Henry Ford said this in 1916, motivated by the thought that we collectively spend a lot of time looking back to our past to evaluate who did what, why, when and how. He thought that we should live in the present and look to the future, freed by our technological abilities. And while, to a great extent we have stopped looking to the past. Because the speed of technological change is such that each generation finds the previous one remoter and harder to understand. My father never had, or wanted, a mobile phone. Or used the Internet. But we still study history a great deal because we understand as a culture that we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past, or forget their glory, however remote. School libraries are still full of histories of the Tudors, the Wars, European History, etc., and students still sit down and write long essays about their understanding of the past to satisfy exam boards.
I wonder how our culture would change if we were to spend an equal amount of time analysing how things could going to turn out in the future if we continue on the same paths as we are. Or what if Futurity were to be given a small section of the curriculum. What would the outcome be if children, teachers and parents were forced to consider how the future might actually turn out, what patterns of behaviour might enable a positive outcome for them, what politics might enable them to thrive, and what environmental conditions might be present when their children are sitting their exams?
The development of climate change models over the last decade has dramatically changed how we think about and use the science of forecasting. It is not true to say that we can predict the future, but we can now run sophisticated models of the past, that accurately produce past results, and then run them forward to see how the future will work using predicted data. This is the origin of the famous Hockey Stick Graph. The BBC ran a climate change crowd sourced simulation between 2005-2007. Inspired by the power of these, there are now weather models, economic models, biodiversity models, climate models, all developed because we have computer processing and mathematics at our disposal that previous generations could only dream about. Why not use some of that power to educate our children, and through them, us. The Cloud stores our data, and as we recently learned, spends a great deal of power just sitting there doing very little. Our children could use some of that processing power in the curriculum examining how their future might turn out. If they don’t like what they find, I think that it would empower them and their families to do something about it.
Example crowd sourced simulations can be found at