What is the purpose of futurists?
This is a question that many futurists themselves ask. It sparks a lot of debate and causes strong emotions to rise up in many.
Perhaps it's a challenging question to answer because futurists work with 'futures'; which themselves don't actually even exist.
Just like time, the future is an illusion - it's a mystical place constructed by the mind which can never be visited, because it is always being pushed out...moved along, just out of our grasp.
Why then is thinking, researching, talking, trying to understand and acting on 'the future' useful?
To understand the answer to that better, we need to consider the past.
In 1909, Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote a rousing manifesto The Manifesto of Futurism (Italian: Manifesto del Futurismo) in which he called for the violence destruction of old ideas and a new, aggressive pursuit of speed and change and power. He even went so far as to suggest that museums should be burnt to the ground and old manuscripts destroyed.
The past / history is finished. It's over. Without the use of a time machine (which as far as we know doesn't exist), we have absolutely zero influence or power over the past.
The future is the only place where we can affect change or have influence. The future is open, it's available to us, it can be influenced by our ability to choose.
Things that were not to our liking in the past, can be deselected and done away with in the future. Things that we imagine will bring us joy and pleasure can be designed and created.
The process of bringing awareness to and motivating action into this intentional transition between the past and the future is however, extremely challenging. What exists in this space is tension, a cognitive dissonance between what we believe to be true about the future and what we are comfortable with holding onto from the past.
The art of guiding people through the journey of consciously discarding old habits and mental models and changing towards new, better ways of doing things takes a unique skillset to successfully deliver.
What does an effective futurist achieve?
The futurist's craft (as defined by one of our mentors Prof Philip Spies) is, a practical discipline which is also known as futures studies, is an 'application system' that is comprised of a number of different tools and methodologies that work together to achieve the overall outcome of helping people build a better relationship with the future through better long-term decision-making in the present.
The purpose of a futurist is to facilitate this growth, this evolution; the transformational evolution of an organisation, a team, an individual, a community.
Great futurists, like Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, have the ability to reframe the way people think, arousing strong emotions in people about the future consequences of the current accepted ways of doing things, inspiring them think, behave and act differently as an outcome.
Marinetti's Futurists Manifesto was, at the time, seen a hugely controversial. It was however a powerful catalyst for change; it served as a basis, as an ideological basin from where ideas about the new world and new art could be taken, and transformed into visual art and architecture.