IMAGINING THE FUTURE

Rehearsing Tomorrow

A note from H B’s wife, Carol: This is the final blog that H B wrote before he died unexpectedly on June 3, 2021. H B considered himself a futurist; this final blog epitomizes that. I post this blog on his behalf, with love.

Your image of the future may be the most important factor in determining what your future will be.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  

~Henry Ford

The future hasn’t happened and it never will. Once it arrives it becomes the present and then the past. However, I believe it is possible to say that your image of your future, before it happens, is a very important factor in determining what it will be when it happens.

What you do makes a difference in your future. Doing nothing also makes a difference. What you do and don’t do counts; and it depends on what you believe. What you believe determines what you do. Believing is seeing is doing. What you believe is already in your mind. “The eye sees what it looks for and it looks for what  is already in the mind,” Scientific School of Police, Paris.

I believe your image of the future will include what you believe your role to be: How much influence you will have in determining your future. This belief will be important in determining what you do to influence your future. This says to me that this means it is extremely important to know what your beliefs about your future are. I repeat:

Your image of the future may be the most important factor in determining what your future will be.

I don’t know of course, how many people imagine their future. I don’t even want to guess. To me, it is considered an important skill. The future hasn’t happened yet and what you do next can make a difference. So, thinking about what to do next involves thinking about the future. 

Scenario rehearsal and scenario planning are methods of rehearsing future scenarios  in order to be able to adapt to what is happening and anticipate what could happen. These methods are frequently employed by organizations but not often by individuals. I believe imagining, rehearsing and planning the future are useful, and even important skills, for individuals planning their future. To get to where you want to go, you have to know where you want to go. 

Personal scenario rehearsal and scenario planning doesn’t have to be some fancy organizational technique. Just think about where you want to go or what you want to do and rehearse it in your mind, practice it in your mind and learn from the personal experience. By rehearsing your future scenarios you can make decisions about adapting to what is happening and anticipate what could happen.

Practice makes perfect. Rehearsal leads to perfection.

“The future is not someplace we are going to, but a place we are creating.”

~John Schaar

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THE ILLUSION OF KNOWLEDGE

Truth Varies

A note from H B’s wife, Carol: On June 3, 2021 H B died unexpectedly from a heart attack. This is the third of four blogs he wrote just before he died and that I post on his behalf. The fourth and final blog will be posted later this week. Happy reading!

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.”

~Daniel Boorstin

“People rarely appreciate their ignorance, because they lock themselves inside an echo chamber of liked-minded friends and self-confirming news feeds, where their beliefs are constantly reinforced and seldom challenged.”

~Yuval Noah Harari

What you know is what you think you know. Your knowledge comes from a biased source–your beliefs or opinions; and that is the source you prefer. It is the source you know “for sure” and “it is what you know for sure that gets you in trouble,” Mark Twain.

Knowledge and truth change. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. Because of living in a reality of rapid change, we humans need to be as capable of change as the environment. Truth and knowledge both vary and change, which means we need to be willing to change our minds about truth and knowledge. What you don’t know is ignorance; what you do know is knowledge; and both are changeable. 

This illusion of knowledge often comes from a little knowledge internally extrapolated into a belief of sufficient or even complete knowledge. What you believe you know may not be true. The illusion of knowledge is a belief not a fact. It is usually what we want to be true. One of the problems with facts, like knowledge and truth, is that they change. This means we need to become as changeable as facts, beliefs and truth. This is what makes Mark Twain’s advice so relevant. Learn to be as changeable as knowledge. What we know for sure may longer be true. 

To say knowledge is unreliable is to say it is changeable. Change happens. it happens to you and it happens by you. The fact that facts are changeable, is good news, because it means we grow as we learn. And we change as we grow. We need to become as changeable as facts and as our environment. 

And then there are “alternative facts”. Alternative facts was a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States as “alternative facts.” 

This should remind us that there are only facts and non-facts; no alternative facts. A fact is a fact, a non-fact is not. Today fact checking in politics has become routine. Maybe fact-checking in public discourse should also be routine. Maybe what you know for sure should be fact-checked. Or maybe we should all learn to ask:

“I wonder — is what I say true?”

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DOES DREAMING MAKE IT TRUE?

To make dreams true requires waking up.

A note from H B’s wife, Carol: On June 3, 2021 H B died unexpectedly from a heart attack. This is the second of four blogs he wrote just before he died. I post this one, and then the final two in the coming weeks, on his behalf. Happy reading!

