What does it mean to lead from the future?

How important is it to develop the skill of leading from the future?

Well, first of all, what does it mean to lead from the future? It means

  • developing a clear picture of the future one prefers
  • cultivating the action-mindset to create it
  • calling on others to join you

IMN_WWR
An essential aspect of this skill is the ability to describe the present. This is not as easy as it might seem, especially in our time of exponentially rapid change. But without cultivating the ability to describe the present, leaders will not be able to anticipate the future.

That’s a skill the prophets of old developed to a high degree.

Many think of the prophets in the Old Testament as soothsayers who could predict the future. But they were mavens at describing the present. They had the courage to open their eyes, see what was really going on around them, and say something about it.

The prophet Nathan rebuked David for the murder of Uriah. The prophets of Israel pointed out the mistreatment of the poor, widowed, and orphaned. Jesus himself read the signs and anticipated the destruction of the Temple.

Twenty-first century leadership needs to hone the ability to describe the present.

In Makers of Fire I talk about three sets of triads or triangles:

  • The triad of fire,
  • the triad of change, and
  • the triad of leadership.

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The Triads of Making Fire
Fuel | Oxygen | Heat = Fire
Artifacts | Meaning | Choice = Change
Describing | Discerning | Discovering = Leadership

from Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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Leaders need to be able to fearlessly describe the world as it is, wisely discern the meaning in the moment, and creatively discover paths forward towards the world as they prefer it.

I mentioned in my last post that if I had to describe the present in one word, it would be that we live in a time of Redefinition. Makers_WordPressThe meaning of fundamental societal structures such as marriage, family, and even gender are being redefined.

We can be grateful for the real opportunity these redefinitions give us to re-engage our story. For one example,

  • What do we make of the fact that Jesus speaks about marriage being redefined at least once already?
  • How do we integrate the fact that polygyny seems to be an acceptable marital structure in the Old Testament (David, Abraham, others)?
  • How do we account for animal suffering and death before the “fall” of man?

Leaving the scripture for the world of science, our DNA tells us that polygyny was a more  common marital structure than one man and one woman. We have more “Moms” than we do “Dads” in our genes. We know today that animals lived, suffered, and died for millions of years before humankind appeared on Earth.

This kind of new data creates problems for those who read Genesis chronologically as a history. The way they read it, the first families were made up of marital units comprised of one man and one woman, and after “the fall” everything got screwed up. And, Adam and Eve’s sin allowed death to enter the world.

  • How can we understand the scriptural story of marriage, family, and sexuality as well the existence of death and suffering before the “fall” alongside a genetic and historical story that starts off messy rather than perfect?

Maybe it’s time to rethink our story, and make it bigger so that it accounts for deep time as well as the new data about life on Earth. How can we do this while being true to the biblical story that  we’re in?

Perhaps the vision of the garden and of the man and woman are not about the past at all. Perhaps they are a vision of the future, a future which no culture has yet attained, but towards which we are moving.

This is just one small example. And this one word, Redefinition, describes only one stream within our 21st century culture.

A second descriptor of our time is Exponentially Rapid Change. The Pew Research Group’s findings indicate that the rate of change in the 21st century would be a thousand times faster than in the 20th. And change in the 20th century was blazing fast. Not only are we defining and redefining, we’re doing it at lightning fast speed.

Are you ready?

In Makers of Fire, I offer a dozen descriptors of the present. Redefinition and Exponentially Rapid Rate of Change are two of them. I’ll offer the rest in posts to come. We’ll also be discussing this in the Master Certificate portion of the IMN 2015 Immersion in Orlando. Hope to see some of you there.

As you look around, what is it that you see?

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The Nones

An excerpt from

MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future
by Alex McManus

The Nones

Unknown-2The longing for a new way to be human may be why so many in the USA, when polled about their religious affiliations, check the box “None.” We call them “the nones.” I know so many people of vibrant faith who classify themselves as “nones” because they’re detaching from traditional religious institutions in search of something more authentic. This is especially acute in the Christian faith because one is not born a Christian.

In the West, many have  forgotten how, and more importantly, why earlier generations came to believe. I suspect that the rise of those who identify themselves religiously as “nones” may reflect the rise of a deeper spirituality as much as it signals an abandonment of the institutions of faith.

