Everything is perfect in the future

Did you play MASH a child? Did you dream up what life would be like when you grew up? I wish I could say I imagined myself on an organic farm raising abandoned baby goats and saving the world, but I think my suburban dreams skewed mostly pink and plastic. I was always MASHING myself living in a mansion in a glamorous city, with my 12 beautiful children. In this mansion, I designed ballgowns, and ate only chocolate cake, and life was perfect. I also looked like Jesse Spano.

Humans are prospectors and forecasters. It’s what makes us distinct from most of our animal relatives. We imagine the future, to both our benefit and detriment. This week everyone was talking about a wonderful NPR piece called It’s 2050 and this is how we stopped climate change. (Thanks for sharing it with me, Amanda!). The piece inspiringly maps out a future where we’ve made the right choices. It’s great because it relies on a tool behavioural scientist have been finding increasingly effective in getting people to make change: the Future Self. Scientists have used it to show people unhealthy versions of themselves in order to get them to make better choices. They’ve also shown positive scenarios. This piece does a great job of laying out the future perfect. Which is pretty darn useful at the moment.

We know that fear, facts, and shame only ever motivate 20% of the population to change their behaviour. The rest of us need other ways of having the climate message articulated. The amount of shares on the NPR piece alone indicate that the positive Future Self is a great way to go. How can you use the Future Self to get people around you to think or see differently? You can create a vision of the world you imagine for them. In all likelihood, they’ll come round to your scenario. Especially if you act out that vision while dressed as a mime. A positive futurecast is irresistible to homo prospectus.