You want to get better at predicting the future,and you want to be better at being yourself in the here and now. This doesn’t require metaphysics or pseudoscience… it just requires a few meditative thought exercises. Let’s take a few moments to explore the future together.
Exercise 1: An Empty Crowd
The above image has always inspired me. It’s a space station corridor housing the entrance to a space hotel, and a Hilton at that. The image is from the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The scene shows a number of seating options, but nobody is around. This is fairly common for hotels with the lobby occupied only at key times of the day… but what if the future were always like this? We have a number of population density forces pulling and tugging at each other. First, we have the crowding from increased population density. We crowd into cities and suburbs for access to amenities, services, and resources. Second, we have telecommunications allowing us to be further apart than ever while still instantly connected.
Exercise: Imagine your workplace or business existing in an extremely population-dense area that feels utterly deserted. Thousands of people in close proximity, but having the ability to go all day without seeing anyone. The goal is to find the reasons people still interact with your source of income and sustenance while keeping the crowd size near zero.
Professional Benefit: This exercise helps you think about three key factors of your business or employment: value proposition, efficiency, and automation. Value proposition comes from examining why someone would venture out into “nothing” (an empty crowd) just for you. Sometimes this spills into thinking about promotion… don’t let it. Automation ideas come from trying to keep the crowd size as close to zero at all times as possible, including workers and customers. Efficiency is a balance between the product or service rendered, automation, and the fulfillment or service wants or needs of the customer.
Personal Benefit: If you’re not a “business person”, or simply trying to remember that business people are human also, this still helps as it can create a reflection on whether you feel valued. Is value imparted upon you in return for providing value to your company and its customers? If the answer is no, you may want to think long and hard about what you want in life and hit up the job boards. This exercise can also help you identify if your job is on the chopping block with impending automation.
Exercise 2: Death of All Professions
Your profession is a part of you, but it isn’t you. That doesn’t sit well with many of us in the modern world where we don’t just have several careers throughout our lifetimes, we often now have several careers all at once.
Yay, the joys of being a thirty-something in the modern business climate… yuck!
In this exercise, we want to identify some information about who we really are and bring that existence back into our professional life. In other words, this will help you stop “living the lie”.
Exercise: Pretend we live in a post-apocalyptic world. You survived. Your loved ones survived. A healthy sized community is still healthy and active. Food and water sources have been secured, and there isn’t much struggle for them because the population is so low that a spirit of cooperation has come over all survivors. There is no power, however, so your computer and phone aren’t useful for anything more than serving as doorstops… at least for now. People are starting to settle back down into a routine, so what do you do with your time?
Benefit: This exercise provides for your core needs to be taken care of, at least in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Food, water, shelter, clothing, love, acceptance, etc. Now, you’re heading back up the pyramid and looking for some meaning and self-actualization. Doing this thought exercise, at length, will help to identify core beliefs and values that you hold, and possibly latent interests that haven’t been able to be explored or incorporated into your daily life and work. Do you build things? Farm crops or animals? Work on restoring technologies? Take the solution you identify and work that modality (method by which you chose to work in this fake scenario) into your daily life in the real world, whether that be thorough work, family life, or hobbies.
Exercise 3: Outlive the World
A quick warning that this exercise is very uncomfortable for some people. The idea is that you should imagine yourself being a semi-immortal being that will live to be several hundred years old. A sweet spot for this seems to be somewhere around 250 to 400 years, based on the current and projected longevity of human beings currently.
This, of course, is the most personal and introspective of the three exercises. It isn’t designed to make you feel lonely, although that natural response will likely impact you. If it helps to consider that you’ve had a consciousness transplant and are a conscious part of the singularity, that is appropriate, but only as long as you don’t consider yourself to be a mere copy of the real and present you… your feelings and memories must both be in-tact and impactful upon your being.
Exercise: Imagine that you live to an extremely old age, but that your body degrades increasingly slowly from this point until your final death and you keep a healthy amount of agility and cognitive ability. After your parents and their entire generation are gone, you watch your generation disappear, including your spouse and friends. Your children grow old and pass, as do your grandchildren. You finally depart as your great-grandchildren are approaching or passing middle-age and heading towards their retirements.
Benefits: It seems like there aren’t any at first, but then you begin to contemplate how you’d deal with loss, and then with joy. The cyclical nature of life becomes apparent and then you see the cyclical and polar nature of the universe itself. Then, it’s possible to internalize this understanding and begin to contemplate the actions you’d take with each birth, passing, amazing innovation, victory, and failure. Once you’ve identified your presence as a multi-centenarian, compare the actions and responses to your current life and see if you’re living as fully as you’d imagine yourself to live if daily life were no concern at all and the real matters were of those of life, family, community, and fulfillment.
It’s your turn!
Share your favorite futurism-related exercises and your results from these below in the comments.