Tag Archives: future trends

On relativity and how we are repeatedly mistaken

Pondering on the question of relativity for over three years, and in a continuous effort to nail the meaning of human thinking patterns, I read many physics, engineering, math, and other scholars. My reading focuses on scholars who try to make sense of the way the world works, how things are related and interconnected to each other, and why so many things are way too similar.

According to my observations, one thing becomes crystal clear. Many things, phenomena, systems, and changes work in the same way. Hence, seeing a change in one system may sign there is a change coming in the other system. The tricky part, though, is finding the systems that respond or interconnect with each other, and even more – identify the system that work in groups, and how they behave over time.

If you notice, my main argument is about HOW and not about WHY. I hardly believe any scientist can provide a valid explanation for the root cause of any system or behaviour, and every scientist who works in the field of understanding how things happen will admit that science nowadays has no knowledge WHY things happen, or what causes them to happen at all. This limitation, however, should not discourage us from trying to figure our HOW things relate, associate, and interconnect.

Program Evaluation

Relativity, on the other hand, appears as a real obstacle to human beings (and possibly AI systems that are built on human wisdom) when it comes to the question of HOW systems work together. The major problem of relativity is our limited ability to see the bigger picture. As much as we can try to overcome the problem and explore larger, deeper, and include more data or variables, we are still in loss of too much information. This obstruction inevitably leads us for mistaken conclusions. Moreover, it repeatedly leads us to false inferences and assumptions.

How relativity works? Imagine yourself looking at a data that includes several locations within a time frame. When you try to understand what you see, you immediately look for patterns and repeating behaviour. Once you identify them, you conclude that variable X distributes in Y order (add as many variables as you want); and you forecast this is possibly anticipated to happen again in a similar manner – whether in a stable pattern, growth pattern, non linear pattern, power law pattern, and so forth.

In fact, this is exactly where relativity makes us blind. We see things
relatively to others, and in my experience even scholars who are well aware of this human tendency, cannot think differently. This human trait explains very well why economists cannot explain what happened financially in the decade between 2009-2019; it also explains well why once the real estate prices started to climb in 2010, many believed they will continue climbing in infinity. One can continue describing many other areas in which humans step into the trap: generalizing from one community behaviour to another; assuming that patients will respond similarly to medical treatment; and determine that variable X causes variable Y. We think in a relative way and given our limitation as human beings we will continue to do so.

All things considered, next time when you infer from one thing to another, stop for a second and ask yourself if you just committed the sin of relativity. Because if you did, it is better you be cautious with your assumptions before a decision is made. Practically speaking, in my experience, when you are aware of your tendency to generalize based on relativity, you start to search for more information, look for more data, seek alternative explanations, and get to know some interesting mechanisms that describe HOW things work together. As an informed person, you are unlimited and much clearer in your capability to forecast and vision the future. This is not to say you will be able to release yourself from relativity constraints, but you will at least be aware of it and know what is going hand in hand with what and how, within a timespan that is captured by
human brain.

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They Are Practically Thinking Futures, And You?!

Future. A single word with crucial meaning. Futures is even more compelling, because its name reveals a secret… a tiny true… there are several futures; not just one, nothing is determined yet. You may plan the future, and if you do it wisely, you can positively change the future, and this is what we all want.

Let’s start with a short introduction, futures thinking is a systematic way to deal with wicked questions, face challenges, and also provide with a set of possible solutions, or suggested routes to take. The method is fascinating and out of ordinary, because it requires to adapt and adjust different practices of dealing with problems. Futures thinking is focusing on four types of futures: possible, probable, preferable, and “wildcards”. I tend to like two types and pursuing my analyses based on them – probable (70% probability that your foresight is correct – you may plan 15 years in advance, i.e. foresee 2030 today), and preferable (the one you create with your team). Whereas the first one does not require you to work in teams, the last will not work without involving a large scale of experts. As a consequence the foresight you do alone is the possible, but still shed light on the unknown; and give you a taste of what preferable futures thinking may result.
The process holds four elements: question, gathering of data, analysis, and interpretation (which leads to another question and so on). At a first glance it seems like any other problem solving process. However, the difference lies in the methodology, and the results are surprising.
In addition, you may want to choose a method to gather and interpret your data. I found the General System Theory as a very useful framework, especially for social issues (so take a look at the link, and learn the materials before you jump to the analysis).

Ready to Think - Futures Thinking

In order to make your life easier I have collected several global trends, that you may use as the basic assumptions for every analysis:

  • According to Strauss and Howe’s generations theory, we are getting into the forth turning, when millennials are the societal focus;
  • The millennials are more connected to friends, less connected to institutions;
  • The millennials are worried of their uncertain future, unlike the boomers;
  • The millennials are highly educated, and hold various credentials, however their chances to get decent employment opportunities are lower;
  • Demography: the world population is getting older. Shrinking young population and more elderly. As a result, less young people are going to bear the burden for many elderly.
  • More migration, more urbanization.
  • Technology will continue to be developed, and influence life. Changes will occur often and rapidly.

When you done setting your basic global trends, you may start the second layer of assumptions – the local and industry specific ones. In order to retrieve these data, you can find the following sources useful: governmental sources, UN, local foundations, local universities, and any other information bodies, that may publish relevant data. Gather the data, and articulate the assumptions.

The third step is to look at the data, try to find connections to your questions, and interpret it WITH CAUTION.

I hope you find this content useful – feel free to contact me for commenting or any other request. If you would like to start a future thinking process in your business or organization – I will be happy to consult you with that.

Warning! this content is a very short introduction for futures thinking, and I suggest to use it as a tool for strategic thinking and planning. I do not suggest you to use it as a formal foresight, because you need an expert to help you in this process.

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