Magazine article The Futurist

How to Play a Wild Card

Magazine article The Futurist

How to Play a Wild Card

Article excerpt

When asked what they would like to know about the future, most people would probably want to know what will happen--or at least what is most likely to happen. This is a natural and practical approach to understanding the future, as it gives people something logical to plan for. Unfortunately, it also leaves them vulnerable to being blindsided by the unexpected.

Wild-card scenarios are, by definition, unlikely to happen. So why bother with them? Because they are also, by definition, high-impact scenarios. They can disrupt systems, shift paradigms, and force people to change their values, perceptions, and lifestyles.

Earlier this year, the editors sent out a query to readers of Futurist Update to offer suggestions of what wild cards might surprise us in the future. We also invited John L. Petersen, president of the Arlington Institute and author of Out of the Blue, one of the seminal books on the subject of wild cards, to give us his views.

The most useful aspect of thinking about wild cards is, in the case of bad ones, giving ourselves time to prevent them from happening, and, in the case of beneficial wild cards, paving the way for their success through changes in social systems. …

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