Last week I said I thought I was out of good pictures of doors. I had already taken the picture I’m using for this post but I wasn’t sure what to write about it.
A couple of weeks ago I took my husband’s electric bicycle to be fixed in Palo Alto, and then walked down the street to Tacolicious to get lunch, catching a couple of Pokemon on the way. While I was using my smartphone to throw virtual balls at a virtual purple rat, I passed by these glass doors that had printed: “Institute for the Future: Enter at 597 Emerson.” Somehow that little arrow, with its mundane instruction to use a different entrance around the corner, seemed extra-fraught with possibility.
I thought the Institute might be affiliated with Stanford. Or maybe it was a joke: we’ve seen the future, and it’s an office building on a side street in downtown Palo Alto without any parking. Hey, at least it’s wheelchair accessible.
Actually neither one of those options is true. The IFTF is a not-for-profit think tank, founded in 1968 as a spinoff of the RAND corporation. Its field is “futures studies,” which seems to be aimed at helping businesses forecast the future and adapt to it. Its goals are the following;
- To explore systematically the possible futures for our nation [USA] and for the international community
- To ascertain which among these possible futures seems desirable, and why
- To seek means by which the probability of their occurrence can be enhanced through appropriate purposeful action
Given how unpredictable the future has always been in the past (ha), I’m skeptical, but still intrigued. It all sounds very corporate, but this article, on the future of the world food supply as predicted by a futurist at IFTF, could be useful for me as a science fiction writer, or really, for any of us. With an election coming up, we Americans could do worse than describing and examining possible futures and thinking about which ones might be more desirable than others.
The IFTF’s Executive Director is Marina Gorbis, who has written a new book called The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World. In “socialstructing,” individuals use technology and the collective intelligence of their social networks, to take on creative projects previously done by big businesses and organizations. Watch her talk on the future of work here on YouTube.