The Importance of Future Consciousness
“It is not the fruits of past success but the living in and for the future
in which human intelligence proves itself.”
Friedrich von Hayek
THE FUTURE is the most cosmic, mind-expanding, and philosophically enlightening topic the human mind can entertain. It is also the source of most of our most pressing practical problems and issues. Because the future has such great value and significance, we should do our best to understand it and actively and intelligently participate in its creation. Each of us should become more knowledgeable and educated on the possibilities of the future and learn to think about the future with more depth, breadth, passion, skill, and imagination. Becoming more conscious about the future energizes the human spirit, transforms the mind and self, expands our mental horizons, and moves us forward within our lives.
FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS is the total set of psychological abilities, processes, and experiences humans use in dealing with the future.
Future consciousness is the key defining quality of the human spirit. It is the engine of civilization, culture, and all of our highest achievements. In this time of great change, challenge, and struggle, the continued development of future consciousness is the most critical ability needed for the survival of humanity and the flourishing of the individual.
The answer to the challenges we face in our lives is the enhancement of future consciousness. All of our problems, all of our aspirations, all of the things we hope to achieve in life have to do with the future. If we develop our abilities to constructively, intelligently, imaginatively, and productively approach the future, we will immensely increase our chances of realizing a positive future, both for ourselves and others. We all set goals for the future; we all imagine, plan, and strategize; we all have hopes and fears about what may come. All of these normal human abilities are part of future consciousness, a capacity that can be greatly enhanced in everyone.
“The central question of our time is what to do about the future.
And that question creates a deep divide.”
We live in a period of significant, if not monumental, change. Socially, technologically, and psychologically, humanity is being transformed. This contemporary transformation of humanity is pervasive, fundamental, and multifaceted. We are living through the Postmodern helter-skelter, Global-Info-Eco-Techno, "end of history," "approaching the singularity," “quantum evolution” of our species "paradigm shift". We see around us multiple trajectories of change, depending on how we see things, going forwards, backwards, and into the unknown – at times reinforcing and amplifying one other, at times in violent opposition. As various futurist authors have stated, we live at a “turning point,” a time of “accelerative change,” “future shock,” and “creative chaos.” We live in turbulence. Our universe is bubbling and we are in the pot.
Because of the complexity, ambiguity, speed, and pervasiveness of these changes, there is uncertainty, fear, and conflict all around us. The uncertainty of our times, and consequently the uncertainty of the future, is amplified by the diverse set of perspectives and ideas offered to explain the contemporary transformation. There are competing views and philosophies of what is happening around us, what is right and what is wrong about these changes, where we are heading, and where we should be heading. We are being bombarded with information, choices, belief systems, and possibilities. The “possibility space” of humanity has opened up. We live in an era of many questions and many competing answers.
Many believe we are going through an epochal re-organization and evolution of human civilization, unparalleled since the time of the Industrial Revolution. Some believe civilization is crumbling. Some see advancing technology as a boom, ready to finally realize humanity’s oldest dreams of a paradise on earth. Some see human technology as a scourge on the earth, about to collapse under its own hubris and wastefulness and perhaps bring the whole earth ecosystem down with it. Perhaps the potential for change goes even deeper. Our species may be coming to an end. We may evolve into something different and more advanced or we may self-annihilate. All these perspectives vie for our attention and allegiance.
There is, in fact, an ongoing struggle over the future, embodied in these various philosophies and perspectives, occurring both in the public arena and in our individual minds. The future is undecided, confusing, and open to debate. Humanity is in a battle over the future.
The challenge of the future and the complexity of our times are both intensified due to the expanding sphere of human interaction. We are aware of more choices and more perspectives in great part due to the increasing globalization of humanity. No longer can anyone live in isolation from the rest of humankind. The simpler and more isolated and insulated life of the past is disappearing. Mass communications, the multi-modal global media, the Internet and the World Wide Web, world trade and conflict, human immigration and travel, and countless other globalizing forces are opening our minds to one other and extending our consciousness to all the corners of the world.
Because of the great turmoil and historical significance associated with our age, it is absolutely necessary to bring some mental order and understanding to the present chaos and complexity of our times, to see the main pieces of the puzzle and the pattern of it all, to evaluate the different viewpoints, theories, and possibilities, and to gain some sense of direction for tomorrow. But just as importantly, we need to find ways to thrive in a reality that is more fluid, more open and uncertain, and more expansive and complex than in the past. We need to evolve.
Change – complexity – uncertainty – expansiveness – these are both the challenges and the opportunities of what is emerging around us – the double-edged sword of the future. Instead of attempting to avoid or resist the inevitable flow of time, we should consciously and intelligently face tomorrow. We should become educated on the future. We need to evolve our capacities for understanding and thinking about the future – to develop our future consciousness, that is, our awareness of the possibilities, complexities, challenges, and opportunities of the future and our psychological and social capacities to flourish in this reality.