Cover image: Guest Blog: Teaching About the Future

Guest Blog: Teaching About the Future

Written by Amber Demetrius, Welsh Centre for International Affairs

When I was younger, I did an exercise where you had to draw three circles. Their size and proximity to one another were entirely up to you but you simply had to draw them. My circles looked something like this:

After completing my exercise, I learned that this was a test to see how you viewed time. Each circle represents a time period in your life (e.g. past, present, future) and the size you give it has a direct correlation to its importance for you. Of course, some people interlocked the circles, showing their understanding that what you did now was influenced by past, or that what you did now would influence the future. I should add that I have no idea if this is an accurate test, but I think the fact that it stayed with me shows it meant something to me all the way back in 1994.

 For 14 year old me, the circles made good sense. I was a teenager, desperate to grow up and make my mark on the world and generally at a point in my life where everything about my family and past were embarrassing. I think my circles would be different now and I wonder what 14 year olds today would say if we gave them this test?

 I was recently at the European Congress where a Youth Researcher spoke about the future he saw for young people. He predicted that young people today would look forward to a life lived under far more diverse circumstances, where we could expect:

  • continuing growth in city living with a thriving but unstable job market. People will no longer stay in one place but move from job to job, frequently travelling between large cities to follow the work in a globalised world
  • continuation in the dropping birth rate as more and more people choose not to have children in a world with such radical global problems (Climate Change, Dictatorships and Covid to name a few)
  • continuation of the obesity crisis in developed countries, with more and more households becoming sedentary in Western societies, using technology to entertain themselves in worsening weather conditions.

I wonder what others might make of his findings. I certainly think they would form a great basis for debate because there are so many conditions required to make the outcomes possible. How does the rise in obesity weigh up against the rise in veganism in many cultures? Do we believe that village living has had its day or might the return of home working (catalysed by the pandemic) have changed things? Do we think that people will stop having children altogether or is it too innate to human experience to disappear completely?

I am part of a project that is exploring some of these questions. Our “The World we Want in 2121” project invites participants to explore concepts of the future and then to take action on creating the future they would hope for. I say “hope for” because the truth is that it’s human nature to fear the worst. For most people, if you ask them about the future of the world, they instantly go to apocalyptic science fiction. If the killer robots don’t get us, the killer disease might!

However, that is our survivalist brain talking. The one that tells us to not leave our caves because we might get eaten by a dinosaur. In truth, what I love about imagining the future is that anything is possible and the exercise of imagining gives us the challenge to leave our mental caves, in hope for something better than we have today. And what we must remember when we are drawn to the dystopic realities is that we live in a world where we have also created charities, made innovations, sent people to space.

Going back to the three circles exercise, I think I would now draw something like this:

I would draw it this way because I can see that my past makes me who I am, and that, without an intention to make the future better from me, a better future is not possible. However, the most important circle is the one that brings my identity together with my intentions. If it’s possible to be a little better each day, eventually those circles loop together like those made by raindrops in a puddle. Only these circles form a constellation upwards towards the life and the people we want to be.

 “The future has been at war, but it’s coming home so soon .

- Neil Hilborn

If you would like to know more about futures thinking, you might find the links below helpful:

Based on feedback that we’ve had from schools, we are trialling a challenge in the form of a Newsletter. With each blog we send out, we invite students, teachers and anyone else that is interested to create their own newsletter with the format we’re providing here: Newspaper-template

Do feel free to send it back to us and we will put it on our webpage in the coming months.


Originally posted here on WCIA's website.

The Welsh Centre for International Affairs are partnered with Reboot the Future as co-UK Representatives for the North-South Centre for the Council of Europe.