On Preparing for Change…

In 2008 the Pew research group asked a group of us how much change we thought there would be in the 21st century compared to the 20th century?

We were given three options. How would you have voted?                                                           

UnknownChange in the 20th century was rapid. Think of the fact that at the beginning of the century, we could not yet fly. The Wright Brothers had their first successful flight in 1903. Then, 63 years later in 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. That’s blazing fast change happening. How many of you remember the world before email?  How many of you have actually used a landline to make a call? How many of you used to read an actual newspaper with your morning coffee? Those things all seem so long ago. When it comes to change, the 20th century was a blur. How fast will change come in the 21st century?

I think that “We will see more change in the next 100 years than we have in our first two million” as a species (from Makers of Fire, June 2014). The technology behind drones is outpacing the technology behind mobile phones. (And think about how they changed in the last five years). Soon, UAVs (think flying robots) will take to our commercial airspace. The race for genetic enhancements will be for the 21st century what the space race was for the 20th. And much, much more….I’m not sure that we’re prepared for the changes we will see in the next 10 years much less 100. How are you preparing for change?

What do you think?

(PS. I’ll post the answer the Pew Research Group gave us on the follow up post, On Preparing for Change – 2.)

On Becoming Human


Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1.26)

Three Ideas to Ponder on Becoming Human…

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: God’s not finished with me yet. What if that were actually true species wide? What if the creating God began in Genesis 1 is still ongoing? Perhaps the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a creation story pointing towards the goal to be accomplished far in the future: to give birth to the human. So, this short post is just a brain twister, the kind of thing I think about late at night.

Here are the three ideas:

1. We are not human yet…

To be human is an aspiration, not a present reality. Think about this word, inhumane. It means “not human like.” Why do we even have a word that expresses the negation of what we are? When a lion makes a kill, we don’t think, how inlione. That’s just not lion like. When they maul another animal, they’re acting according to their nature. But when we are inhumane, are we acting according to our nature or contradicting it? Whichever way you answer, the result  is pretty scary. We are both “human like” and “not human like.” Perhaps somewhen down the road we will actually become human.

What do you think? Chime in on our survey below.

2. Neither are we human beings

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings. Probably they’re trying to emphasize our identity, the priority of who we are, over our works, the value of what we do. However, this term human being doesn’t sit well either.  We don’t have “being” in and of ourselves. We’re not immortal “beings.” The term human creature is closer. Whether you’re a theist or not, you recognize that humans had a beginning.  Whether through an act of God or through naturally occurring evolutionary forces or both,  we came into existence. We are creatures just like all the other life forms that populate the eco system.

3. We are human becomings

Still even human creature sticks a little. How can we emphasize our creatureliness and the fact that we are not yet human? We are human becomings. We had a beginning and we are on a journey towards that which we aspire to be: human. We are a story in the middle of the telling. There is value both in what we aspire to “be” and what we “do.” Both are necessary for “becoming.”

So rejoice. God is indeed not yet finished with you. And, as I’ve often said, Jesus did not come to make the world Christian. We can set our sights higher. He came to make it (and us) human.

Shapeshifting Marriage and Family Constructs for the 21st Century

Where is the social construct of marriage headed in the 21st century?

Is it possible that rather than dividing along the lines of “for” or “against” gay marriage, we may see a new dividing line of …

on the one side…
a more conservative and traditional “pro-marriage and pro-family” construct advocated by both gay and straight constituents

on the other side…
“anti-marriage” or “freedom of relationships” advocates (again made up of both gay and straight constituents) that adopt progressive views about relationships and child bearing.

Imagine… a legally married gay person arguing for pro-family values and against the practice of childbearing outside the bonds of matrimony, or against polygamous relationships, or arguing against the practice of serial “living together” relationships.

These images of possible futures came to mind when child advocate David Blankenhorn had a change of heart. An avid supporter of traditional marriage who emphasized the need for fathers in the home, Blackenhorn has not changed his basic values about marriage and family. He views marriage as “the” institution that exists as a gift to children. It exists to assure children that their birth parents who brought them into the world will nurture and care for them. As such, “marriage” can never truly apply to gay couples.

But for him, the debate about gay marriage was about the child and about society. For his opposition, the debate was about the adults and their individual rights. After years of debating, Blankenhorn concluded that, by and large, regardless of the merits, he simply did not make his case. The elites and younger Americans did not see things his way. His opposition successfully framed marriage as a private and personal matter, the meaning of which can be determined by the individuals involved, and not about society’s obligation to structure itself for the benefit of the young.

