Human Futures No. 2 May 2018 - Page 52

BOOK REVIEWS A Short History of the Future by Jennifer Gidley Jennifer M. Gidley’s The Future: A Very Short Introduction by David Lorimer, Editor of the Network Review: Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network (2017) No. 123, Issue 1: 54-55. https://global.oup. com/academic/product/the-future-a-very- short-introduction-%209780198735281 Jennifer Gidley was President of the World Futures Studies Federation (2009-2017) and is also an educator and psychologist. In this brilliant and concise overview – part of the OUP Very Short Introduction series - she gives readers multiple insights into the field and ways of thinking about the future. She defines futures studies as ‘the art and science of taking responsibility for the long- term consequences of our decisions and our actions today.’ She is careful to emphasize that the future is not just something that happens, nor is it inevitable, but we co-create it through our thoughts and actions within both a cultural and global or planetary context. The notion of the future is closely tied to the way we think about time. The French word means what is to come (a-venir) while the English word first appears in the 14th century. Gidley traces the origins of linear time to the emergence of philosophy in Greece, while prior societies lived in a more embedded, cyclical sense of time. Taming time is equated with measurement and control and is represented by the emergence of calendars and clocks as well as predictions. Early predictions were prophetic or oracular as we sought to grapple with uncertainty with a measure of both hope and fear. Coming up to date, we find that the US Department of Defense coined a new term in the 1990s: VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous - terms we can certainly recognize today, and which are also reflected 52 in scientific developments. The author looks at the thinking of Roger and Francis Bacon and the emergence of a mechanistic and engineering metaphor, which still dominates science today and which is associated with control and precision. However, both Newton and Francis Bacon embodied the tension between modern and hermetic science, and the author correctly notes that Bacon was both the father of empiricism and leader of the Rosicrucian movement in England. More scientific predictions emerged with HG Wells and JBS Haldane about a hundred years ago, then with Aldous Huxley’s dystopic A Brave New World. Forecasting becomes more scientific, but there is a danger of simply extrapolating current trends and discounting the unexpected. The German physicist, economist and sociologist Rolf Kreibich warns us about a singular future approach based on ‘the scientific- technological- industrial expansion of all aspects of life’, which he sees as a tunnel vision and which Gidley contrasts with a more participatory and integral approach. She considers the implications of the development of robotics, which is partly being driven by the military and aims to bridge the human-machine divide. This brings her onto transhumanism, which is ‘inextricably linked with technological advancement o r extension of human capacities through technology.’ (p. 92) It is a systematic attempt to overcome some of our biological limits, but it is important to realize that it is based on an ideology of technological determinism and a mechanistic view of consciousness and the human being. These people envisage a new, hybrid species and the creation of a technotopia through techno-fixes. However, as Lewis Mumford was already writing in the 1940s, there is a danger of dehumanization in this post-human vision that many of its proponents regard as an inevitable development. Cleverness has to be balanced by emotional intelligence and the expression of moral and aesthetic values. Chapter 5 is in my view the key of the book, focusing as it does on technotopian or human-centred futures as diverging streams already identified by the futurist Willis Harman in the 1980s. He saw two broad possibilities: evolutionary transformational or technological extrapolations - the latter, as I already mentioned, is based on a mechanistic, behaviorist model of the human being, and while the ethos within the Network favors a more human-centered model also promoted by holistic medicine, organic agriculture and publications like Resurgence. Gidley explains the varieties of transhumanism, including Teilhard de Chardin, Sir Julian Huxley, Nietzsche, Bergson and Steiner, all with different visions. She then looks at conscious human-centered futures as a counterpoint and based on the evolution of consciousness in a transpersonal direction. Here again, she is exceptionally well informed and points out that we have a choice of either continuing to invest heavily in ‘technotopian dreams of creating machines that can operate better than humans. Or we can invest more of our consciousness and resources on educating and consciously evolving human futures with all the wisdom that would entail.’ (p. 115) The final chapter reflects on grand global futures challenges, especially urbanization, education and climate. Her tables on pp. 119-20 summarize both the challenges and alternative possible responses under various headings such as governance, economic, health, energy, leadership, technology and conflict. As Al Gore notes, many of these challenges are the consequences of short- term economic thinking and the reckless use of our planet’s resources. However, we can contribute to co- creating an ecological and regenerative future rather than continuing extraction and exploitation. The French philosopher Edgar Morin, like Gregory Bateson, put his finger on the educational challenge: ‘one of the greatest problems we face today is how to adjust our way of thinking to meet the challenge of an increasingly complex, rapidly changing, unpredictable world. We must rethink our way of organizing knowledge.’ (p. 131) In this sense, it becomes very clear that our ‘old fragmented, mechanistic, and materialistic ways of thinking are not capable of dealing with the growing complexity of global environmental, economic and societal change.’ The situation is not helped by the dominance of linear analysis in our universities, so that young people are coming into the world with inadequate ways of thinking. However, as the author points out in her conclusion, ‘we all have the capacity to create our desired features, for more than most of us realize’ and we can work collaboratively for positive change and towards the future we prefer. It seems to me that there needs to be much more public discussion and reflection about the nature of the future that we are creating together in a technological, economic, ecological, cultural and personal sense - and especially of the tensions between the technotopic and human-centered visions. This book not only raises the issues in a highly readable manner, but also raises awareness, and as such I can recommend it unreservedly. M AY 2 0 1 8 Storytelling about the future. Introduction to Prospective. by Guillermina Baena Paz Ten years ago the fragmented history the future begin to build. After during three years more, I was writing the book. Once upon a time, I find the future that place was happening the improbable and the impossible. Yes, tomorrow is a lovely puzzle, and we can’t fall so deeper as we want in the rabbit’s hole or select the train to a utopic place. What we are finding: the w orld was change just one think change: everything. Then we need new instrumental for knowing and for enter in the uncertain cone with trends and then it will find with weak signals and wildcards every step. (Baena Paz, Guillermina, La narrativa del futuro… Introducción a la Prospectiva. México, UNAM, 2016. 278 p.) Future is the raw material of Prospective. Future is building twice: first in mind and after as a social construction. The issue is not prospective, anyone applies techniques, the issue is to be prospective, able to transform to help build a future shared with others. Future is a disruption of current time: can we remember the future and build the past? Yes oriental thinking say that, andino thinking say future is back, past is front us because we see it, and future is uknown. Future is not that was. In a first stage was divination and prophecies In a second level was literature and visions of utopic societies. Going Past Limits to Growth Going Past Limits to Growth: A report to the Club of Rome EU-Chapter, Wiley-ISTE, 2017, 240 pages Review by Patrick Corsi Growth is a dominant economic driver accounting for the wealth of nations and organizations alike. However, in the face of environmental pressures, widespread social and economic imbalance, and the reigning climate of uncertainty we are experiencing today, there is now a need for a viable interpretation of what growth really means. In this book, it redefines the limits to economic growth and tackles the issues involved in three parts, in order to study a variety of international issues, including the world economic system, climate change and environmental degradation. The book has three Chapters: Part 1. A Present-Day Imperative 1. A Present-Day Imperative To Think or Not To Think… 2. Situating Growth in Time–Space. 3. Dominant Thinking of the Past Century. 4. The Historical Contribution of System Dynamics. HUMAN FUTURES The tree stage is a methodology building by arquitects of future: both man and organizations. Prospective is about power, will and freedom for building all kind of futures specially the desirable future, and the plausible future. Prospective is that particular way to write history before happens. It is a social science with transdisciplinary thinking considers past for go to the future through the visible, non- vissible and invisible readers of here and now. It is a methodology of planning, is an unfinished essay, a conjecture art, and a management of uncertainty. We need the adoption, adaptation, and creation of new technics, methods to understand post-normal times. The process is a strategic planning prospective were think scenarios and planning scenarios. It about takes the better decisions for all the possible futures that coming. Many people repeat Keynes idea about in long view everybody will be dead, but the real think of Keynes (1937) said this: “…the idea of the future being different of the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behavior that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.” That is is the prospective’s challenge. Part 2. A Methodology for Tackling Growth Problematics 5. In Search for New Approaches Fit-For-Purpose. 6. Angling the Core Subject Appropriately. 7. Cracking Open a Growth Concept. 8. Opening Up New Growth Axes. Part 3. Going Beyond the Notion of GDP 9. New Growth Operational Formulations with Examples. 10. Discussing Work, Labor and Money. 11. Case Study: Growth Through Cooperation, Work, Time and Space. 12. A Society’s New Clothes. Part 4. Appendices 53