In a recent conversation, a very thoughtful 25-year-old expressed this sentiment: “Even if all the claims of Christianity are true, I wouldn’t want to be a Christian.” Some have moved beyond their faith in Western Culture and it’s religion, Christianity. Because this person had at one time been a believer, I asked if there was something about faith that she missed. She informed me that she still believed that God hears her and that she had at one time heard from God, but she was no longer a Christian. Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.40.34 PM

Where might this phenomena of the nones be leading us? It many ways becoming a Christian today may include a turn away from Christendom and the traditional churches that developed during that time. In fact, following Christ, for some, will mean not becoming a Christian.

To make an analogy with the life of Christ, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, then buried by friends. On the third day, he walked among his disciples again, raised from the dead. There were three days of “space” and “time” between the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.

Many today may be followers of Jesus who live in the liminal space after the death of the Christian religion but prior to the resurrection of an expression that can be  trusted again. Rather than rely on truth claims issued by an institution, it will try to remember how to trust again. Rather than institutional, the future of the Christ following faith will begin again as relational.

I suspect that the future of the church may be different than we suspect. Let’s put this radically: The Catholic church is not the church of the future.  Neither is the Orthodox church. The churches of the Reformation are not the church of the future. Neither are the evangelical churches, nor the emerging church, the church of the future. None of these are the church of the future nor the future of the church.

cover

To borrow words from Jesus of Nazareth, these may be some of the seeds but we have not seen the tree. Some will fear the death of the seed. But if the seed doesn’t die, it remains just a single seed. But if it falls into the ground and dies, then it will reproduce itself many times over. (John 12.24)

The search for a new way of being human is the zeitgeist of our times, and many of us are going back to zero and starting again. This is a new  journey of discovery, a new time to seek, and our whole culture is on it.

MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future
by Alex McManus

What is MAKERS OF FIRE about?

BASIC IDEA

Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future  provokes readers to ignite change through their own creativity by using the analogy of Making Fire.
book pic banner
In order for fire to happen, three ingredients must be present:

fuel

oxygen

heat

By analogy, in order to create a “burning event” of social change, we must be

(1) fully present in the moment

Exponential change characterizes our world. Being fully present includes developing an awareness of the “weak signals” of change that are all around us as well as the events and trends that are shaping our present world. This is the Fuel.

(2) shapers of meaning

People are shaped by stories. Shaping meaning means telling the story of the human journey in ways that capture the 21st century imagination. We must engaged and expand our ability to think about the future. This is Oxygen.

(3) dream whisperers who are willing to step into the fray

Creating the future doesn’t begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. But dreams must become acts by which we step between the Fuel of culture and the Oxygen of meaning and ignite a spark of change. This is Heat.

When You bring this three ingredients together, you become a Maker of Fire.

BOOK STRUCTURE

The book is divided in three sections: Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat.

(1)

Fuel turns its attention towards our rapidly changing 21st century culture. It touches on the trends and events that are shaping our world. But not for the purpose of trend spotting or forecasting. Instead, Fuel focuses on our orientation towards futurity for the purpose of understanding and engaging the present.

(2)

Oxygen focuses on a timeless element of the human heart: our search for meaning. This second section explores the ways both theists and atheists, mystics and materialists, are tied together in a search for meaning in life. This is the human religion.

(3)

fireHeat gets practical. This is where dreams become deeds, genies come out of bottles, the imagined materializes into the experienced. This is where you apply your genius, creativity, and initiative to the Fuel of culture that settles like tinder at our feet and the Oxygen of meanings that swirl around us all. This is where you become a maker of fire.

The book is about the spirituality of leading from the future, a much needed corrective for those overly focused on the past and much desired perspective for those trying to be more engaged with the present.

The book releases on November 15, 2014 in Print, eBook, and PDF formats. An interactive PDF is available now at a special price and with special benefits, if purchased before August 31, 2014. We hope you purchase and enjoy the book.

