Redefining Tomorrow

As kids, how often did we imagine what the future would look like – who we would be, what we would do, even how we would get to work? How often do we do this same imagining today?

Some time ago, the University of Washington announced that new software had been developed, by a group of its professors that could help find long-missing children. The software would do this by creating pictures of how the child would look, aged into adulthood. Applying specific algorithms and turning the face into 4000 pixels, the program takes childhood pictures and then “ages” the pictures.

To test the software, these folks took volunteers’ pictures, but only using the youngest picture, aged the subject to specific times for which they had actual pictures. The actual and computer images compared were incredibly similar! This is a giant leap for computer software and has the potential to become a key element in helping to find lost or abducted children long after they have gone missing. As the software becomes available, we can use it to see what we will look like in the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years . . . if we really want to know.

Interestingly, the human mind uses its own software to look into the future. We know it by the name of “forethought,” which seems to be unique to humans. We can imagine into the future, visualize it, and use these visualizations to plan today for our desired tomorrows. In this way, we actually have more control over our futures than this computer software will. We can plan – or goal-set – for what we want to be like.

We are in a unique time and place, where our “plans for the future” have been interrupted by a microscopic virus. Some of us feel totally at sea, because the future we thought would happen has been co-opted. However, with a change in perspective, it is possible to see this as an opportunity to recreate a new future for ourselves. Will it be different? Yes. But we get to control what we want it to look like.

We can lay the groundwork for this new future we want, by holding the desired vision, comparing it against today’s reality, and use the tension between the two ends – today’s reality and tomorrow’s dream – to get us to where we want to go. This is a natural process that we just need to harness and direct.