As a result of a wave of terror attacks, economic instability, and rampant unemployment, Europeans are feeling a resurgence of physical and symbolic violence on our old pacified continent. Yet, never has violence declined as regularly as it did in recent years. Harvard’s Steven Pinker flatly states that we are living in the most peaceful era ever known.
What’s being threatened is our inner peace. People are confused and disoriented by the pace of the social, economic, political and religious upheavals that are hammering their daily lives. Being increasingly connected and feeding on media-generated empathy, the human species appears to be more sensitive to the instability of its environment.
In 1970, Alvin Toffler diagnosed us with “future shock,” a new psychological illness of humankind marked by confusion, increasing powerlessness, a collective inability to grasp events properly, to foresee their (increasingly rapid) development and (increasingly broad) consequences in the context of an ever faster, short-lived and chaotic present crowded with increasingly fleeting products, relationships, attachments and information.
Knowledge and work are powerful antidotes to fear. Our mental abilities will never help us rationalize attacks and violence. Yet, we can only be saved from these most paralyzing fears through a process of anticipation, monitoring for weak signals, and projections.
I am calling for the creation of a new science of the future, one that would be recognized by both the academic and the business worlds. Some great minds are already busy analyzing possible futures (Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near and, more recently, Marc Dugain’s L’Homme Nu are cases in point), but readers remain skeptical. As for political analyses, they react to current events instead of providing a long-term vision, thus opening the door to collective anxiety.
Let’s revive futurism. And not as a way of revitalizing science fiction, but to reflect and formalize anticipatory analyses and long-range projections in the areas of technology, international politics, climate change, or enemy weapons.
Whether we are thinking of the convergence of people and networks thanks to advances in genetics, nanotechnology or robotics – including artificial intelligence, virtual reality and driverless vehicles – the field of research is wide open.
Creating a future science means deciding to provide an alternative to fear, to appropriate reality and to give free rein to human intelligence and creativity.