David Wood: The future peeks through #GE17
We like to keep tabs on futures thinking - a great tool box for making sure that "alternatives" of all kinds are thinkable (& do-able).
Our great friend David Wood, who runs London Futurists (the city's most vibrant programme of futures-oriented events and speakers) is writing a book on a politics (here in beta form) that reckons with the huge trends and drivers coming from technology, climate change, health/longevity and many other issues.
In the meantime, David has written this blog in response to the snap General Election just called by Teresa May in the UK. He is at pains to put the disputes about sovereignty and governance at the heart of the post-Brexit in a much bigger context. An excerpt:
I’m drawn to the observation made by sustainability advocate David Bent at a recent London Futurists event: "If you’re worried about leaving the European Union… I worry more about leaving the safe zone for civilisation on our global planet
Climate change is an example of the category of “existential issues” – issues that might radically alter the well-being of human existence on planet Earth, well within many of our lifetimes.
These issues include existential threats but also existential opportunities. What they have in common is that, unless we give them sufficient attention in advance, our room for manoeuvre may rapidly diminish. It may become too late to head off an existential threat (such as runaway climate change), or too late to take hold of an existential opportunity (such as investing vigorously in next-generation green technologies).
In all these cases, we may end up realising, too late, that we had been concentrating on matters – matters that appeared urgent – and lost sight of the truly important ones. Too much debate over the swings and roundabouts mechanics of Brexit, for example, may lead us to forget about the actions needed in many other areas of forthcoming radical change. Too much focus on the present-day rough-and-tumble may prevent us from championing the future.
That’s why Transpolitica urges serious attention, in the run-up to GE2017, to a number of potential existential issues. We need politicians who will commit to devoting significant energies to developing practical plans to enable the following:
Next generation green technologies, including those for better storage and transmission of clean energy
Healthcare solutions that address the causes of ill-health and disease, rather than just trying to patch people up after the onset of chronic illness – these solutions include regenerative medicine and other rejuvenation therapies, to be made available and affordable to every citizen
Radical solutions, as a subset of the previous case, for the growing crisis of mental ill-health, including dementia, as well as depression
Transitioning society away from one in which we live to work (with the aim of near full employment) to one in which we live to flourish (with the aim of near full unemployment) – this transition may become especially pressing, with the rapid onset of technological unemployment and technological under-employment in the wake of robots, AI, and other automation
Foreseeing and forestalling the risks to societal well-being from widespread surveillance (by both corporations and governments), and from pervasive online infrastructures that are increasingly vulnerable to security flaws and other errors in software implementation (including powerful AI algorithms that operate with unexpected biases)
Mechanisms for better debates on political topics – debates freed from distortions such as fake news, deliberately misleading statements, overly powerful press barons, deceptive intentions being kept hidden, and the flaws of the “first past the post” election system
Mechanisms for effective international collaboration, that supersede and/or improve upon the existing troubled operations of the UN, the IMF, and more local organisations such as the EU.
The last of these issues takes us full circle. Proper solutions to the big issues of the near-future depend upon a healthy international environment. If you think that the UK leaving the EU will significantly impact, for better or for worse, the UK’s ability to address the other big issues, then maybe you would be correct, after all, to prioritise the Brexit issue in the GE2017 campaign.
But only if we keep these other issues in mind too.