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt

A dream is defined as “a series of images, ideas, emotions and sensations occurring voluntarily in the mind during sleep.” It is also defined as “a wild fancy or hope,” Dictionary. Most people dream vaguely and dread precisely? Do you?

You wouldn’t ask someone if they would like to take a placebo in order to have a positive future; although one might exist, because the placebo effect is the result of positive thinking. Positive thinking/believing about the future might lead to a positive future prophecy. Dreams could be called “positive illusions”, “wishful thinking,” “a pleasing imagination.” Thinking you can is a positive illusion.

“If you think you can you might. If you think you can’t you’re right.” 

~Unknown

Positive illusions is a concept made popular by Shelley Taylor in her 1989 book of that name. Thinking you can is a positive illusion. Taylor identified three positive illusions that create self-fulfilling prophecies: 1) Unrealistically positive views of oneself. 2) Illusions of control. 3) Unrealistic optimism for the future. Her book subtitle: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind.

In other words, Taylor believes that the healthy mind is one that is positive about oneself, positive about the ability of self- control, and positive about the future.  By definition, an illusion is “something that deceives or misleads intellectually.” A positive illusion would be one that misleads positively.  

This takes us to the paradox of illusion: it is an erroneous perception or a positive self-deception. Therefore, there are negative and positive illusions.

What if your dreams came true? What if what you wish for became reality? Is that good news or bad news? It is well-known that your good dreams are probably vague and your bad dreams are probably precise. And that getting what you want may not turn out so good. So be careful what you dream and what you wish for. And be more precise. 

To dream is to imagine, to form a mental picture, to guess, to think. Imagining, guessing pretending and thinking are all valuable human skills. Thinking gets the headlines but imagining, guessing, pretending—and believing are extremely important and valuable human capabilities.

To imagine, to believe, to guess, to pretend is to make use of significant human skills that have evolved over decades.

“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” 

~Muhammad Ali and Paul Valery

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GENUINE IGNORANCE IS POPULAR AND PROFITABLE

A note from H B’s wife, Carol: On June 3, 2021 H B died unexpectedly from a heart attack. The evening before, he posted a blog and had four more waiting to be posted. This is the first of those four final blogs; the others will be posted in the coming weeks. I post this on his behalf and to celebrate all the gifts he gave to each of us.

• • •

“Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

~Will Rogers

“Genuine ignorance is profitable because it leads to humility, curiosity and open-mindedness.”

~John Dewey

A lot of people have been working on the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), but not many people are even discussing Genuine Ignorance (GI). I believe ignorance has been getting a bad rap. Perhaps that is because in our culture we believe that intelligence is a good thing to have, even if it’s artificial, and ignorance is a bad thing to have, even if it’s genuine. But if we could promote genuine ignorance as being profitable, it might catch on. In America, being profitable is probably more popular than being intelligent. 

Seven years ago I wrote a similar blog about genuine ignorance. I believe genuine ignorance today is profitable because it leads to an open mind. To me, it is possible to explain open-mindedness as “genuine ignorance.” An open mind is one that is not full of knowing. A closed mind is one that knows for sure. Open-mindedness leads to uncertainty, to asking questions, to seeking answers. The more you know the more you realize you don’t know; and the more you believe you need to know. 

Probably the most famous quote about ignorance is: “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise,” Thomas Gray.

Wisdom requires an acceptance of one’s ignorance. To be wise has changed from knowing the answers to questioning the questions. Having questions is the condition of the wise. This is the virtue of positive uncertainty.   

Here is what some others have to say about ignorance.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.”

~Daniel Boorstin

“You only need two things in life to be successful, ignorance and confidence.”

~Mark Twain

“Education is the progressive discovery of our ignorance.”

~Will Durant

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

~Socrates

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SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY

The Need For Hypotheses

“A hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation,” Dictionary

“Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome,” Stuart Firestein in IGNORANCE: How It Drives Science (2012) 

Hypotheses are a starting point for investigation; human beliefs are not. This is because believing is seeing and seeing is doing. A belief, acceptance that something is true, is often an ending point. People believe to be true what they want to be true — and stop there.  Most people don’t spend time investigating their own beliefs. Although they may be quick to question someone else’s beliefs.  Investigating one’s own beliefs is not typical human behavior. 

“Treat beliefs as hypotheses” has been part of my positive uncertainty theme song for years. But it is not general human practice. Positive uncertainty is a starting point; a beginning of investigation. 

