Ross Dawson about the role of a futurist

20130918_Ross DawsonRoss Dawson, futurist and entrepreneur, presented his vision on the role of a futurist at a meet-up of the Dutch Future Society. Location of the session was the Living Tomorrow, former house of the future, now headquarters of ID&T, pioneering company of dance events and electronic music experiences. In sync with the ambience of the building, Ross’ main message was, every single person should think about the future. Indeed, the audience was filled with highly diverse minds, every one of them highly curious about uncertain futures. Here, some of the highlights of Ross’ talk.

Enabling thinking about the future instead of making predictions

A common misunderstanding is that futurists are there to predict things. However, predictions are oftentimes wrong and have a negative value. In addition, predictions reduce all information and uncertainty about the future to just one thing. As such, predictions do not encourage people to think for themselves.

The future is overwhelming. The role of the futurist is to condense and to put things together. By filtering information and visualizing, futurists help to make sense of infinite information. As most people are visual thinkers, stunning visualisations are a means to reach out and think collectively about the future. Ross showed us a prototype of his new App for 3D mind mapping, which aims exactly at visualizing a story of the relation between trends and developments.

Visualisations of living networks

We live in networks on all levels. That means, from the neurons in the brain, to business networks and all social networks in society. A frame of collective networks gives us information about society and who we are as individuals and where we are heading towards. This is what visualisations of networks could achieve.

The role of a futurist as a leader

A futurist’s aim is to encourage leadership on all levels. That is, helping people to think in a rich and structured way about tomorrow in order to act to day. Futurists are involved in sense making, giving people the ability to deal with information. Everyone is overwhelmed by the infinity of signals. Futurists help people to open their minds and think of things that they did not think before.

Curiosity about the future

Ross also pointed to many trends, from crowd sourcing, human machine interaction, to globalization of work. One big theme that was very alive in the audience was the Singularity, as theorized by Ray Kurzweil, the merging of man and machine. This raised a lot of philosophical questions about the meaning of consciousness and longevity.

What happened during Q&A was just as Ross’ explained about the role of a futurist: starting the conversation about the future, foster discussions about tomorrow and all possibilities. By this kind of meetings, the Dutch Future Society aims to contribute to a wider spreading of futurist thinking everywhere in society.

Sign up for our newsletter of the Dutch Future Society to stay involved and hear first about upcoming events!


Listen to Stephan Verveen who talks with Ross Dawson and Steven Kruijswijk, who talks with DFS board member (thesaurus) Peter van der Wel at Sound Cloud.


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About Freija Van Duijne

Twitter: @FreijavanDuijne Futuring is my passion. I am fascinated about what the future might bring. Always looking around for leads about the future and open for new insights. I am futurist, trendwatchter and strategist at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, a thinktank in the Netherlands. My background is in Human factors psychology. I did my Masters at Leiden University and I did a PhD in Delft University at the faculty of Industrial design engineering. I have been involved in foresight studies since 2006. I am frequently asked as an expert for future studies in area of food, natural resources, health and governance. I am also a speaker and workshop facilitator on futures studies, trend presentations and the many topics that I blog about. My contributions to Futuristablog represent my own personal opinion and is never a statement of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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