In the article ‘The scenario machine’, Luuk Boelens writes that futurology is in a state of crisis. Society is becoming more unpredictable by the day and there no longer any ideologies making it well-nigh impossible to envisage the future. Nobody who has understood the implications of this ‘end of ideology’ will demand a new ideology or its derivative, an integrated vision of the future. Yet Luuk Boelens does just that in his article and thereby falls into the very trap that he has just described.
In the current scenario boom, Boelens discerns three characteristics: ‘complementarity’ (the all-embracing plan), ‘modesty’ (thematic, limited pronouncements) and ‘metaphors’ (working with comparative images). In the first case there is indeed an attempt to arrive at an integrated vision of the future. The makers stir together a few large models of the future, add a pinch of salt and serve it up as new. It is a naïve method, for every attempt to arrive at a new integrated vision of the future is doomed to failure. The other two characteristics are in my view judged too negatively. These are just small truths, thematic ideas, metaphors and partial strategies. In other words, they (wisely) make no attempt to tell an all-embracing story. ‘Long live Absurdia!’ cries Boelens, ‘there is no sound futurology’. No, fortunately not, for sound futurology would disappear into the same black hole as the purveyor of comprehensive prognostications.
The position in which the writer of future scenarios finds himself is very similar to that of the present-day philosopher. The big stories have all had their day and we have now reached a point where thought (or, more precisely, Western reason) is no longer capable of forcing a solution. Reason has become entangled in a web of its own making. The breakthrough must therefore come from something that stands outside reason, like visual art, mysticism or mythology. That is where the unexpected pirouette that has become impossible in rational thought can turn up. ‘The linguistic artist Ashok Bhalotra’, as Boelens calls him, but also Robert Jan Heijn (of the Oibibio New Age centre) and even Jomanda (a spiritual healer) understand this and sometimes come up with examples of non-traditional, non-Western concepts. The importance of a metaphorical approach or of a method based on visual art should therefore not be underestimated; in my view it has the best future in futurology.