Now what? For political purposes, Blankenhorn has changed strategies. He has chosen to join forces with pro-marriage gay activists in his cause to strengthen the institution of marriage.

Will his strategy work? Is this a possible realignment that will gain strength? What will be the pro-family values of a “post-traditional marriage” world?

Let this sink in… We’re experiencing a civilizational shift.

Survey –Click here to Select ONE

  • Are we…seeing the creation of a new moral norm– a pro-marriage, pro-family agenda — in which gay and straight activists work together to raise a cultural standard.
  • Are we… seeing the first steps towards the recognition of other forms of nontraditional relationships such as polygamous, polyamorous, interspecies, and eventually man and machine.
  • Are we… seeing the emergence of a world that is more hostile to children.

Here are the source links:


Participate in the survey

A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington, 1798

The desire to give thanks is (to me) one of the more interesting of human compulsions. We give thanks to one another and that’s understandable. But what about those moments in which we encounter such beauty — like when, in the autumn of the year, we reach the top of a hill and a valley of color spreads out before us — and a feeling of gratitude wells up inside of us? Who or what do we thank?  We thank our lucky stars, the gods, nature, or our good fortune because our instincts, our hearts, our minds somehow know to reach out to whatever is the source of everything.

So, as Thanksgiving is my favorite celebration of the year, and, as I write much about the future, I thought I would offer you something from the past: A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington dated October 3, 1789.


Thanksgiving Proclamation
President George Washington
City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Two Mysterious Human Behaviors

Every now and then we hear reports of whales stranding themselves on shore. Why they do this is a mystery.

Moving from whales to humans, two human behaviors seem to me to be equally mysterious. First, the loss of a desire to have children. This is not too common but it is more and more visible, especially among the more affluent. Second, the loss (among the young) of a desire to have sex.

Our world is full of children and explorations of sexuality run rampant and often destructively among us. The desire to have children and to have sex (with or without thought of children) are biologically embedded instincts. Would not the loss of these desires run counter to our biologically derived instincts? If these attitudes and behaviors continued and expanded, what kind of future would we create?


What is the future of children? I don’t mean the future of the children in the world. I mean the future of having children.

One of my favorite movies is Children of Men. The premise of the movie is that couples, for some unexplained reason, stopped having children. It is a dystopian vision of a future with no children and, thus, no hope. (For an interesting take on this thought – http://nyti.ms/1c0HoEp).

An essay I read in the New York Times, Opting out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind, made me wonder if the reverse is also true. Is the loss of hope tied to loss of a desire to have children?

The essayist, a married, affluent, and urban young woman, writes about the economic sacrifices of having children. According to her, when she explained the article she was writing to other mothers, their words to her were: “good for you”. Not exactly the kind of mothers I’m used to.

What stands out to me from her essay is not the economics of having children. What stands out to me is that she could find no good reasons for having a child. Ironically, I could not escape the deep sense of poverty in her view of life.

I’m sure the essayist is a fine, loving, and healthy person, but this article made me ask a dark, dark question about the worldview it suggests. I have to ask, What if children were free, a dime a dozen? Would she and her husband (who is very concerned with the way humans tax the planet) find a reason or the space in their lives for a child?

I wonder, how similar is the worldview of this essay to that of Toni Vernelli who aborted her child to save the planet and about whom I wrote in an earlier post?

This question is not about the authors of the articles in particular. I’m sure there’s a world of difference between them as individuals. But there seems to be larger cultural questions here. After all, there is a culture wide decline in births. Somewhere around midcentury, the world’s population will plateau and then decline.


Demographically speaking, the single most important measurement of humankind is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). The magic number in measuring TFR is 2.1. That’s how many births per household a population needs to replace itself.

Many of the western democracies are experiencing birth rates lower than 2.1. In other words, our whole culture seems to be stepping into a worldview similar to the one mentioned above. Is our culture concluding that having children just isn’t worth it?

If demography is destiny, then is it the destiny of the west to disappear? Are we having our very own “Children of Men” moment?

Earlier generations delighted in the birth of a child. I wonder, has the loss of a religious view of life so disoriented us that we cannot be bothered with even the most basic evolutionary compulsions? (The irony of that last sentence does not escape me.)

