“In dealing with the future... it is more important to be imaginative and insightful than to be one hundred percent ‘right.’ ”

This bit of wisdom comes from Alvin Toffler, author of the 1970 book Future Shock, which kicked off professional futures thinking as we know it today. Toffler proposed the idea that society occasionally experiences a period of profound and sustained change previously so unthinkable that the people who live through it suffer a kind of “future shock.” We’re disoriented. Our strategies for being happy, healthy, and successful no longer work. Old assumptions no longer hold up. And it’s incredibly difficult to wrap our minds around what exactly is happening, and why. It feels like a collective trauma, the psychological equivalent of being struck by a freight train. The turbulent period of the late 1960s, when Toffler wrote this seminal text, was a time of future shock for many. The 2020s, now, even more so.

It might seem that getting ahead of the next shock by making the most accurate predictions we can about the future is our ticket out of this trauma. And yes, seeing what’s coming so it doesn’t blindside us is helpful. But there’s a deeper truth to futures thinking that goes beyond just trying to be right.

Being “right” means making your best prediction and then waiting for whatever you think is most likely today to actually happen. But what if the most “likely” future isn’t one you want? What if it’s a catastrophe? What if it’s unjust? Would you rather be correct, or would you like to prove yourself wrong—and change what’s most probable today into something better?

Yes, we want to think about the future in ways that are highly plausible and likely, so our forecasts are helpful. But if we’re lucky, correctly anticipating future risks and challenges will help us start solving problems creatively today. We can use our new foresight not just to prepare for the future but to imagine new opportunities for ourselves right now, to be innovators and change something in our lives for the better today.

—from the Introduction

Excerpted from Imaginable copyright © 2022 by Jane McGonigal. Published by Spiegel & Grau. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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