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fo012010 the Utopia issue

FO/futureorientation #1 2010

Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies

Instituttet for Fremtidsforskning

Visionary

thinking

Orwell Was a

Pessimist

Nudging utopia

The World According to Fresco

Utopian Spaces


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


A vision is to a business as a lighthouse is to a

ship at sea – a signpost and a guideline for future

direction. A utopia can be roughly the same

thing, albeit on quite another scale. A utopia

describes a future society that is substantially

different from the present. Thus, it distinguishes

itself from a vision in its magnitude and in its

radical nature

Page 10


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


EDITORIAL

Utopia

Utopia comes from Greek. U = ‘no’ + topos = ‘place’, so

‘utopia’ means a non-existing place. 1 ”This is utopian,” we

say, meaning that something is farfetched and unrealistic.

In this way, the concept of utopia has become part of

our daily language and influences the way we think.

However, it is worth noting that utopias are not always

unrealistic, nor does the original meaning of the word

imply they should be. On occasion, they could easily be

realized, if we could just agree to do so. In his article

“The Difference Between Utopias and Visions – and the

Fear of the Totalitarian Nature of the Utopia”, on page

9, Martin Kruse writes about the realistic utopia, and in

particular the origin of the utopia in the history of ideas.

Read it to learn more about what a utopia really is.

Perhaps the modern interpretation of the word ‘utopia’

is to blame when the Renaissance man and futurist

Jacque Fresco says in the article on page 15 that he

doesn’t want to call his life work, The Venus Project, a

utopia. However, this visionary idea of a future society

has many characteristics in common with the utopia. As

Nikolina Olsen-Rude points out in her article, page 37,

the word utopia carries a double meaning, since in Greek

it can mean both the good place (eutopia) and the nonexisting

place (outopia). A good place is precisely what

Fresco has devoted his life to describing and fighting

for. Read more about his ideas in the article and see the

futuristic photos of the project that Fresco and his wife,

Roxanne Meadows, have kindly allowed us to print.

The flip side of the utopia is the dystopia. One of the

best-known fictional dystopias is the classic George

Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1948.

Klaus Æ. Mogensen deals with this novel in two articles

in this FO, ”Orwell Was a Pessimist” and ”Orwell Was

an Optimist”. As the sharp reader may have figured out,

you can – depending on your viewpoint – argue that our

present-day society is both far better and far worse than

the future society Orwell describes in his book. Has the

nightmare of Big Brother from the novel become a reality

today Has the surveillance society won Read the

articles and decide for yourself.

The relationship between utopias and dystopias is interesting.

What is a paradise to some will be hell to others.

History has taught us that people are simply different

and that we can’t formulate a single, universal idea of

‘the good society’ or ‘the good life’ that will satidfy everybody.

It is hence interesting when the three philosophers

Kyle Whyte, Evan Selinger and Søren Riis, the latter an

associated researcher at CIFS, discuss the phenomenon

of nudging in their article Nudging Utopia (page 29).

Nudging is a matter of providing “small, gentle nudges”

in the right direction without making us really notice it.

This is achieved by designing and organizing our surroundings

to influence our behaviour in a certain way. It

is worth learning about this method regardless of which

medium you want to influence behaviour through e.g.

design. However, as usual, the question remains: What

is the ‘right’ direction What is the right behaviour

Here, too, the readers must decide for themselves. For,

as with surveillance technologies, it is the intended goal

when using nudging that must be debated.

There is much more about utopias in this issue of FO,

which also offers a number of interesting contributions

outside of the theme. Read, for instance, the first

part of an article series by CIFS’s Nestor, Johan Peter

Paludan, about future strategy in the present (page 53).

Or read the business philosopher Morten Paustian’s

article “Visionary Thinking”, page 61, which uses Hans

Christian Andersen’s character Clumsy Hans to take us

on a philosophical trip to recreate “the fairy tale in our

lives”. Happy reading!

In conclusion, I can inform you that right now you are

reading the last issue of FO/Futureorientation in its old

form. We are on the street again in May with a big double

issue (#2-3), marking the shift to a brand new FO.

Among other things, the magazine will get a new design,

and we will move from publishing thematic issues to

writing about different themes and subjects in each

issue under the headings

DEVELOPMENT · VISIONS · IDEAS · TRENDS.

I am looking forward to presenting you with the new

format.

Morten Grønborg,

Editor

notes

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

5


contents

ThEMe: UTOPIa

editorial

by morten grønborg.............................................................5

The Difference Between Utopias and Visions – and

the Fear of the Totalitarian Nature of the Utopia

by Martin Kruse........................................................................9

What is the difference between a utopia and a vision What is the

origin of the utopia in the history of ideas And what role does

futures studies play in it all Take the time to read Martin Kruse’s

article and get wiser

The World According to Fresco

by morten grønborg...........................................................15

With The Venus Project, 93-year-old Jacque Fresco, a multi-disciplinarian

and futurist, has created an all-encompassing alternative to

the society we live in today. Fresco recently visited Copenhagen as

part of the event COP Kreativ, where he talked about designing the

future. If you weren’t near Copenhagen, or if you happened to miss

his lecture, you can read here about his ideas of how we can create

a better world

Orwell Was an Optimist

by Klaus Æ Mogensen:..........................................................20

“Big Brother is watching.” This is how George Orwell described

the surveillance society in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel depicts

a dystopian society where the state closely watches everyone and

strikes down hard on any activity that can be viewed as subversive.

‘Big Brother’ often shows up as a grim spectre in contemporary

debates about surveillance, but reality is actually surpassing fiction:

We are under surveillance everywhere, often without being aware of

it, and the information collected about us is kept for years and may

be used against us. Hence, Orwell could be seen as an optimist

Orwell Was a Pessimist

by Klaus Æ Mogensen:..........................................................24

“Big Brother is watching.” This is how George Orwell described

the surveillance society in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel depicts

a dystopian society where the state closely watches everyone and

strikes down hard on any activity that can be viewed as subversive.

‘Big Brother’ often shows up as a grim spectre in contemporary

debates about surveillance, but reality isn’t as bad as the fiction: We

may be watched everywhere, but we can remain calm, because the

surveillance is there to protect us. Orwell was a pessimist

Nudging Utopia

by Søren Riis............................................................................29

The Nudge technology can lead to better design, more desirable

behaviour and a better world … all without your noticing it. The

method is based on the fact that human beings are far less rational

and intelligent than we like to think. Hence, we can benefit from

small, gentle, imperceptible nudges in the right direction

Utopian Spaces

by Nikolina Olsen-Rule.........................................................37

In order to understand the more philosophical ideas behind the utopia

phenomenon, a more concrete approach may be necessary. For

this purpose, a society’s physical organization is an obvious thing to

watch. Take a look at three perfect cities

Faith in the Future in a World of Dystopias

by Sara Jönsson.....................................................................43

Utopias are big words and thoughts. But in a world increasingly

characterized by complex structures and globalization, it is easier to

speak of individual responsibility than of a common dream, which

we all must struggle to realize

Utopians - our closest colleagues

by Johan Peter Paludan.......................................................46

outside of theme:

Nine trends and nine inventions that will shape

the face of the 21st century

by Marcel Bullinga...............................................................49

Nine trends and nine inventions will shape the face of the 21st century.

They will have a similar impact on our lives as the car, the TV

and the airplane had on the lives of our parents. Take a sneak peak

at Marcel Bullingas upcoming book Futurecheck

Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1

by Johan Peter Paludan.......................................................53

The historian and the futurist can be said to study two sides of the

same matter, specifically the present, writes Johan Peter Paludan in

this first article about the phenomenon of futures studies and its role

in organizational and strategic planning

Visionary thinking

– A philosophical trip with Clumsy Hans

by Morten Paustian...............................................................61

Thoughts aren’t just isolated in the human skull, but contain impulses

with ideas that fly around among other people. The thoughts

vibrate out in the world and attempt to guide people forward to

each other, so that encounters and events can become inspiring

transactions

FO/futureorientation is published by Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies

(CIFS), Norre Farimagsgade 65, DK-1364 Copenhagen K. Tel. +45 3311

7176, cifs@cifs.dk, www.cifs.dk, www.fo-online.dk

Editor: Morten Grønborg (responsible under Danish press law), mgr@cifs.dk

International Editor: Klaus Æ. Mogensen, klm@cifs.dk

Secretariat: Ellen Mauri, ema@cifs.dk

English adaptation: Klaus Æ. Mogensen, klm@cifs.dk

layout: Karina Bjerregaard

ILLUSTRATIons: Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com

COVER: Portrait of Jacque Fresco. www.thevenusproject.com and Karina

Bjerregaard

Subscription 2010: 270 EURO plus shipping (20 EURO in Europe and

30 EURO in the rest of the world). The price includes two printed copies and

online access. Published six times a year.

Circulation: 4500

ISSN: 1901-452X online ISSN: 1903-8194

Member of Danske Specialmedier (Danish Trade Press Association). The

opinions expressed. in articles are those of the authors. Textual contents may

be republished as long as the original author and publication are cited.

Printed by: ATM Arktryk

Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS) is an independent research

organization founded in 1970 by professor Thorkil Kristensen, a former OECD

Secretary-General. CIFS analyzes the trends that shape the future. CIFS

examines the present and the future, and publishes what it finds. CIFS is a

non-profit association with 100 members.

6 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


By Martin Kruse

The Difference Between

Utopias and Visions – and

the Fear of the Totalitarian

Nature of the Utopia

What is the difference between a utopia and a vision

What is the origin of the utopia in the history

of ideas And what role does futures studies play in

it all Take the time to read Martin Kruse’s article

and get wiser

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

9


The Difference Between Utopias and Visions - By Martin Kruse

u In the sociologist Anthony Giddens’ most recent book,

The Politics of Climate Change (2009), Giddens focuses

on the realistic utopia as a method to change the world.

From a different perspective, a wide range of current

management books stress the importance of visions. A

vision is to a business as a lighthouse is to a ship at sea –

a signpost and a guideline for future direction. A utopia

can be roughly the same thing, albeit on quite another

scale. A utopia describes a future society that is substantially

different from the present. Thus, it distinguishes

itself from a vision in its magnitude and in its radical

nature. Historically, the utopia is intimately connected

to the understanding of progress and hence to historical

research, sociological history, and normative futures

studies.

The idea of an ideal society has taken different shapes

through the ages and has been used for different purposes.

When Thomas More (1477-1535) wrote his book

Utopia, it was – as so many other works of the time were

– a way to bypass censorship and a way to criticize those

in power.

The original description of Utopia differs from the

descriptions of Elysium and Eden in the Greek and the

Christian-Judean traditions, respectively, by placing the

ideal society on Earth, but at the same time making it a

non-existent place. In many of the descriptions that followed,

the realistic Utopia is described as the end point of

history – a tradition in the history of ideas of which the

American writer Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History

and the Last Man is a part.

The idea of Utopia is thus also connected with changes

in the understanding of progress; in particular phase

studies, which explain the linear progression from a barbaric

phase to a developed society: a viewpoint that has

dominated historic understanding up to our time.

Plato, Aristotle and Protagoras all viewed progress as a

gradual development towards a higher, final state. In the

Christian tradition, the Greek and the Judean traditions

are united, and the medieval thinkers Roger Bacon (1215-

1294) and Bernard de Chartres (1130-1160) thus see progress

as an accumulative gathering of knowledge leading

to Utopia.

With the Age on Enlightenment, this final stage is

changed. For Auguste Comte (1798-1857), who can be

seen as the father of sociology, the final stage is understood

as the world entering a state of true positivism, in

which rationalism is consummated and a society based

on principles of natural science can be realized.

Like John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Comte sees progress

as an absolute trend, which according to Mill is anchored

in the human drive to vie for greater material wealth.

Comte’s positivist position is founded in his conviction

that one can, with a basis in the past and through general

laws, predict the future (prévision rationelle). Comte’s

desire was to transfer the positivist approach from natural

science to sociology. Modern simulations and data

models of societal economy are rooted in this conviction.

Karl vs. Karl

In his book The Open Society and its Enemies, published

in 1945, the philosopher of science Karl Popper (1902-

1994) attacks the idea of progress as it manifested itself

from the Age of Enlightenment forward. The criticism is

directed mainly at the idea of Utopia and in particular at

Karl Marx.

Popper’s main argument is that the idea of progress, as

manifest in Marx and others, has totalitarian elements.

The book is a defence of liberal democracy and contributed

to a debate that was central in the post-War years.

Popper’s criticism of deterministic holism, which characterizes

the macro-historical view often termed historicism,

is closely tied to his contempt for the anti-democratic

form of government, of which he sees Communism as

one example.

Popper’s criticism of historicism must hence be viewed

in light of the totalitarian form of government, which

during his time was seen as a threat by many, particularly

by Popper himself. Popper viewed the idea of a

Communist future, in which the world population is

unified in an equal community, and in which the means

of production is common property, simply as a propagandist

attempt to control the populace.

Popper’s distinction between the concepts of holistic

social engineering and piecemeal social engineering

expresses the ideological difference between change

brought about in totalitarian and democratic forms of

government respectively. At the same time, it expresses

the difference between visions and realistic utopias on

the one hand, and the utopias that lead to totalitarianism

and oppression on the other hand.

Holistic social engineering aims to transform society

as a whole. The goal is to realize what is seen as a

realistic utopia. Clear parallels can be drawn with the

Chinese Cultural Revolution. Sartre’s lectures from his

later period also express a desire for such a change in

society. Unfortunately, some of Sartre’s students took his

ideological outbursts seriously and went to Cambodia

with their newly gained ideology. More than one million

people were killed in Cambodia in the attempt to achieve

a particular societal model. According to Popper, it is

unrealistic to think that an entire society can be reconstructed

according to pre-made plans. Such an attempt

cannot be made without an ideological basis, which

necessarily seems oppressive to people with a different

view.

10 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


The Difference Between Utopias and Visions - By Martin Kruse

The realistic Utopia is described as the end point of

history – a tradition in the history of ideas of which

the American writer Francis Fukuyama’s The End of

History and the Last Man is a part

A vision is to a business as a

lighthouse is to a ship at sea

– a signpost and a guideline for

future direction

Hence, Popper concludes that this kind of utopianism

is a societal viewpoint that naturally leads to

totalitarianism 1 .

