Back to the future

Thinking about today’s Hothouse Foresight event, I dug up a research project I worked on with Spiked Online in 2006.

Back then the UK economy was motoring along nicely – or so we thought – and no one had ever heard of the phrase ‘credit crunch’.  Or – come to think of it – Reggae Reggae Sauce, Lady Gaga and The Only Way is Essex.

However there was then – as now – a prevailing climate of ‘miserabilism’: a self-indulgent tendency to revel in gloom about humanity and mankind’s future.  Mick Hume, now Editor-at-large of Spiked Online, described it like this:

Ours is a time of widespread cultural anxieties and insecurities. As a society, we now seem to live in permanent fear of the future…   human activity is often seen as the problem rather than the solution.

I was working at Orange, and I wanted to get some original talking points for speeches about the brand, and the value we placed on optimism.  The Spiked team were obvious people to work with: they shared my interest in challenging the misery-merchants.  Plus, they had access to lots of interesting people in science, academia and the media.

The idea was that contributors looked forward to 2024 – when someone born in 2006 would reach 18 – and outline how they expected things to have changed in their area of expertise.  What challenges would need to be overcome to ensure the future would be better?  Did they agree that the future would be better?

By its nature, the Enlightening the Future: 2024 project did not give any single or definitive answers.  It’s interesting today as a snapshot on how some smart people were thinking about the future in the (recent) past.

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