In late 2010, at the Humanity+ Leadership gathering in Second Life, I put forth the suggestion of a new holiday to celebrate the future – Future Day. After all, I noted, most of our holidays celebrate stuff from the past – why not have a holiday to celebrate the future? Somewhat arbitrarily, I suggested March 1 of each year as the possible date.
Much to my delight, the suggestion was taken up with enthusiasm by others (including a wonderful article by Nikki Olson) – and Future Day 2012 gatherings of various sorts are now being organized in various cities around the globe, as well as in Second Life. With the help of Adam Ford and others, there is now a Future Day website.
So I’m writing this article now, as the first-ever Future Day approaches, to reiterate the concept of the new holiday, and encourage you to celebrate however you see fit. This is a new holiday – it will be what we make it!
Celebrate Future Day however you like — and feel free to send a photo to of your Future Day gatherings or whatever to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your celebration may wind up being commemorated for the future on the Future Day website!
Why Future Day?
But why do we need another holiday? Why one celebrating the future? And why launch such a thing now?
Future Day, as I conceive it, is both a fun and frivolous thing and a deeply serious thing.
When I first suggested the new holiday, I was thinking about Future Day costume parties with SF movie themes … school essay contests on futuristic themes … humanoid robots giving speeches in the town square … you name it! The more I thought about it, the more possible ways to celebrate came to mind.
After all, costume parties are great fun, but why really should we focus them on the witches and goblins that spooked the minds of superstitious medieval people? Isn’t it perhaps better to focus our imaginations on the new worlds we’re building?
And as fun as Fourth of July fireworks are –wouldn’t it be fun to also celebrate with new and amazing technologies, instead of always focusing on blowing things up in the sky? The “rocket’s red glare” was really exciting in the late 1700s, but a lot more things are possible now.
I’m not sure what Future Day is going to develop into, but I think it has the potential to be a heck of a lot of fun.
But just like all our previous holidays, Future Day combines fun with a serious purpose…..
Future Day as a Means of Refocusing the World’s Attention
In the more technologically advanced parts of the world, we are entering a regime in which material scarcity is less of a problem than attentional scarcity. This has been referred to as the attention economy. Put differently, this means we are in situation where the focusing of attention, individually and collectively, is of prime importance.
And holidays are, above all, about focusing of attention. Christmas originally was about focusing attention on the birth of Jesus Christ, but now is mainly about focusing attention on family, gift-giving and shopping. Many holidays are in effect about focusing attention on family. Harvest festivals are about focusing attention on, well, the harvest. Valentine’s Day is about focusing attention on our romantic loves. Birthdays are about focusing attention on the people born on that day. “National days” like the US Fourth of July are about focusing attention on nations.
Most holidays, when you think about it, are about focusing attention either on past events, or on natural cyclical events like the coming of spring or the harvesting of crops.
Why not focus more of our attention on the future?
Celebrating and honoring the past, and the cyclical processes of nature, is most certainly a valuable thing. But in these days of rapid technological acceleration, it is our future that needs more attention, not our past.
The old saw that “those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” is worth keeping in mind, even though it’s true only in very limited senses (for instance, I believe that we have very little risk of reverting to medieval society, and that what risk we do have, is not closely tied to how closely we remember the nature of that society). We don’t want to forget our roots. But we need to pay more attention to the important truth that those who do not pay serious attention to their future, have much less chance of affecting it in accordance with their tastes, values and ideals.
This is the serious theme underlying Future Day. Let’s have fun exploring all the possibilities of the future, plausible and speculative, serious and non. And let’s do our best to nudge the world to refocus its attention the future and all the possibilities it holds – and our power to shape the future, together.