Hot Topic: The Future In Black and White
Previously in Foresight Signals we have presented the work many futurists and organizations have been conducting to prepare their clients and the public for a post-pandemic future. This work continues, even as other threats to our collective future demand immediate attention, including ongoing assaults on the global climate, the economy, democracy, security, and human rights.
In the case of the causes and effects of racial injustice and prospects for change, futurists have largely been silent. Even in addressing law enforcement and criminal justice systems, futurists historically have focused more on technologies and innovations designed to facilitate police work than on remedying the injustices that have led most recently to the killing of an African American, George Floyd (and too many others), by white police officers.
Race, bigotry, supremacy, fear or hatred of the “other.” These are difficult but necessary subjects to reflect on and discuss honestly. When the present demands change—a better future—what do futurists offer? A few useful resources are provided below.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture offers a wealth of helpful materials for “Talking About Race.” For example, an infographic* based on the work of consultant Judith H. Katz outlines aspects and assumptions of white culture to illustrate why many white people cannot see their own cultural dominance. The “future orientation” of white culture, according to Katz, is summarized as:
- Plan for the future
- Delayed gratification
- Progress is always best
- “Tomorrow will be better”
The implication is not that the future does not matter to Black lives, but rather that the orientation to the future is culturally different in ways that futurists need to understand better. Suggested reading for why Black history matters to the African American future: “A History of Tolerance for Violence Has Laid the Groundwork for Injustice Today” by Jennifer Rae Taylor of the Equal Justice Initiative (American Bar Association, May 16, 2019).
In his August 1972 Futurist article, “Equality: The Life-Style of Tomorrow,” Austrian psychiatrist, author, and teacher Rudolf Dreikurs (1897-1972) wrote:
“The dilemma of our time is that we are not prepared to live with each other as equals. There is no tradition to guide us, since traditional methods of dealing with each other are based on autocratic principles of the past. ...
“In the future, all conflicts between individuals and groups will be resolved by a process of reaching agreement and not by a power struggle. An economic system that will meet the needs of all will be established, and money and possessions will provide neither status nor power. Man will no longer find it difficult to eliminate poverty, disease, and want, and there will be a world community united in a true brotherhood of man.”
Importantly, by “equality,” Dreikurs meant true equality, not simply the equal opportunity to compete against other people for advantage, be it wealth, status, or power. A future without yardsticks.
Call for comments: Foresight Signals invites futurists and others around the world to share their work or reflections on this topic. Contact the consulting editor at CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.
* Editor's Note (July 19, 2020): The NMAAHC Talking About Race website has removed the "Aspects of Whiteness and White Culture in the United States" infographic following criticism from conservative media, according to the Washington Post. Though the work on which the infographic was based is some 30 years old, it is still used in anti-racism training.
Selected resources: Race, justice, and a future for all
- Black Futures Lab “works with Black people to transform our communities, building Black political power and changing the way that power operates—locally, statewide, and nationally.”
- Drew Desilver, Michael Lipka, and Dalia Fahmy, “10 things we know about race and policing in the U.S.” Pew Research Center FactTank (June 3, 2020).
- Bob Harrison, “The great reset: Policing in 2030,” Police One (April 16, 2020); also posted by the RAND Corporation, where Harrison is an adjunct researcher in international affairs and defense. Written before the death of George Floyd, the article envisions post-pandemic scenarios affecting policing, such as the widespread use of autonomous vehicles that reduce traffic violations.
- Institute For the Future, “The Restorative Justice City: From Punitive to Restorative Justice.” Based on workshops conducted with leaders in Oakland, California, after 2014, “a landmark year for exposing the cracks in America’s criminal justice system.” It addresses a wide variety of community needs, including food security and access to nature and open spaces.
- Robert C. Lieberman and Suzanne Mettler, Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, St. Martin’s Press (forthcoming). Recommendation by Nat Irvin II (via Twitter): “Mettler & Lieberman, have identified four issues that have historically undermined American democracy. For the first time, all four factors: expansive presidential power, political polarization, rising economic inequality and racism or nativism, are ascendant at the same time.”
- Cree Myles, “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors,” The Mary Sue (June 22, 2020), concludes, “While we fight for the world of our dreams, we should read pieces from the people who have already created it.”
- Tate Ryan-Mosley, “The activist dismantling racist police algorithms,” Technology Review (June 5, 2020), on the work of activist Hamid Khan to abolish surveillance technology used by the Los Angeles Police Department.
- Sage Publishing: open access to previously published social-science research papers addressing structural racism and police violence, as well as resources for instructors to promote classroom discussions.
- Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center: classroom resources, professional development, and publications on topics such as race and ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, bullying and bias, and ability.
