Section One - Future literacy
A story about superheroes and future literacy (10 minutes)
Suppose you could be a superhero. What superpower would you choose? Strength, like The Hulk? Flying, like Superman? Shooting webs, like Spidey? Or have a cave and a really cool car, like Batman? Or would it be the ability to predict the future?
- What will be the daily closing price of Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at the end of next week?
- How many 6.0 or stronger earthquakes will occur worldwide next month?
- When will AI be smarter than humans?
- Will the Dutch ever become world champions in soccer? (Yes, of course, after all, we have Frenkie de Jong)
- What will be the future of jobs?
Being able to predict the future sounds like a really cool superpower. In any case, better than turning green and wrecking things.
That is why there are people everywhere that try to predict the future. For example, at the University of Southern California, where they try to predict the near future. They believe predicting the future is science not magic (see additional materials).
But there is also another reason to learn to think about the future. The idea is that if you can envision the future, you will be better able to design or evaluate technology. Imagining the future in order to make better decisions in the present. That is why more and more people state that we should be future literate. This takes practices.
Maybe we can't become The Hulk, but we can go to the gym.
Future literacy - a definition
‘Literacy’ originally referred simply to the ability to read and write, but today, the term covers a much broader range of both competencies and knowledge in specific contexts such as ‘financial literacy’ and ‘digital literacy’. For future literacy the specific context is the human imagination, as the future can only be imagined.
The ability referred to by the term ‘future literacy’ is, therefore, the capacity to know how to imagine the future, and why it is necessary. Future literacy enables us to become aware of the sources of our hopes and fears, and improves our ability to harness the power of images of the future, to enable us to more fully appreciate the diversity of both the world around us and the choices we make.
It enables us – in this context – to assess technology by imagining the future impact!
Watch this video (6 minutes) by Loes Damhof, lecturer of the Year at the Dutch Hanze University and researcher in future literacy:
In this video it is explained that our predictions are defined by our assumptions. So, we need to reframe our assumptions to be better able to think about our future and understand that there is an important role for storytelling in that process. Also it is really important to do this in a group.
So, imagining the future can help you to create a better technology today. Imagining the future also helps you to assess a technology. However, it is hard to imagine the future, because you do not have all the information, so you make a lot of assumptions that can get in your way. That is why it is good to do research, to delve into different views and opinions, so you are better equipped to imagine the future.
In the next sections of this crash course we are going to try to prove this by using the example of the future of work:
Quick exercise. Try to imagine how we will work in thirty years from now. Is there still a lot of work to be done? Or do robots do all the work? What kind of work is there? Does that make people happy? Or not at all? If you have the opportunity, talk to other people about it. Can you imagine the future of work?
In the next sections (two, three and four) we will provide you with a lot of information, ‘facts’ and opinions on the future job market. We will start with all kind of reasons why all jobs will disappear (section two). Then we will list the reasons why jobs will never disappear (section three). Next, we will introduce some important concepts that can change the way we think about the jobs of the future. After that, we will practice with storytelling and create a utopian or dystopian scenario.
This will give you insight into the complexity of thinking about the future, but it will also give you insight about the discussions on the future of work, which is very relevant.
Take aways from section one:
- Being able to predict the future is a superpower;
- That's why people should try to be more future literate;
- You do this by being aware of your assumptions and blind spots and try to reframe them.