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Futures Festival at EAFIT University Colombia

Updated: Jun 9

Futures Festival 2023 took place over a week ago. It was a delight for Teach the Future to be invited to the Futures Festival at EAFIT University Colombia, thank you to Diego Leal and his team!

Below is a recap of the event also on youtube.

Recordings of the event available now online:

  1. The full schedule of the first edition of GEF&WISE in Latin America (May 24th) is available at the website of Camilo Jose Cela University. There are recordings of many panels and masterclasses.

  2. Most sessions of Imagine Futures Day (May 25th), organized by EAFIT University, are available now online: We had a couple of opening panels, two sets of conversations focused on educational challenges in K-12 and Higher Education, and a segment we called "Future signals" Teach the Future starts around 1:25.

More info about the whole event is available here. And a compilation of the products our Center generated during the past two years can be found here.

Our segment was in Spanish and are including the translation of our segment in English below. Also enclosed is Peter’s perspective when asked:

What's the kind of futures that different disciplines refer to, and why thinking differently about futures is relevant?

“First of all, the question assumes that different disciplines have different approaches to the future. That assumption was the basis of the first Anticipation conference hosted by Roberto Poli at the University of Trento in 2015. They invited different academic disciplines to present their approach to the future. But what I saw was that almost every discipline used the standard, relatively linear, extrapolative approach to the future that results in single predictions of what the future will be compared to future studies which describes what the future could be.

The default, ‘scientific’, evidence-based approach to the future uses past, mostly numerical data to make predictions about the future using equations and models. The primary disciplines that use that approach are economics, market research, political polling, and the physical sciences, notably climate science. That approach is not wrong. It does deliver what is arguably the single most likely future, but that most likely future is not the probable future, as many people understand it. Herman Kahn once said, “The most likely future isn’t.” He meant that the most likely future is not likely. The likely future is one that is more likely to happen than not. But the most likely future is simply the one that is more probable than any other single future, but it is usually not likely, meaning that is usually not more than 50% probable. Something usually else happens instead. For instance, when you roll a pair of dice, the most likely outcome is seven, but it only occurs once every six times on average. Some other number comes up five out of six times. So the most likely outcome (seven) is not likely.

Foresight takes that as a given. It also recognizes that past data is less valid as an indicator of the future than it used to be and that the speed of change and the increasing frequency and impact of disruptions increase the degree of uncertainty even more. So the Expected future, where we are headed and where we expect to end up, is not wrong, but it is only one of many plausible futures. Foresight professionals recognize that the real future is not the one predicted future, but many plausible futures and that we should approach the future with that in mind.

Foresight professionals do recognize the value of the improvement in numerical forecasting in the 20th century, but they supplement those techniques with other techniques that identify the assumptions in those predictions. They examine those assumptions with a critical eye, not to prove them wrong, but rather to ask what could happen instead. The result is a set of scenarios. That view is slowly making its way into thinking and practice in business, government and civil society, but it is still a minority view since a perspective that focuses on uncertainty and contingency does not provide the comfort of certainty that the most likely future does. Of course, focusing only on the most likely future also carries the risk that something else might happen instead. One cannot eliminate that risk entirely because no one can possibly enumerate and prepare for all possible futures, but it reduces the risk which itself a benefit.

Foresight creates a habit of mind that expects the most likely futures to occur, but is also prepared for something else to occur instead.

That is a more complex frame of mind, but one that is uniquely suited to the changing conditions of our time”

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