To map the future, you have to start by looking for the present-day fringe. It’s in the fringe where creative thinkers develop innovative ideas that aren't shackled by research grants or other constraints which would cause them to edit themselves. Much of the fringe is about being in a space where few operate, in order to experiment and allow the mind to wander productively. Finding the fringe is the first step in futures forecasting.
For those of you hoping to understand the future, it can be helpful to read science and speculative fiction. Author George Saunders recently offered wise advice in The Atlantic: "Fiction can allow us a really brief residence in the land of true ambiguity, where we really don’t know what the hell to think. We can’t stay there very long. It’s not in our nature. You can be truly confused by something and then ten minutes later you're grasping for your opinions like somebody going for a life jacket. But that brief exposure to the land of ambiguity is really, really good for us. To be genuinely confused about something for even a few seconds is good because it opens us up to the idea that that which we know right now is not complete. Just to know that for ten minutes a day is unbelievable."
Getting comfortable with ambiguity is part of becoming a skilled futurist, and a good way to do that is to read and watch stories that don't represent your view of the world. Throughout the year, my colleagues and I at the Future Today Institute curate list of what to read and watch based on current events and emerging trends. Below is our Spring 2017 list of recommended reading and watching. You’ll find familiar titles as well as new works, and I hope you'll dive in...
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (book)
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (book)
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (book)
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley (book)
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (book)
Female Man by Joanna Russ (book)
Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang (novella)
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (graphic novel)
The Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai (book)
1984 by George Orwell (book)
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias (book)
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (book)
Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys (book)
Black Mirror (Netflix)
The Twilight Zone (Netflix)
Real Fake History (Nerdist)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
American Gods (Starz)
Bill Nye Saves the World (Netflix)
*Rewatching the “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” episode of
The X-Files (Netflix)