Or, do the young somehow intuit that they live at the twilight of their society and from this deep lack of hope feel nothing worth sharing and passing on to a new generation?

Is it a good thing now to not have children? Since we seem to have lost the natural instinct of it, perhaps it is better to stop. At least until we discover a reason to live, to enjoy life, and to love it enough to want to be part of expanding the experience.

This is HUGE.

Here’s another even more mysterious symptom of the same malaise. Not only did Japan have fewer births in 2012 than any previous year, young people in Japan have stopped having sex.  Just in case you read what your brain thought should appear in the text, let me put an emphasis on the key word: “Stopped.”  You can’t even get to the question of should we or should we not have children, if you despise physical contact.
Japanese man and woman lean away from each other

Just when you thought the impossible never happened. Here it is.
The article stated: “A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 ‘were not interested in or despised sexual contact’. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.”
It feels weird to ask this but, is not having sex becoming an epidemic in Japan?

What’s going on here? Is it a positive? Are we finally gaining mastery over our naturally evolved instincts?

Or, Is this a surrender to the meaninglessness of it all? Are these attitudes symptoms of the dis-ease of hopelessness that can attack all humans anywhere at anytime? Both situations mentioned here are a manifestation of their own context and culture. At very least, we can say that not having children and not having sex are, biologically, dead ends. Are they the human equivalent of diseased whales beaching themselves on the shore? Something about life stops working. And we run counter to the most basic drives within us.

In the negative, we can postulate that human societies start by dismissing Spirit or Meaning which leads to hating life and evolves to despising each other. In the positive, we can experiment by breathing faith, hope, and love into a culture that can’t seem to figure out why humans are worth saving, worth bringing into the world, or even worth touching.

What do you think?

See you in the mystic…

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Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 2

In my last post, “Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 1“,
I suggested that a deep force driving change is the human pursuit of a new way to live.

Today I want to follow up with a short extension of that idea by asking,
In what ways are humans pursuing this new way to live?

I suggest that we are turning

from “individual/tribal” to “communal”
from “above” to “within”
from “against” to “with”

From Tribal to National to Communal

There has been a progression in human history from radical exclusiveness towards growing inclusiveness. In other words, our sense of who is an “insider” and who is an “outsider” is changing.
In early days, those who belonged to the tribe or clan were insiders. This idea of who is an insider/ outsider would extend at times to a federation of  tribes of clans. Insiders were those who belonged to a family of tribes/ clans.

This understanding evolved with the rise of nations. Now inclusion was not limited to blood ties, but by belonging to a nation. Our identities extended themselves belong the tribe to include anyone who was our countryman.

In more recent times, due to the ubiquity of the web-based connections and social media, our sense of identity is expanding once again. Anyone anywhere can be our “friend”.  Citizenship is global and communal.  The sense of “us” and “them” is blurring and the sense of connection is growing.


From “Above” to “Within”

Humans see themselves less as “above” the natural world and more as “within” the natural world. Rather than “control” over the environment (and perhaps even  “leverage” over other nations, and “power” in our relationships), we sense that we belong to the environment (and to each other). People, like the citizens of Costa Rica that are in the process of closing their Zoos, want, in the words of one observer, “all of God’s creatures to live free”.

Human Nature Paintings

From “Against” to “With”

Humans are desiring more collaborative environments and ways to nurture the young versus the competitive environs we’ve been used to. Some moms in the USA would rather have their kids play in little league soccer games in which “everyone” wins and feelings are protected. Winning the World Cup is not a value in this shift. Making sure that everyone feels valued is.

To say that our sense of identity has evolved from tribal to global/communal is not to say that we don’t value and long for community. We still want to belong to a team. We want to be “with” each other instead of “against” one another.

What does this mean for leadership?


In this time of transition it is crucial to nurture the human spirit. The structures and programs that we have created no longer give us the space to be free, to create, to invent, to discover.  (Click on the last idea to tweet).

We are the only creatures –as far as we know– that ask, “why?”  The speed at which we live does not give us space to ponder this most crucial question. We can hardly breathe much less think. So many of us are so time-starved that we cannot connect, so wired that we are disengaged from the tactile world around us. (Click on the last idea to tweet). As a result, we have forgotten who and what we are and desperately long to remember.

As leaders, what values do we organize our lives around? What are the values our business culture organizes around? Are these values expansive enough to nurture the human spirit?

I sense that these are three ways that humans are looking for new ways of living. We want  …

to connect.

to reenter.

to belong again.

