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Faster Forward


Impressions of Our Emerging Future
by Melissa Hoffman
 

Introduction

Most of us already know that the world is changing fast—we can feel it in our bones and we can smell it in the air, even though we may not always be able to put our finger on just what it is that's happening. We may notice that the weather is more capricious, or we may shake off a bit of irritation when we find out, for example, that the new computer we purchased just a few months ago has already been superseded by a better-faster-smaller-cheaper-hipper-looking model. What would happen if we sat down to look at what all these small signs of change, taken together and viewed over a longer span of time, might actually be pointing to? It's not necessarily a comfortable or easy exercise to undertake, as we discovered. Because, as those who spend a lot of time thinking about things like change and time will tell you, the kind of change we're in the midst of right now is, by its very nature, different from what we've known before. How? According to the scientists and futurists featured here, all of these apparently isolated changes are part of a larger wave of systemic change that is now occurring with a magnitude and complexity greater than anything the human race has yet experienced. And that rate, some say, is accelerating exponentially—a concept that alone is overwhelming to comprehend. Indeed, the more we learned about change and the future, the more we found ourselves asking the question: Can our existing spiritual and ethical structures—both traditional and contemporary—equip us to handle the enormity, the speed, the complexity, and the overwhelming nature of the changes we're undergoing? Changes that may shortly take us, as you will see in the interviews that follow, far beyond our current capacities of imagination.

As a first step toward finding the answers to these questions, we spoke with a number of scientists, evolutionary thinkers, and futurists, who each view the world of change from a slightly different perspective. From biologist Elisabet Sahtouris's microscopic empires of warring bacteria to inventor Ray Kurzweil's intravenous brain-enhancing nanobots; from futurist Jeremy Rifkin's deathblow to the oil age to Barbara Marx Hubbard's birth of a new consciousness, each contributor opens a unique window into the many dimensions of our changing life conditions. Whether the subject of discussion is as large as our universe or as small as a nanotube, whether it's as tangible as petroleum or as ephemeral as consciousness—one thing you can count on is that it's ALL changing. And just how much and how fast is something that all of us, like it or not, are about to find out.

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This article is from
Our Future Issue