Instead, Popper advocates what he calls piecemeal

social engineering - a concept that denotes a gradual

development of society. This means that one ought

to establish visions for particular areas of the existing

society and work to achieve these visions – rather than

overthrowing the entire social structure. Piecemeal social

engineering is the goal that we in futures studies aim

to achieve through formulating and realizing normative

scenarios.

Normative futures studies

Unlike explorative scenarios, normative scenarios don’t

ask the question “what could happen” but rather the

question “how do we achieve our goal” The COP15

negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 were an

example of this. Here, the world’s nations gathered to

agree on a climate treaty.

Normative scenarios are strategic. Futures studies in

the United States are most commonly used in connection

with strategic development of companies, helping to find

new markets or assess the risks of company strategy. In

contrast, the French futurist tradition in particular has

traditionally been strongest within politics, where the

systematic study of future political scenarios is commonly

used.

In this sense, the French tradition comes closest to

what Popper criticizes as anti-democratic. Since the 4th

French National Plan was constructed for the years 1960-

1965, the normative method has spread 2 , not least because

of Pierre Masse, who led national economic planning

in France. The method was (and is) used in planning education,

the environment, urbanization, regional planning,

and more.

The basic premise of the French tradition is that a

so ciety consists of powerful actors in groups with different

motives, who influence each other and the political

process in society. When politicians must consider the

long-term political and social future of a nation, the lobbying

and general influence of these actors can become

decisive for the nation’s future.

The famous futurist Bertrand de Jouvenel (1903-1987)

hence thought it important to create ideal images or

realistic utopias for the nation’s future and show a way

to reach these futures, which could improve life for the

nation’s populace as a whole, not just for a few powerful

interest groups.

The French tradition is thus characterized by successfully

using the realistic utopia for society as a whole

while conducting piecemeal social engineering. Somewhat

caricatured we can say that, where the futurist tradition

in the United States has been about optimising a

company’s income, the French tradition is about handling

the influence of organizations in a way that benefits the

entire population. Hence, these traditions in futures studies

echo the ideological differences between Capitalist

and Social Democratic social structures.

Realistic utopias are important, as Giddens point out,

because they express as possible what would otherwise

seem impossible within the framework of current practice.

The International Energy Agency’s scenario Bright

Skies is an example of a future vision that points the

way towards something that is possible, though unlikely.

Great visions, however unlikely, are a strong driving

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

11


The Difference Between Utopias and Visions - By Martin Kruse

Instead, Popper advocates what

he calls piecemeal social enginee r­

ing - a concept that denotes a gradual

development of so ciety. This

means that one ought to establish

visions for particular areas

of the existing society and work

to achieve these visions – rather

than overthrowing the entire social

structure

Realistic utopias are important, as

Giddens point out, because they

express as possible what would

otherwise seem impossible within the

frame work of current practice

force because they are often accompanied by great personalities

who manage to create faith that the unlikely

is possible. For example, the American president Barack

Obama has already become a cult figure, and many

people believe that he can make a difference. This was

underscored very clearly when he received the Nobel

Peace Prize in 2009 after only nine months as president. I

don’t think I will insult anybody by stating that the prize

was given to Obama primarily for his intentions rather

than his results 3 . He also divides his critics, just as president

J.F. Kennedy (1917-1963) did in his time.

It is when these impossible possibilities are shown to

us that we experience greater community and everyday

trivialities are reduced to what they are … trivialities. It is

when a wall falls somewhere in Europe or a man makes

his first steps on the moon that we experience an entire

world moving together from one epoch to another. In

these brief moments we experience what it means to live

in Utopia.

Martin Kruse has a MA and is employed at the Copenhagen Institute

for Futures Studies. He works, among other things, with creativity, innovation

and methods in futures studies

notes

1 Sartre’s discussion with Camus about the sanctity of man as opposed

to the necessity of social change stands witness to, among other

things, this understanding in the post-War European cultural life.

2 Bradfield, R. et al: “The Origins and evolution of scenario techniques

in Long Range Business Planning” in Futures Vol. 37, Nr. 8, p. 795-

812, 2005.

3 The official reasons for giving the prize can be read here: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2009/press.html

12 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


By Morten Grønborg

The World According to Fresco

With The Venus Project, 93-year-old Jacque Fresco,

a multi-disciplinarian and futurist, has created an

all-encompassing alternative to the society we live

in today. Fresco recently visited Copenhagen as part

of the event COP Kreativ, where he talked about designing

the future. If you weren’t near Copenhagen,

or if you happened to miss his lecture, you can read

here about his ideas of how we can create a better

world

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

15


The World According to Fresco - By Morten Grønborg

The Venus Project presents an alternative

design of our culture. It suggests

an achievable path to a better

future through connecting the latest

technological developments directly

to the social system. The idea is that

through education, research and

using what we already know, we

can abolish poverty, war, starvation,

crime, and even taxes

u There aren’t many alternative, thoroughly conceived

societal models left, nor are there many practical idealists.

The Venus Project and its creator, American Jacque

Fresco (1916-) are examples of both.

The Venus Project is at once futuristic architecture,

technological futures studies, a sociological project, and

an all-encompassing model of how we can improve the

world on many levels, in particular the economy and the

environment. It is the brainchild of multi-disciplinarian

and futurist Jacque Fresco – who is now 93 years old –

and uses words, images, videos, photos, and architectonic

models to describe a potential future.

The work has been developed by Fresco himself

together with his wife, Roxanne Meadows, and a large

number of volunteers worldwide. It is a life’s work in the

true sense of the word – a work that both has been the

centre of the creator’s life and has taken most of a lifetime

to realize. At the same time, the word gesamtkunstwerk

is appropriate, for just like Arne Jacobsen – who,

among other things, designed SAS Royal Hotel in

Copenhagen from its exterior shape down to details like

door handles, chests of drawers, and coffee spoons (as

well as the famous chair the Swan) – Fresco has thought

about everything.

The Venus Project is a single, unified idea for a better

world and hence very close to what we normally call a

utopia. However, according to its creator, it is something

else:

“The Venus Project is not a utopian concept,” Jacque

Fresco clarifies 1 . “We do not believe in the erroneous

notion of a utopian society. There is no such thing.

Societies are always in a state of transition. We propose

an alternative direction, which addresses the causes of

many of our problems. There are no final frontiers for

human and technological achievement.”

The idea

Fresco recently visited Copenhagen as a part of COP

Kreativ 2 , a climate event for Danish design and architecture

students, where he talked about designing the future.

If you weren’t near Copenhagen, or if you happened

to miss his lecture 3 , you missed his explanation of what

the Venus Project is really about.

Is the project architecture Design Politics

Sustainability Economy The answer is: all of the

above!

The Venus Project presents an alternative design of

our culture. It suggests an achievable path to a better

future through connecting the latest technological

developments directly to the social system. The idea

is that through education, research and using what we

already know, we can abolish poverty, war, starvation,

crime, and even taxes.

16 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


The World According to Fresco - By Morten Grønborg

There is no place to hide today,” Jacque Fresco

says, ”because you can’t hide from human instability.

War, weapons, corruption seem to dominate

everywhere. Our primary goal, and our primary

reason for the project, is to make these things

belong to the past.

”There is no place to hide today,” Jacque Fresco says,

in good accordance with the Institute’s ideas about No

Comfort Zones, ”because you can’t hide from human

instability. War, weapons, corruption seem to dominate

everywhere. Our primary goal, and our primary reason

for the project, is to make these things belong to the

past.”

As stated in one of the many presentation videos about

the project that you can find on YouTube 4 , “These goals

are not merely a paper proclamation. They can be translated

into physical reality if, as a society, we choose to do

so. A democracy that doesn’t ensure the basic necessities

of life is meaningless.”

The economic system is collapsing

The aim of the Venus Project is first and foremost to

ensure social stability, which requires among other things

high-quality health services, a clean environment, and

access for all to the amenities that a well-functioning society

must provide.

However, there is no doubt that economics, in particular

a different economic system, plays a key role in the

project. The Venus Project was founded in the 1970’s,

but Fresco has repeatedly stated that his upbringing in

the United States after the Great Depression of the 1930’s

influenced his social conscience and enabled him later to

devise his vision:

“Living through the 1929 Great Depression helped

shape my social conscience. During this time, I realized

the Earth was still the same place, manufacturing plants

were still intact, and resources were still there, but people

didn’t have money to buy the products. I felt the rules of

the game we play by were outmoded and damaging. This

began a life-long quest resulting in the conclusions and

designs presented in The Venus Project.” 5

The changing political and economic realities in

Fresco’s adult life have not made his project less relevant.

Now, in his advanced age, Fresco has faced another

economic mess, namely the global financial crisis, which

by several economists has been compared precisely to

the situation in 1929. However, the financial crisis could

hardly have surprised Fresco, as for many years he has

criticized the system that produced it.

The Venus Project presentation video tells us: “The

American free enterprise system does generate incentive.

However, it also creates greed, corruption, crime,

stress, and economic insecurity The consuming pursuit

of money that grips many in our society has a dehumanising

effect and has led us to our present self-centred

values.”

Fresco asks rhetorically what would happen if we, for

example, continued to automate production around the

world and in doing so got rid of more and more human

labour. His response is that we very quickly would

find ourselves in a situation in which the majority of

Americans, and people everywhere, would lose their

purchasing power to buy products.

“So what good is a factory that is turning out all the

wheels, if it is making all the cars automatically – who

will be around to be able to buy those cars What will

they use for money So what happens Our system dies.

The free enterprise system was terrific 50 years ago,

maybe 30 years ago, but it is no longer adequate. So if an

automobile factory, or any other factory, goes completely

automatic, and most people lose their jobs, and they

don’t have the purchasing power, you tell me how the

free enterprise system can function. It comes to an end.

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

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The World According to Fresco - By Morten Grønborg

Jacque Fresco

Jacque Fresco (1916-) is a self-taught industrial designer, writer, futurist,

and educator, and he is the founder of The Venus Project. His

followers – many of them with roots in The Zeitgeist Movement– call

him ‘a modern Da Vinci’. The movie Future by Design (2006) describes

Fresco’s life from when he experienced the Wall Street crash

in 1929 and the following Depression until today. In spite of his 93

years, Fresco still teaches various subjects, including holistic design

of sustainable cities, energy efficiency, and advanced technological

automation. He has recently been a guest lecturer in Copenhagen.

Read more about Fresco and his ideas at www.thevenusproject.com

and www.thezeitgeistmovement.com

The Venus Project

The 25-acre research center of the Venus Project is situated in Venus,

Florida. This constitutes the first phase of the project’s realization.

Here, you can find full-scale buildings as well as models that physically

show how nature and technology can co-exist. Read more at

www.thevenusproject.com.

And when it comes to an end, there will be gangs and

riots, and crime begins to rise. I’m not advocating this,

I’m not for this; I’m just describing what most likely will

happen,” he says and continues:

“If that happens, a military dictatorship will come in,

in which people will tell you how to live and what to do.

That’s called a dictatorship. It comes about when you

can’t manage the vast majority of your people. This dictatorship

is something I have a tremendous fear of, and

we are trying to do this Venus Project in order to show

people a possible alternative to social chaos.” 6

The Venus Project hence recommends a resource-based

economy that makes all the basic amenities of life available

to all. This can only be achieved through intelligent

application of research and technology – not by going

on in the same groove, the same system. The idea is that

the true value of any society is its resources, both potential

and developed, as well as the individuals that work

towards eradicating resource scarcity.

“80 percent of all jobs will be phased out. We will no

longer need politicians, businessmen, bankers, soldiers,

and lawyers,” Fresco told a Danish newspaper 7 when he

visited Copenhagen.

The key word is cybernation

The tight-knit metropolitan society is the key to the project,

which proposes a tabula rasa approach (see page

39), whereby you build new cities rather than trying

to repair the old. This is exemplified in the idea of the

circular city: a fully conceived, sustainable and efficient

city consisting of concentric circles around The Central

Dome, with recreational areas at the outer rim. Inside is

everything a modern society needs. The idea isn’t unlike

Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow, see page

38, though naturally it is infinitely more modern. After

all, there’s 75 years between the projects.

Fresco recommends connecting cybernate system

computers to automated machinery, coordinating all the

city’s functions and processes. This can be compared

to the brain and nervous system of an organism. In the

city’s housing areas, the system monitors environmental

management and the recycling of waste. It also monitors

and adapts supply and demand between fabricators and

consumers, balancing production and distribution according

to demand. Hence, according to the idea, excess production

and scarcity can be eradicated.

Cybernation (cybernetics + -ation), which means the

automated control over a production or process through

computer control, is a keyword. Fresco maintains that

only when this cybernation is fully integrated into our

culture can computers sensibly serve humankind and its

needs:

”No technological civilization can ever operate efficiently

and effectively without the application of cybernetics

to the social system. This dynamic approach only acts to

enhance human lives – it doesn’t monitor or dictate their

18 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


The World According to Fresco - By Morten Grønborg

We are limited by our past.

”Perhaps the greatest limiting

factor of our present-day prescientific

culture can be traced to

our language, social customs and

values, which were conceived in

earlier times

Photos in this issue of FO are used with permission of The Venus

Project as visual illustration of this article. Thanks to Roxanne

Meadows, Jacque Fresco and The Venus Project.

lives. The idea is to create so good living conditions and

so high standards of living that everybody will be free to

choose the lifestyle they find the most fulfilling.”

Culture

Even though the city core’s production units are automated,

they are non-polluting, silent and clean, with easy

access to the cities. Goods and products are transported

on boats along canals, while people are transported centrally

from the Dome (e.g. by automated monorails 8 designed

for transportation between cities, or by air or sea

between states.) Fresco also has suggestions for undersea

housing units in which the view from your window

wouldn’t be surface nature, but fish and other marine

life.

However, technology and design of the physical world

alone won’t cut it. The culture must also be designed and

the population educated for a better world.

We are limited by our past. ”Perhaps the greatest limiting

factor of our present-day pre-scientific culture can be

traced to our language, social customs and values, which

were conceived in earlier times,” the argument goes 9 .