What do you think?

Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 1

When we think about drivers of change, we often think about technology. The most primal and ancient technological advance, the domestication of fire, changed everything about us. Some of us think of change as a “top down” process and so our thoughts go immediately to government as the main driver. Futurists, who are all about studying change, scan the STEEP (Society, Technology, Economics, Enviroment, Politics) domains for drivers of change. Most of us so often think of the big forces that drive change that we forget the very human role in local and global transformation.

In that light, I want to lift from obscurity another profound force that is driving 21st century culture: Humans are looking for a new way of living. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks

Homo Erectus and Fire

The pursuit of a new way of being is why educated and motivated sales people go on vision quests, high powered corporate executives explore Buddhism, and intellectuals experiment with psilocybin.

It’s why the country of Costa Rica wants to do away with their Zoos and let wild animals live wild.

It’s why Millennials in the workforce want to volunteer for community projects and will work for less for an organization they believe in.

People want to feel whole.



In terms of religious change, there is a rise in the number of those who claim “no religious affiliation”. We call them the “nones.”

I know so many people of intense, vibrant faith who classify themselves as “nones” because they’re detaching from traditions in search of something authentic.

This leads me to suspect that the rise of those who identify themselves religiously as “nones” may reflect the rise of the discovery of a deeper spirituality as much as it signals an abandonment of the institutions of faith. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks!

We want to be healed, to feel connected. We just don’t know exactly what it is that ails us. We just know that being “friends” on social networks isn’t enough. The discovery of a new way of living requires a journey of discovery, and our whole culture is on it.



What does this mean for leadership in the 21st century?

To believe that “things” can “make sense” is quite a leap of faith. But all leadership is about “sense-making”. Leaders must describe reality (assessment), a preferred future (vision), paths to get there (strategy), and the non-negotiables (culture). In a world in which humans long for meaning and pursue a new way of being, leadership means both the way we talk about what ails us and the way we energize human community towards a commonly desired future.

Some of us witnessed, during the last two decades of the 20th century, the demise of centrally controlled hierarchical organizations. This demise was represented most visibly by the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.

Q: What has been replacing these pyramids?

A: Experiments in ways to build community and attend to friendships in the context of our passions.

In a way, humans want to build that ancient tribal fire again. This is a deep driving force without which we cannot understand the world around us.

Idyllic and fanciful?


But changing the world does not begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks!

Click the image to tweet the text. Thanks!

Click the image to tweet the text


What do you think?

Sex with Robots

As some of you know, I do a couple of talks under the title of Sex with Robots. These talks are not about sex with robots specifically, but about our evolving relationship to technology and our growing estrangement from both ourselves and each other.

I point out how the best source for imagining the future has been the arts/entertainment with special reference to science fiction. This suggests the absolute necessity of imagination, creativity, and playfulness in anticipating the future whether you’re an amateur or a professional foresight strategist.

Photograph by Max Aguilera-Hellweg Nick Mayer, of the LifeNaut project in Vermont, sits down for a chat with the robotic head Bina48. Hanson Robotics created the talkative humanoid in the image of Bina Rothblatt, the co-founder of LifeNaut, which is exploring robot-human fusion as a technological path to immortality.

Photograph by Max Aguilera-Hellweg
Nick Mayer, of the LifeNaut project in Vermont, sits down for a chat with the robotic head Bina48. Hanson Robotics created the talkative humanoid in the image of Bina Rothblatt, the co-founder of LifeNaut, which is exploring robot-human fusion as a technological path to immortality.


FIRST…The Sense of “feeling”

Let’s think about two emerging developments and where they might lead us. First, The development of technology that will mimic human skin. This could be a wonderful technology for those with artificial limbs. Imagine adding an artificial limb that “feels” through nanoscale sensors that send messages to the brain. On the other side, imagine adding this “skin” to androids. Will it come to pass that future robots, garbed in human-like skin, will be able to feel?

Here’s the relevant link: Human Skin

SECOND…Emotional Attachments

Second, We’ve all heard of those people that fall in love with objects, like Erika La Tour Eiffel who married the Eiffel Tower. But that’s just the odd person here and there, right?

A new study suggests that humans “can and will form emotional attachments to robots.” Because one of the anticipated uses of these machines will be to assist the elderly, future robots may be designed to look and feel more like organic beings than metal objects. What other kinds of emotional attachments might we anticipate?

