Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

Those who think about the future often imagine it as horrible, daunting and in some cases even apocalyptic — a future where humanity is swept up in raging conflicts and countless uncertainties. Overpopulation, climate change, food security. These and other worries make it tempting perhaps to focus on the easier challenges of the here and now, rather than casting one’s mind to the distant future, whether that is our own realistic view of the future or even a future comprised of dreams.

Looking back to review historical attitudes to the future in the 19th and 20th centuries, and even into the early years of the 21st century, we find that there were many who took a pessimistic view of their possible futures. Imagine yourself as a solider or a citizen living in Europe through the two World Wars. How difficult would it be to convince someone from that time that the future to come would be one where peace will endure among the nations of Europe and where most of humanity will be reaping the benefits of amazing breakthroughs in science and technology. The technologies we take for granted today would have almost magical properties for us from the past and yet we are looking at a generation of people still alive today who can remember the hopelessness and misery of a World War, food rationing, of losing loved ones to diseases such as typhus and cholera and of using a horse and cart for transportation.

There are some benefits to simply talking and dreaming about the future. Usually, the future we would desire for ourselves or our children is a future in which things are better than they are today and where the grass in always greener. Casting our minds into the future allows us to dream, to venture and explore our imagination without the fears of boundaries and other limitations; to dream up innovative and world-changing ideas that may enable us to explore solutions to issues like hunger, peace, space exploration and others that our everyday minds cannot comprehend. In fact, Albert Einstein had once said: “Logic will take you from point A to point B. Imagination will take you everywhere ...”

How often have we seen science fiction turned into fact? Dreamers’ dreams turned into reality? Thinking, dreaming and talking about the future goes hand-in-hand with imagination and it is only through breaking the barriers we construct to confine ourselves will we be able to truly think of issues and aspects of life in a manner that is forward-thinking, innovative and most importantly, one which positively impacts the world.

What will happen if we stop talking and thinking about the future? Simply, when we stop thinking, dreaming or even talking about the future, we get distracted by our present woes and cares to the point where moving forward becomes a challenge that will stagnate us as a species. Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson articulates this: “When a nation dreams big, its citizenry dreams big and dreaming big is what makes tomorrow come!”

A prime example of not taking the future into consideration is the issue of climate change. I would argue if we truly had a far-sighted view of our future, we would have seen the possibility of our actions harming our planet much sooner. Some did, but their voices were lost by the pressure of the many who instead were focusing on the day to day. If we truly have a view that encompasses the future, that factors it into our balance sheets, our quarterly reports, our elections and educational processes, we would not be going to war over short-term conflicts or differences; we wouldn’t be wasting resources on short-term fixes, but would be building long-term solutions with far-sighted goals. Dr Tyson’s We Stopped Dreaming video on YouTube gives a great perspective and frames a dialogue for casting our minds into the future.

Thinking, dreaming and talking about the future empower us to look at the world and the universe around us differently. It allows us to study and be prepared for whatever circumstances may yet happen. It enables us to take risks we would otherwise not have taken, to be visionary and far-sighted. Today, more than any time in human history, we have the ability and the capacity to think freely and indulge in any future that we see fit. Let us capitalise on this prospect and work towards a future in which all of humanity benefits, one way or another ...

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

— Malcolm X

Saeed Al Gergawi is a specialist in future technology trends. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@saeed_algergawi