To find yourself at an ending point, with your unchangeable belief, is to find yourself with no place to go. If we, as humans, could have faith in uncertainty, find pleasure in mystery, and learn to cultivate doubt, we could think like scientists, and behave like scientists. But don’t count on it. Remember, we believe to be true what we want to be true. Beliefs R us. And remember the earlier quote from Firestein, “there is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.”

Maybe one way to screw up life’s journey is to be certain of its outcome. Being positive about the uncertainty of life’s journey prepares you to take action with the uncertainty as it occurs. Being sure means you are unprepared for unexpected events. Certainty may lead to shock; uncertainty prevents shock.

“To be uncertain is uncomfortable, but to be certain is ridiculous.”

~Socrates

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THE NEED FOR WIGGLE ROOM

And The Importance of Uncertain Believing

“The belief system of a person is the set of beliefs that they have about what is right and wrong and what is true and false,” Dictionary

“What we believe is the most powerful option of all,” Norman Cousins

“A belief is an idea, a hypothesis, a theory, or a way of looking at the world which forces us to look at the world in a way that supports that belief,” Edward de Bono

“Your beliefs are cause maps that you impose on the world after which you ‘see’ what you have already imposed,” Karl Weick

During my career of writing about decision making, I have learned to focus on belief. Beliefs become behavior. The quotes above explain the importance of beliefs.

Today it is accepted that “believing is seeing and seeing is doing,” but it is often ignored. This well-know quote explains: “the eye sees in things what it looks for, and it looks for what is already in the mind,” The Scientific School of Police, Paris.  What is already in the mind, of course, are beliefs. Beliefs determine what we look for to decide what we do. 

The way we see things of course, should be full of wiggle room — room for further interpretations. However, this is not true of most beliefs. Most people believe with certainty. What we believe to be true IS true, no doubt, no wiggle room. 

This importance of beliefs suggests that we should know what we believe. But do we? I believe a major solution to many world problems today is belief awareness and the willingness to change what one believes

We are what we believe. If we believed with uncertainty, we would be capable of change. Remember, “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so,” Mark Twain. What you know for sure has no wiggle room. 

Believing is seeing and seeing is doing. That’s how powerful beliefs are. Remember, what the eye sees is what it looks for, which is already in the mind. And what is already in the mind is beliefs. If we didn’t have beliefs, we wouldn’t know what to look for. 

Wiggle room saves us from dogmatic believing. We need room to rethink, reconsider and to change our minds. This helps us to avoid knowing for sure what ain’t so. Wiggle room implies uncertainty. And my beliefs about positive uncertainty provide wiggle room. 

If as Edward de Bono says: “a belief is an idea, a hypothesis, a theory, or a way of looking at the world which forces us to look at the world in a way that supports that belief,” then our beliefs determine what we see. This clearly is powerful. 

The way we see things is the way we see things. It is nothing more, it is nothing less; but it is the beginning of everything.

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NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT

Future Sense Available on Amazon!

I am excited to share the news that my latest book – Future Sense: See the Forest and the Trees – is now available in paperback and e-book on Amazon! 

Future Sense is my latest decision making framework, the culmination of decades of studying, speaking and writing about decision making. This book represents what I see as the status of the process of decision making today. And the need for Future Sense.

Future Sense is an approach to traveling the journey to the future.

Future Sense involves making changes inside you — your beliefs about the future. Only one person can do that. Future Sense is an inside job.

What lies behind you and before you are important. But what lies within you is crucial.

Now more than ever, I believe it is time to “see the forest and the trees” as we create the future within each of us. 

Happy reading!

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A METAPHOR TO LIVE BY

The Sherlock Holmes Brain Attic

The brain attic metaphor is well known to Sherlock Holmes fans. And it was a metaphor I wrote a blog about seven years ago. This is a revised version of that blog. You can never get too much of Sherlock Holmes. And I believe the brain attic is a perfect metaphor for helping us understand the workings of the human mind. 

The Brain Attic is Sherlock Holmes’ (Arthur Conan Doyle’s) creative metaphor of our mental processes. Holmes believed that the human brain is like a little empty attic and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. And there is a chord you can pull to turn the light on and off at will. The attic’s contents are those things we’ve taken in from the world and that we’ve experienced in our lives. We should not forget that any experience could be a new piece of furniture, a new picture or a file to be fitted into an already crowded attic. We can’t control every piece of information that we retain, but we need to be aware of the mental filters that guard our attic’s entrance. What we put into it, and keep it up to date, is up to us. We can turn on the light. 

The human mind is said to be a gold mine and a rubbish heap. And said to be…a scientist, artist, a simple recording device, a smart computer, a movie screen and/or a good magician. The human mind is where human consciousness exists. And human consciousness is still not yet understood by today’s science. 

