SHARING FUTURES What Futurists Think: knowledgebase 4

Heiner Benking
My Background - Where I feel that I can Contribute

My vocational training was that of a map-maker, engineer, planner and builder. Planners have not only to look into the Future but handle an extreme variety of information, data from different cultures, domains, and scales! This has led early to visual approaches to structure information in a meaningful way. Recent studies about qualification profiles show that surveyors and planners have a very wide and deep education, including general or overview aspects, but also a very strong technical and data-management specialisation, This might be an example of what Hans-Peter Duerr and others called T - Personalities, individuals who have some global orientation -horizontal bar of the T- and apply their specialised knowledge - vertical bar- by moving this expertise from one application to the next.

This is what I did as a town- and state planner, co-ordinator, management, marketing and market research consultant, one of the first internationally to help develop and sell computer graphics visualisation tools to research, education, and application in fields ranging from military to industry, exploration, environment to business. I finally focused on environmental research and data management (multi-linguality, meta-databases, harmonisation projects. My proposal to communicate complexity to great variety of audiences finally lead to visual access and assimilation strategies and the design of a BlackBox Nature and Conceptual Superstructure of knowledge. For the German Chancellery we had to present and explain to for example: politicians, technocrats, industrialists, children,... what GLOBAL CHANGE is, and what is at stake locally and globally. This was done in form of a central, physical exponat, actually building a situation or decision space which allows to index and outline issues and assume different positions in this proble- learning- solution realm.

In short: What I have done is proposing a Cognitive Panorama, a mental architecture, model or map which can help us to organise, index and retrieve "what we know and do not know". The way of finding ways to exchange where we are in the 3rd (individual) reality is the first step towards co-creation and more rewarding exchanges in meetings. It is part of approaches for time and interest sharing and encouragement through giving and visualising interest and attention and creating space for voices which are normally not heard or can find in this way more receptive audiences.

The Cognititve Panorama - For Being and Feeling Part of Life and Nature and jointly charting Common Perspectives and Directions

How can we "localise" and explain complex issues, proportions and consequences? As we all know we have no "antenna" for feeling and visualising change, scales and differences between terms and the concepts behind. The guiding idea is to create an artificial space, a space where we have these dimension as axes, and in this way - in a problem-learning-solution space, can map and share where we are and what the context of an issue is. The dimensions: time, scale, term (field) are "borrowed" from a wider definition of ecology, which asked for the integration and interaction along and across these scales and where used in early 1990 as a Blackbox Nature - Rubic"s Cube of Ecology, see GLOBAL CHANGE - Challenges to Science and Politics, exhibition as mentioned above. This indexing or mental space is the central switch to the real world and to a semantic space, for ordering multi-lingual terms, in a Cognitive Panorama (3Space/Time).

Futurist who helped me to "carry-on"

I owe much support and encouragement to some futurists, such as: Robert Jungk, James Welles-Wellesby, Anthony Judge, Christian de Laet, Peter Menke-Glueckert, Merete Mattern, Pentii Malaska,... in particular "older" futurists which where able and inclined to look out for wider perspectives, willing to change lenses and not giving up the search for common models or frames references.

First I want to remember and mention Robert Jungk. Bob was the first who immediately grasped the depth and potential of the design. He urged my to continue working with children, as they often have more clear views and unbiased, not yet spoiled views on the whole and care about the future. He told me to stop immediately my work to built multi-lingual multi-domain meta- database Information Systems for International Harmonisation bodies, as ‘Humankind has not enough time...". He help immensely, invited me in 1993 to the WFSF (work camps with children), to contribute to joint activities like the German Church-day, "Water - Sources of Creation", and help organising the conference in honour of his 80th birthday in Graz. As he had a stroke the day we were to meet in Munich, a lot of lines were cut, the special summary of collaboratory and participatory movements was cancelled and nobody was there to secure the budding relation with Hans Jonas, see contribution to his 90th birthday in memoriam, where I was able to highlight the "space and time dimensions of ethics". See also WFSF Nairobi: "The Optics of Ethics" in the eco- philosophy and environmental ethics section.

Much support, advise and friendship come from the pillars of MANKIND 2000, Anthony John Nesbitt Judge and James Wellesley-Wesley. They not only founded and cared for one of Bob"s favourite project, and made a dream come true - as an example for me - despite all the "observers and advisers saying and knowing that the THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA can not be done. Focus on Tony and James can have not enough space here, but it should be clear that I do not know how I could have managed without the support and friendship of Tony Judge, who is co- author or much work with relevance to my proposal, namely: The Conceptual Superstructure, Spacial Metaphors for Interface Design, and our joint work on TIME SHARING in MEETINGS and co-creation and empowerment through encouraging voices by caring and sharing... Support and encouragement came also from Merete Mattern, which is a planner like me and therefore ahead the right and open mind, and all the necessary books, books you find nowhere,... and Ervin Laszlo who invited me "Creative Member of the Club of Budapest, which is an incredible "credibility" booster which helps to get people to listen to you! As Ervin allowed me serve as his advisor, co-ordinator and editor in the start up phase of his CLUB OF BUDAPEST I earned my self some contacts and connections.

