Overcoming our Imagination Problem

Imagine our civilization crashing. A rift in one of the many failure points in our current systems: natural disasters, viral outbreaks, political instability, nuclear or biochemical terrorism, hacking of key infrastructures or military institutions, financial system collapse, technology taking over and eliminating the “human virus” from planet earth…

The options for dystopia are plentiful. Hollywood has been feeding them to us for years.

But can you imagine success of the human experiment?

What would it look like if we solved all the issues we are currently facing?

What would a world look like in which every child had the resources, support and loving relationships to unfold themselves to their highest potential? Where they would grow up to be intrinsically motivated value creators, giving of their individuality freely to contribute to the whole?

What would such a world look like?

Much harder to imagine.

We have an imagination problem. Our capacity to imagine the future is tied to our earliest stages of development. Even babies dream. The capacity to anticipate and imagine possible futures evolved early on to protect us from harm. Consequently, it easily gets hijacked by our fears. A part of us is always on the lookout for potential threats. It’s easy to worry.

To imagine positive futures requires effort. It requires us to calm down our fears actively, so we can overcome the barrier of novelty. Dare to break out of the fold and imagine what could be. If you want to create something, you have to imagine it first.

This goes for our future as a whole, and starts with our own future. Imagining your ideal future is a good first step. Then expand your spheres of concern.

If enough of us imagine positive futures, we might actually be able to create them.


Philip Horváth is a catalyst and planetary strategist who is a partner in luman.io, writes a blog about future, culture and leadership at Medium.com, and tweets under @philiphorvath.