To better understand futuring, one of the first concepts we can explore is the idea of trends. Futuring, seeks to help us prepare for the future, to be ready for tomorrow with the understanding of what might be. This enables us a business and/or a leader to adjust to the changes and compete aggressively in the changing marketplace.
Learning to be a futurist means learning to see trends. This allow us to project what is happening now across time and space, knowing that these trends could change at any time. However, projecting trends is vital for seeing the future.
In his book, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, author Edward Cornish describes six supertrends that help bring about cultural change. Of these six, Comish notes that “technological progress as the main engine driving the rapid cultural evolution that we are now experiencing” where technology “does not just mean machines or material objects but knowing how to achieve practical purposes.”
Technology is driving cultural change. And it is the superforce behind the other five supertrends Comish describes.
Here are the six supertrends that futurists must understand:
Technological progress is the first supertrend. It encompasses many lesser trends, such as incremental improvements in computers, materials, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and hundreds of other technological specialties.
Technological progress, however, is more than a supertrend. It is also a super force because it creates massive change, including other supertrends, which are powerful instruments of change in their own right.
The most obvious supertrend produced by technological progress is economic growth.
This combination of supertrends—technological progress and economic growth—have driven an astounding amount of change in human society. They have also produced four other supertrends: improving human health, increasing mobility, environmental decline, and increasing deculturation.
Technological progress promotes economic growth—our second supertrend—because people are eager to use their know-how to produce goods and services, both for their own use and to sell to others. Economic growth is also a self-sustaining process.
Technological progress and economic growth have led to improving human health because they have produced more food, more effective sanitation, better health services, and so on.
Improving health leads to increasing longevity, which has two very important consequences: population growth and a rise in the average age of the population.
Technological progress, economic growth, and population increase combine to cause a fourth supertrend: increasing mobility. Though less explored than some of the other super trends, mobility is a force to be reckoned with.
People, goods, and information move from place to place faster and in greater quantity than ever before. Therefore, increasing mobility seems to be the principal cause of globalization—the increasing worldwide integration of human activities.
Mobility can also cause social and cultural disruption. When people move from one city or country to another, they sever or weaken their ties to their families and communities. A wife, a husband, children may be left behind, sometimes permanently. Mobility encourages a short-term perspective: People may see little point in improving their local community if they expect to move elsewhere. Mobility also weakens social institutions.
Environmental decline is continuing for the world as a whole because of continuing high population growth and economic development. And despite strides made by countries, the Earth remains sick and is still getting sicker.
Deculturation, or the loss of traditional culture, occurs when people lose their culture or cannot use it because of changed circumstances. Due to high mobility, rapid change, economic growth, and other factors, increasing deculturation on a global scale qualifies as a sixth super trend.
People are struggling to find a culture, a way of life, to hold on to. The deculturation creates great upheaval and a sense of instability. This feeling dictates how we view our world and live in it.
Seeing Comish’s list of supertrends, do you see something he missed? Can you see how they are making a huge impact on what the future holds?
Q4U: Knowing these supertrends, what are some ways they will impact your life in the future?