The before, and the after

This is a newsletter about the possible futures we encounter. It’s about how we can make choices with the materials in front of us in order to make the future that emerges one that is desirable, thoughtful, and equitable.

Today is a day that is explicitly about the choices we make, and how we use those choices to shape the path we want. We do this every four years, but we can all recognize that this one is different from what has come before. It is clear that who we elect this year has special significance to determine the world to come. In our last issue, we mentioned George Packer’s piece in The Atlantic, entitled “America’s Plastic Hour is Upon Us”. If you haven’t read it, today is a good day to do so. Packer posits that, most of the time, a system is only capable of changing in small, iterative ways. But every once in a while, circumstances converge such that a paradigm shift is possible, and dramatic change can occur. We are in such a “plastic hour”. He concludes:

“We have one more chance—in Lincoln’s words, a “last best hope”—to bring our democracy back from the dead. It will be like a complex medical rescue that requires just the right interventions, in just the right sequence, at just the right speed: amputation, transfusion, multiple-organ transplant, stabilization, rehabilitation. Each step will be very hard, and we can’t afford to get any wrong or wait another hour. Yet I’ve written myself into a state of mind that I recognize as hope. We’ve made America before. Self-government still gives us the chance. Everything is in our hands.”

So first, if you haven’t yet, please go and vote. Use your voice to choose the future you hope for.

And second, once you’re done and you’re waiting for the result to be announced, know that this time of sudden change and deep uncertainty is rare. Futurists usually work by playing out continuous progression from signals in the present. Even sudden, unpredictable events—what are known as “black swan” scenarios—are imagined singularly, yet one could argue that we’re in the midst of several simultaneously. There is no expertise or precedent that can tell us what to expect in this situation. Breathe, rest, and get ready, because whatever comes, the future will require your best efforts to make it you want. Even if the person you prefer wins, real change doesn’t come with just one vote, but with lifetimes of effort. It’ll take all of us working together to arrive in that more thoughtful, more equitable future.

Let’s start building it.

By Ethical Futures Lab

Six Signals: Emerging futures, 6 links at a time.

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