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									Seeing
the Future
through New Eyes
AARON M. COHEN




Opening plenary speaker Bill Drayton (left) and conference chairman
Nat Irvin II.




W    hen more than a thousand futur-
     ists came together in Washing-
ton, D.C., last summer to “See the
                                             come a key skill to be
                                             mastered in a world
                                             where everyone can                           By Cynthia G. Wagner,
Future Through New Eyes,” they               be a changemaker.
discovered that they needed only to
look around them — to their fellow
                                               “Every child needs
                                             to learn sophisticated
                                                                                          Aaron M. Cohen,
attendees and nearly two hundred
outstanding presenters, as well as to
                                             empathy,” Drayton said. “It’s like
                                             learning language skills. You can’t          and Rick Docksai
their own colleagues and communi-            succeed without it.” Most schools to-
ties — to obtain insightful new views        day do not provide an environment
of the world and the future.                 that promotes the development of
   “We need each other so we can see         sophisticated empathy, but if you          took her approach, and bullying
through each other’s eyes,” said Nat         give kids a chance, they will learn        rates went down.
Irvin II, chairman of WorldFuture            these skills.                                Organizations, too, must shift their
2008, held July 26–28 in the Hilton            Drayton described the work of so-        emphasis from competition to coop-
Washington Hotel.                            cial entrepreneur Mary Gordon, a           eration, Drayton suggested. “The
   Another term for this mutually            teacher in Canada who gave her             competitive advantage that really
interdependent visioning is “empa-           class full of aggressive, bullying chil-   matters is the proportion of people
thy,” according to Bill Drayton, CEO,        dren more responsibility to master         in the organization who are change-
founder, and chairman of Ashoka, a           empathy. She showed them that, if          makers.” The first organization that
global association promoting social          they don’t learn how to help others,       masters social entrepreneurship will
entrepreneurship. Drayton believes           they will get thrown out of the game.      run away competitively, he con-
“sophisticated empathy” will be-             Some 2,000 schools across Canada           cluded.

54    THE FUTURIST     November-December 2008     www.wfs.org
                                                                                                                        AARON M. COHEN




They came, they saw, they learned something
new. Futurists attending the World Future
Society’s 2008 conference took full advantage of                                         Marilyn Johnson (left), representing con-
the opportunity to see the future through each                                           ference sponsor IBM, and opening plenary
                                                                                         speaker Edie Weiner.
other’s eyes.
                                                                                                                        AARON M. COHEN




                                                                                         Maddy Dychtwald, co-founder of Age Wave.
                                                                           C.G. WAGNER




                                                                                         economic worldview (emphasizing
                                                                                         infrastructure, transportation, and
   Seeing through other people’s eyes      would be no barriers to a more equi-          information). “Both views are right.
(empathy) is one way to start seeing       table world, Weiner argued. But               They support each other,” said
the future in new ways; another is to      barriers exist, including political cor-      Weiner.
question the ways we now look at           ruption, narrow-focused “uni-
the future, suggested Edie Weiner,         disciplinary” academic institutions,
                                                                                         Society and Culture
president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown,        and religious beliefs that perpetuate
Inc. For instance, Weiner disagreed        conflicts with others.                          Baby-boomer women are at the
with the view of today’s globalized           Weiner offered several alternative         forefront of an emerging “cyclist life
world as “flat,” made
								
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