What if the Future was an Object?

What exactly is the future?

This may sound like an odd question, but it’s surprising how often we barrel ahead trying to build a better future without pausing to think about what it is, and how this affects our relationship with it.

As well as a question that seems particularly relevant to a College of Global Futures, it’s also one that is at the core of my new book Future Rising: A Journey from the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow.

For this blog post though, I wanted to dig a bit more into the back-story behind the book, and the idea that inspired it: thinking about the future as an object.

Thinking about the future as an object

This idea of the future as an object wasn’t actually mine–I was sitting with a colleague chatting about my next book early in 2019, and he asked “why not write about the future as an object?”

I must confess that I initially thought the idea was a little crazy. But the more I mulled it over, the more I realized that it opened the way to not only thinking about our rather unique relationship with the future in new ways, but to helping guide our thinking on our responsibility toward the future we’re building together.

In the end, this idea of the future as an object formed a scaffold for what emerged rather than being central to the book, although as you read it, you can still see the traces of that original idea in the text.

This initial idea also formed the basis of a TEDxASU talk that I was poised to give back in April, before COVID hit.

I doubt that that talk will ever be given now in its original version–which is a shame given the massive amount of work that the TEDxASU team put into organizing the event and mentoring me and the other speakers.

However, that talk that never happened is now available as an audio-only presentation that goes at least some way to capturing the essence of what was planned:

The talk builds on the back story of the book to examine the nature of the future and our responsibility to it. And finishes by asking, if you could pick an object that represents the future, what would it be?

The spoiler alert here is that my personal object is the iridescence yet fragile soap bubble in the image above — something full of wonder and promise, but at the same time, in need of care if it’s to survive and thrive. It’s also an image that is captured in an ASU Now interview about the book.

You can listen to the talk “What if The Future Was An Object” here.


I need to give a huge shout-out to the TEDxASU team for all their help on that original talk, and especially to School for the Future of Innovation in Society students Izaac Mansfield and Maya Shrikant for for their incredible help and advice on the the script!