A simple question to help you better think about the future

It's certain that things like technology, education, politics, the climate and a lot of other aspects of life that we recognise today, will be radically different in the future.

A simple question to help you better think about the future
Photo by Maria Thalassinou / Unsplash

Radical change in the future can be a very alluring topic.

We often asked to come and present to groups of business people on the topic of change and what the future might look like because of that change.

"What will the future consumer look like?".

"What is the future of financial services?"

"Is Bitcoin the future of money?"

There are many aspects of the future that are obviously highly-uncertain, but what is certain about it, is that a lot of things will change.

It's certain that things like technology, education, politics, the climate and a lot of other aspects of life that we recognise today, will be radically different in the future.

You can spend a lot of time postulating and imaginatively considering how these things will change, as well as the various paths they might follow to get there, but you'll be guessing.

Nobody knows how current trends will evolve in time, or how these current trends will be influenced by future trends to create brand new, unimaginable futures.

Even a single current trend (that is the hot topic of conversation today) can morph and evolve and transform in an unthinkable number of ways to create multiple future realities in time.

Have you ever seen two science fiction movies that portrayed the progress of technology into the future in the same way? No - there are literally an infinite number of ways in which anything can evolve from this point on.

Thinking about how things will change in the future is damn exhausting.

Taking bets on how things might go is also tricky, which is why proper futurists don't speculate about the future; rather, they help create it.

If predicting change is near impossible then what is an alternative way of thinking about the future that is more useful?

Well, here's another interesting question to ask instead. And it's a simple, three-word question:

'What won't change?'

What aspects of life will never change? What is guaranteed to be the same as it is today in 1000 years from now?

In a BANI-world (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible) what will stay the same in the future?

Probable futures

In futures science, creating scenarios, based on aspects of life that are likely to stay the same as they are today, is called building probable futures. The probability of these imagined future states manifesting in time, is high.

They're more of a sure thing than the wild speculations that people love to consider.

When everyone is obsessed with change and taking risky bets on that change, putting your money on a 'sure thing' can be fairly predictably lucrative.  

Both Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos are reported to be great fans of asking this question; in fact, Buffett uses this style of thinking as a powerful lens for many of his most profitable long-term investments.

"The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage." - Warren Buffett

Having a good understanding of what won't change is an excellent platform on which to start building for an uncertain future. From there you can give yourself the freedom to be more imaginative in your degree of speculation regarding other aspects of change.  

'Hedging your bets' that's what some wise people call it.