I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., many times in my career with the Research and Development branch of the U.S. Forest Service. Most trips were to meet with folks in the Washington office of the agency or to give a seminar on a research project.
David N. Bengston's blog
In Washington Irving’s classic short story, Colonial era slacker Rip Van Winkle wanders off into the Catskill Mountains and falls asleep under mysterious circumstances. He awakens twenty years later to a changed world. Most significantly, the British colonies experienced a dramatic political and military revolution during Mr. Van Winkle’s long nap. In place of the portrait of King George III on the sign of ye olde village inn—which is now a hotel—is an image of George Washington. This transformative wild card event would have been unimaginable twenty years earlier.
One hundred trillion dollars is a lot to pay for toilet paper. Utterly ridiculous! But I have a piece of such toilet paper in my office to remind me of the importance of including wild cards – low probability, high impact events – in thinking about the future.
People have been thinking and dreaming about self-driving cars for a long time. Paleofuture.com’s article about the “Driverless Car of the Future” (Novak 2010) features a 1957 magazine ad depicting a family playing Scrabble in a bubble-topped car as it cruises down a six-lane freeway, the steering wheel pointedly unattended. The ad copy reads in part, “One day your car may speed along an electric super-highway, its speed and steering automatically controlled by electronic devices embedded in the road. Highways will be made safe—by electricity!
As it was for many futurists, science fiction was my “gateway drug” to the world of alternative futures. I was hooked by age nine or ten. We always had stacks of sci-fi lying around the house because my mother was a member of a science fiction book-of-the-month club. I devoured everything I could get my hands on.