The Future’s Lookin’ Good

Crossroad on HillAt the time of writing this blog, the world was subjected to the horrendous image of a seven-year-old boy holding up a severed enemy head. With very good reason, the condemnation has been universal. And who wouldn’t recoil at the gruesome spectacle, let alone bemoan the future of the child himself?

However, my concern is not just with the unveiling of this image. My concern is that it becomes yet another example that is used by The World Is Horrible crowd to reinforce their downcast stance about the planet today.

Can I please offer another perspective; and one that I believe has significant validity? It’s that the world is an amazing place, and is pretty likely to become even more astonishing up ahead. But there is a caveat to this. It’s going to need lots of people who have an unwavering faith in the majesty and the potential of the planet. People just like you.

This unwavering faith is critical, because we appear to be at some type of crossroads right now. And I’m not sure that we can easily take both roads at once. My plea is that we choose the one that we’d all prefer. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But just like most things, there are endless complexities. So given those complexities, how do we actually create this amazing future?

My 1st response is this: What’s up ahead is not the Brave New World. It’s not the latest iteration of a sci-fi annihilation of the Earth and Mars. It’s not a rewrite of Harry Potter. It’s simply the aggregation of the struggles, the thinking, and the inspiring achievements of all of us. Every single day.

My 2nd response is: The world is a beautiful mess. It always has been; and it always will be. It is an ongoing duality of yin and yang, of life and death, of the dark and the light.  Of course the world’s not perfect. It’s a complex place, and it sometimes appears to have intractable issues. But will those issues hold us back from what we could achieve up ahead? I don’t think so. And you just have to look at our achievements thus far to realise this.

WHAT WE’VE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED

Here are some examples of what we have accomplished in recent times. In 1900, global life expectancy was 32. Now, it is just over 70. In just 114 years, it has gone from 32 to 70! The infant mortality rate (as measured by the number of babies who died before the age of 1) was approximately 25% in 1900. Now, it is 3.69%. The literacy rate was 42% in 1900. It is now 84%. Most crime rates have dropped in the past 20 years (and given that, can I let you know that you’re a 60 times less chance of being murdered today than in the Middle Ages); we have a 30% improvement in cancer survival rates in just the past 20 years.

Statistics such as these will continue to surge ahead, and especially because the world is about to unleash the ingenuity of billions more people in 2nd and 3rd world countries who previously did not have many opportunities to improve themselves. This may very well become the greatest social justice advancement in human history.

My plea to you is this: Don’t base your beliefs about the world today on outdated information from the last century. It’s an amazing planet out there right now, and that data I just listed is very likely to continue on an upward trajectory.

THE PROGRESS PARADOX

Yet here’s the paradox to all of these improvements. The better that things get, the worse we think they are. It’s actually called the Progress Paradox. The standards of living in most parts (but not all) of the world are the highest they have ever been; and yet large scale surveys will often show that many people believe that it’s all getting worse.

This progress paradox exists, partly because the media sensationalise any negative issue on the planet. Fifty years ago, it sometimes took several days to find out about many major events. Now, we hear about them (and see them in all their gory detail) immediately, and they are often even broadcast on someone’s mobile phone at the scene of the incident. It’s called crowd-sourced journalism.

As a result, too many people view everyday life through a negative lens, and assume the worst about the planet in general. This perspective is fuelled by the daily radio ’shock jocks’, who delight in talking the world down through their own bitter insecurities. The ratio of good to bad issues in everyday life for 7.2 billion people is probably at least 100:1. Yet on the mass media, it seems as if there are 5 bad events to every good event. It’s just not the reality.

Now don’t get me wrong. Some events are catastrophic. The Malaysian Airlines disaster was horrendous; and there will be other difficult times in the future. And the world is hardly perfect in everyday life even now. There are still many wrongs to be righted.

But just keep in mind: On the same day that MH17 was blown up, there were at least four hundred million volunteer hours provided around the world. On that same day, billions of parents around the world loved their kids, and did their best for them. On that same day, schools across the world kept their students safe, and generally learning in productive ways.

PREDICTING THE FUTURE

And the big question that nearly everyone wants to ask: What’s coming up ahead?! Well, there are lots of ways to answer that. One is that we just don’t know with some things, especially with unexpected events like earthquakes, tsunamis, sudden major terrorist events, car accidents, and perhaps even solar storms that could compromise global telecommunication systems.

Another way of looking at the future is that we are going to continually see the most rapid changes in human history. The exponentialities are mind-boggling. We have created more new knowledge in the past three years than existed in all of previous human history; and the pace of fresh discoveries can be overwhelming.

As a result, we will have to embrace what we call Uncertainty. Uncertainty is the New Normal. We will need to adjust rapidly to even more dramatic changes; and to view those changes as an opportunity rather than a threat. People who love learning will revel in this type of future.

What else is up ahead? A recent very well-researched book called Abundance maintains that the world is very likely to achieve significant advances up ahead. We could have clean drinking water for every child on this planet by 2020. We could provide a primary school education for every girl on this planet by 2022…. which, I assure you, would be one of the most significant means of creating an even better world.

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS

Here’s another option for helping us to predict the future: We can apply the science of Predictive Analytics, which is sometimes referred to as Big Data. Basically, with this approach, everything is a Numbers Game, and we can calculate the percentage probabilities on whether various things will occur.

Here are some examples.  Life insurance companies have already sized you up. By the time they find out what you eat, drink and smoke, how you exercise, and discover any ailments suffered by your parents and siblings, they can usually work out when you’re going to die to within a few years. Throw in a DNA test and they can narrow it down even further.

We can even predict with a 70% certainty what you will be doing on this day in exactly 2 years from now, mainly because we’re creatures of habit. We can predict with an 80% certainty whether you will contract the flu, 8 days before you actually get it. In predictive policing, we can determine the likelihood of some pending crimes with a 90% certainty. Even weather forecasters have an 80% success rate.

And, here’s the most powerful way of all to predict the future. You create it with what you do today. It’s your actions now that lead to whatever tomorrow will bring. The quick conversations with work colleagues; the short and inspiring message that you write on facebook; the charity that you start up in a few days time. Even the thinking you do today can partly determine your mood tomorrow.

I have little time any more for those who claim that our future is pre-determined, and that we have no influence over it. My response is: If we say that, then we lose our ability to shape it. We actually have a huge influence over it, because we’re creating it now. Right here, today.

RATING THE WORLD’S FUTURE

If I asked you to rate the world’s future possibilities from 1 to 10 (with 1 being awful, and 10 being astonishing), what would you say?  Here’s the reality. If 7.2 billion people average a 2 out of 10, then we’re in big trouble. It’s called the Self-fulfilling Prophecy. We’ll be convinced that everything is horrendous, and our actions will unfortunately contribute to that.

Conversely, if we all average a 9.5, then the world is pretty well guaranteed to do amazing things. You see, when we’re confident of what will occur, we can make anything happen. And I mean anything. So what honestly is your rating? Because unless you believe that our future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it happen.

Please be aware: This is more than just the Positive Thinking movement. It’s all very well to think optimistically. What is also required is to take consistent focused action that makes the so-called difference every day, in our own lives and in the lives of others around us.

And you know why it’s important to believe all of this?? Because it gives hope to all of the kids in our lives. When they see grown-ups creating a worthwhile future, then it develops their own faith in the world being OK up ahead. And they’re then more likely to make the effort as well.

So. What’s your score out of 10? What’s your degree of faith and belief in the world’s future? And how resilient are you in facing up to what needs to be done every day? Remember, it’s not tomorrow where this needs to be done. It’s today.

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