We have no shortage of big issues ahead: the Singularity, post-capitalism, possible ecosystem collapse. These are plainly in view. At the same time, we can reflect at some other issues – while perhaps not on the same impact scale, that we also had plenty of lead time for: 3D printing, fracking, and automated vehicles are couple in the new today that we started discussing decades ago.
Futurists do a great job of identifying Horizon 3 weak signals and the stronger signals in Horizon 2. I wonder, however, if we can do a better job with their timing? In theory we should see a jump in scanning hits for H3 (and H2 as well) as the transition “heats up.” We should also see scanning hits portending the decline of H1. Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve called out the importance of detecting the decline of H1 – I’d be interested to hear if or how others do that!
In H3, we look for scanning hits to cluster and catalyze change. We always pay particular attention to signals coming from many sectors pointing in a common direction, that is, signals from multiple STEEP categories are “hitting.” There is help available. We have Molitor’s emerging issue curve to help us here. I have Bill Sharpe’s “Three Horizon: the Patterning of Hope” on my Bookshelf.” For those new to the horizon’s I high recommend Andrew Curry and Anthony Hodgson’s “Seeing in Multiple Horizons,” and APF Most Significant Futures Work award (from which I derived the figure). And a host of work on emerging issues.
Most of my scenario work is aimed at Horizon 2, which makes sense, but I’m wondering if I’m neglecting the emergence of H3 from the fringe toward H2? Another challenge that I have is that my attention to various issues wavers over time. For instance, there have been times over the last twenty years that I dug into 3D printing, but also long periods where it was not on our project radar and I’d lose track of it a bit. For me, in terms of how I practice as a futurist today, I’m rarely able to consistently track issues over time. I might have time to pick one, for instance, I did maintain a fairly consistent eye on consumer values changes. And now I’m trying to do the same with post-capitalism.
But I wonder how many of we “generalist” futurists switch from topic to topic such that we might miss some of the subtleties of the transition between horizons. It may be that we need to lean on our colleagues who are in-depth subject matter experts on a topic. In sum, I’m looking for better ways to “time” the future and be more useful to clients and the public. After all, that’s what its all about! Andy Hines