FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Foresight as Government Priority

Who needs ghosts and goblins this coming Halloween when the real world is scary enough?

After a summer dominated by growing unease over the war in Iraq, soaring energy prices, and culminating with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Bush Administration has every reason to set aside its rose-colored glasses and begin exploring worst-case scenarios.

We got a taste of such foresight this past weekend when New York City tightened security in its subway system following reports of a possible terrorist strike there. Despite suggestions that the reaction was overblown, the city took the worst-case scenario seriously enough to take action -- possibly thwarting an attack and saving countless lives.

Meanwhile, still reeling from criticism surrounding federal response (or lack thereof) to Katrina, President Bush is trying to be proactive in countering a possible outbreak of avian flu this winter. Like the NYC situation, there's no guarantee that worst will happen. But like the Big Apple, the federal government is not taking chances... and deserves credit for it.

If the past few months have taught us anything, it's that leaders at all levels and in all areas must be prepared as possible for the unimaginable. To do this, ideology, agendas, biases and preconceptions need to be set aside, and creative thinking and future visioning need to be made a priority.

Jeffrey Shaffer of the Christian Science Monitor sums this up perfectly by saying:

"Thinking the unthinkable" may not be a helpful phrase anymore because of its association with Herman Kahn and nuclear holocaust, but the concept should be mandatory throughout all levels of government, from disaster planning to foreign policy. And if people would feel more comfortable with a less-frightening term, here's my suggestion: Category 5 Brainstorming.