More than once I’ve come across with articles or podcasts with a headline like this:.
The future of…
I am sure that you too. These articles (or podcasts or videos) have become very popular now and to be honest, I enjoy them a lot. However, while reading – or listening to – them, I have come to the conclusion that:
The definition of The future of… may vary from one person to another.
Let me explain myself.
The Star Trek Future
Just a few days ago, I ran into a short article about all the tech gadgets from Star Trek that have come to pass becoming part of our everyday lives. Back in the 70s, the creators of the show really came up with a future. They imagined the future of transportation, data analysis, and even leisure. They challenged and rethought the principles of communication and came up with the «communicator», a sort of mobile phone. They challenged the principle behind info analysis and created a google-glasses-like tool. These things – or ways to do things – did not exist at all in their time, so they actually created the future of many things. That is what I assume as the future of something.
To me the future is a «place» to be invented.
When I read articles saying «the future of…», I always expect to find out start trek imagination exercises where the author proposes non-existent scenarios, whole new concepts, or revolutionary solutions for a certain need such as communication or mobility.
However, many authors do not talk about the future of things, at least not in the star trek way. Many of them actually describe what is known in the academy as the state of the art – the most recent version – of something. A version so new, that is little known or used.
Many of these authors say «this is the very newest version of this, and someday everybody is going to have one, or apply it to its everyday life, or at their work». They draw the future by filling it with the state of the art.
It is a future, but not the one I would like to read about. These texts or audios have a much more informative nature, than creative.
And let me be clear, I really enjoy reading these articles. I think it is important to know about the latest news of an industry or the state of the art of something to innovate, to modify a process, or to improve an aspect of our life or work. However…
the way we think about something have an impact on the way we imagine and build its future.
To truly revolutionize something, we need to challenge the principles behind it. It is not a matter of bringing the latest gadgets in the market or the newest methodologies, making of them mainstream, and then saying this is the future of. By thinking like this, we may not change much the present, because we would not be challenging the principles behind.
Lets say transportation. When imagining the future, do not think on the newest cars, with the best engines, or all the gadgets you may add to it. Think about the principle behind transportation itself: mobility. Then you’ll go beyond the limits of vehicles and maybe, came up with the Star Trek «transporter».
How does it apply to your work?
Try to imagine the future of your field by not thinking in the latest processes or the newest tools. Think about the principles behind construction, marketing or design. Go beyond and do not fear of creating new scenarios or ways-to-do.
Learning, training, education, for example. What are the principles behind? Do not think about the very new methodologies or the latest platforms. They are helpful and we definitely need to know them. But, why not to think instead about human and professional development. What’s for? Why do we need it or want it?
It’s not easy, but it’s a matter of assuming what future is, or could be. In the next post I’ll give you a couple of real life examples about the difference between a state of the art future and a star trek future, and its impact on the results.
Meanwhile, try to question yourself and imagine:
What would be the future of my field? or the future of my hobby?