However, any similarity to earlier totalitarian regimes is

resisted:

“The design of The Venus Project will not only be applied

to cities, industrial processes and the environment, but

to education as well. The aims of The Venus Project have

no parallel in history, not with communism, socialism,

fascism or any other political ideology. This is true because

cybernation is of recent origin. With this system, the

system of financial influence and control will no longer

exist.”” 10

MORTEN GRØNBORG has an MA and is editor of FO/Futureorientation

notes

1 FAQ at www.thevenusproject.com

2 read more at http://copkreativ.dk/

3 see Fresco’s COP Kreativ lecture at www.youtube.com/

watchv=dwIlPqkpJf4

4 http://tinyurl.com/ydrjqk8

5 interview at www.thevenusproject.com

6 see note 4.

7 http://www.information.dk/205302

8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monorail

9 see note 4

10 Ibid.

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

19


This is one of two

articles that illuminate

each side of

the phenomenon

of ‘surveillance’ as

explored in George

Orwell’s dystopian

novel Nineteen

Eighty-Four. Read

“Orwell Was a

Pessimist” to hear

the other side of

the story

By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Orwell Was an Optimist

“Big Brother is watching.” This is how George Orwell

described the surveillance society in Nineteen

Eighty-Four. The novel depicts a dystopian so ciety

where the state closely watches everyone and

strikes down hard on any activity that can be viewed

as subversive. ‘Big Brother’ often shows up as a

grim spectre in contemporary debates about surveillance,

but reality is actually surpassing fiction: We

are under surveillance everywhere, often without

being aware of it, and the information collected

about us is kept for years and may be used against

us. Hence, Orwell could be seen as an optimist.

20 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Orwell Was an Optimist - By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Every time we withdraw cash in an ATM or use a

card to pay in a shop, the banks register where we

are and how much money we use. If we use our

customer card in our local supermarket, the supermarket

chain keeps an account of our day-to-day

purchases in order to create a profile of our consumption

- a process called data mining

u In Great Britain, you can buy a popular t-shirt with the

text “Orwell was an optimist”. This is not a word usually

associated with the famous British writer. His works

tend to be gloomy, and his science fiction novel Nineteen

Eighty-Four (1949) contains one of literature’s most fearsome

descriptions of a despotic society. The t-shirt’s message

still reverberates today because surveillance of our

everyday lives has progressed far beyond what Orwell

could foresee in his wildest imagination. Our every action

is mapped in detail by the state and by large corporations,

but because we aren’t always aware that this surveillance

is taking place, we generally don’t worry much

about it. Perhaps we should worry, for surveillance is

only going to increase in the future.

The most familiar type of surveillance is through

surveillance cameras, also known as cctv (closed-circuit

television) 1 . These surveillance cameras are particularly

common in Great Britain, where there are an estimated

five million of them – one for every 12 citizens 2 . The

best are good enough to recognize people up to 75

meters away. The authorities aren’t alone in conducting

surveillance; many of the cameras are set up by private

companies in shops and parking garages, outside banks

and goldsmiths, or in residential areas. Most recordings

are kept for a month or longer – sometimes far longer.

In Orwell’s novel, surveillance was limited by how many

people you could instruct to watch others (and who

should watch the watchmen), but we are moving beyond

that limitation. Today, computers can analyze video

images and recognize not just individual people, but also

suspicious behavioural patterns. A person can be followed

from camera to camera in order to map the individual’s

movement in detail.

The defence offered for the many surveillance cameras

is that they help to solve crime. However, according

to a study conducted by the British police in 2008, only

about three percent of all crimes are solved with the help

of cctv 3 – hardly enough to justify the billions it cost to

set up and operate the surveillance cameras. So why is

it done Is it because of a collective delusion about the

cameras’ efficacy Or is it something more sinister

Surveillance cameras are the most visible form of

surveillance and the one that we – partly because of

Orwell – are most aware of. However, in our daily lives,

we are watched in many other ways, some of which take

much closer peeks at our private lives than the cameras

do. The problem is that we aren’t aware of this surveillance

because it is invisible. One example is when we

use our credit or debit cards. Every time we withdraw

cash in an ATM or use a card to pay in a shop, the banks

register where we are and how much money we use. If

we use our customer card in our local supermarket, the

supermarket chain keeps an account of our day-to-day

purchases in order to create a profile of our consumption

– a process called data mining 4 – and this information is

used to make us consume more. The British supermarket

chain Budgens secretly takes photos of everybody

buying alcohol or cigarettes in order to compare them

with a national database of minors that previously have

attempted to buy such products 5 .

Do you carry a mobile phone on you If so, your

telephone company knows at all times where you are

– even when you aren’t using your phone. Telephone

companies must keep records of phone calls for at

least three years, and your text messages are typically

saved for 30 days – even if you delete them on your

phone. There are examples of divorce cases in which the

spouse’s text messages are used as evidence of infidelity 6 .

The next step in fighting internet piracy may very well

be to force telecommunications companies to analyze

all data packages sent over the internet to check if they

contain pirated material 7 . Once such a system is in place,

it can easily be expanded to look also for political material

or other unwanted activity. However, you shouldn’t

feel too safe now, either. When you go on the internet,

there is a considerable risk of your computer becoming

infected with ‘spybots’, a type of computer virus that

22 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Orwell Was an Optimist - By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Surveillance of our everyday lives has progressed

far beyond what Orwell could foresee in

his wildest imagination. Our every action is

mapped in detail by the state and by large corporations,

but because we aren’t always aware

that this surveillance is taking place, we generally

don’t worry much about it

monitors your internet activity and reports back to some

private – or public – body 8 .

Recent measures for improving traffic in our cities

also lead to more surveillance. Many metropolises have

introduced – or are introducing – payment systems with

personal cards that are registered by RFID readers when

you enter or exit buses and trains. The system means that

your movement is registered in detail, and this information

is saved for at least as long as you, as a customer,

have the opportunity to complain about your bill 9 .

But can’t paranoid travellers who don’t want to be registered

just drive their own car instead Perhaps, but not

for long. Several countries, including Denmark and Great

Britain, are considering introducing road pricing through

GPS or the forthcoming European positioning system

Galileo 10 . Again, your movement will be registered in

detail.

The conclusion is obvious: Our actions and decisions

are monitored and registered almost constantly, no matter

if we are in a public place, at work, in a shop, or

sitting in front of our personal computers. The ways in

which we are watched will most likely multiply in the

future, and with the developments within information

and communication technology, we can count on all sorts

of data about us being exchanged and analyzed to an

ever-increasing degree. It may be that we, at the present

time, trust the authorities not to abuse their knowledge

about us. But are we willing to maintain that trust forever

Besides, can we trust the authorities to protect our

data Experience suggests otherwise; for instance, in

2007, the government of Great Britain lost two hard disks

containing confidential data about 25 million citizens 11 .

There’s cause to be worried. Very worried. Orwell was an

optimist.

KLAUS Æ. MOGENSEN has a BA in physics and astronomy and works

at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. He works with the possibilities

of technology and their significance for our society and lives, with

future culture and lifestyles, consumption and media, and IPR (Intellectual

Property Rights).

notes

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed-circuit_television

2 paul Lewis: ”Every step you take”, The Guardian 2. marts 2009,

www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/02/westminster-cctv-system-privacy

3 ibid.

4 www.tech-faq.com/data-mining.shtml

5 www.boingboing.net/2008/05/14/london-supermarket-s.html

6 www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/24/french-divorce-rulingall_n_267043.html

7 paul Marks: ”Net piracy: The people vs the entertainment industry”,

www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427375.200

8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spybot_worm

9 see eg. www.tinyurl.dk/12863

10 www.tinyurl.dk/12474

11 www.tinyurl.dk/12481

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

23


This is one of two

articles that illuminate

each side of

the phenomenon

of ‘surveillance’ as

explored in George

Orwell’s dystopian

novel Nineteen

Eighty-Four. Read

“Orwell Was an

Optimist” to hear

the other side of

the story

By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Orwell Was a Pessimist

“Big Brother is watching.” This is how George

Orwell described the surveillance society in

Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel depicts a dystopian

society where the state closely watches everyone

and strikes down hard on any activity that can

be viewed as subversive. ‘Big Brother’ often shows

up as a grim spectre in contemporary debates

about surveillance, but reality isn’t as bad as the

fiction: We may be watched everywhere, but we

can remain calm, because the surveillance is there

to protect us. Orwell was a pessimist.

24 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Orwell Was a pessimist - By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

A society entirely without surveillance, where

everybody can act anonymously, isn’t a utopia,

but a dystopia. Everyone would be able to

commit crimes with impunity, whether violence,

fraud, terrorism, or child pornography

It isn’t “Big Brother is

watching”, but rather

“Big Mother is watching

over you”

u George Orwell was a great writer, but we must blame

him for creating an overblown fear of surveillance. After

all, by far the majority of surveillance is there to protect

us, and few people should mind this. It isn’t “Big Brother

is watching”, but rather “Big Mother is watching over

you”.

Be honest: When you enter an empty parking garage

or an underground station late at night, aren’t you glad

that there’s a camera that keeps an eye out in case you’re

mugged Aren’t you glad that your bank makes a list of

your credit card purchases Isn’t it nice that the supermarket

has cameras that watch out for pickpockets and

shoplifters It may well be that a lot of surveillance today

is of too poor quality to solve very many crimes, but the

technology keeps improving. By now, image software can

recognize people’s faces even when they wear beards and

dark glasses 12 .

We should also remember that it is not just private

citizens that are watched, but also companies and fringe

political and religious groups. The current financial crisis

might not even have taken place if we had more surveillance

of the financial sector, and surveillance of radical

Moslem groups recently uncovered a planned armed

attack on the Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard

and the newspaper Jyllands-Posten in which the cartoons

were printed. Surveillance of restaurants and the food

industry regularly uncovers foul and unhealthy business

practices. The world is a safer place when surveillance

techniques protect ordinary people.

Surveillance isn’t just a matter of protecting us, but

also of making our lives easier and ensuring justice. In

the near future we are likely to introduce road pricing

through satellites13, which will ensure a fairer traffic tax

that reflects each driver’s actual use, and will provide

the opportunity to give discounts for driving outside the

peak hours or using lesser-used roads. Once the movement

of all cars is registered continually, it also becomes

easier to warn about congestion and suggest alternative

routes. At the same time, such a system will make it

easier to find stolen cars, and that is surely something

good (unless you are a car thief!)

A society entirely without surveillance, where everybody

can act anonymously, isn’t a utopia, but a dystopia.

Everyone would be able to commit crimes with impunity,

whether violence, fraud, terrorism, or child pornography.

Arguments about the sanctity of privacy have their place,

but if atrocities such as the Austrian Josef Fritzl’s imprisonment

and rape of his own daughter for 24 years can

take place under the cover of privacy, we must ask ourselves

if privacy really should be so sacrosanct 14 . If you

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

25


Orwell Was an Optimist - By Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Without absolute power of the

media, an absolutist regime as

described in Orwell’s Nineteen

Eighty-Four cannot exist for

long. For this reason alone, we

shouldn’t worry too much about

the surveillance society. Orwell

was a pessimist

haven’t got anything to hide, you shouldn’t mind surveillance.

Society only works as long as we can watch each

other and hence keep each other on the path of virtue.

The good news is that surveillance in our society is

increasingly decentralized and laid in the hands of the

individual citizen. We are living in an increasingly transparent

society where few atrocities can be kept hidden.

Private photos and videos taken with mobile phones are

increasingly used to solve crimes – even crimes committed

by authorities, as when citizens record examples

of police violence 15 . Misconduct by big companies is

more and more often uncovered through surveillance by

private citizens, as when the billionaire swindler Stein

Bagger was brought down by the blogger Dorte Toft 16 .

Dictatorships’ aggression against their own people are

documented on the internet the same day, as when the

Iranian student Neda Salehi Agha Soltan was shot by

Iranian security troops in June 2009 during a protest over

the re-election of Ahmadinejad 17 . Little Brother keeps an

eye on Big Brother.

The surveillance of the big by the small has become so

effective because it has become harder for the big to control

the media to the same extent as before. Anybody can

in a few minutes put a video recording on the internet,

and if it is important enough, it will be seen by millions

of people – as happened with the video of Soltan’s death.

In connection with the protests in Iran in 2009, Twitter

also turned out to be a communication platform that was

hard for the authorities to control, and during later protests,

the Iranian authorities found it necessary to close

down the entire telephone system 18 . Without absolute

power of the media, an absolutist regime as described in

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four cannot exist for long. For

this reason alone, we shouldn’t worry too much about the

surveillance society. Orwell was a pessimist.

KLAUS Æ. MOGENSEN has a BA in physics and astronomy and works

at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. He works with the possibilities

of technology and their significance for our society and lives, with

future culture and lifestyles, consumption and media, and IPR (Intellectual

Property Rights).

notes

1 www.technologyreview.com/computing/22234/a=f

2 www.tinyurl.dk/12474

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case

4 http://hothardware.com/News/NYPD-Wants-Your-Videos-to-Help-

Fight-Crime

5 www.computerworld.dk/blog/redbord/1612

6 www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6557858.

ece

7 www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6902427.

ece

26 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Nudging Utopia

By Søren Riis, Evan Selinger and Kyle Whyte

The Nudge technology can lead to better design,

more desirable behaviour and a better world … all

without your noticing it. The method is based on

the fact that human beings are far less rational and

intelligent than we like to think. Hence, we can

benefit from small, gentle, imperceptible nudges in

the right direction

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

29


Nudging Utopia - By Søren Riis, Evan Selinger and Kyle Whyte

u If you are male, you are probably already familiar with

a form of ‘nudge technology’ – at least if you have used

a urinal in the Schiphol airport near Amsterdam. By placing

an image of a fly close to the urinal drain, cleaning

needs in the airport toilets have been reduced drastically.

Without giving it much thought, most men aim directly

at the fly, which leads to about 80 percent less ‘spills’. In

their controversial and noteworthy book Nudge, Richard

H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein look at this phenomenon

and suggest a range of solutions for the financial and

climate crises as well as for the design of user-friendly

products.

Homo Simpson and the dystopian society

In Thaler’s & Sunstein’s book, nudges are promoted as an

ingenious middle road between freedom and paternalism.

Through nudges, bans and injunctions can be minimized

while our freedom is optimised in a responsible way. For

example, a nudge could be useful in a modern supermarket

to make customers buy healthier food.

