The Evolution of Future Consciousness
The Nature and Historical Development of the Human Capacity to Think about the Future
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Are there any unique qualities that humans possess that make us special within the world of nature? Since the beginnings of recorded history, we have pondered this question. What if many of humanity’s highest qualities and unique achievements, such as technology, civilization, morals, self-consciousness, freedom of choice, religion, and science are all built upon a single distinctive human capacity? It may be that our highly evolved mental power to envision and think about the future is at the core of our greatest accomplishments and most unique human attributes.
In The Evolution of Future Consciousness, psychologist and futurist Tom Lombardo examines the human ability to be conscious of the future, to create ideas, images, goals, and plans about the future, to think about these mental creations and use them in directing one’s actions and one’s life. In the opening chapter, he looks at the psychology of future consciousness and its values and benefits, as well as ways to enhance this human ability. Subsequent chapters describe the emergence of future consciousness in pre-historic times and how it was critical in the development of love and bonding, the family, tools, and human aggression and hunting; the central importance of the future and time in early myths, religions, and classical philosophy; and the rise of modern futurist thinking, covering the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Western Enlightenment, and the Romantic counter-reaction. The book concludes with Darwin and how the theory of evolution revolutionized humanity’s conception of both the past and the future.
In its companion volume, Contemporary Futurist Thought, Tom Lombardo completes his survey of the historical development of future consciousness, discussing significant ideas and approaches to the future in the last century, including science fiction, future studies, and an extensive array of recent theories and paradigms of the future.
Are there any unique qualities that humans possess that make us special within the world of nature? Since the beginnings of recorded history, we have pondered this question. We have proposed many different answers, including abstract and logical reasoning, morality and ethics, an immortal soul, technology and civilization, a conscious sense of self-identity, and language. Humans also distinctively seem to require an overall sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. There has been debate, of course, over all of these possible answers. Do we really possess an immortal soul? Don’t animals show many of these attributes, only to a lesser degree? Still, what if many of these qualities can be connected with one fundamental capacity, that even if present in animals is so vastly more developed in humans that it sets us apart from the rest of nature? What if technology, civilization, morals, self-identity, and purpose and meaning are all built upon a single quintessential foundation?
Following the lead of other writers, such as Anthony Reading in his book Hope and Despair, what I propose is that the human capacity for a highly expansive and complex sense of time, and in particular the future, is the foundation for much of what makes us special within nature. Although our sense of time, of past and future, is built upon basic capacities found in animal psychology, we have greatly extended these abilities, and in so doing, have acquired the necessary mental powers for creating many of the unique features of human life, including ethics, technology, and civilization. The expansion of our temporal horizons has been the critical feature in our dominance among the species on earth. Furthermore, our continued survival and success will depend on developing this general ability even further in the future.
This book is about the human capacity to be conscious of the future, to create ideas, images, goals, and plans about the future, to think about these mental creations and use them in directing one’s actions and one’s life. I will first examine and describe the main psychological components of this general ability, which I refer to as “future consciousness,” and consider how it is essential to normal human life. I will look at the intimate connection between future consciousness and ethics, purpose, and the conscious self. I will also look at the various benefits and value of future consciousness and outline ways to enhance it.
In the remaining chapters of the book I will describe the evolution and historical development of future consciousness, beginning with the emergence of life and sentient organisms; moving to our prehistoric ancestors and the appearance of humans; continuing through early mythic, religious, and philosophical thinking on the future; and finishing with modern beliefs and approaches to the future. Through this evolutionary and historical review, I will explain the connection between our emerging capacity to think about the future and the development of civilization, love and violence, science, and religion. My survey of the growth of future consciousness in this book will end at the beginning of the twentieth century. Completing my historical and theoretical overview, in a second book, Contemporary Futurist Thought, I will examine ideas and modes of thinking on the future over the last century up to the present time.
Through this study of the nature and evolution of future consciousness I will reveal how pervasive and central future consciousness is to human life and the human mind and how rich and varied human thinking on the future is.
Tom Lombardo, Ph.D. is the Faculty Chair of Psychology, Philosophy, and Integrated Studies at Rio Salado College in Tempe, Arizona. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and the University of Minnesota and a graduate fellow of Cornell University. He has served as the Chief Psychologist and Educational Director at John Madden Mental Health Center, the Dean of Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, and the Chair of the Psychology Instructional Council at Maricopa Community Colleges. His book The Reciprocity of Perceiver and Environment is the best selling volume in Lawrence Erlbaum’s Resources in Ecological Psychology and has been translated into Japanese.
Dr. Lombardo is an award-winning educator with over thirty years professional experience. He has supervised college faculty, designed innumerable college courses, as well as complete undergraduate and graduate programs. His disciplinary background is very broad and highly integrative. Aside from psychology and philosophy, he has extensively studied intellectual history, evolutionary theory, cosmology, the philosophy of time, science fiction, and most recently futurist literature, ranging from the future of science and technology to the future of human society, culture, and religion. He has worked in academic, clinical training, and mental health settings, and is well versed in theories and practices of human growth, personal development, and self-fulfillment.
Tom has been designing and teaching college courses and giving professional presentations on the future for the last dozen years. He is a regular contributor to the World Future Society conventions. His most recent publications include “Evolving Future Consciousness through the Pursuit of Virtue”, “The Value of Future Consciousness”, and “The Pursuit of Wisdom and the Future of Education” published in the annual World Future Society Anthologies, and “Thinking Ahead: The Value of Future Consciousness” published in The Futurist. Also, he has recently published two articles “Accelerating into the Future” and “The Future Worlds of Science Fiction: Simmons’ Hyperion Epic” in the World Future Society newsletter Learning Tomorrow. He is a member of the World Future Society and the World Future Study Federation, an Affiliate of Communities for the Future and the Foundation for Conscious Evolution, and an Educational Advisory Board Member for the Acceleration Studies Foundation. His website The Odyssey of the Future (www.odysseyofthefuture.net) contains a wealth of informational resources on the study of the future. Within the last year, Tom has given presentations on “The Pursuit of Wisdom and the Future of Education” at the School for the Future in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, “Science Fiction as the Mythology of the Future” at the NASA Contact Conference and the World Future Society, “Evolving the Mind: The Future of Psychology” at the UCLA - Los Angeles Future Salon, and “The Future of Science, Religion, and Spirituality” at the World Future Society. Beginning in the fall of 2005, Tom started a Phoenix Future Salon in partnership with the Acceleration Studies Foundation.
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