Insights · May 19th, 2017

The most distinguishing feature of humans is that we contemplate the future. We are built to be futurists. This is the conclusion drawn from recent scientific work, according to Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney in the New York Times. In their article, “We aren’t Built to Live in the Moment,” they note that…

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.

Citing the work of animal behaviorists, current psychology, and most interestingly recent brain imaging research, we now know that “your brain is continually recombining information to imagine the future, a process that researchers were surprised to discover when they scanned the brains of people doing specific tasks like mental arithmetic.”

In other words, in all kinds of situations people engage in a kind of thought, rather automatically, in which they create future simulations, which then guide emotions and behaviors.

Humans have the capacity, as I have often noted, to remember the past, live in the present, and anticipate the future. It turns out we spend more time anticipating the future than we may have suspected. We became homo sapiens (the wise man) by “learning to see and shape his future, and he is wise enough to keep looking straight ahead.”

The challenge we have is to channel this innate capacity to see and shape the future into conscious creation of preferred futures. Its exciting to know this can come naturally.

Art & Society Innovation Planning Futuring Strategy
Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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