In this context, nudging may mean that you organise a

supermarket to make fruit and vegetables easily available

and placed at eye level. At the same time, candy should

be placed out of the way to ensure that it escapes the

attention of those who don’t have sweets on their shopping

list. However, it is well known that supermarkets

often place candy at eye level near the cash registers so

that everybody is confronted with it. This temptation

should be seen in relation to the obesity epidemic, which

each year costs companies and the health care system billions

because of related diseases 1 . This is a nudge designed

to promote the customer’s willingness to purchase,

though one that promotes poor rather than good health.

However, the principle is the same. It is a matter of providing

a ‘nudge’ to promote a particular behaviour.

Before we take a closer look at the paradisiacal vision

behind the nudge technology, we would first like to

explain how, why and where nudges work. The idea

behind nudges is that people aren’t fully rational beings

(homo economicus) who, through deliberation, knowledge

and a good memory make wise, well-considered choices.

In fact, most of the time we act on mental autopilot. We

don’t really think things through, or we are influenced by

our senses. For example, we are not making a fully rational

decision when we put a chocolate bar that we didn’t

really plan to buy in the cart at the supermarket cash

register. Only a relatively small fraction of our time do

we spend the time and energy to reflect on our choices.

In a somewhat caricatured but highly illustrative

fashion, Thaler & Sunstein compare our everyday ‘self’

with Homer Simpson from the American cartoon series

The Simpsons (1989-). In many ways, homo simpson is

the direct opposite of homo economicus. Homo simpson

thinks in the short term, if he thinks at all, and is also

rather lazy. Human beings aren’t as intelligent as we

would like to think, and we repeatedly make bad choices.

The world in which we live isn’t as logically coherent

or as just as we can imagine in our dreams. Studies that

deal with human choice and reasoning have shown that

we often make a number of common mistakes. 2 In general,

we ar e unreasonably optimistic. Among other things,

Thaler & Sunstein refer to studies for which a number of

entrepreneurs were asked two different questions:

a) Typically, how likely do you think it is for a company

like yours is to succeed b) How likely are you to succeed

For question a, where the participants had to evaluate

the general likelihood of success, most answered “50

percent chance of success”. However, when they had to

evaluate the likelihood of their own success, most answered

“90 percent” or even “100 percent”. You see the same

erroneous estimates when you ask newlyweds about the

likelihood of a future divorce. Most estimate that it is

basically impossible that this should happen to them,

while US statistics show clearly that about 50 percent of

all marriages end in divorce.

Our starry-eyed optimism may have the function that

we don’t all end up becoming depressed about the world’s

true dystopian state – but this optimism also means

that we repeatedly make mistakes and are cheated. For

instance, we expect big lotto winnings that we’re never

going to get, and we think we will float on top if (or

when) climate change really kicks in.

If we connect this optimism to our various methods

for conscious reasoning, things don’t look much better,

quite the opposite, in fact. In our everyday lives, we tend

to use a number of rules of thumb that are random and

often quite misleading. The basis of our reasoning is

often guided more or less arbitrarily by the given context.

For example, a study asked a group of university students

two questions in this order: 1) How happy are you

2) How often are you on a date When the questions

were asked in this way, there was hardly any correlation

between the answers. However, when another group of

students were asked the same questions in the opposite

order, a different pattern emerged. The students who

hadn’t had a date for a long time used this fact as a basis

for answering question number two, and suddenly felt

rather miserable. Hence, they rated their general level of

happiness lower than the first control group.

We also use another ‘method’ to make our choices and

decide our future actions, and this is no less random than

the example above. The extent to which the individual

worries about the risk of, for example, nuclear power,

terrorism, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, H1N1, driving a car,

sunbathing, and air travel depends on how easily examples

of the given dangers emerge in our minds.

30 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Nudging Utopia - By Søren Riis, Evan Selinger and Kyle Whyte

By placing an image of a fly close to the urinal drain,

cleaning needs in the airport toilets have been reduced

drastically. Without giving it much thought, most men

aim directly at the fly, which leads to about 80 percent

less ‘spills’

If we are to sort out the ways

of the world and make real progress,

we should start by nudging

ourselves into more appropriate

behaviour

If, for instance, there has recently been a major plane

crash, we generally become far more afraid of flying,

even though air safety in general is improving. If there

has recently been an earthquake, far more people buy

insurance against earthquake damage than they otherwise

would. In 2001, many people were very afraid of

Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. But when two planes crashed

into the Twin Towers in New York, the fear of

Creutzfeldt-Jacob practically disappeared and was replac

ed by an epidemic of fear of terrorism and hatred of

Muslims.

If we connect these irrational decision procedures with

the familiar human trait of laziness, we reach the sad,

godforsaken place where most are in need of a nudge in

the right direction. According to the authors of the book

Nudge, human laziness shows itself in how our behaviour

has a certain degree of inertia. It takes a lot before we

even consider changing the status quo. Hence, we often

accept the default settings on various products. When

buying a new mobile phone, adults rarely change the

ringtone. Once we start subscribing to a newspaper, we

don’t cancel it for months or even years after we stop reading

it regularly.

It is in this state of mind that we act in our everyday

lives. The satirical portrayal of Springfield, Homer

Simpson’s hometown, may seem distant from most

people’s images of their own world; but it seems that in

reality Springfield is just a slightly exaggerated image of

our own society, which delivers one major crisis after the

other. In other words, the dystopian background, which

requires nudge technologies, is the society we are living

in. If we are to sort out the ways of the world and make

real progress, we should start by nudging ourselves into

more appropriate behaviour.

Towards paradise on autopilot

Once we become aware of our typical mistakes, we can

use nudges to organize the world in a way that compensates

for them. The vision is to make the world an

in spired, paradisiacal place for people to live. The mission

is to turn the environments we live and work in

into secured cribs, in which it requires extra effort to fall

over and hurt oneself. In this light, we can see nudges as

physical and mental training wheels of a sort. In order

to design the ideal user-, citizen- and customer-friendly

environment, we need a type of expert, which Thaler &

Sunstein call a ‘choice architect’. These architects must

be well versed in the science of human decision theory

and must construct environments and user interfaces

so intelligent that we make as few mistakes as possible

and generally act more in accordance with our personal

interests. In this way, we don’t really need to think much.

Through the work of the choice architects, we will be

more or less automatically nudged in the right direction.

The authors repeatedly compare these experts to grand

masters of chess: able to foresee when various moves will

lead to unavoidable loss. By giving us a due nudge in the

right direction, the choice architects will make our lives

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

31


Nudging Utopia - By Søren Riis, Evan Selinger and Kyle Whyte

The idea behind nudges is that people aren’t fully

rational beings (homo economicus) who, through

deliberation, knowledge and a good memory make

wise, well-considered choices. In fact, most of the

time we act on mental autopilot

happier step by step. The subtitle to Thaler & Sunsteins

book, Nudge, is in perfect harmony with this overall

paradisiacal vision: Improving Decisions About Health,

Wealth, and Happiness. The nudge vision has found great

popularity with leaders on the political right and left.

Both David Cameron in the UK and Barack Obama in the

US have shown great interest in ‘nudging’ for a better

society.

Nudging in practice

Let us now take a closer look at some of the concrete suggestions

for nudges that Thaler & Sunstein make in their

book - nudges that can help us realize the overall positive

vision of an effective and happy society.

Most agree that the primary cause of the financial

crisis was the prevalence of subprime mortgages. As

we now know, these mortgages are often exempt from

repayments for a period of time and have particularly

low interest rates the first few years. They can be rather

opaque and difficult to compare. In this context, a nudge

could consist of ‘default’ mortgages being fixed-rate bond

loans, which – according to the above insights and experiences

– will lead more people to choose this more secure

type of financing. Another financial nudge could be

transparency and standardization of the banks’ communication

of repayment rates, interest rates and fees. This

will make different products easier to compare, so that

we – even with our normally limited mental capacity –

can make the best possible choices. In addition, studies

of retirement schemes show that many people, if asked,

are willing to spend a certain fraction of their future

wage increases on savings. Analogous to this, the banks’

‘default setting’ in relation to exempt-from-repayment

mortgages could be that future wage increases would

automatically lead to greater down payments on loans

unless you explicitly want something else. This is particularly

important if the customer has a subprime mortgage

that is exempt from repayment, since the aforementioned

optimism can easily contribute to unrealistically high

expectations of future income. Through these nudges, our

society would become more stable, private budgets would

be healthier, and the fortunes of the market would be

unimportant – all without the individual citizen having

to do much.

Thaler & Sunstein also suggest possible nudges to

ensure a green and sustainable future. Basically, we don’t

need substantial legislative changes, but simply gentle

nudges, in order to achieve a more efficient and sustainable

society. As the authors point out, energy is mainly

invisible to users; hence, it is unclear to them how

much they use. For this reason, a clear visual indicator

of energy use will often have a positive effect. Thaler &

Sunstein refer to a study that showed that, if consumers

were equipped with a globe that glowed red when they

used a lot of energy and glowed green when their energy

use was low, they reduced their energy consumption

by 40 percent in the test period. In China, individual

homes don’t even have electricity meters, so there is little

inducement to save energy. In Denmark, we have to pay

individually for electricity use, but our electricity meters

aren’t pretty, nor do they have a particularly smart interface.

Hence, they tend to be hidden well away where they

can’t nudge us in a more sustainable direction.

A society with ubiquitous nudges would run like a

well-oiled engine with a clear course towards a ‘paradisiacal’

state. In this dream society, people get out of

bed at the right time in the morning because everybody

has a fine nudge alarm clock on wheels, which means

they can’t easily hit ‘snooze’, but instead are forced out

of bed in order to catch and stop the alarm clock 3 . Once

they get up, the citizens eat low-calorie meals and drive

to work in electric cars (which of course in their default

setting drive by themselves, so they neither collide with

other cars nor cause damage to pedestrians). Work is

foolproof, so to speak. If the employee does anything

unusual, they are asked several times if they are sure,

and a number of alternative choices will automatically be

offered – just like when we attempt to delete a file on our

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Nudging Utopia - By Søren Riis, Evan Selinger and Kyle Whyte

It is up to future citizens and politicians to draw

the lines and implement a range of nudge technologies

in tomorrow’s diverse society. However,

in the spirit of enlightenment, we would first like

to have some debate about the phenomenon

computer. If an employee gets home at night after a hard

day, during which he or she somehow managed to make

an error, and then starts a loud fight with the girlfriend

or boyfriend, the wall microphones recognize the highpitched,

unusually unfriendly tone and immediately start

streaming a calming piano concert through the home loudspeakers.

At the same time, a text message is sent from

the digital psychiatrist to the effect that you should try to

think of the best thing that happened that day. Because

of the deterrent effect – and just in case something bad

occurs – everything is taped on video. After having calmed

down, the citizen can go peacefully to bed and be

well rested for the next day’s challenges.

To many, such a society is probably not a paradise at

all. Yet we accept some nudges and strive towards a safe

and efficient society. Technological medicine for healing

society’s ailments doesn’t come without possible side

effects. It is up to future citizens and politicians to draw

the lines and implement a range of nudge technologies

in tomorrow’s diverse society. However, in the spirit of

enlightenment, we would first like to have some debate

about the phenomenon.

Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein: Nudge: Improving Decisions About

Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Penguin Books, USA 2009.

SØREN RIIS has an MA in philosophy and German and a PhD in philosophy.

He is an associated employee at the Copenhagen Institute for

Futures Studies and Assistant Professor at Roskilde University Centre

(RUC).

EVAN SELINGER has a PhD in philosophy. He is Associate Professor of

Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.

KYLE WHYTE has a PhD in philosophy. He is Assistant Professor of

Philosophy at Michigan State University, USA.

notes

1 In this connection, read also Riis, Søren: ”Overvægt: En tungtvejende

trend”, Børsen, 2008

2 E.g. psychology, game theory and economics

3 Thaler & Sunstein refer to this alarm clock, which already exists

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33


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Architecture

is

the will of

an epoch

translated

into space.

Mies van

der Rohe


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


Utopian Spaces

By Nikolina Olsen-Rule

In order to understand the more philosophical ideas

behind the utopia phenomenon, a more concrete

approach may be necessary. For this purpose, a society’s

physical organization is an obvious thing to

watch. Take a look at three perfect cities

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Utopian Spaces - By Nikolina Olsen-Rule

Futurism’s 100th birthday

February 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of the

first Futurist manifesto by the movement’s founder Filippo Tomassi

Marinetti (1876-1944). Futurism was an Italian avant-garde movement

that included literature, art and architecture. The movement

celebrated human-made motion, the future, and technology. Objects

like machines and cars were often used as symbols of the ideology

of Futurism. Some of the artists that adopted the Futurist ideology

were Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916),

Carlo Carrà (1881-1966), Gino Severini (1883-1966), and the architect

Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) 7 .

Brasillia – the realized utopian city

Brasilia is the capital of Brazil and has about 3.6 million inhabitants.

The city is situated in the central parts of Brazil’s highlands and was

planned and developed from 1956. The Brazilian architects Lúcio

Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were the main people behind the architectural

design. Originally, Brasilia’s road network was planned in a special

loop system that made normal traffic lights obsolete. The city is

included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites 8 .

u Imagine a world without poverty or wretchedness, or

simply a society where everyone can feel safe and well

adjusted, and where there is meaningful work and bright,

spacious housing for everyone. This may sound like pure

utopia, but is it A closer examination of utopian influences

on modern city planning may give new hope to the

utopia.

Why do we find it hard to embrace the notion of utopia

today The answer may be that we require a rational

explanation for everything. However, it seems that we

are seeing a change in attitudes towards utopia. We do

not embrace utopia blindly, but because we modern

individuals today are facing new challenges that make us

extremely vulnerable. Many things suggest that the societal

structures we have so long taken for granted are now

being shaken to the core. If you aren’t already worried

about the financial crisis, there’s the climate or the war in

the Middle East, not to mention poverty. But what is our

call to action A so-called Zeitgeist movement has grown

from the ashes of the global crisis. But in order to be able

to believe that we human beings can change the world,

we must understand utopia as an alternative, radically

different business model 1 .