Trends in Global Peace
Peacefulness around the world has declined for four out of the past five years, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index 2020. The Index ranks 163 countries on more than 20 indicators, such as perception of criminality, security officers and police, incarceration, access to weapons, and numbers of internal and external conflicts fought and resulting deaths. While 81 countries recorded improvements over the past year, 80 countries experienced declines.
The 2020 index “reveals a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Institute reports. “The economic impact of COVID-19 will negatively affect political instability, international relations, conflict, civil rights and violence, undoing many years of socio-economic development.”
The report notes that the gap between the most and least peaceful countries has been growing since 2008. Iceland, New Zealand, and Portugal were ranked the three most peaceful countries in 2020, while Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq were the least peaceful. The United States remained No. 121 of 163 in 2020, unchanged from 2019.
The Institute for Economics and Peace is a think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and measure its economic value. Among its programs is the Positive Peace Academy, a free short course available in 50 languages introducing a Positive Peace development framework that “is associated with better performance on ecological sustainability, improved wellbeing, stronger GDP growth rates and better business outcomes.”
Call for Papers: Postnormal Futures
World Futures Review is seeking papers for a special issue on postnormal matters. “How can and might we revise our assumptions about future possibilities using PNT [postnormal theory] approaches in different contexts? What are the phenomena and events that invite us to revisit our thinking fundamentally by showing us the fallacies of orthodoxy? What is right in front of us that we fail to see? What are we ignoring? How does chaos behave in postnormal times?” Guest editors are Maya van Leemput, Linda Hyökki, and Christopher Jones of the Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies. The deadline to submit a paper is September 15, 2020. [Learn more]
Publications, Webinars, and Resources
- “Collective Intelligence to Solve the MegaCrisis” by William E. Halal, Journal of Futures Studies online (May 1, 2020), draws on the collected wisdom of futurists and experts in a variety of sectors to address the converging of massive, existential problems such as “climate change, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, terrorism and other massive problems collectively called the Global MegaCrisis.” Halal invites readers to follow and contribute to discussions by signing up for TechCast Project’s newsletter at www.BillHalal.com.
- “Reopening the World.” Brookings Institution experts have launched a second volume of essays on the response to COVID-19 by offering lessons from other countries on the reopening and rebuilding process. [Learn more]
- “The Workforce Road Ahead” is a series of weekly webinars by Ed Gordon, president of Imperial Consulting Corporation, to preview his research for his forthcoming white paper, “The 2030 Jobs Pandemic: The Future of Employment.”
- The Millennium Project’s COVID-19 resources include news updates as well as an overview of TMP’s seven-stage Real-Time Delphi Studies project for the American Red Cross.
Mark (Revise) Your Calendar
November 11-12, 2020: The International Institute of Forecasters (IIF) will hold its 2020 Foresight Practitioner Conference at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The theme is Integrated Business Planning and Forecasting: Innovations to Drive Profitable Growth. IIF has also announced the International Symposium on Forecasting, originally scheduled for July 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, will take place virtually October 26-28, 2020. [Learn more]
Mack Report: On Methodology—Technology Forecasting
Four fundamental approaches to forecasting new technologies were covered in a recent Vanderbilt University webinar for workforce planning in the “next normal.” In his latest article, AAI Foresight Managing Principal Tim Mack provides a recap of the webinar, conducted by Andy Van Schaack of the School of Engineering Management. The goal was to present futures techniques needed to redesign workforces for a new business landscape.
During the session, Van Schaack described Monitoring, Expert Opinion (Delphi), Trend Extrapolation, and Scenario Development (the latter method being the one webinar participants said they would be most likely to apply to foresight work in their own industries). He added that future technology forecasting methods are likely to be iterations of these four methods but using technology to do it better, such as artificial intelligence to conduct modeling using massive data.
Read “On Methodology: Technology Foresight (Event Report)” by Timothy C. Mack, AAI Foresight Signals Blog (July 1, 2020).
- Cheryl A. Jennings, wife of longtime World Future Society researcher and editor Lane Jennings, died June 25 at their home in Columbia, Maryland, following a brief illness. She was 75. WFS members may remember Cheryl’s welcoming presence as a volunteer with Lane at annual conferences. Cheryl retired in 2019 from a more than four-decade-long career with National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Contracts Operations Branch. She was also active in the National Contract Management Association and served as scholarship chair for its Bethesda/Medical chapter. A brief graveside service will be held Thursday, July 9, at 11 a.m. at Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland; plans for a memorial service in 2021 were under way at the time of writing. [Read more]
- Richard G. (“Dick”) Maynard died December 28, 2019, at his home in Harrison, Maine. He was 80. A longtime member of the World Future Society, Dick spent most of his career with the U.S. federal government, including pioneering the use of computer modeling and computer graphics in policy analysis while working for the House Information Systems. “He was always interested in how best to communicate information through technology for better decision making, the connecting thread throughout his career,” writes the Falls Church (Virginia) News Press. [Read more]