Magazine article The Futurist

Why Futurists Ask "What If"

Magazine article The Futurist

Why Futurists Ask "What If"

Article excerpt

I confess when I bought my first new car I wanted to marry it. I couldn't have asked for more from a husband: It made me comfortable, took me wherever I wanted, and played beautiful music. I named him Dashiell. (Twelve years later, he's still all mine.)

What if people really could marry their cars--or their computers or their pets? These are questions worth pondering, according to cultural historian Stephen Bertman, because marriage itself as a rite of commitment is already undergoing a historic transformation that promises to change the social landscape in the next few years. (See "The Transformation of Marriage" on page 44.)

"What if" questions are a vital component of futuring, since they engage our imaginations and drive us to examine our decision-making processes, according to educator Daniel Rigney. As a tool for teaching critical thinking, he presents his students a what-if question about whether they would choose to use a smart pill that provides instant intelligence enhancement. (See "What If You Could Be Instantly Smarter? A Thought Experiment," page 34.)

Other mind-stretching what-if questions offered in this issue focus on choosing to genetically enhance one's child ("Letters to Unborn Daughters: Exploring the Implications of Genetic Engineering" by Sarah Stephen, page 37) and the potential consequences of learning to communicate with animals ("Doctor Dolittle for Real? …

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