2012: Embracing Agility and Anticipation

Posted: June 10, 2012 in FB Note Archive


There are structural problems with trying to look into the future.


First of all, we all walk into the room with only the baggage that we are carrying. For most people, that baggage is the sum total of their experiences. It is what they think they know from what has happened to them in the past. It is only as broad as their explorations and as narrow as their interests.


Almost all of us are also necessarily specialists. We have been educated in specific disciplines. We focus on particular professions. We have limited time for hobbies. We are not generalists, ranging widely and knowing something about most everything. We are not system thinkers, naturally visualizing all of the big contributing components of the network under consideration.


Economists, for example, don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about rapid climate change . . . even though a big, accelerated shift in the world’s weather would drive their econometric models over the nearest cliff. Energy analysts are probably not closely tracking social value shifts and the relative confidence that the public has in their government . . . even though consumer buying and traveling behavior are directly related to these factors.


It is bad enough that one’s experiences are necessarily constrained – offering a perspective of only a slight sliver of the total available knowledge – but for some reason, most of us think that our necessarily myopic, highly-colored view represents, in some significant way, absolute reality. We believe that our personal experiences are more absolute than relative and we imagine that what we, in fact, believe, we really know.


The essence of being “sane” is to have a relatively coherent concept about what is going on around one’s self. To the extent that there are holes in that concept – things that we don’t understand – we fill those holes in with ideas that we either come up with ourselves or have been given to us by friends, authorities and institutions (like government and religion). We take those notions and believe them and deem them to be true . . . because it helps us make sense of our human experience. But most of us don’t know where what we know ends and what we believe begins.


Most people seem not to have ever given a thought to the idea that everything we experience is transmitted to our brains in some way through physical transducers (eyes, ears, skin) that fundamentally shape and constrain the external signal, essentially making our reality subjective. If you’re color blind, you are aware of this – but only because someone else, with a broader perspective, has demonstrated it to you. If you’re married, you know that the same event can really look and mean different things to different people.


Furthermore, we presume what has happened in the past will necessarily repeat itself – always in some familiar form. Our radar is locked pointing backward – not forward. That is why most forecasts and predictions are based upon extrapolations of historical behavior . . . and are wrong. As the university analysts found when they did a study of the predictions and forecasts of well-known economists over the years on where the economy was going; rates of economic growth, etc. : if one had trained a parrot to say, “Same as last quarter” whenever you asked it a question, it would have been more accurate than all of the economists.


We have no innate provision for either anticipating or dealing with very disruptive change that produces a future that hasn’t already been considered. Science tells us we make sense using stored patterns in our brains collected from former experiences. If something new shows up that isn’t congruent with an existing pattern, we can’t make sense out of the situation. If we haven’t thought about it – it isn’t there. This is where we plug the hole with something that seems to make sense.


All of this suggests that there’s no place for big, rapid, revolutionary change in the cognitive set of most of the members of our species. We have a set of capabilities that are adapted to the past, not the future.


This is all important because we now appear to be running headlong into a major evolutionary shift that encompasses not only the planet (and perhaps the solar system and galaxy) but also humanity. The distinct patterns of these kinds of transitions are quite clear from history. They come at generally predictable times (each era is one-tenth of the size of the previous ones), are quicker (state changes are now measured in years, or maybe months, rather than centuries), and are more violent (8-9 times the amount of knowledge and complexity is quickly inserted into the system, both in seemingly positive and negative terms).


In every previous case, there emerged a new level of intelligence, capabilities, and self awareness in the dominant species . . . and the previous social structures collapsed. It’s one thing to live through a small segment of a shift of this type that takes, say, 200 years – it is quite another to navigate oneself through the rapids of a five or ten year transition that might be violent as well as rapid. But that is what we must do. That is why we are here.


There’s a problem with this model that I’ve just described, and that is that it is derived from the shortcomings that I’ve just enumerated. It’s hard, if not impossible, to describe from the position of an earlier era how life might transition to a new reality which doesn’t at all work like the current, familiar paradigm. What that means is the new world – and the transition from here to there – might very well be much stranger than we can generally imagine. That’s the essential nature of a paradigm shift. How you make sense of reality dramatically changes.


All of this begs the question: So, what do you do if you’re on the edge of what could be the greatest transition in the history of the planet?


I’d suggest that there are four things that would find themselves in any good list of the most important things to do in preparing for planetary shift. You need to learn from the past, anticipate what might be inbound from the future, innovate with new ideas about how to live, and become highly adaptive and able to adjust to the new reality. All of these things could be summed up in the base characteristic of agility, I suppose – the ability to easily dance to whatever new song the universal band plays.


Now that’s easy to say. Just get agile. Well, I’ll tell you that as daunting as it may seem, it’s quite possible. But there are two prerequisites. The first and most important is that you must commit yourself – you must intend – to actively engage in this transition.


You must engage in order to transcend.


I can assure you that if you seriously put that intention into place, your world will change. New people will show up, you’ll hear things that are important in ways that never seemed to happen before . . . and you’ll find books like this one. Your universe will reconfigure itself to make that intention your reality.


The second prerequisite is one of the things I mentioned above: anticipation. Anticipation is more important than all of the other characteristics mentioned. If you can’t anticipate – have foresight – how do you know what to innovate for? If you don’t have an idea of what might be inbound, how do you build an adaptive life or organization? What are you going to adapt to or for? And, if you don’t have an idea of what might be in the future, where do you go in the past to learn how others have previously responded to big change?


So, anticipation, or foresight, laced with all of the human shortcomings I’ve mentioned earlier, is what we must embrace.


Foresight is about building coherent ideas in your mind about likely or plausible futures and understanding what might happen between now and then that could make those futures manifest. These are mental pictures. In my business we talk about them as scenarios, but that is a somewhat formal characterization – they’re really stories that make sense, and the more they make sense, the more powerful they are in providing you with a framework, an architecture, for action.


Conceptually, it’s the same, and almost as simple, as gathering up enough information to come to the conclusion that there might be a very large hurricane coming your way in the next six months (got that mental picture?), and thinking through what you might have to do to prepare yourself for such an event.


Now, relatively speaking, that’s rather easy to do if you’re talking about the weather – but if you presume that the giant meteorological storm, though larger, is pretty much like other hurricanes, then the analogy to the present situation starts to come apart. In this case, it’s a little like you thought the highest velocity the winds might build to were 120 mph and they turned out to be 250 mph, unlike anything ever before seen in history!


We’re on the edge of bigger change than ever before experienced by anyone on this planet in this lifetime. There are no historical records that even begin to describe these potentialities. There is no “standard operating procedure” for responding to what is bearing down on us within clear sight.




Courtesy of John L. Peterson




Initially written as an intro for Kiara Windrider’s marvelous book ‘Year Zero!’




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