Marshall McLuhan famously said that we drive into the future while looking in our rear-view mirrors. And that’s because we know the past and are conditioned by our previous experiences to anticipate more of the same, instead of working to imagine and conceive the novelty that lies ahead of us. Who, after all, can accurately predict the future?
And yet we must try—more now than ever, as the pace of change increases exponentially. Someone in his 70’s today can remember back before all kinds of technologies now common existed: computers, cell phones, TVs, digital anything, spaceships, orbiting satellites, atomic power, hydrogen power, Velcro, Teflon, plastic bottles, the Internet, Amazon.com, toilet paper made from Amazon rainforest lumber, and on and on. Then, behind such technologies lie the rapidly evolving basic sciences that have penetrated countless former mysteries of the physical, organic, psychological and social realms of knowledge, since the start of World War II.
But with all this powerful knowledge, have we also learned and grown in the wisdom we need to use such knowledge well, in ways most valuable to the sustenance of life on Earth?
Clearly not. Disastrously not. And that is exactly humanity’s challenge right now: to develop our forward-thinking capacities so as to evaluate those future scenarios that we can presuppose events are tending toward—and then to choose those plans which will most enhance our species worldwide, out of the panoply of Earth’s flora and fauna that deserve the right to life as imperatively as we do.
Much good can be said about “being here now,” about living fully and richly in each present moment. Likewise, there’s real benefit in memory and recollection that opens us to dimensions of past experience for both nostalgia and reflection. But not enough is said, I believe, about thinking wisely on what’s shaping up in our future—and how we may more consciously and intentionally design a future world that we’ll want to inhabit, a future that expresses the highest values we can conceive.
Now, looking forward, what do you suppose such a happier future on Earth will look like?