The etymology of utopia

The concept of utopia cannot be boiled down to a single

thing. The word utopia has a double meaning, since in

Greek it can mean both the good place (eutopia) and the

non-existing place (outopia). The opposite of utopia is

dystopia – a concept that refers to a hostile place. Finally,

there is heterotopia, which means ‘the other place’ 2 .

The West’s encounter with utopia goes back all the

way to Plato’s The Republic, circa 400BC. Utopia was

re-encountered in about 1515, when the writer and

Renaissance thinker Sir Thomas More published his

novel Utopia. Here, More describes a journey to an imaginary

island society that, unlike the Europe of his time,

was characterized by egalitarian rule (based on equal

distribution of society’s riches, e.g. equal wages). More’s

Utopia is a sort of prototype of an ideal society where

everybody has equal rights and thrives in a harmonic

community.

Later, the French sociologist and philosopher Michel

Foucault, among others, dealt with the concept of utopia

in his essay Of Other Spaces – Heterotopias (1967). Here,

he presents the utopia as closely linked to the heterotopia:

“Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that

have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with

the real space of Society. They present society itself in a

perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in

any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.”

Looking from a present-day perspective, the question is

why we have anxiety when it comes to utopia and the

idea of an ideal society. Perhaps it is because history

has taught us about the big, fallen utopian societies. As

the Slovenian philosopher and social critic Slavoj Žižek

points out, the fall of the Wall marked the end of the

Communist utopia, and the 9/11 attack in New York killed

the idea that the world was heading towards a liberal

utopia. Finally, the deification of the global market (the

forces of free enterprise) was wounded fatally in 2008 3 .

However, in order to understand some of the more

complex philosophical and socio-critical discourses surrounding

utopia, a more concrete approach may be necessary.

Here, a society’s physical organization is an obvious

thing to watch in order to understand how conceptual

ideologies are turned into reality.

The perfect city

Three utopian schools in particular have influenced city

planning in the 20th century. The first of these is the

garden city, invented by city planner Ebenezer Howard,

who in the same year as he published his book Garden

Cities of Tomorrow (1898) founded the Garden City movement

in Great Britain. The garden city reflects the utopia

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Utopian Spaces - By Nikolina Olsen-Rule

Seen from the perspective of cultural and

social history, the utopian concept has had

a rough ride. As was clearly seen in the UN

climate summit in December 2009, COP15 in

Copenhagen, utopias are very much a matter

of power

of a city in the midst of nature, designed like a satellite

city consisting of a centre encircled by green belts or

zones. The clever thing about the garden city is that it is

constructed from a modular system wherein small selfsufficient

cooperatives and village units are planted like

smaller satellites. Each garden city is limited to a certain

number of citizens and, if this maximum is exceeded, a

new satellite city is founded. This method has been the

model for a number of garden cities such as the British

Letchworth and Welwyn, and has generally influenced

the way suburbs have been developed and expanded in

Post-War times.

The second school arose from the idea of ‘the city without

walls’, introduced by the American architect Frank

Lloyd Wright, who is also known for his Japan-inspired,

horizontal building style. With his utopian city Broadacre

City he intended to build a city where all inhabitants

would have a lot of 4000 square metres each. In many

ways, the city resembles Howard’s garden city, and the

ideals behind it are similar to More’s egalitarian society,

Utopia. Broadacre City was meant to be a society without

specialists where everyone took turns at being farmers,

workers or whatever was needed. Instead of paying with

money when trading, the citizens were expected to barter

raw materials or services. As the name Broadacre implies,

the intent was that all the city’s houses should be built

with plenty of distance between them. However, Wright’s

visions have instead turned into the densely populated,

decentralized suburbs seen in the USA today.

A tribute to the metropolis

The third school is rooted in the works of the Swiss-

French architect and designer Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-

Gris. He is better known as Le Corbusier and is perhaps

one of modernism’s most original and controversial

architects. He launched a range of extremely detailed,

diagrammatic and modular architectonic principles, and

his systematic and holistic approach characterized everything

he worked with – from design to architecture to

city planning. In his plans for a large-scale urban project,

La Ville Radieuse (or The Radiant City), developed in the

1920’s, he introduced his ideas of a monolithic city of

generic and gigantic skyscraper blocks, designed to house

three million inhabitants. The idea was to create a more

efficient form of housing and at the same time improve

the standards of each housing unit. Le Corbusier’s radiant

city, which was never realized, was also an implicit criticism

of the social structures of society.

The radical type of city planning and architecture of

which Le Corbusier was an exponent, and by which

many other modern city planners have been inspired,

is often called tabula rasa architecture. This means that

the slate of the ideal city is wiped clean of existing structures,

ideals and norms. The new city thus embodies

all the hopes and dreams that its planner or architect

might have for the future. The prerequisite for realizing

Le Corbusier’s hypermodern city was that a large

part of central Paris should be levelled to the ground,

which meant that the city never came to be. However,

Le Corbusier did build a number of building blocks, called

unités, where he carried out the principle of building

small villages in a housing complex. These can be seen

in, for example, Marseilles and Berlin 4 .

Le Corbusier has been criticized heavily for his visions

of better housing and cities, in particular for his radical

approach and the way he divided everything – from a

single housing unit to an entire city – into zones. Le

Corbusier has been called rigid, bureaucratic, totalitarian,

a devotee of concrete – and, yes, a utopian.

The tabula rasa cities of modernism

Common to the three schools is that they, each in their

own way, provide ideas for a society that is viewed as

better than the existing one. And even though all three

cities have been described as utopian urban projects,

they have nonetheless become important signposts for

architects and city planners in the 20 th and 21 st centuries.

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39


Utopian Spaces - By Nikolina Olsen-Rule

The radical type of city planning and architecture of

which Le Corbusier was an exponent, and by which

many other modern city planners have been inspired,

is often called tabula rasa architecture. This means

that the slate of the ideal city is wiped clean of existing

structures, ideals and norms

Faith in progress and better times, and especially dissatisfaction

with the present state of things, is also the

driving force behind many modern avant-garde movements.

It seems difficult to avoid the concept of avantgarde

when you view the cultural history of utopia. The

so-called tabula rasa city plan, which has often been criticized

as totalitarian or dictatorial architecture, should,

like other 20th-century avant-garde movements, be seen

in the light of the two World Wars along with a number

of other important factors such as urban growth, technological

invention, increased mobility, and urban estrangement

(whereby the individual is lost in metropolitan anonymity).

Hence, there are utopias that seek inner peace

and harmony – away from the city – and there are some

that, like Le Corbusier’s, pay homage to the metropolis,

technology, and modern construction materials such as

concrete.

Science fiction and utopia

Another, even more radical exponent of the tabula rasa

city is the avant-garde Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia,

member of the Futurist Movement (see fact box). He

went to extremes in his attempts to consider the city as

an organic whole. In his drawings for his city Città Nueva

(1914), gigantic buildings tower in a science-fictional

landscape that pays homage to the metropolis. Roadways,

viaducts and buildings are connected in an ingenious

architectonic system – a holistic design that transforms

the urban landscape into an industrial organism. Even

though this city was never built, its influence can be seen

in cities such as Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia, developed and

built in 1956. The city became Brazil’s capital in 1960

and is today protected by UNESCO. It can be seen as a

rare example of a realized architectural utopia.

However, is tabula rasa architecture simply an expression

of insanity or the pure hunger for power Or can we

actually learn something from it today

Today’s globalized world faces new challenges, with

war, global warming and the financial crisis being the

most central ones. Particularly in the field of environment

and climate, there’s been an explosion of good,

fun, weird, and innovative ideas. But where is utopia

Or, to put it differently, where is the cohesive plan for a

new society that meets global challenges such as poverty,

human oppression and corruption

It is hardly news that the climate field is the new front

of cities, architects and city planners. They compete

vigorously to see who can invent the most sustainable

and thorough plan for preventing the dire forecasts made

by the world’s climate experts. The plans for the organic

city Dongtan, near Shanghai, provide an example of a

radical and comprehensive city plan that sets new standards

for sustainable cities. Dongtan’s master plan involves

a connection between housing and workplaces so

that commuting is reduced to a minimum. Through this

alone, 400,000 tonnes of CO2 can be saved. There will be

access to vehicles running on electricity and biofuel, and

power for the about 80,000 citizens and 50,000 workplaces

will come from windmills, biogas from toilets, and

waste from rice farming. There is just one problem: no

city has been built yet. It turns out that Dongtan, like

many other planned eco-projects in China, is too ambitious.

In the media, some have raised the question of

whether a green utopian city like Dongtan is too unrealistic.

Has the project been too ambitious and hence grown

bigger than calculated Will ordinary Chinese be able

to afford living there There is also the question of why

you should build an entirely new city rather than making

the many existing Chinese cities more environmentally

friendly 5 .

Redesigning the world

The so-called Zeitgeist Movement bears witness to a

radical example of a present-day utopia. One of the

movement’s founders, Peter Joseph, says in an interview

that the monetary economy and the capitalist consumer

culture are slowly eroding from within: “It’s time that

we wake up. The doomsday scenario, the big contraction,

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Utopian Spaces - By Nikolina Olsen-Rule

The question is why we have anxiety when

it comes to utopia and the idea of an ideal

society. Perhaps it is because history has

taught us about the big, fallen utopian

societies. As the Slovenian philosopher

and social critic Slavoj Žižek points out,

the fall of the Wall marked the end of the

Communist utopia, and the 9/11 attack

in New York killed the idea that the world

was heading towards a liberal utopia

might be happening right now. The system of monetary

exchange is – in the face of advancing technology – completely

obsolete”. 6

The Zeitgeist Movement is the activist branch of a

large and comprehensive project, The Venus Project (see

the article page 15, ed.), which aims to change society

radically through modern technology, among other

things. For most people, the promise of the project

sounds like an unattainable utopia, but if you examine it

more closely, there are surprisingly many scientifically

founded arguments that open up an entire new world

of possibilities. The Venus Project is nothing short of a

total redesign of the world as we know it – a promise to

change the world’s imbalances through design.

Do we believe it ourselves

Seen from the perspective of cultural and social history,

the utopian concept h as had a rough ride. As was clearly

seen in the UN climate summit in December 2009,

COP15 in Copenhagen, utopias are very much a matter

of power: whose vision of the future is the most realizable,

and who carries the strongest mandate in the

climate struggle These are just a couple of the many

complicated and unresolved questions that, depending

on what position you have, will determine which solutions

are more or less realizable and desirable. Regarding

the utopian city, we can imagine that the scepticism we

find today has something to do with the earlier (failed)

attempts to create entire cities on the basis of ideas like

ideal behaviour or ideal lifestyles, such as Le Corbusier’s

grand vision of La Ville Radieuse. However, the idea of

the perfect society isn’t dead. Perhaps the more successful

utopias can be found on a smaller scale. In other

words, we can find utopias in the ways we build onto

existing cities, improve them, make them better, more

environmental, sustainable and humanistic, more fun,

and above all more inhabitable.

NIKOLINA OLSEN-RULE has an MA in modern culture and cultural

communication from Copenhagen University. She has taught as associate

professor at Århus University and has worked as a communications advisor

for design exhibitions and as a writer. Today she is an advisor in the

communication and design company Bysted in Copenhagen.

notes

1 www.thezeitgeistmovement.com

2 Gyldendal’s open encyclopaedia and www.leksikon.org

3 Bredsdorff, Thomas: Utopiens anden død, Politiken, 19.12.2009

4 www.marseille-citeradieuse.org, www.corbusierhaus-berlin.de

5 www.chinadigitaltimes.net/china/dongtan/

6 New York Times, 16.03.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/

nyregion/17zeitgeist.html

7 http://kunsthistorier.blogspot.com/2009/02/futurismen-100-ar.html

8 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/445

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Faith in the Future

in a World of Dystopias

By Sara Jönsson

Utopias are big words and thoughts. But in a world

increasingly characterized by complex structures

and globalization, it is easier to speak of individual

responsibility than of a common dream, which we

all must struggle to realize

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43


Faith in the Future in a World of Dystopias - By Sara Jönsson

In a world that is increasingly characterized by

complex structures and globalization, it is easier

to speak about individual responsibility than about

a common dream, which we must all struggle to

realize. Perhaps this is why the selection of organic

food on our supermarket shelves has become

significantly larger and why the Swedish Pirate’s

Party, which fights for file sharing and greater

personal control, is now the third-largest party in

Sweden

u As a child, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. The

thought of wandering in space and exploring eternity

was tempting, and I proudly spoke about my future plans

to my friends and family. I didn’t quite understand why

I was met with scepticism – why shouldn’t I be able to

travel in space when there were other people who did

Once I started school, I developed other interests, and the

astronaut dreams quietly faded away and were replaced

by dreams of clothes, boyfriends and travel: the things

that conferred status among my friends at the time.

We all have dreams about the future. Some of the

dreams are about ourselves and our nearest environment,

but others are about the society we live in. Our societal

dreams are often connected to political or religious ideals

and convictions as well as moral and ethical norms,

which tell us how things should be if we were able to

make them so. Many such dreams could be called utopias

– future visions that are on the edge of what is realizable,

but which are a part of our efforts to develop as individuals

and as a society. For some, a utopia is an unattainable

goal, a dream that can never be realized and which

functions in the same way that visions do for companies

– a drive to go forward, even if the goal will never be

reached. Today, now that I’m grown up and sensible, my

dreams consist of both what is realistic and what is just

a distant fantasy, like an overly romanticised Hollywood

movie.

Can the distant fantasies come true

If you are pragmatically minded, you may ask yourself

what the point is with distant, unrealistic utopias when

you instead can occupy yourself with something that

actually can be changed. If a utopia is unattainable, how

does it differ from a dystopia: i.e., a vision of a negative

society Is a utopia simply a reminder of something we

will never be able to achieve In order to move to even

richer philosophical ground, we can ask, for example,

whether the classical utopia of ‘peace and equality’ could

exist if it were possible to achieve. The concept of ‘peace’

only exists in opposition to the concept of ‘war’ and

implies ‘the absence of war and conflict’, among other

things. But if war and conflict don’t exist, the concept of

peace would be meaningless, because then peace would

be the normal state. To put it another way, there is to

my knowledge nothing called a ‘dead society’, since all

societies are de facto living. If they are not, they turn into

something else – a ruin or a ghost town. In our language,

we often group words in opposites when describing

social phenomena: war and peace, integration and segregation,

democracy and dictatorship are classical examples

of dichotomies that clearly illustrate the contrasts

be tween various societal states, which can’t exist without

their opposites.

