While many of us will become students of history to help interpret and understand world developments, some of us will have to become students of the future. Futuring is based upon hope. Hope gives not only direction and meaning to our visions and actions, but also confidence in what we can become. Hope reaffirms our existence and connects us to the future. Hope is the force that propels us through life, giving us nourishment, purpose, and energy for our actions.
Futuring causes us to question assumptions we make about life. Through the techniques of writing and sharing stories, creating images, and participating in roleplays, we can simulate events as though we are already in the future. Our objective in such visualizations is not to predict the future, but to perceive potential futures in the here-and- now and to conceptualize what it will take to get there from here.
Events like the dismantling of the Soviet Union have brought opportunities for change in the world. We can use these opportunities to envision the future that we want. We have the capacity to create images and stories of the future that nourish new visions and provide us with unconventional alternatives.
We can rehearse the future in the present so that we can correct our mistakes before we make them. Rehearsing the future in the present will allow us to ask critical questions and make us more skilled at long-range planning. Rehearsing the future broadens our consciousness to ideas that we otherwise might never consider.
We can no longer relegate this task of futuring solely to professionals. Futuring, like other activities, has been compartmentalized from our daily lives. But there is no monopoly on futurism. Every person has the childlike ability to spontaneously create. To bring it forth we must let down our collective guard and allow ourselves to think creatively about the future, about the kind of world we want for ourselves and our children.
The following seven stories of the future are written by people who have done just that.
Dr. Bunyan Bryant is a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and an associate in the Center for Afro-American and African Studies. He is currently editing Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies and Solutions, soon to be published by Island Press.
The introduction and two of the following scenarios – "Detroit Youth: 2032" and "School of the Future" – first appeared in a book of imagined futures, The Future: Images for the 21st Century, edited by Bunyan Bryant.