Minneapolis—The hoary aphorism headlined above, variously attributed to Yogi Berra, Neils Bohr or Mark Twain, didn't stop the 1000 or so people gathered at the World Future Society's (WFS) annual meeting, including me, from trying their hand at prognostication. I was also invited to give a keynote talk entitled "The Great Ecological Restoration Begins."
The WFS claims 25,000 members in 80 countries around the world. Timothy Mack, president of the WFS, told me that the membership skewed 70-30, men to women. I was also struck by the amount of grey hair in the audience. My guess is that the average age of attendees is around 60. Talking with people in the corridors between sessions, it appeared to me that the older participants tended to think that the future was dire, while the younger set was anticipating the next big technical innovation. I also have to say with some disappointment that a lot of futurists I've encountered at the meeting uncritically accept politically correct notions of impending environmental doom. In addition, a high percentage of the presenters are consultants who make a living by providing insights on future products, services, and other consumer trends.
The WFS meeting is a protean affair with lots of concurrent sessions, so one person can't report on it all. The titles of some of the sessions should give you a flavor of the proceedings:
• "Clash to Confluence of Civilizations: A Spiral Dynamics Perspective on Global Integration and Human Emergence"
• "Cognitive Transition and the New Consumer Mind"
• "The Future of RFID"
• "An Examination of the Future of Wind Energy"
• "What Use Are Men?' The Future of Gender Roles in Society"
• "The Evolution and Future Direction of Marriage"
• "Technological Prospective as a Driver for Innovation in High-Complexity Products"
• "The Future of Teams: Emerging Imperatives for Managing in a Complex and Virtual World Data by the Yottabyte by 2050"
• "Holy Terror: Thinking the Unthinkable"
And these sessions are just a few of those that were held on Monday.
The Future of Love and Family
The WFS conference started with two keynote talks. The first was by Rutgers University anthropologist and the chief scientific officer of the web dating site chemistry.com, Helen Fisher. Her interest in human sexuality drives her academic research, and she is the author of a number of popular books on the topic, e.g., The Sex Contract, The Anatomy of Love, The First Sex, and Why We Love. The title of Fisher's presentation—"The Future of the Family: Lust, Romance, and Attachment"—was titillating enough.