In spite of this, utopias aren’t simply pipe dreams we

never will be able to attain. In some places, there is even

faith that the most unlikely utopias not only make sense

but also could be brought into existence. For example,

religions such as Christianity contain a number of religious

ideas that can be compared to utopias: among

others, the faith in life after death. Today, Christianity is

the world’s most widespread religion, and even though

we can perceive a trend towards secularization in some

parts of the world, it is alive and well. Randall Collins, a

professor of sociology from California, thinks that in all

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Faith in the Future in a World of Dystopias - By Sara Jönsson

Utopias will always exist in one

form or another, but the 1970’s

flower-power era seems very

distant

religions the phenomenon of ‘God’ is a symbol of society.

Society gives us life, and it can also kill us – hence, religions

express the basic conditions of human existence in

the same way that utopias often do.

The future dreams of the young in a dystopian world

In 2008, the Swedish consultancy firm Kairos Future

published the report ”Min bild av drömsamhället” (“My

vision of the dream society”) with the results of a survey

of 19,000 youths between 15 and 19 years of age. Among

other things, it shows that the dreams of the young first

and foremost revolve around their careers, partners and

housing. The most important goal is ‘to feel free’, which

no fewer than 93 percent named as important. The survey

also shows that the will to improve the world and

become engaged in environmental debates has become

smaller. Instead, the focus is on more individual needs

and wants, and the greatest worry is not being able to get

a good job. Thus, the long-term trend of individualization

also influences our attitudes towards the collective, which

gets less attention. In a world that is increasingly characterized

by complex structures and globalization, it is

easier to speak about individual responsibility than about

a common dream, which we must all struggle to realize.

Perhaps this is why the selection of organic food on our

supermarket shelves has become significantly larger and

why the Swedish Pirate’s Party, which fights for file sharing

and greater personal control, is now the third-largest

party in Sweden.

Modern literature and movies, particularly in the

science fiction genre, more often depict dystopias than

utopias. In a growing number of cult movies such as

Blade Runner, Terminator, and Brazil, future society

is shown as a hi-tech world filled with war and evil.

Meanwhile, writers such as the English George Orwell

(1903-1950) and the French Michel Houellebecq (1958-)

have become famous for their socio-critical portrayals of

the present and the future. In this age of climate change,

war, social injustice, and bad consciences, it may not be

surprising that it becomes harder for the young to create

collective utopias that they can believe in and fight for.

Instead, in light of our post-modern existence, it becomes

easier to focus on the job you want.

Will there be utopias in the future

The French sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007)

invented the idea of ‘hyperreality’, which denotes a sort

of invented reality produced by the media. Baudrillard

thought that modernity is characterized by production,

while post-modernity will be characterized by simulation

and a sort of explosion in signs and symbols from

various mass media. An example of this can be found

in the book The Gulf War Didn’t Take Place, in which

Baudrillard describes how, in a segment about the war,

the American news channel CNN turned to their reporter

live in Iraq to ask what was happening, only to discover

that the reporter was himself watching CNN in order to

find out. If the media produces reality, our utopias and

desires will most likely also be found in the virtual world.

Web 2.0, web 3.0, web 4.0. There is no limit to how far

technology can go. New virtual networks can be built,

and our dreams collected on Facebook among applications

and fan pages. Utopias will always exist in one form

or another, but the 1970’s flower-power era seems very

distant.

SARA JÖNSSON has a BA in Sociology and works as a research assistant

at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies

sources:

Jean Baudrillard: The Gulf War Didn’t Take Place (1995)

Kairos Future: Min bild av drömsamhället (1998)

The Pirate Party: www.piratpartiet.se/international

Randall Collins: Sociological Insight – An Introduction to Non-Obvious

Sociology (1982)

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45


Johan Peter Paludan’s column

Utopians - our closest colleagues

u In case the editor hasn’t already mentioned it elsewhere

in this issue, the word utopia has its origin in

Greek and means a place that isn’t real. The concept

continues to play a big role in contemporary discourse,

and this must be because it represents our aspirations to

make not-real place real. There’s nothing wrong with that.

When utopian visions are at times discredited, it is less

because of their content than because of the way we seek

to implement them. The end justifies the means, as Lenin

and his cronies said – and we know the result of that.

Utopias aren’t real, but if they are to be realized, it

must be in the future. You don’t construct utopian visions

for the past, so utopias belong to the ‘futures people’.

One way to systematize the ‘future people’ is to place

them along two dimensions. First: do they approach the

future with intuition or through methods And second:

do they view the future as something given, or is the

future ‘something we create’

This provides the basis for four types of ‘futures people’:

1. They who think the future is given and can be

seen through intuition: prophets, such as the Old

Testament kind. They were given visions of the

future. So are business managers today, but it

isn’t quite the same thing.

2. They who think the future is given and can be

revealed through methods: fortune tellers. You

may think what you will about crystal balls, tea

leaves, etc., but they are methods of a kind.

3. They who think the future can be created and that

you can be methodical in your approach to this

future. In this group we find planners and their

helpers: futurists.

4. Finally, they who think the future can be created

and that you can determine the ideal future

through intuition: utopians.

As can be seen, the future-oriented field is crowded.

Fortune tellers are flourishing. When the Copenhagen

Institute for Futures Studies was established 40 years ago,

there were only a few willing to accept being described

this way. Since then, the number has skyrocketed, and

if we extrapolate the trend – and perhaps we should be

reluctant to do so – it is possible to foresee the time when

we all become futurists. There may be some poetic justice

in that, since we should all think about the future. The

Old Testament isn’t as powerful as it once was, but for all

the old prophets that have fallen, new ones have cropped

up everywhere in the neo-religious movements. Vile tongues

suggest that the climate debate has also spawned a

number of prophets who, through more or less doctored

studies, can see the future.

And then there are the utopians: They who dream of a

better world and know what it looks like.

In this schema, futurists are placed between utopians

and fortune tellers. As Your Columnist see it, futurists

should stay away from constructing utopian dreams, but

may take part in establishing scenarios for how such visions

could be realized. Futurists should also refrain from

making cocksure statements about the future. Though

Your Columnist generally praises a professional lack of

opinion, I must remark that utopians are preferable to

fortune tellers. Utopians dream. Fortune tellers deceive

either themselves or their customers or both.

Like so much else, utopias are time bound and are

generally expressions of what is seen as the greatest lack

in the time in which they are formulated. The Garden of

Eden, and later Cockayne, are utopias formed during a

time in which work was hard and there was too little to

eat. Socialist utopias arise in societies with too little equality

and justice. The question of whether the utopia that

focuses on access to a high number of virgins in paradise

can be similarly explained we will leave unanswered.

What, then, is the characteristic modern utopia The

answer is obvious, given the recently held COP15 conference

in Copenhagen: a clean environment without

climate changes. This is rather conservative, one could

think.

Another utopia is the one known at the Copenhagen

Institute for Futures Studies as OFF, which often

accompanies ideas such as simple living. This utopia

is a response to a perceived gross lack of leisure time,

togetherness and quality of life.

Both these utopias represent dreams of something

that doesn’t exist (yet). We shall see if these utopias will

remain merely utopian.

JOHAN PETER PALUDAN is the director of the Copenhagen Institute for

Futures Studies. He mainly works to communicate the Institute’s results

through lectures and courses in Denmark, the Nordic countries, greater

Europe, and vthe United States.

46 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


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Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


By Marcel Bullinga

outside of theme

Nine trends and nine inventions that will

shape the face of the 21st century

Nine trends and nine inventions will

shape the face of the 21st century.

They will have a similar impact on

our lives as the car, the TV and the airplane

had on the lives of our parents.

Take a sneak peak at Marcel Bullinga’s

upcoming book Futurecheck

Nine trends that will reshape the world around us

1. We all live in a 3D mobile media cloud with no

on/off button, replacing outdated communication

devices. The virtual world and the physical world

are becoming the same. Online is default; offline

is a choice. Boundaries blur: there is no difference

anymore between a house and a database,

between things and people: both can be controlled

and manipulated.

2. Two economies exist at the same time: a global

and virtual economy with a global reach that is

hypercompetitive, and a local and physical economy

with a shorter reach that is less competitive.

3. The economy is flat, with fewer barriers and

fewer limits for doing transparent business

and for the exchange of standardized forms of

information.

4. You are at the heart and the centre of all logistical

and cultural processes. Your own global personal

dashboard empowers you to make better daily

decisions, such as the choice of a mortgage or the

choice of a school for your children.

5. ‘Self’ is a very powerful trend in every possible

field: things and people, information and human

behaviour, systems and materials.

In your personal dashboard, you will have local,

high quality, real-time information at your disposal.

This huge personal power of access to information

leads to self-service and self-control.

In a flat world economy, the global extremes in

social security flatten: less government-funded

social security in the West, more in the East.

The trends are: self-payment, self-responsibility,

self-power, self-health, self-employment and selfmanagement.

You are responsible for creating

your own pension fund, education savings and

healthcare.

Both materials and production systems are selforganising,

self-healing and self-cleaning.

Law enforcement is about self-regulation, selfsecurity

and self-enforcement. Local communities

are self-sustaining. Things are self-conscious.

6. Mainstream information is local. Mainstream

energy is local. Newly created local capital –

capital with real value and no speculative aspect

-- competes with the US Dollar, the Yuan and the

Euro. The mainstream economy is local and selfreliant.

It has limited mobility due to green tax­

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49


Nine trends and nine inventions that will shape the face of the 21st century - By Marcel Bullinga

The 3D mobile media cloud surrounding us will affect our

children as well: the WiFi Generation. They will be growing

up faster than ever before, reaching puberty and adult age

earlier than ever before. This is because they are exposed

at a very young age to adult information not meant for

children, and because they can be reached individually

by anyone at a very young age. Parents have less control

over the information-intake of their children and lose sight

of the people with whom they communicate

ing and the high price of transporting goods and

energy.

7. You (and everyone and everything else) are transparent;

you can be traced – that is, if you have

given marketing agents permission to do so. You

are the boss in this conditionally transparent

media cloud; you set the conditions for the use

of your data. Privacy is a (paid) choice.

Transparency (ranking and benchmarking) of

your professional achievements leads to a hypercompetitive

labour market. Transparency of

all services and goods leads to higher overall

business quality and to a consumer’s paradise.

Transparency is the secret weapon of all newcomers

to a market; it distinguishes them from

the old guard.

8. All products and processes become intelligent;

that is, they have their own consciousness and

can react to change. The best common example is

the intelligent self-steering car. The best unknown

example is intelligent money (yet to be invented).

9. We slowly move towards prevention in every

possible field: the prevention of fraud and crime,

the prevention of failure costs, the prevention of

illnesses and healthcare usage, the prevention of

physical transport of products and people, and the

prevention of energy usage.

Do your own Futurecheck brainstorm

Take the product you make, the service you deliver, or

the work you do, and put all nine trend before the word.

Then see what happens. This will prepare you for the

future.

You make cars Imagine the Intelligent Car, Self Car,

Green Car, You Car, etc. What changes does this imply

How do you prepare for these changes

Nine inventions that will change the face of the 21st

century

1. We live in senior cities and in innovation villages.

The difference between city and village is diminished

in a 75 percent urban world.

2. We produce only green and mainly local products.

We consume only green and mainly local

forms of energy. It is either green profit or no

profit at all. Green leaders are financial leaders.

3. We drive and live in energy-efficient cars and

buildings, using local forms of energy. This will

greatly reduce our geopolitical dependency on terrorist

oil states and unstable regimes.

4. We drive more in virtual cars and less in real cars.

This will curtail a huge amount of very expensive

physical mobility.

5. We live in a consumers’ paradise, thanks to

transparency and intelligent production systems.

However, the future is more of a battlefield for

workers and entrepreneurs.

6. We use cheap product printers – our own personal

factories – to produce small household

products, spare parts, various energy sources and

even buildings on the spot, using local resources

and local raw materials. This will curtail a huge

amount of long-distance transport, energy usage

and failure costs.

7. We live in a mobile 3D media cloud, controlled

by you, your mobile, and your own personal dashboard.

In the media cloud, you are the boss of

your privacy, your communication and your data:

100 percent privacy at last.

The 3D mobile media cloud surrounding us will

affect our children as well: the WiFi Generation.

They will be growing up faster than ever before,

reaching puberty and adult age earlier than ever

50 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Nine trends and nine inventions that will shape the face of the 21st century - By Marcel Bullinga

In this media cloud

and personal dashboard,

we use intelligent

money that

knows its owner

and its purpose, and

knows to whom it

may or may not be

transferred. This

reinforces trust, preventing

a new financial

crisis. It makes

pyramid schemes

impossible, prevents

the majority of current

fraud, and provides

you with a solid

mortgage

What is In and what is Out in the future

IN

Sun

Local energy

Culturel borders

Green profit

Prior knowledge

Mediacloud

Data Privacy

Noise

Transparency

High skills

Entrepreneurship

Scrutiny and self checking

Mobile

Learning factory

Professionals

Monocultural rituals

Population decline

OUT

Oil

Energy that needs long distance

transportation

Country borders

Waste

Knowing after the fact

iPod, radio, tv, mobile phone

Visual privacy

Silence

Obscurity

Low education

Wages

Blind trust and blue eyes

Fixed

School

Managers

Multicultural rituals

Population growth

before. This is because they are exposed at a very

young age to adult information not meant for

children, and because they can be reached individually

by anyone at a very young age. Parents

have less control over the information-intake of

their children and lose sight of the people with

whom they communicate.

8. In the 3D mobile media cloud of the future, you

have your own personal global dashboard, containing

all your finances, dossiers and transactions.

It creates transparency and thus reinforces

trust. Basically, it contains your past and your

future.

9. In this media cloud and personal dashboard,

we use intelligent money that knows its owner

and its purpose, and knows to whom it may or

may not be transferred. This reinforces trust,

preventing a new financial crisis. It makes pyramid

schemes impossible, prevents the majority

of current fraud, and provides you with a solid

mortgage.