Purchase

MAKERS of FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Look carefully at the photo. What do you see? Those of you who have experienced the beauty of the California coast line will need to brace yourselves. You’re looking at the floor of the Monterey Bay.
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A recent study revealed that 33% of the debris on the floor of Monterey is plastic. Over time this plastic solidifies into a new “rock” called plastiglomerate. This is not just trash. It’s an artifact left behind by us. On hundred thousand years from now a future archaeologist may find the debris in our photo as they burrow through the geological deposits and they will seek to know us through that which we left behind. In my book, Makers of Fire, I discuss the “future” artifacts which we are creating. Think of them as the stories we’re telling future generations.

lush earth

Welcome to the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is an informal moniker of geological time. It means the “time of man”. The formal name of our epoch is the Holocene which began approximately 12,000 years ago. The anthropocene demarcates the point at which humans began to mark the earth. The beginning of the anthropocene is variously dated. Some date it very recently to the time of the industrial revolution. Others take it back a bit further to emergence of cities some 10,000 years ago. I think of it as beginning some 2 million years ago around the time we discovered fire. 

Genesis chapter 1 contains a creation story that, in the end, portrays God as the One who makes living things thrive. Thrive. That’s the word. In this creation story humans are created in the image of God. We are most like God when we make life thrive. Now look at the photo again. Every person that reads the Genesis story in seriousness and couples this with what we are learning about our Earth needs to make a sharp turn back to the earth on mission… a mission to co-create the world with God and make it thrive.

That’s the story we want to tell future generations. 

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One Thing You Should Know about the Future

After reading an interesting and helpful post over at Forbes titled, 6 Things You Should Know About the Future, I was left with a question. The author writes:

The future isn’t what we thought it would be. We don’t walk around in silver suits, travel to colonies on Mars or drive in flying cars. Instead, we dress casual, take selfies and communicate in 140 characters.

Yet in many ways, we’re much better off than we imagined. Rather than a Mad Max dystopia of war, famine and disease we are safer, richer and healthier than we’ve ever been. As I’ve argued before, in a very real sense 140 characters are better than a flying car.

That’s the funny thing about the future. It’s never as fantastic as we hope nor as horrible as we fear.

jetsons

What do you think? Has the future lived up to our expectations? Perhaps it depends on where and when you are.

While I enjoyed the entire post, the last line in the quote above stayed with me. I wondered, Is that really the funny thing about the future? Could these words have been written In Germany in 1945 or NYC in October of 2001 or in early 21st century North Korea? Is the future “never… as horrible as we fear”?

My grandfather was never fully convinced that we had traveled to the moon and back. Too fantastic. Is the future never as fantastic as we hope? I wonder if these words could have been written in the labs where they created the first synthetic life forms in 2010? What’s more fantastic? A flying car or the creation of life in a lab?

True, Our experience may not match Bladerunner or the Jetsons, but 2014 is both fantastic and fearsome. We create life. Soon we will exercise the power of resurrection and bring back an extinct species. Fantastic. The global slave trade thrives and human slaves populate the dark corners of human civilization. Terrifying.

The real sticking point, I think, is the word “never”. It brings to my mind one thing we should all know about the future: We cannot predict it.

There may be coming around the corner something even more fantastic than we’ve ever dreamed and/ or something more fearsome than we have ever imagined… or not. Keep your options open and stay alert.

What do you think?

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July 14-18, Orlando, Florida
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If it Exists, Would’t Heaven be Boring?

A blog post from humanity+ makes the assertion that a future in which Artificially Intelligent entities take care of every human need and want will be boring. I couldn’t agree more. Image Imagine a future in which AI does more than perform all menial tasks for humans. They also do all the challenging tasks. They innovate, create, invent, discover. In that future there is no risk, no failure, no adventure. Let’s call it the boring future.

It’s also a reaction I’ve had when listening to theists talk about heaven. What would an eternity with no adventure, risk, and reward be like? Traditional images of heaven are scary boring. More recently, Christians are gravitating to the idea that heaven is not created by God for humans. God created the Earth for humans… and perhaps by extension the Universes too. Perhaps there’s an implication that we have lots more adventure ahead of us.

I find it interesting that both techno-utopians and Christians have some of the same misgivings about the future.

Both, I think, are pondering the question about our nature, human nature. Can there be happiness for us in an existence that is perfectly free of success and failure, predator and prey, evil and good, search and discovery? Or are we designed to be happiest when pursuing the ideals?

What do you think?

 

PS If you want to know when my book, Makers of Fire, comes out,  subscribe to the list through the link below. Thanks!

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July 14-18, Orlando, Florida
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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.

TWO EMERGING DEVELOPMENTS

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”?

PROCESSING QUESTIONS

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?