I always enjoy it when my brother’s Psychology Today blog intersects with the themes here at Creative Infrastructure. His topic this week is “the future,” or rather the nostalgia he feels for the way we used to imagine the future back when the present wasn’t quite so technologically . . . well . . . present. As I pondered the Moebius strip of his thesis (how can one be nostalgic for a future that hasn’t yet happened?), the very last space shuttle was taking off on its very last mission, which helped me to understand what Todd is getting at. As I listened to the launch, I felt nostalgic for that first launch in 1981, still in high school, when I could imagine all of the possibilities ahead of me, metaphorically blasting off into an orbit that lasted three decades. But, looking backward at the way I used to look forward won’t do anything for the present, or the future.
Until recently, I directed an academic unit that adopted as its PR tag line “crossing borders . . . into the future.” The word “future” still appears in the unit’s mission and in the mission of the p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship that I continue to head (“paving the way to the future of the arts by investing in student innovation and creativity”). Nobody can predict the future, although trend analysts try hard to do so. What artists and entrepreneurs of all kinds can do, though, is look critically at the past while creating the future. We can imagine the future (sorry to disagree with you, bro) and what we imagine, we can create. We can imagine a future that is not overrun by sex-bots and other smarter-than-human machines. We can imagine a future in which we no longer consume energy at a rate that is killing the planet. We have to imagine that future so that we can create it. And if the distasteful future you describe arrives, I imagine that artists will be on the front lines of its critique.
To create an environment for that kind of imagining will require a different kind of education, one not based solely in solving problems but also in opening doors. The other day, browsing through ted.com, I came across Sir Ken Robinson’s talk from several years ago about how schools are killing creativity. He reminded me of the importance of failure in the creative process. Our education system is designed to reward being right. But perhaps our education system should be (re)designed to reward dreaming, risking, failing, dusting off and starting over – the kind of habitual behaviors of the successful entrepreneur.
George Bernard Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”
Have a dreamy weekend!