How do trends related to brain enhancements, climate refugees, and rebalancing gender equality fit into our most recent report exploring the future of work?
Taking the first as an example, it would be easy to dismiss the idea of us all having brain implants in the next 10 – 15 years as the stuff of science fiction. But what if we told you that there is already a headset that allows you to make commands using your brain? Or that a startup called Kernel is developing a “neural prosthetic” that will expand human cognition by uniting our minds and bodies with machine interfaces? Additionally, American scientists have recently connected the brains of three people through something called BrainNet that enables them to share their thoughts.
What could happen if these technologies became widely adopted? How would learning change if your brain could quickly upload new information much like a computer does? What would happen to productivity levels if you were able to share thoughts with team members instead of attending meetings?
When thinking about the future, though it may sound obvious, it is important to remember that it does not exist yet. It is not a thing that can be predicted or known with any degree of certainty. Ideas that seem wild today may not be wild tomorrow. Alternatively, ideas that seem certain today could easily become obsolete within a short time period.
But just because we cannot see into the future, does not prevent us from trying to better understand the range of possibilities at play. This is the purpose of strategic foresight—a field of study dedicated to understanding futures.
As an institute committed to providing far-sighted insights about the future of Canada’s innovation economy, strategic foresight is a practice we have been experimenting with. Our new report, Turn and Face the Strange, uses a foresight research approach called horizon scanning1 to explore broad ideas about how employment in Canada might change in 10 – 15 years. As our award-winning foresight advisor Wendy Schultz explains, horizon scanning helps identify weak signals of change, identifying emerging opportunities to develop forward-looking policy and to assess prospective policy risks, security threats, and public vulnerabilities.2