Here’s the relevant link: Emotional Attachment

As I’ve stated before, when thinking about the future, it isn’t enough to ask “What will happen”? We must ask, “What will happen because of what happens”?


Here are some questions to provoke your thinking.

  • What if an elderly person, who has grown emotionally attached to her/his android, wants to leave their fortune to the preservation, sustaining, and upgrading of their personal robot?
  • If a future robot inherited a fortune and could thereby maintain itself and upgrade itself, will we have robots that “live” independently for thousands of years?
  • What would happen to the sex trafficing industry, if androids and gynoids “peopled” future “red light” districts?
  • What if future humans want to “marry” and form families with future androids because of love? On what basis could we object?

Give these questions a shot. Remember, loosen up and have fun. Only the future is at stake.

What do you think?

Printing Food – Things that could happen in the next 10 years (3)

Some of you may remember the original Star Trek series in which the food for the crew was “materialized” in a machine that looked something like a microwave. Well now we’ll be printing food. According to dezeen, “3D printing expert Janne Kyttanen has produced prototype printed pasta, breakfast cereal and burgers to demonstrate how advances in 3D printing could transform the way we eat.” For the complete article click here..

We’ll be printing houses and organs. If and when we learn to print at the cellular level, What will become possible? Printed humans?

Scouting the Future

How can leaders neutralize decision-making paralysis in the face of a complex and ever changing context? When it comes to complexity and change, we are in a class five white water rapid. Unexpected events happen so rapidly that we often feel our raft is about to flip. white-water-rafting-1

Just think of the massive changes we have experienced from

  • Societal changes* (attitudes towards same-sex marriage, aging populations of the Western Nations, Japan, and China)* to
  • Technological advances (the mobile internet, UAV’s (think flying robots)*, to the new
  • Economic realities of the last 5 years, to
  • Environmental issues (think the damage of ecosystems like the Amazon), to the constantly changing
  • Political landscapes of the middle east.

As leaders are often in the midst of the fray and focused on keeping operations going, they can often times lose sight of the bigger picture, or the macro-environment. And so, change comes at them without warning.

In white water rafting, there is a rule of thumb we follow when we are unsure of what lies down river. We say, “When in doubt, scout.” One of the tools that we use to help leaders develop greater mental agility for decision-making is called environmental or “horizon” scanning. It’s a way of looking down river, a way of “scouting the future”.

A lot of you will feel lost at about this point. You have so much going on in the present. For guidance you look to the past for precedents or for successful models that have worked. Who has time for the future?

Well, if you work in an industry in which nothing changes, then what worked in the past may work for you now. But in this universe, what worked in the past is no guarantee of success in the present much less the future, because change is coming. In fact, one of the greatest obstacles you will face as you encounter tomorrow’s questions will be yesterday’s answers.

Take a look at the “changes” described in the first paragraph above. They conform to an acronym, STEEP, often used by futurists. The domains of Society, Technology, Environment, Economics, and Politics give the scanner the starting points for scouting the future. For a quick visual on scouting the future, here’s a short Prezi on the steps we take in using the “Horizon” Scanning tool.

By scanning the STEEP domains for signals of change, a leader readies himself for change through enhancing an alertness to change. The changes at this macro-level may be years in coming, if they come at all. And this is the point: to be aware that change is coming, even if we are not sure which change, is a superpower developed by those with a “futures orientation” (plural intended). It can help create pliability and cultivate mental agility in the face of complexity and uncertainty.


Let’s say this another way. The reason to scout the future is not to predict the future. In fact, it is proverbial among futurists that “the future cannot be predicted”. The reason to scout the future for signals of change is to enhance one’s ability to make decisions in light of the fact that the future cannot be predicted.

Horizon Scanning can happen in at least 3 layers:

Layer 1: inside my company) Layer 2: inside my industry ) Layer 3: outside in the macro-environment)

Layer 3 contains the changes that are happening that will, sooner or later, be impacting you and your business. Lift up your eyes and scan the horizon.

What do you think?

Processing Questions:
How are you and your team “scouting the future” in layers 1, 2, and 3?
What are you doing to create a “future-orientation” among your team?
What tools and/or practices would help you increase you future readiness?

* Thanks to those of you who attended M2011 and M2012 who saw how the topics we covered (UAV’s, Sex with Robots, How to Create Culture and Social Change) have been all over the news in 2013.