I previously wrote [rather briefly] about letting go, translating, and transforming as three major roles of futurists. Let’s go a bit deeper on translating and transforming. I was inspired by an international trip and a dive into Ken Wilber’s 1981 “Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution. It has been a while since I’ve read some Wilber, and as always, a very rewarding journey! The line that stuck with me is that “when translation fails, transformation becomes necessary.”
It is based on a developmental theory of social change, that is, development in a consistent direction of time toward greater complexity and capacity. In light of the recent geopolitical situation, I suspect that development views are poised to fall into disfavor, if not disrepute, once again – as one might argue that we appearing to be going backwards. Or perhaps new or dusted-off cycle theories will capture spots on the bestseller list – somewhat cynically or perhaps realistically pointing out that things never really get much better. This view, in an indirect way, works against the future – why bother, since it’s all going to come apart anyway? Don’t give up!
To explain translation and transformation. Imagine a layered developmental model from simpler to more complex levels. Spiral Dynamics is a very popular and useful model used by many futurists.
- Translation suggests a horizontal search for solutions within the current level of development. When we are confronted with challenges, we typically search horizontally, that is, we look for answers within our current level of development – be it spiral blue, orange, green, or yellow, for example.
- But then comes along a challenge, an event, a circumstance, actually a series of such have likely been accumulating, and one finally gets to the point of “this isn’t working.” I’m not finding the answers I need at my current level – translation isn’t working, and thus we move to transformation, a journey up the next level, e.g., from Spiral blue to orange, or orange to green.
As we confront changing “life conditions” (a favorite phrase of mine from Spiral Dynamics), we may find ourselves confronting the “translation or transformation” question. Can we find answers that make sense, that work for us, where we are at today? Or is transformation in our future? Transformation is not all sweetness and light. There may be a sense of disquiet, of something not being quite right, irritability, discontent, a searching or longing. We might be tempted to label it depressed, but perhaps it’s a sign that transformation is ahead. Andy Hines