Fantasy Futures Feast

By Robert Hickson 21/01/2014


In the spirit of summertime “light” content, where people imagine ideal dinner parties (or voyages to Mars), I’ve drawn up my own futures soiree. It’s not a gathering of all the great and good futurists to come up with a prediction of what the future loos like. Rather it’s a gathering of  knowledgeable and hopefully erudite folk from a range of fields who will help me explore, rather than predict, where we may be headed and what options for guidance may be available.

My first choices, in ascending order of birth are:

Leonardo da Vinci  (1452-1519). An obvious choice, but always helpful to have a genius polymath involved who can not only imagine but design the future.

Michel de Montaigne  (1533-1592). French essayist. A long time favourite of mine because of the insightfulness and clarity of his writing (if you get a good translation). Able to move easily from anecdote to deeper meaning, which is a critical skill in the futures space.

Edward Gibbon  (1737-1794). Historian, who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Someone with a long view of history and societies, which is also valuable when looking forward. (We’ll try and keep him off diatribes against religion).

Mary Warnock  (1924- ). Philosopher and ethicist. You can’t think seriously about the future without some awareness of philosophical and ethical issues. Baroness Warnock’s already tackled ethical issues associated with recent developments in treating human fertility.

Elinor Ostrom  (1933-2012). Political economist and Nobel laureate, who looked deeply at managing common resources. That’s definitely going to be an ongoing issue.

Joi Ito  (1966- ). Director of MIT’s famed Media Lab. Someone with a very good depth and breadth of knowledge about the cyber world and where it may lead, both academically and from a business perspective.

Charles Royal. Someone I actually know (from our time at the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology). Charles is a talented musician and academic, and has thought carefully about how Maori systems of knowledge (and other indigenous knowledge systems) can contribute to today’s and tomorrow’s world.

To round out the dinner, I’ll need a great host/hostess. While Kim Hill, Bryan Crump and Jim Mora from Radio NZ National may be interested, their experience lies more in one-on-one interviewing. But they’re welcome to pop in for coffee later.  I’ll see if Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet  (1588-1665), a famous salonnière, can make it to keep the discussions going in good humour.

Of course, there are many more people (both past and present) I’d like to have to dinner. The list above lacks sufficient diversity in gender, race, and experience but you need to keep the numbers down so everyone participates in the discussions. So I’d look on this as the first of several very interesting evenings. As well as well seasoned sages and creative types I’d want to have some of the talented next generation thinkers and doers from all over the planet be in on the meal and discussion.