The future is composed of three separate and distinct properties: those manifestations of the universe that occur whether we as humans exist or not, those manifestations of the universe that are the result of the aggregation of individual choices by all life, and the act of free will to make a choice when confronted by errata from the previous two.
It is for these reasons that the future is difficult. Not only do we need to overcome the challenges put in our path but we also need to overcome the failings of our own society. We make choices based on the margins of what confronts us at each individual moment.
Let’s take something very basic. You are at the gas station and in the process of getting gas for your car you decide you are thirsty. What do you do? Most gas stations in North America have beverage options ranging from a public water fountain to bottled drinks. The bottled drink itself may be more appealing but consider what went into bringing that bottle to the shelf.
Petroleum turned into plastic, washed, coloured, moulded, labelled, pressurized, packaged, packing labelling, transportation, storage, distribution, and refrigeration. And that is all before it gets to your mouth to be consumed in anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Then we have the problem of disposal – garbage, recycling, transportation, sorting, washing, chipping, repackaging, reprocessing, etc.
If we extend the actions of each characters in the play that is our thirst at a moment in time, what we find is that the threads are highly varied, dynamic, and near impossible to track fully. So a simple future goal such as improving the environment for future generations is not as simple as it sounds when faced with these particular types of choices.
The mind can only hold so many pieces of information at one time. And this was a very simple example. To extrapolate this type of analysis to every decision that people make, at all times, is well beyond individual comprehension no matter how noble the goal.
Yes the future is bright, however
no one promised it would be easy.
If it was, everyone would be doing it.
In order to shape the future one must train themselves to think differently. It is not a matter of trying to hold all of these different ideas in your head but rather to emphasis which set of pre-conceptions are more important when faced with a general classification of problem.
What do I mean by that? Simply put, people run on auto pilot unless we see a situation which requires us to evaluate a choice. Think on this for a moment: in the last 10 car trips you’ve taken, how many of them can you remember the details of? Probably not many, and those that do come to mind will normally be the result of something unusual that happened on the way to work or wherever it was you were going.
The same as we drive on auto-pilot until something out of the ordinary happens, the way we make decisions about whether to drink from the fountain or buy a cola is also an in-grain auto response to our environment that has developed over time. Unless we see that choice as being something unusual – outside of our normal experience requiring a new way of thinking.
At that point, learning begins and we shape the future as a result. Not through trying to convince others to see things the way we do, but to influence others to see the act itself as being unusual compared to the standard mental model they already have. People will make up their own minds as a result. After all, the future is not about doing what is right for you, but what is right for them, in their circumstances, with their environmental factors, within their social network.
And this is why the future is so difficult to change – that tiny choice between cans and cardboard, bottles and plastic, is tempered by 7 billion voices all of which see the world differently than you do. In aggregate, the mob builds up critical mass and then one day we find that what we believed was okay one day is no longer the case the next. People can and do change as a result.
Does that mean that your tiny effort in a sea of voices will go unheard or un-noticed? No – it just means that until other people see the issues of the world as errata to be re-written within their consciousness, the amount of effort will be proportional to the number of minds that remain closed. People are highly observant however and in living a new way of doing things, you’ve already stimulated a closed mind when they see you doing something unusual that no one else is doing.
And that my friend is why the future is bright.
It doesn’t take changing every mind. Critical mass can be built up with as little as 12% of the total population you need to persuade to see things differently. It is a straight forward application of exponential mathematics and social networks.
When the average person introduces a new concept to their social network, between 2-3 people will be open minded enough to share the idea with someone else, who in turn will share it with someone else. At 12% penetration, a new idea only requires 2-3 new introductions before global consciousness shifts and a new paradigm is engrained.
So here’s to the future. Live it and change the world.
— Kevin Feenan