Predicting the future
Science fiction novelist William Gibson, whose books inspired The Matrix films, has often said: ‘The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.’
Right now there are people living in relatively primitive conditions in remote jungles, while others enjoy the most sophisticated technologies and lifestyle. A glance back in time reveals that human advancement is an emergent overlapping process, like a conga line stretching through time; with pathfinders at the front, late starters at the rear and the rest following along in between.
For those who understand this concept, predicting the future comes easier than you might expect. Someone, somewhere is living in your relative future, right now. Just as you are living in someone else’s relative future. A science fiction writer need only identify the pathfinders and engage in a little extrapolation to arrive at a credible prediction.
The general themes of life follow an age-old pattern that unfolds in a reliable way. For example, over time societies swing between focusing on individual needs and communal needs. As this pendulum reaches one extreme, a strong pull in the other direction emerges as we seek to rebalance our lives. This ‘duality’ and dynamic balancing process can be found everywhere you care to look, from subatomic particles to the interplay of galaxies and beyond.
The swinging pendulum effect is embedded in a spiralling movement, so it has direction, from simplicity towards complexity. Complexity has almost become a swear word these days, but it actually means connectedness in a mutually influential way. Our technology is accelerating our movement towards greater complexity. This technology has emerged from a period of high individualism; the result of extreme specialisation in narrow fields of endeavour. Without this specialisation, particularly in information technology, we wouldn’t be as connected as we are. Yet the result of extreme individualism is the emergence of a new community focus as we move closer to being one connected global tribe. This is the spiralling pendulum doing its thing.
There are a number of social systems that seem to be reaching an extreme, or turnaround point, about now. Some of these are individualistic in nature, while others are communal. These systems are layered and interactive, which is why it’s difficult to see the underlying simplicity of the spiralling pendulum. As a general problem solving guide, when an individualistic system begins to fail, the solution will usually involve heading in the opposite direction (ie towards a community focus). It’s a paradox, you see.
Artwork ‘Silent Dance’ used with permission from Luminaya