Possibilities: Imagining a Better Future
by J. Zohara Meyerhoff Hieronimus
John Petersen is a professional futurist who says you can’t predict the future. Instead “what can be accomplished is to create possible or probable scenarios and to account for as many contingencies as possible.”
Petersen’s Arlington Institute helps military and other government institutions and corporations do just that. His book Out of the Blue: Wild Cards and Other Big Future Surprises presents a dizzying array of 84 possibilities of things that could happen in our near and distant future. In creating a database to examine what our future could be like, Petersen ranked the impact any one change in society or our environment might have. He rates the length of time its impact will last and to what degree it is capable of altering the life of the individual, a certain societal sector or society overall.
“You can’t predict the future,” he insisted in an interview. “There is no way you can do that, and anyone who says they can do that hasn’t thought about the underlying science. There are too many variables that can make the future different than you thought. The best process is to build alternative pictures in your mind: logical, credible routes or thematically designed pictures, which we call scenarios. These are not things you draw out of the air — you build a spectrum of possible futures. Once you do this, the images that lay in your mind are put against current events in far more effective terms. You can see them in terms of already possible futures.”
Describing how the material world is impacted by thought, Petersen continued, “You have already thought about what you are seeing suggestions of. That puts you in a position to anticipate and see the implications of things.”
As theoretical physicist Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., explains it, these are the things that will pop out at us. Sports psychologists have demonstrated convincingly that when an athlete visually rehearses a sports task in their mind it makes for a more effective execution of it. In the same way, imagining the future by running through various situations in our minds prepares us for various possibilities. Wouldn’t it seem logical, therefore, that we could better shape the future by already having thought about the outcome of certain actions?
As Petersen explained, “You have to come up with a system that, given the least number of factors, can account for and adapt to an unknown number of situations.” Most interesting to me was the category Petersen calls wild cards for their low probability but very high impact.
Petersen explained that wild cards “have a direct effect on the human condition. They are large, tend to be broad, and cause important, if not fundamental, changes. They happen so suddenly that there just isn’t enough time to deal with the impact — no matter how much preparation you do.”
The Petersen system approach to the future is formulated by evaluating even what the impact would be in the case of a wild card like a global food shortage or a civil war in the United States. A comet striking the Earth would be a megawild card. “Something as big as a comet would have the greatest rate of change and the highest impact of reach. Our vulnerability would be high because of it and it could basically upend our civilization, depending on where it hit.”
Many military analysts are concerned with our infrastructure’s increasing reliance on our power supply and computerized networks. From municipal watersheds to national security, local factories to emergency rooms, the electric grid is a lifeline. Weapons that can deliver an electromagnetic pulse from a distance, shutting these systems down, are more of a threat today than in decades past and present the looming specter of another wild card event.
Paranormal and the Future
I asked Petersen what he saw concerning the use of paranormal skills by people in the future. “There’s no question,” he said, “that we will have more people exercising their powers in a new way. Remote viewing, which we already know is used around the world, would have a near-global reach, but its popularity will be curtailed, in part, by opposition to its development.”
In other words, it will probably be quite some time before you’ll see any government-sponsored billboards advertising the power of nonlocal mind, or what author Gregg Braden refers to as inner technologies and renowned psychic Ingo Swann calls biomind superpowers.
As Swann points out, there aren’t many “power schools” where you can go to learn how to perfect the use of your nonlocal mind, which is unfortunate because tests on Swann and other natural psychics prove we are wired to function at levels far beyond our current understanding and normal practice. Our nonlocal mind, or our access to the universal mind field, makes it possible for us to see across great distances, affect healing from afar, and even view distant planets.
These are the traits of the soul making itself visible in our very real human form. Manifesting these great human powers is the path of the future. There may even come a time when telepathic talents will be one of the few ways we can stay in touch with each other. By practicing now to perfect these latent talents in all of us, we can begin to ensoul the world and therefore improve our potential futures.
Some of the potential futures the Arlington Institute looks at are beneficial, like the end of a carbon fuel economy, showing just how important changes made today can be. I couldn’t resist asking a man who says nobody can predict the future, while simultaneously showing us how accurately you can estimate it, to tell us the major trends he saw for the future.
“If you want the most fundamental condition I see for the future,” Petersen noted, “it’s the haves and have-nots and that’s not just economic. It’s nations not having access to technology and medicine. So the issue that I think is most problematic for the future is how do we deal with that? There is a growing, accelerating hazard in this separation.”
“What any of us see as the future has a lot to do with what it will be like. Looking across the horizon and creating normative scenarios of a desired future — if you do that as an individual or a kid deciding what he wants to become or a nation planning their own future you need to envision — you need this idea of where you want to be downstream.”
From a systems point of view, the question is how to create an action plan to reach a goal or prepare for a possibility. The actual physics of imaging in our minds tells us that what we envision has a greater possibility of manifesting than something we have never even considered.
In short, Petersen was explaining — from a function of systems — why others have counseled humanity to imagine ourselves richly and to consider others’ needs. I suspect the answer will lie in what the Buddhists identify as compassion or dependent coarising and what ecologists call sustainability.
Humans are designed to exercise free will and that is one of the reasons we can’t entirely predict the future, but a semblance of the future is already present today, within each one of us.
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