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Love the future, hate the present

A potential trap in exploring the future is to become impatient with the present. Some of my futurist friends suffer from this, especially the ones with a close focus on technology. I fight it routinely. Understanding the potential for progress can leave us disappointed or even disgusted with what we have now. We can come to believe in an idealized future, and as change unfolds, we wait for things to fall into line with our expectations and aspirations. They usually don't. With technology, we can be fooled. We can think we are seeing the emergence of a big change when it's not there yet. Our enthusiasm is a kind of blindness. The ideal view of the future can trick us into not recognizing the obstacles to change and how human factors can limit, shift, and change the outcome. For example, I meet people regularly who want to chide futurists for having predicted the paperless office. When we futurists and others explored what paperlessness could mean, back in the 1980s and 90s, we were playing out a concept, a what-if. We knew that paperlessness meant the potential to reduce paper, and we have. It did not mean no paper, at least not any time soon. Another problem with the idealized view of the future is that we can become dismissive of people who are not up-to-date with technology or social change. We're inclined to think of the future from the point of view of the leading edge of change, easily forgetting that lots of people are well behind that edge, and may still be adjusting to what we would see as past change. A culture of foresight means having a deep interest in, and excitement about the future, and enthusiasm and vision are great motivators. But we have to remember that all that we have now and are now has to make the transition to that vision. It won't be fast, and it won't be perfect, and it does no good to hate the present.

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