to remember the past. So our experience, good and bad, have a big influence on our idea of tomorrow. At the same, the future is very influential in the present as well. Our expectations of the future influence our acts today. But those expectations are based on the past.


What does that matter to us, working on urban change? Well, growing up in a very unsustainable past, with dooms-day images of the future, or technological deterministic visions on ‘smart cities’, you can imagine it is easy to get stuck in the present. It is essential that we start training our imagination. To leave our world in a better condition to our great, great, grandchildren (they will be really great, I guess) we must tap into our creative superpowers.


There are many ways to start creating the future, today. At Humankind we are not into the business of predicting or forecasting. We create our future in the present, producing positive images of tomorrow based on social and sustainable values. ‘Futuring’ is the term professor Maarten Hajer uses for this approach. The future can be exciting, but only if we learn how to reflect on our past and get unstuck in the present.

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