FUTURIST: Arriving at a global fork in the road

David Houle

[This was published on March 22, 2021 in the Sarasota Herald Tribune under the Moniker “THE FUTURIST]

Last fall I had a couple of Zoom calls with two futurists for whom I have a great deal of respect. We talked about what we saw going on in the world, what the lasting effect of the global pandemic might be and what is ahead for this decade. We all came to an agreement that one of the great futurists we all read years ago, and have come back to for wisdom, had succinctly suggested where in fact we are right now, 50 years ago.

R. Buckminster Fuller,inventor of the geodesic dome and several other spectacular things, wrote a book in 1969 called “Utopia or Oblivion: the Prospects for Humanity.” In it he suggested that in several decades humanity would come to a fork in the road, the two roads being utopia and abundance on one side and a mindless road to oblivion on the other.

“Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment … Humanity is in a final exam as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe,” wrote Fuller.

The three of us – Gerd Leonhard (futuristgerd.com/), Glen Hiemstra (futurist.com/), and I – all saw that the decade of the 2020s was the fork in the road that Fuller wrote about more than 50 years ago.

As futurists who peer into the future for a living, study macro-trends and arcs of history into the present, we all see this decade as the chance to fully, proactively create the road to the future that we want, rather than unknowingly, mindlessly heading down a road to a more dystopic future. Not that we are in the last stages of anything but rather that so many big, rapidly developing dynamics will occur this decade that we must collectively face them to shape them into the good future we want for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

We wrote the #forkintheroadproject Manifesto and put it up on our new website.  On the website forkintheroadproject.com you can read the manifesto, read about the three of us, read our blog and also see the presentation that was made at our first global Zoom call. This first meeting of the #forkintheroadproject collective had futurists from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Spain, South Africa and Brazil. In addition, there were a couple of noted science fiction writers, media executives, producers, and thought leaders. 

We all understand the longer-term consequences. We all see that if humanity wants a future that is positive, places humanity first, faces the immediate-to-long-term threat of the climate crisis and undertakes an inclusive discussion about the future of technological intelligence, genetic modification, the reinvention of capitalism to align with the realities of the 21st century, we must act with urgency between now and 2030.

We admire and acknowledge such organizations as the U.N, the World Economic Forum, the B Team, Singularity University and the Millennium Project (whose executive director is an initial signer of our manifesto), that see the need for massive reorganization of how economics and humanity currently exist on Earth as soon as possible. We cheer them on and see many well-intentioned efforts underway.  Many of these groups are well-funded and staffed with brilliant people who see the current problems and endeavor to fix them.

We see the #forkintheroadproject as a call to action, an understood metaphor, a story to be told and a meme that can raise awareness the fork in the road on every major issue facing humanity. As futurists we are not about solving problems and building organizations. We are about seeing the trends, the dynamics, the forces at play that are ahead of us all. We see that humanity is at one of its most critical junctures in history. As people who look at the arcs of history and project them into the future, we see that this decade, these nine years to 2030 is the time when the decision will be made – consciously or ignorantly.

We have set up a second meeting of the collective for later this month. We have invited additional futurists, media people, science fiction writers and thought leaders to it. At this stage the three initiators are looking for feedback, suggestions, commitments to action and generally to discuss how the #forkintheroadproject can be amplified, gain traction and begin to raise awareness that a true sense of urgency is needed. There are a number of huge issues facing humanity, many of which need to be addressed soon. 

While many forces challenge the future, we recognize these 4 overarching issues:

  1. Dealing with the climate crisis so that humans and all life can continue to flourish on Earth.
  2. Designing new economic and political frameworks, based on sustainable principles such as “People, Planet, Purpose & Prosperity.”
  3. Managing exponential scientific and technological progress.
  4. Governing human enhancement, longevity and human genome editing so that progress continues while consequences are carefully considered

Please visit the website, read the manifesto (forkintheroadproject.com/manifesto), read and view other content and if you are moved or in agreement with us, there are several things you can do. You can sign the manifesto, sign up for the newsletter, fill out a form if you or the organization you are with might want to get involved, and finally start to spread the word by using the hashtag #forkintheroadproject.

Time is of the essence. Urgency is called for. Thank you!

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