Personal Futures and Futures Therapy

The Delphi Party Panel of Experts

An article for The Future We Deserve collaborative book project launched on Kickstarter
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Increasingly, people are taking advantage of advanced experiential forecasting techniques to take greater control of their personal futures.

Personal Futures is an emerging futures practice that is becoming more popular as we seek to interpret and understand our future life paths. Achieving the future we deserve will depend upon how we are able to experience our future self and the impact of our day-to-day decisions.

Humans have always had a hard time imagining and acting on alternative futures and have tried to discover and understand their potential futures using whatever methods they have available. Esoteric societies and cults have sought to promote various divination techniques to help people understand their fate or how to control it with foresight and prescient knowledge. In times past, certain members of society have happily invested in the apparent special insights of others to interpret signs and symbols.

Today people are looking for more secular and advanced systems, frameworks and alternative world views to help manage their emotions and relationships and guide them to make more informed decisions that will affect their potential and possible future paths. Some new techniques can reveal alternative futures and guide or provoke us to drastically change our behaviour and directly affect our future self. Systems mapping and future scenario planning are both methods used in industry to help predict markets and quantify and describe potential future worlds.

In the field of personal medicine the increase in affordable personal genomic services [1] available to the public is greatly affecting the decisions people make about their future health. Yet these services are not accurate predictions but interpretations based on probabilities and percentages. [2]

Driven by our continuing obsession of lifecaching [3] our everyday activities and technological advances in data storage, open-source mobile services and information design, people are quantifying their daily actions, motivations, conversations and thoughts to monitor their physical and mental wellbeing. [4]

If we imagine a future in which personal futures services become more widespread, it follows that there may be more guidance or ‘Futures Therapy’ needed to help us understand the impact of these potential paths.
Below are a number of potential services that may become available under the umbrella of ‘Futures Therapy’.

  • The first draws on an method of forecasting known as the Delphi Technique originally developed by Project RAND during the 1950-1960s, where a roomful of experts are brought together in a workshop format to determine the future likelihood and expected development time of a certain technology entering the market. Transplanted into the world of personal futures – in place of industry experts – friends and family members of a loved one are drawn together under the guidance of an experienced facilitator. Using the collective mindset of the ”panel of experts”, the facilitator encourages them to generate their own subjective and sometimes controversial predictions of possible and preferable variants of the loved one’s future lifepath. This technique illustrates how we can ‘use’ or interpret our social network to predict how our life might be shaped by those who know us and those we may know in the future. [5]
  • The second service is an extension of the Delphi technique in which a double sided postcard is sent to a friend. The sender fills out one side with predictions about the receiver’s potential future. The receiver then returns the card with predictions about the sender’s potential future. By sending out many cards an individual builds a body of information from different people’s interpretations of their future which becomes a tool for making choices. [6]
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