Direct Your Future to Create Unprecedented Opportunities

In my recent New York Times bestseller, Flash Foresight, I share seven principles that can make invisible opportunities visible. Being able to direct your future is essential for success in both business and life.


As I’ve mentioned in past articles, hard trends provide accurate certainties about specific elements of the future—but combined with soft trends and your ability to influence them, how those elements play out is highly plastic. In other words, how your future unfolds is determined to a great degree by the choices you make, and those choices are determined largely by what you see in front of you.

Therefore, flash foresight starts with seeing the certainty of hard trends, and based on that, learning how to anticipate accurately. It also lets you see soft trends, as factors you can influence to shape a better future. But it’s not enough to see hard trends and soft trends, anticipate, transform, go opposite, skip your biggest problems, and reinvent yourself. These are all valuable and vital steps, but there is something larger and more embracing: you need to actively shape your own future.

I coined the term futureview several decades ago to refer to the mental picture we each hold of our future existence. This is not the same thing as a goal, plan, ambition, or aspiration. Futureview is not what you hope for or are trying to create—it is the picture you actually hold, for better or for worse, of what you expect and believe about your future.

Most people are not fully aware of what their futureview is. You have one—everyone has a futureview—but often without realizing it or examining what it looks like. But not being aware of it does not mean it doesn’t control you, because it most certainly does.

Becoming aware of your own futureview puts a tremendously powerful strategic tool in your hands. It gives you the controls of your own future. Your futureview determines which actions you’ll take, and which you’ll avoid taking. Different futureviews create different realities.

Therefore, as an executive, are you managing the futureview of your employees, regardless of current economic conditions? There are people working in your company right now who are already online or on the phone looking for another job. Why? Because of their futureview of working for your company. There are also people who are planning on staying. Why? Because of their futureview of working for your company.

Are you managing the futureview of your business partners, your suppliers, your investors? What about the futureview of your customers?

As a parent, are you managing the futureview of your kids? There are kids who are planning to go to college, and kids who are planning to go into drugs. What’s the difference? Their futureview.

Most companies put zero effort or energy into directing their people’s futureview, which means for all practical purposes, they put zero effort into directing their future. All the “strategic planning,” “scenario planning,” and other systematic approaches to designing an intended (read: hoped-for) future often fall short of the goal. In a world gone vertical, they typically come to nothing. Not without a clear focus on managing people’s futureviews.

Your futureview determines the future you. The vision you have of your future determines your behaviors, which determine your outcomes. In a very real sense, your futureview is everything. And yet it is something people seldom think about.

Therefore, always remember: Where you look is where you go. Where are you looking?  

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DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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