When I am thinking about what I might do, or did do, I think of the metaphor of brain attic. When I do this I find it helpful. This metaphor reminds me that my cognitive toolkit, my beliefs, assumptions, mental tools, sensory experiences, wisdom, and brain furniture all reside in my mind/brain. That is where mental processes occur.

The brain attic metaphor gives us another way to look at the human consciousness, and a possible way to understand something science can’t explain. 

“What Holmes means when he talks about stocking your attic with the appropriate furniture, is the need to carefully choose which experiences, which memories, which aspects of your life you want to hold on to beyond the moment when they occur.”

~Maria Konnikova in Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes, 2013

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SCIENCE THRIVES ON DOUBT

Seeking The Unknown

“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”

~ Aubrey De Grey, English author and biomedical gerontologist

“Science is the study of the nature and behavior of natural things and the knowledge that we obtain about them,” Dictionary. The fact that science is a study, means that science is not the truth, only the possessor of current truth. This is why what we know for sure is what gets us in trouble. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so,” Mark Twain. This famous quote explains it. What you don’t know is not as bad as what you know for sure that ain’t so. (This is why I have constantly been promoting positive uncertainty). Be careful of what you know for sure; it may not be so. The problem with current reality is that what was once so may no longer be so. Reality may no longer be what it used to be. A sense of uncertainty is a way to avoid knowing something for sure that ain’t so. 

This is the virtue of doubt. Doubt, uncertainty and open-mindedness lead to questions and being receptive to new ideas and information. Being sure you possess the truth leads to closed-mindedness, which is unreceptive and has nowhere to go. Closed-mindedness, to me, has no place in public or political discourse.  

Maybe we should start a public or political discussion (or even a debate) about the virtues of doubt and open-mindedness and the dangers of closed-mindedness. Which is the best truth detector? Or better yet, I am repeating, from earlier blogs Ernest Hemingway’s famous 1954 quote: “every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down.” Someone should invent a built-in automatic “fact detector” for public and political discourse.

Doubt isn’t a four letter word; but it is unpopular. Certainty feels good; uncertainty feels uncomfortable. But remember, certainty is what gets us in trouble. Be careful what you know for sure. Doubting prevents knowing for sure what isn’t so.

This scientific search for truth is what is called research: “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions,” Dictionary. I doubt if many of our beliefs are based on systematic investigation. Most of our believing/thinking is not scientific. 

Doubt is the condition of being uncertain. I have been promoting positive uncertainty. Being trustful about doubting is a prerequisite of positive uncertainty.  

“Science is the poetry of reality.”

~ Unknown

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I THINK

Therefore I Am Thinking 

Or, “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes

Descartes’ famous quote makes us think that what we think is what we are. Shakespeare’s famous quote supports Descartes: “Thinking makes it so.”

However: “a great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices,” William James.

Descartes’s famous quote doesn’t tell us what he thinks he is. He says “I am,” but not what I am. What are you when you think ”what am I?”

Just think for a moment. If we couldn’t think…what then? Perhaps, if we couldn’t think, nothing would be “so.” Then, what would we be? I don’t plan to answer that, but it is my introduction to this blog.

Thinking means to chew over, cogitate, consider, contemplate, debate, deliberate, entertain, meditate, mull over, question. Apparently, when we are thinking, we are very busy. Many of us are thinking most of the time. This is why I have recommended to pause and reflect about our thinking. But of course, this means more thinking.

My point about thinking is that when we think, we are not deciding, we are planning to decide, thinking about how and what to decide. Thinking is not doing. It has been said we are what we think. (Remember: “thinking makes it so.”) Think and believe could be considered synonyms. I think it will rain; I believe it will  rain. To think or to believe is not to know.

For someone to say “I think you are right” does not mean they know you are right. All of this is to say that thinking and knowing are not the same. This is important to acknowledge because often when we say “I think this is true”, we usually mean I know this is true. Remember, “thinking makes it so.”

In my writing I have emphasized being careful about what we believe to be true. Because believing is seeing and seeing is doing. And we believe to be true what we want to be true. This means we also need to be careful about what we want to be true. (“The only thing worse than not getting what we want is getting what we want,” G. B. Shaw.)

Thinking is complicated human behavior as I said earlier; to chew over, cogitate, consider, contemplate, debate, deliberate, entertain, meditate, mull over, question. Thinking behavior is busy behavior. It keeps us busy all day long. It determines what we do.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

~Henry Ford

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