Futurecheck twitters

TWITTER 1:

Green Profit leads us out of crisis. Transparent Profit

makes us excel. Ethical Profit ends perverted bonuses.

Local Money creates real wealth.

TWITTER 2:

There is not 1 future, but many thousands. However,

only 1 future will actually be delivered: your future.

Imagining it will bring it closer

TWITTER 3:

9 inventions and 9 trends that will shape the face of the

21st century. With a similar impact on our lives as car,

TV and airplane had before

TWITTER 4:

Business model of the Future: 0 x 2 x ½(T/L/C/E/S) =

0-misery products for 2 x current quality and ½ current

{Time|Labour|Costs|Energy|Space}

fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO

51


Designed by Jacque Fresco, www.thevenusproject.com


By Johan Peter Paludan

outside of theme

Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1

The historian and the futurist can be

said to study two sides of the same

matter, specifically the present, writes

Johan Peter Paludan in this first article

about the phenomenon of futures

studies and its role in organizational

and strategic planning

u The following observations are based on what is now

33 years of work at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures

Studies. At this point I should probably note that the

Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies is a privately

financed institute with the sorrows (financial worries)

and joys (knowing that people need what you do enough

to be willing to pay for it) that this implies. 33 years

ago, the idea of privately financed futures studies was

a provocation, perhaps even a contradiction in terms.

The concept of futures studies was seen as a ludicrous

activity, associated with crystal balls and tea leaves. The

provocative effect is now almost gone, and more and

more identify themselves as ‘futurists’. Well, it’s not a

protected title.

The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies occupies

a special position in the gray area between universities

and consultants. We lie closer to consultants given our

customer-service focus (though I think university researchers

can also be quite focused on grants), deadline

requirements, lack of peer review (we are instead subject

to internal review and the review that lies in being

dependent on a market), a philosophy that focuses more

on being useful than on stringency, and fewer formalized

documentation requirements. On the other hand, we

lie closer to universities given our analytic, knowledgeintense

and long-term approach. We even think we are

better at cross-disciplinary work than the universities

(some would suggest that this doesn’t say much!) Finally,

we lie closer to the consultancy world in that our work

is mainly teamwork, whereas the universities have more

‘lone riders’ who receive the glory – or the blame. This

is not the case at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures

Studies. A few (former) employees have had other views,

but I would like to stress that the following observations

are based on my many years as a member of the ‘team’

that was and is the Institute.

According to its statutes, the mission of the Copenhagen

Institute for Futures Studies is to conduct futures

studies with a particular focus on Danish business. This

is, for example, achieved by contributing to the strategic

development of Danish companies. It is hence relevant to

know what futures studies is and is not. In the following,

I will illuminate the nature of futures studies by comparing

futurists with those who work at the other end of

the temporal spectrum: historians.

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Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1 - By Johan Peter Paludan

Pedagogical opening

Strategy is usually about the future. However, the past

may also be seen in a strategic light. Take, for instance,

recent interpretations of Denmark’s conduct between

1940-45 or during the Cold War. These periods of the

past are reinterpreted in order to orient us in the present.

Overall, after many years as a futurist, I must say that

the relationships between past, present and future seem

increasingly complex. As the writer William Gibson said,

‘the future is already here, but it is unevenly distributed’.

My present is the past to some and the future to others.

The future doesn’t exist; nor does the past; and the

present is so transient or narrow that you could throw

doubts on its existence, too.

One can get lost in that sort of philosophical reflection,

but life must be lived, decisions made, and we must

move on. The working hypothesis is that we are always

situated in the present and that what happens in the

present is crucial to our perceptions of past and future.

This hegemony of the present over past and future exists

because it is always the present that asks the questions,

and it is the questions that are asked that largely determine

the answers we receive. This is doubly true of our

present society, which some call the information society.

The information society means that there is an infinity

of answers, which makes the ability to ask good questions

crucial – and it is the present that determines which

ques tions are good.

The present asks questions of the past regarding what

once was, and new present contexts ask new questions.

This power of the present also governs the future.

Decisions must be made in the present. You can’t make

decisions in the past, though I can imagine that many in

the financial sector might currently wish they had such

an opportunity! Indeed, I even have a few things I would

like to get fixed if it were possible to make decisions in

the past, but this is unfortunately not the case.

We are all limited to the present when making decisions,

but they must be implemented in the future. Hence,

all decisions must necessarily be based on some assumptions

about the future in which they will be carried out.

It may be tempting to conclude that ideas about the past

are ‘nice to have’, while expectations of the future are

‘need to have’. This conclusion is true to the extent that,

without expectations or notions of the future, we are

unable to act and unfit to make decisions. You don’t die

from ignoring the past, though it is said that you then are

doomed to repeat it. A somewhat more ‘futurist humble’

conclusion is probably that both extensions of the present

(into past and future) are important. It is the past

and the present that form the basis of the answers to the

questions we ask of the future. ‘History learns everything

and nothing’ is a quotation I distantly remember from a

lesson in international politics by Erling Bjøl. This gives

the futurist free range and perhaps points once again to

the primacy of the present: we use the elements of the

past that the present finds interesting to ask new questions

about the future.

The historian and the futurist can be said to study different

sides of the same subject: the present. Because of

this, a futurist may see an historian as colleague of a sort.

I once suggested to a historian that there was a basis for

a common trade union or at least professional association

that could be called ‘time studiers’. The historian

rejected this proposal with the argument that the study

of the past was a science while futurists were charlatans.

Historians may thus find it overbearing that the futurist

compares himself to the historian, but this doesn’t prevent

us from being inspired by them and their reflections

over their discipline’s purpose.

In an essay,1 Ian Mortimer outlines the three dialogues

that a historian may participate in:

· A dialogue with the past. This was originally seen as

essential.

· A dialogue with the historian’s own present. This dialogue

is not always acknowledged.

· A dialogue with himself, which potentially can provide

significant new insight.

Let us see where we get if we use the same systematic

method in defining futures studies.

Dialogue with the past – and the future

First, the historian engages in a dialogue with the past.

This is done using a meticulous investigation of historical

sources and complex methods of analysis and criticism.

New data and new techniques can change the historian’s

view of the past. You have one view of history until new

discoveries from the past eventually provide another.

This is of course grossly simplified, but the basic task is

54 fo#01 2010 www.iff.dk/FO


Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1 - By Johan Peter Paludan

The historian and the

futurist can be said to

study different sides

of the same subject:

the present. Because

of this, a futurist may

see a historian as

colleague of a sort. I

once suggested to an

historian that there

was a basis for a

common trade union

or at least professional

association that

could be called ‘time

studiers’

As the writer William

Gibson said, ‘the

future is already

here, but it is unevenly

distributed’.

My present is the

past to some and the

future to others. The

future doesn’t exist;

nor does the past;

and the present is so

transient or narrow

that you could throw

doubts on its existence,

too

to reproduce the past ‘wie es eigentlich war’, as it truly

was.

A parallel to futures studies is difficult because it is

hard to find any futurist today willing to stick his neck

out and postulate that it is possible to determine ‘wie es

eigentlich sein wird’, how it truly is going to be. But perhaps

there aren’t all that many historians of ‘truth’ left,

either. There once were historians of ‘truth’ and, in this

sense, there are futurists of ‘truth’ today. They are called

fortune tellers and astrologers, and let them believe what

they want.

My first teacher in the art of futures studies, 2 Torben

Bo Jansen, liked to use a broom as a metaphor for time,

with the stick as the past, the binding of the broom as

the present, and all the broom hairs representing the

infinitude of possible developments we face at any

given moment. This model may falter because it posits

that there is just one single past. While there may only

be one past, at any given time there are many different

ideas about the past. Therefore, a bundle of sticks might

be a better metaphor than the broom, if fascism hadn’t

patented this particular symbol.

Prognoses are what come closest to ‘wie es eigentlich

sein wird’. However, prognoses, seen as clear and precise

descriptions of the future, rarely make sense beyond

the very short term. This is because prognoses always

represent a projection of the past into the future, and the

more you extend the past into the future, the more likely

it is that reality will turn out to have a different idea.

However, projections of the past into the future can at

times have a pedagogical function by pointing out areas

where something must happen. Even where the futurist

is on safest ground, when working with demographic

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55


Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1 - By Johan Peter Paludan

It may be tempting to conclude that ideas about

the past are ‘nice to have’, while expectations

of the future are a ‘must have’. This conclusion

is true to the extent that, without expectations

or notions of the future, we are unable to act

and unfit to make decisions

From uncertain prognoses to megatrends

Megatrends are, at least as viewed at the Copenhagen

Institute for Futures Studies, 3 broad trends with a high

level of durability, which due to their breadth can in principle

affect everything and due to their durability can be

expected to apply in the long term – 10 to 15 years. They

are crutches because the future IS unpredictable, but you

are horsewhipped to try anyway, and some things do

move forward with greater durability than other things.

In a Germanic academic tradition, this definition is rather

vague. Here, I choose the Anglo-Saxon tradition, perhaps

best illustrated by an American judge, who said about

another hard-to-define subject, pornography, that ‘it is

hard to define but you know it when you see it’.

At the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, we

currently operate with 15 megatrends: knowledge, acceleration,

new technology, hypercomplexity, globalization,

commercialization, economic growth, democratization,

individualization, immaterialization, network economy,

health, the environment, resources, and ageing.

I won’t go into these megatrends in detail here. After

all, most are probably self-evident. The typical megatrend

is in principle quite banal, but it must be in order to live

up to the definition, however vague it may be. Therefore,

the art is to consider the concrete possibilities for the

company that must consider the future in which its strategy

will function. This is where it is important to comdevelopment,

uncertainty increases the longer you try

to look ahead. A projection of, for instance, the number

of 25-64 years old in Denmark can be most certain for

the next 25 years, based on particular assumptions about

mortality and immigration patterns. It is also useful

to point out the challenges that arise from this: Either

productivity must increase dramatically or the inflow of

labour must be significantly increased in order to negate

the prognosis.

Another example can be found with the ongoing

debate about tax reform and the truth that is now established

– at least among economists – that people who

get to keep a larger proportion of their pay through a

reduction of top-bracket taxes almost automatically will

work more hours. This is a claim about a reliable connection

between effort and reward. Not only does this

overlook those who already work as much as they can; it

also ignores the possibility that the connection between

effort and reward may be influenced by how rich you are

and that the exchange between money and time may be

more complex. This is not an argument against (or for)

reducing top-bracket taxes, but an argument against believing

that the optimal conclusion is guaranteed. A point

to be made about the top-bracket tax discussion is that it

takes place in a society that by now is so complex that it

at times becomes necessary to conduct experiments and

be ready to abandon prior conclusions if it becomes clear

that they fail to live up to the expectations. This requires

bold political management; i.e., a willingness to resist the

findings of polls and focus groups.

A third example could be the prognosis of the immigrant

population in Denmark towards 2050. One can get

the impression that such a prognosis also has an ideological

effect, namely to warn against present-day immigration.

Such a simplistic projection of the immigrant popu­

lation, which includes 3 rd and 4 th generation immigrants,

ignores the social adaptation and integration that takes

place. My grandmother was Norwegian. Does this make

me an immigrant When prognoses are not good, or at

least not good for much, and strategies must be made in

the present to function in the future, what then Then

we have megatrends – the crutches of the futurist.

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Future Strategy in the Present – Part 1 - By Johan Peter Paludan

The megatrend is

rather that there are

an increasing number

of products that

customers are unwilling

to pay for

bine the futurist’s general approach with the company’s

specific expertise. Futurists will always be generalists in

relation to companies, which focus on a single activity

or a group of related activities. However, this isn’t solely

a handicap, but also an advantage, since companies may

have developed blinkers towards certain elements of reality,

and then the futurist may at times be the little boy in

the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

The established list of megatrends is guided by the subjects

and companies with which we work. If the Institute,

for example, had been involved with UN organizations,

the megatrend of urbanization would have been crucial.

In light of the regional development of Denmark, with a

polarization between the capital region and ‘the Eastern

Jutland metropolis’ on the one hand, and Western

Jutland, Southern Jutland and the islands (often together

called ‘the rotten banana’) on the other hand, it can be

argued that urbanization actually is a Danish megatrend.

Even though megatrends are stable, long-term trends,

they aren’t eternal. We can imagine both that they will

cease to be and that they will become so banal that they

lack the power to inspire.

Finally, one could argue that the vagueness that characterizes

the megatrend definition makes it difficult to

establish when a new phenomenon represents a new

megatrend. At any rate, there are two ‘prospects’ on the

horizon, to use an expression from another world where

you also have to demonstrate your ability before you

can become accepted. One is ‘free’, as promoted by, for

instance, Chris Anderson from Wired magazine.

This idea is in part false advertisement, since very little

in the world is free. The megatrend is rather that there

are an increasing number of products that customers

are unwilling to pay for. Then you must find alternative

ways of financing these products. Therefore, the mega­

trend really should be called ‘a need for new business

models’, but ‘free’ probably sounds sexier. This trend

is promoted by other existing megatrends, including in

particular new technology (digitalization and automation)

and a rubbing-off effect from other areas that have

always been ‘free’, such as radio.

The other prospect is a phenomenon, which could

be called ‘more chiefs and fewer Indians’ or ‘the overadministrated

society’. This trend is brought about by a

combination of automation, which makes many ‘Indians’

superfluous, information technology, which makes centralized

control more possible, and the increasing power

of lawyers in society. I lack a fitting, preferably derogatory,

term for this trend.

This article is an edited version of an article by the same name, which

appeared in the book Strategi & driftsøkonomi (Gyldendal Business

2009), a commemorative book for Professor Ole Øhlenschlæger Madsen,

Institute for Economy, Aarhus University. The second part of the article

will be published in FO/Futureorientation #2, 2010.

JOHAN PETER PALUDAN is the director of the Copenhagen Institute for

Futures Studies. He mainly works to communicate the Institute’s results

through lectures and courses in Denmark, the Nordic countries, greater

Europe, and the United States.

notes

1 Times Literary Supplement, Sept. 26, 2008

2 It may be pretentious to call this an art, but an early work in futures

studies is by Bertrand de Jouvenel and is called ‘L’art de la conjecture’

3 Futures studies is still too new a discipline to make it possible to speak

about fully established and accepted concept apparatuses

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Visionary thinking - By Morten Paustian

outside of theme

Visionary thinking

– A philosophical trip with Clumsy Hans

The funny coincidences

u Thoughts aren’t just isolated in the human skull,

but contain impulses with ideas that fly around among

other people. The thoughts vibrate out in the world and

attempt to guide people forward to each other, so that

encounters and events can become inspiring transactions.

