Looking to the Future and the Past and Shifting our Vantage Point. #32 #cong20


A random set of ideas I have come across in 2020 that perhaps should be considered when we think about Society 3.0.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. I don’t know what the future looks like.
  2. Accept that it’s OK not to know where we’re headed.
  3. Maybe we’re not meant to be at the centre of system.
  4. Look to the past as we move to the future.

About Clare Dillon:

Clare Dillon has spent over 20 years working with developers and developer communities. Lately she has been exploring the world of open source and InnerSource (the practice of using open source methods inside organisations). She is particularly interested in topics relating to the future of work, alternative collaboration systems, innovation trends and digital ethics.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can contact Clare by email or connect on LinkedIn.

By Clare Dillon

When I close my eyes and think of the future I would like, the first thing that comes to mind is…..[insert long pause here]. Here’s the thing – I can’t seem to form a clear vision of what an ideal future would look like.

Every time I try I feel a mix of surprise and concern. Surprise, because I have been thinking a lot about what I would like the future to look like – and so it continues to amaze me that I am not even getting close to visualising a version of the future. I mean I have vague notions, but nothing concrete. Concern, because if we don’t know where we’re going, how will we ever get there?

So, I’m not going to offer my view of Society 3.0. But I’m just going to list three things I have learned in the last while that I think might help (me, if not you! ;).

1. Accepting I don’t know where we’re headed and that’s OK.

This is going to take practice – I’ve spent so long learning to visualise goals, and define targets, that it feels uncomfortable to just “trust in the process”.

I am a fan of Dave Snowden, who created the Cynefin framework for sense-making.

I’ve included some of Dave’s quotes below (taken from a medium post by @brixen.)

“Managing the present to create a new direction of travel is more important than creating false expectations about how things could be in the future.”


“In systems thinking, you define the ideal future state and you try to close the gap. In complexity, you describe the present and see what you can change. You define a direction of travel, not a goal.”


“If you start on a journey, you will discover things you didn’t know you could discover which have high utility. If you have an explicit goal, you may miss the very things you need to discover.”

Why do I like these ideas? It stops us from all this “what is the answer?” theoretical discussions, and puts us on a path of experimentation, observation and response or action.

2. Maybe we’re not meant to be at the centre of system.

I recently read a book by Tyson Yunkaporta called “Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World” . One of the central premises of the book is that humans are here on this earth in the role of custodians. Thinking about the future with this perspective results in a different set of priorities. It makes space for long term planning. It promotes a focus on sustainability. I think it helps to put us on a better path.

3. Look to the past as we move to the future.

Our stories shape us. And our stories teach us some things we have forgotten. In his book, Tyson also spends a lot of time pointing to the wisdom that comes from listening to the stories passed down from generation to generation among the indigenous population of Australia. He’s also keen to point out that we all have our own stories – and that those from his past may not be the right ones for the rest of us to listen to.

I do love a good story and good story-tellers. As a result, I am a huge fan of Candlelit Tales – an amazing story-telling duo who re-tell Irish myths and legends. Perhaps these tales have something to tell us about where we came from and where we might go. We could note, for example, that poets in ancient Ireland held high ranks.

I watched Joe Biden use Seamus Heaney’s words to move a nation. And I marvel at the power and potential a poem can have. I wonder what would happen if we experimented with the idea that poetry and art could and should have a more important place in whatever society we are currently building, one that might be particular to us here in Ireland.

Three thoughts to offer to this year’s Congregation – I look forward to hearing many more!

Thanks to Drew Beamer on Unsplash for the lovely photo.

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