Magazine article The Futurist

Future Quest: Strategies for the New Millennium

Magazine article The Futurist

Future Quest: Strategies for the New Millennium

Article excerpt

Participants at the World Future Society's 1998 annual meeting take a long, long view of the future.

True millennial fever has struck: Some futurists are now looking beyond time frames of mere decades and centuries and striving to bring the year 3000 into focus.

The approach of a new millennium has clearly inspired futurists to look even further into the future than they usually do, judging by the World Future Society's 1998 annual meeting, "FutureQuest: Strategies for the New Millennium." The conference, held in Chicago and chaired by Joshua Pang, drew 1,100 participants and speakers from around the world.

"Getting a fix on distant horizons provides steering points guiding us to new destinations instead of following our own wake," said Society vice president Graham T.T. Molitor. Although even the most committed futurist may balk at making thousand-year prognostications, much can be learned from thinking on such a grand scale when it includes looking backward as well as forward.

One value of observing human destiny in millennial segments is to see patterns of events, according to Molitor. For example, scientists believe that the earth's magnetic field has lost 15% of its strength since about 1670 and that this degradation rate could mean a complete loss of the magnetic field in about another 2,000 years. Other ecological concerns, such as global warming, are also grounded in our improved understanding of long-term patterns.

"In 15 billion years, we know we will have a rendezvous with oblivion. In cosmic terms, there are cycles of events whose patterns make events predictable. What we now ask is whether the same is true in the social and economic realms," said Molitor.

Envisioning the Year 3000

The social realm - human destiny - is of particular concern to the new Seattle-based Foundation For the Future's executive director, Robert Citron. Long-term futures, by his definition, include visions of a thousand years, 5,000 years, or even 10,000 years hence.

The Foundation is in the process of developing "a brain trust around the globe for scholars to debate and understand the issues that will have long-term impact on the future of humanity," said Citron. Among other projects that the Foundation is developing is a series of Humanity 3000 Workshops.

Futurist Joseph F. Coates, inspired by the Foundation's ambitious plans, put together a lively workshop of his own, designed to draw a preliminary picture of what humanity will be like a thousand years from now. Coates, president of Coates & Jarratt, Inc., and co-author of 2025 (Oakhill Press, 1996), offered some visions of how humanity may evolve - or remain the same - to which participants added their own ideas. The workshop yielded a fascinating portrait:

By the year 3000, humans may have kept such institutions as families, religion, art, and other stabilizing forces, while using new technologies to improve their natural abilities, such as expanding lifespans and improving intelligence.

Possible scenarios for 3000 range from technological utopias to more spiritual or even godlike human existence. Daily life might include such wide-ranging activities as singing, dancing, flying, and swimming (i.e., frivolity); exploring space; contemplating and meditating; building and destroying things; and going on "quests."

But there are always possible wild cards to consider. Among the discontinuities that might throw humanity onto an entirely new course are meteor hits, changes in weather such as a new ice age, discovery of (or visitation by) extraterrestrial life forms, the unleashing of rogue genes into the environment, the symbiosis of computers and human beings, the mutation of Homo sapiens into a second human race, and World War III.

Near-Term Prospects

Even in the near term, war is one of humanity's most-troubling uncertainties about the future and a major topic of concern for Lt. …

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