There is something that connects people beyond

language and the familiar connections. When we think

thoughts, we can experience that our thoughts connect us

to other people. Our mindsets become living, imaginary

beings that run around in the field, pollinating flowers.

We know it all too well. We can have worked with

a basic idea for some time, and suddenly there is an

encounter, an event or a sudden change that makes our

basic idea match a corresponding need in another person,

a company or an organization. It happens when we are

ready. The positive coincidence arises spontaneously and

immediately when the perfect match presents the opportunity

for a mutual experience of the effects of thought.

Something has led people together, even if perhaps they

never had anything to do with each other before. This

type of occurrence is the encounter with the effects of

thought. It is an image of an opening.

With these types of experience, the effects of thought

have predestined an encounter between people. The

encounter is, so to speak, already planned before any

of the parties know of it. We can speak of a process of

reflection, where the reflection shapes the predestined

encounter. Every time we give of ourselves, we actualize

our power. The power is brought forth as a thought

process wherein these thoughts can create conditions

for the growth of new ideas and initiatives that reflect

the fairy-tale aspects of life. We can use Hans Christian

Andersen’s fairy tale about Clumsy Hans to describe the

journey you go on when you let yourself be led by positive

coincidences. It is a journey that prepares us for what

will come.

Clumsy Hans and the predestined encounter

In best ’Clumsy Hans’ style we can move around with an

open mind for what will come. A current of power transmitted

by another person may hit us without either party

being aware of it. We may be in movement towards the

castle where the princess waits and smiles gracefully.

She is involved in selecting her chosen prince, and as

we may remember, this is the prince that has managed

to catch her current of power. In a reflective position in

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Visionary thinking - By Morten Paustian

We can have worked with a basic idea

for some time, and suddenly there is an

encounter, an event or a sudden change that

makes our basic idea match a corresponding

need in another person, a company or an

organization. It happens when we are ready

his way to the castle, Clumsy Hans catches her current

and reflects it as an expression of her love. The attention

leads him forward to all sorts of thoughts, emotions and

ideas, which collectively prepare him with sufficient

insight into what is to come.

Clumsy Hans can do it all, and he has brought it all

with him in time. He moves intuitively and knows what

the graceful princess needs. He knows that he can learn

to match it. As if his journey was a dance with her current,

he collects all the good answers. He prepares himself

for the big encounter. He may be clumsy, and lacking

in social graces, but there is nothing wrong with his intuition.

Reality shows him the way. Without any thought

of how anything fits into any specific shape, he uses his

intuition – it is his best tool, and he chooses to follow it

as stubbornly as a mule.

Clumsy Hans experiences being welcomed by the

princess. He immediately catches the princess’ attention

by showing her what he can give her. He has transformed

her needs into tools that can be used for a life in a

whirl of pleasures. She falls for him like a ton of bricks.

She wants him, and him alone. The other candidates

may be nice and noble with their dark, pinstriped suits,

a gleam of pomade in the hair, and their principles

poli shed for the occasion. However, they have nothing

special to offer – they are all trained by the cultural elite

that values euphemisms of politeness over the meat of

the encounter. She knows that with Clumsy Hans life

won’t be boring. His artfulness gives her the attention

she needs because he manages to go by intuition. He can

see her in what he encounters on his way. This is the predestination

that follows him to the door. Through a curious

alertness, he knows what to expect. The future lies in

his attention, which is his compass on his journey to the

castle.

His practice is basically very simple. He doesn’t

attempt to hide anything or leave things unsaid. He

basically seeks the truth in himself and others. His immediate

character bears witness to a gesture towards what

will happen. He knows that he will be prepared for what

will come if he follows his immediate impulses. He has

experienced this process many times before. Hence, he

also follows the impulses he encounters on his way to the

castle. He experiences strong emotions before meeting

people. He can have thoughts that seem unrecognizable –

overall, he sees life as a riddle filled with omens, signals,

encounters, and patterns that show him the way. This is

his preparedness. He continually practices to become better

at using this preparedness, but it takes a lot of energy

to follow his intuition. Nonetheless, he gradually learns

to perceive what the future offers him, precisely because

his starting point is the immediate, everyday experiences.

An impeccable practice

Clumsy Hans doesn’t think strategically in a classical

sense. His experience is that too many people make

decisions on the basis of how other people would react

or on what their opinions might be about this and that.

Clumsy Hans does not desire to become part of a peer

group in which the rope of equality makes people fall in

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Visionary thinking - By Morten Paustian

The goal is what comes

out of it – neither more nor

less. The goal is a process.

Nevertheless, there is a tendency

for people to choose

the familiar and well tested

over making experimentation

an integrated part of their life

line. Clumsy Hans thinks with his heart. This liberates

his thoughts, and he needs that. The signals he catches

and builds on come from the heart. He builds bridges

between people’s hearts. When you meet Clumsy Hans,

you will thus be able to recognize him by his ability to

say what you think. Skilled is the person that manages

to read your thoughts. He is masterful in the language of

thought and seeks liberty through this.

His ability to think with his heart originates from

many years of isolation from the surrounding world.

Here, he practiced thinking himself free through a continuous

flowering of new ideas and emotions. Here, he

discovered the possibility to feel what others feel from

a physical distance, think what others think, and in

general to connect to other people in their absence. All

these years were a training camp where he learned that

there were parallels between the experiences of different

people. Clumsy Hans took note of the impulses and premonitions

that could engender clarity and insight into

future events. He used his immediate forward motion

to develop a method that could be used to lift others

through creative thinking. He could simply move people

at a distance by moving himself in a new direction, all

because of the connection on a mental level.

Clumsy Hans encountered more and more of his own

kind as the years went by. They all live empowered by

their power supply. A true Clumsy Hans manages to

become a part of the process and always uses himself to

evaluate the meaning of something. Like a true eclectic,

Clumsy Hans collects things around himself. This doesn’t

necessarily make him a hoarder; it is more an expression

of his passion for the sensual and the literal. He likes to

pull out tools depending on what is needed. His empathy

shows itself in his ability to be led by moods and emotions.

In this sense, he is a soldier of fortune riding a

donkey. His ability to connect bits and pieces shows that

he uses his creativity. He has learned that an eclectic

approach equals a visionary approach. This has rubbed

many people the wrong way, but his experience has told

him that, on his way to the castle, he will meet people

who can indirectly guide him along the right path.

Clumsy Hans is helped by his immediate impulses.

He continually remains one step behind in order to foresee

events and meet the next step. This means that his

eclectic approach has honed his ability to listen to other

people. Through this, he has learned to think visionary

thoughts. He indirectly foresees what he will encounter.

He knows that what he encounters today he will need

tomorrow. This equips him with security and a feeling of

positive forward motion.

Clumsy Hans moves through a wondrous world. It

can be a real fairy tale. He is constantly in motion, and

his body is always filled with ideas and thoughts. The

daytime is sometimes too short, so he also uses the night

and wakes in the morning with dreams in his memory.

Sometimes, it can also become too much for him. Hence,

he also finds a release in writing poems, drawing figures,

painting random things, taking strolls with his notebook,

meditating in silence, and playing sports. All are activities

that create an effect through their impulsiveness. It

is very important for Clumsy Hans to find ways to create

or be with others, and the above can be examples of this.

When Clumsy Hans isn’t riding, he’s walking on his

ideas.

The blind collection

He chooses his future by his own lights. Through following

the eclectic approach he makes visionary thinking

available. When he collects thoughts and ideas, he does it

so that they can reflect the need for what is to come. This

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Visionary thinking - By Morten Paustian

The visionary mode of thought is in dire straits right now

because of the Lean fetishism. It is in sharp contrast to

uniformity. It is by definition without precedent, and for

this reason it will always make a difference compared to

‘business as usual’. This alone makes it necessary in a

time in which everybody does the same things

means that he can retrospectively follow a development

of visionary thought through becoming aware of his

own awareness. This doubling happens automatically. It

shows the way. Thus, the eclectic approach might also be

said to be wise in the sense that it forms a reflection of

the other’s need. Clumsy Hans knows that all the time he

will be met by things that can prepare him for what will

happen. It is simply a matter of devotion and hence a

blind acceptance of what shows itself to him.

This blind collection means that he chooses with his

emotions. We don’t know what the future holds; but

Clumsy Hans thinks that, once we have used eclecticism

sufficiently many times, the likely future will become

clearer and clearer. When we choose on the basis of what

inspires us, a pattern will arise. This pattern, seen in

retrospect, will form an insight into how we can shape

similar tools for the needs and desires we might face. By

finding inspiration to solve his own problems or challenges,

Clumsy Hans will always be able to find solutions

to others’ problems of a similar character. When Clumsy

Hans grows older, this will make him a wise king.

His visionary thinking is implicit in his immediate

interaction with others and in his immediate devotion

to what happens around him. Clumsy Hans is of the

opinion that the future is decided for us depending on

the path we choose to walk – and the path we will learn

along the way. Clumsy Hans has experienced countless

coincidences between the thought currents he encounters

and events to come. He thus perceives that the future

lies implicitly in the collection of ideas and thoughts

that show themselves to him. When he grows stubborn,

he forces an argument, which exposes the remaining

uncertainty that people might have regarding their own

intuition. His argument is that this isn’t anything particular

to him. This is basically a way we can experience

the world, no matter who we are. However, there is

little room for doctrinaires in this regard. They worship

distance over love. They don’t want to be felt – only

branded.

The character behind the thoughts

Clumsy Hans is a whimsical fellow. He is very much

his own man. He acts, if at all possible, from the mood

and emotion he feels. Some might say he is altogether

unpredictable and an abuser of others’ confidence. Others

might understand that he tries to find connections in

the thoughts and emotions he encounters on his way to

what is to come. His nature is to counteract the pitfalls of

reality and instead pare problems down to the essentials.

This brings him closer to his actual power. The balance

is recreated from emotion and clarity of thought. Clumsy

Hans can at first seem flighty and distant, but he is actually

always lucid and very aware of the signals his body

sends him.

He is equipped with all sorts of safety valves that automatically

kick in when needed. This is a part of his preparedness

when he moves in the world. His body nevertheless

tells him on an emotional level what the thoughts

and words of others mean, and he follows this rather

than the written word. Clumsy Hans feels very concretely

on his body what others tell him. There is a direct inputoutput

relation that indicates the emotional significance

of what others say.

This gives Clumsy Hans the opportunity to decide

whether something is important or not. It provides an

insight into the context for what is said, and it makes

him open to new ideas and thoughts about the other

person. The tracks Clumsy Hans leaves behind hence

also bear witness to his attention and his immediacy.

He is no lazy bastard, but rather a diligent, independent

audiograph who finds the essence in the thoughts people

think. He is trained to do that.

What, then, is visionary thinking

The spoken or the written word is always encrypted by

emotion, and it is this emotion that makes the thoughts

mobile and a manifestation of the effect of thought.

Clumsy Hans and the description of his method express a

form that presupposes predestination. This is the central

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Visionary thinking - By Morten Paustian

premise for being able to explain pre-knowledge of what

is to come. Everything else is loose claims and contractions

of random categories of consciousness.

Visionary thinking requires a creation process whereby

we use our intuition to produce insight into what

will happen. We get inspiration, impulses and emotions

that must form the basis for developing new products,

programs or concepts that can match the needs that

will emerge in the future. The world needs more people

like Clumsy Hans. The world needs a true movement.

We need to be able to move freely according to our

immediacy; i.e., daring to choose spontaneously with

a corresponding emotion of enjoyment. In this sense,

we can master our own future and, rather than being

impressed by the noble human being, can learn to choose

the strength in being. This can meet the need for future

ability. In this way, it is possible to become a futurist, for

whom forward motion creates new ideas and insight that

is made available to the public.

The goal is what comes out of it – neither more nor

less. The goal is a process. Nevertheless, there is a tendency

for people to choose the familiar and well tested over

making experimentation an integrated part of their life.

Instead of walking a tightrope in relation to a community

of thought, whereby we join a circle of people who

don’t want to be subjected to being alone, we must value

the need for the unique higher than the need for the

mediocre. More and more people select to choose their

own future rather than making a multilateral agreement.

Clumsy Hans did not give in to the nice and noble. He

wanted the princess, and he got her because he was faithful

to the effect of thoughts and the connections they

could disclose.

Visionary thinking will likely become a future way of

thought that takes over when strength is chosen. It is a

way of seeing the world in a manner according to which

the important thing is to acquire the ability to challenge

others with new ideas, projects and organizations. This

can counteract the predictability and artificial instinct for

self-preservation, which among other things are implemented

under the heading ‘Lean’. Lean is an example of

the organizational decay that renders decision processes

demands for order. The result of this decay is ‘business as

usual’, and the importance of creative processes and the

unique understanding of such processes possessed by the

Clumsy Hanses become hidden away in the drawer like

unused windfall apples. The visionary mode of thought is

in dire straits right now because of the Lean fetishism. It

is in sharp contrast to uniformity. It is by definition without

precedent, and for this reason it will always make

a difference compared to ‘business as usual’. This alone

makes it necessary in a time in which everybody does the

same things.

To sum it up, we can say that visionary thinking meets

the demand to recreate the fairy tale in our lives. On the

one hand, visionary thinking enables us to describe the

future based on the impulses we encounter. On the other

hand, it is a method that enables us to realize a particular

vision. Clumsy Hans has shown us the synthesis. He prepares

himself for what is to come by allowing himself to

be influenced by sudden impulses. His special ability to

consider himself in relation to reality makes him important.

He shows us a mode of being that can be used in

the world of art to test new interpretation spaces for a

thinking practice.

MORTEN PAUSTIAN has an MSc in business philosophy. He is the owner

of the company Pantheon Filosofi and studies the effect of thought,

among other ideas. He has a particular focus on applied philosophy and

has extensive experience with original thinking and business development.

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