Futurization of Thinking and Behavior: Exploring People's Imaginaries About the Future and Futurization

Futurization of Thinking and Behavior: Exploring People's Imaginaries About the Future and Futurization

Anna Sircova (Time Perspective Network, Denmark), Angela E. Scharf (University of Minnesota, USA), Molly Kennedy (Bowdoin College, USA) and Pinja R. Päivinen (St. Lawrence University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8163-5.ch010

Abstract

This chapter is looking into the emerging concept of “futurization,” which is being used in the context of policy making; however, without clear definition, it creates ambiguous reactions. What does “futurization of politics,” “futurization of thinking,” or “futurization of behavior” actually mean? This chapter looked into the associations citizens or laypeople have with terms “future” and “futurization,” and what were their expressed and unexpressed hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. The study, using surveys and focus-groups, revealed a rather lifeless image, future without photosynthesis, without female presence, and overall a wasteland scenario. However, when speaking about “futurization” in comparison to “future,” there is much less inevitability, more personal agency, and both believe in and fear the technological advancement. The working definition of “futurization” is offered in the chapter as well as a comparative analysis of “future” vs. “futurization.” The implications for sustainability policymaking and curriculum development in education are discussed.
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Introduction

Decisions made today can have profound consequences for individuals, societies, and ecosystems in the future. Yet far too often, present feelings are so powerful that our choices end up neglecting considerations of future events. This phenomena is observed in many disciplines from Psychology to Environmental Economics and its effect on decision making has far reaching implications in all aspects of human life. Adam Smith, the celebrated Economist described the struggle between our present and future selves as a “conflict between our passions and our impartial spectator” (Smith, 2010) where our impartial spectator is a fully rational version of ourselves looking in from the outside as we make choices in the present that we would not rationally choose in the future. Through the model of inter-temporal choice economists have studied and described the tradeoffs between experiencing a benefit today and experiencing a benefit with a given delay (William Senior, 1872, Lowenstein & O’Donoghue, 2002). The theory of discounted utility is the most widely used framework for analysing intertemporal choices. This framework has been used to describe actual behaviour and it has been used to prescribe socially optimal behaviour (Newman, 1998).

It is easy to understand that an immediate benefit holds a greater appeal as it neutralises the risk and uncertainty of a future benefit, nevertheless researchers have identified that the further away in time a benefit is received the more “myopic” our perception of that benefit becomes, a behaviour identified as present bias (Smith, 2010, Jevons, 1871, Delaney & Lades, 2017).

Conflicting as it may be, present bias is only part of the problem. Psychologists have observed that present bias is often accompanied by an even more alarming phenomenon called preference reversal (Green et al, 1994). Preference reversal describes changes in individual preferences when a time delay is introduced in the decision making process. Preference reversal is observed when individuals opt for a lower payout today over a higher payout in a week from today, but a higher payout in a year and a week from today over a lower payout in a year. This effect has been observed in dozens of studies covering environmental incentive programmes, pension schemes, long term health related treatments, and nutrition improvement programs amongst many others. How then can we stop our individual interests in the present from being fulfilled at the expense of future common interests? Sociologists, Psychologists and Economists alike agree that abstaining from the present enjoyment to seek delayed enjoyment is one of the most painful exertions of human will (William Senior, 1872, Hanley & Splash 1993) yet so much of the future wellbeing of our species and our environment rests on our ability to do so.

A conscious and systemic method of envisaging the future could help address the natural bias individuals exhibit when faced with intertemporal decision making. Aware of the problems associated with present bias, the authors of this chapter explored the attitudes, thoughts, ideas and sentiments elicited when multidisciplinary participants in live scenarios were asked to futurize.

The term ‘futurization’ has been used in processes associated with scenario planning and scenario analysis as a way to incorporate future thinking into present decisions. However, its use in the literature has been ambiguous and widely open for interpretation (Pulver, S. & Van Deveer, S. (2007). Currently it is noted that ‘futurization’ is being used in the context of policy making (Hanusch, 2017). However, without clear definition it creates ambiguous reactions (Sircova, A., 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intertemporal Choice: Decisions with consequences in multiple time periods.

Preference Reversal: Observation that there are systematic changes in people’s preference order between options.

Delayed Gratification: The resistance to temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward.

Instant Gratification: The temptation, and resulting tendency, to forego a future benefit in order to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit.

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