Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!”
— Mark 13:33-37
Being a futurist is all about being watchful. Futurists don’t predict the future because the future cannot be totally known in the present. But the future can be partially known because there is evidence of the emerging future in our present culture. A futurist’s foremost job is to watch out for changes that indicate how the present may be changing into the future.
That’s pretty much what I get paid to do. When I do get paid for futures work that is. Future Geek speak calls this Scanning. Looking at events that happen in society, seeing if they form patterns or trends, or even, most elusively, the kind of structural systemic change drivers which might generate truly unituitive futures. We can see some of this stuff coming. But we have to watch and anticipate.
Futurists love technology. The most common futurist error is that they get overly excited and optimistic over this or that next “killer ap.” But an overly tech focus is a form of tunnel vision which is a deficiency in watchfulness. Trained futurists know the acromyn “STEEP” — Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, and Political — as a reminder of the kind of 360 degree view we must take of the world if we are to avoid the kind of tunnel vision typical of techno-happy soothsayers. It may have read well as a feature in Wired last month, but it may come to nothing if the social, political and other types of forces and values in the culture are not ready to embrace it. Stay Awake and Keep Sober.
When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:2-9
Predictions — futurists like to call them forecasts — are often intended to be wrong. Futurists anticipate many possibilities and only one, if at all, can be “right.” We are “wrong” by design, and that’s okay with us. Sometimes we make predictions in order that they do not come true — to alert people to preventive action. But as in 1 Thessalonians above, the only prediction that is universally wrong is that things will not change and everything will continue as normal. Anyone banking on this prediction will surely be disappointed. That is why we must all be alert and watchful and sober. That is why I am trying to make the case that all of us Christians should be, in our own way, futurists.
That and the fact that I want to be a Christian Futurist some day.