Last not least the late Willis Harman who very much liked my paper GLOBAL PATHS, WFSF 95 Nairobi, Economy and Futures section, and invited me to participate in his PATHFINDER project. His concept of searching for a path into the future by "knowing where we are and where we want to go" and my way of mapping such "trails", even thinking about balancing and lifting the ecological burden or the degree of infliction and suffering (Panetics) of our pathfinder"s "backpack - napsac" were ideal twins and we have to keep on trucking... The Essences of the Design - Metaphors, Mind-Sets, Self-Models, Meta-Paradigms. It took me 7 years to realise, that this approach is most central to the ways we think and perceive our environment. As a technician working in communications I had just used what I learned to design a map which makes sense at all levels and all scales and bring together the abstract but very critical dimension that we face when we go beyond our direct physical environment. Deep questioning arose when I was asked by representatives of the Church on which WELTANSCHAUUNG the design is based, so I had to realise, that I was actually designing a WORLD VIEW and leading to new paradigms in progress. As this model can explains a lot, and makes us considerate and humble the more we gaze at the whole and the obvious connectedness, I continued to propose it as an alternative model, without being aware that it actually digs very deep. Discussions with a psychologist lead me to believe, that the design is actually a description of a meta paradigm, a model to map and help to describe the coexistence and interaction of different mind-sets and self-models.

This needs to be deepened here a little as the basic building block for our question of futures thinking. It is the very basic ability of being able to spot where we are and from which position and aspect we see our third reality (third reality is a media communication term describing the current subjective reality of a person, our conceptual individual perspective). As we organise and interpret in perceptual frameworks which are composed of educational, political or scientific paradigms, I realised that I go beyond the scope of a single paradigm, which can be seen as a pattern or framework of thinking, deeper by designing a layout for a metaparadigm, as a self-model or framework of being. The central question is therefore how do we construct our experience (sets) as the most basic model. Typically the most common self- model, or metaparadigm which guides us, is the idea of "I or not I", "inside or outside", .... - the "skin encapsulated ego" as Allan Watts called it in 1972. As we adopts this identity in early childhood, and learn to think in "mine or yours territory or mandate", but not in "ours", "another", or "the whole", we are somehow fixed in our perceptions and perspectives, in the way we think - at least in the typical western cultures.

As most of our reasoning is based on this very basic and typically unconscious predisposition, taking in other viewpoints, or taking in distance to a subject is very rare and even more difficult to talk about it, change positions and views, share and see with other eyes or the mind"s eye.

As the cognitive panorama is actually a schema and transformer (metaphors are image schemas) we have a means and ways to "take our viewpoint out" and even to combine and balance (merge and morph) views. My mapping metaphors and seeing the way reason is transported from concrete to imaginary and abstract pictures, we have a way and vehicle to trace meaning between cultures, languages and mind sets.

General and Further Considerations

By trying to index and share where we are and where we want to go (see Pathfinder Project with Willis Harman above) and generating some shared overview and perspectives we immediately hit strong opposition in Society. Ubiquitous sectarian attitudes, territory or domain thinking in modern society, the new confrontation with the Information Flood of the coming Cyberculture has blocked our abilities to look for new and different answers and the freedom to play and search. Instead we are hoping computers and personal assistants (robots) to provide insight, meaning and context.

One central access to the dilemma might be to realise that the prevailing reductionistic scientific paradigm is like looking only with one eye. Scientific Theory as somehow banned holistic broader approaches and so find ourselves presented with a lot of questions we have no language for, and no space to outline and address these issues. If we allow ourselves to care where the other person is conceptually, share the level and even combine and bridge levels and positions, we might arrive at the point of leaving fixation and accepting that other people are at other places, seeing with different eyes different things. The whole concepts of finding out and mapping where we are is not complete with one additional approach. It has to do with the way we communicate and as Futurists like Hazel Handerson called it "a good social invention" and a friend of Robert Jungk, Nicolas Albery has immediately has recognised at registered it in DIY Do IT YOURSELF book of SOCIAL INNOVATIONS, we feel it is good to make it know. We called the process "Magic Round Tables" which take place in an OPEN FORUM of ideas. We worked with the Academy for Co- operation and Security (ASCE), the (former) "think-tank" of the CSCE, by bringing together different parties and voices and somehow helped to form out of the earlier round talks (Rundgespraeche) the legendary ROUND TABLE, which suddenly "emerged" in the process of lifting the walls (of thinking!??) between the worldly blocks. The basic intention is to develop more tolerance, caring about others whether participants speak up or not! Such a time and compassion sharing, giving voices and learning again to listen, even subtle messages and silence is even more basic then going into abstract realms and trying to understand where we are, and which proportions and consequences are connected with how we think and what we do.

Orientation and Separation - The Parts and the Whole

As this contribution is to introduce a "futurist", who is not sure whether he is a Futurist at all or maybe anything or everything else, who is in doubt whether he fits into any "box" or category at all. As the visual assimilation approach needs much more space and touches deep waters, like "Anschauung" and "Weltanschaung", central issues and concerns which need as extra space and in-depth reference to J. W. Goethe, I would like to end up with a synopsis which can be found in the poetry by Friedrich Rueckert. This piece below is taken from the "Wisdom of Brahmins" and makes us aware that we can create and erase boundaries, whether physical, conceptual or imagined and that we can create and are therefore above, not subject to schemes, maps and other solitary or arbitrary views:

Whoever imagines mental barriers which actually do not exist
and then thinks them away, has understood the world.
As space is entrapped in geometry's network of lines,
thought is caught in its (own) inherent laws.
Maps make the world comprehensible to us;
we are still waiting for the star-maps of the spirit.
In the same way that ambling through fields
we risk getting lost, the spirit negotiates its terrain.

Friedrich Rueckert
Wisdom of Brahmins [translated]

Heiner Benking is an independent consultant. He was advisor to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and other bodies and worked in the 70ies as co-ordinator and expert for archiving, mapping and administration. In the early 80ies he worked for the "fathers" of the industry of interactive computer graphics and colour raster graphics in international marketing and market development and was an international management, marketing and strategy consultant with ExperConsult. As consultant to UNEP in meta-database, harmonisation, data-management and -policy capacities, and foundations, like the Alfred Wegener Foundation, he helped to establish international fairs, like the geotechnica, Cologne or advised its president on image and strategy development. He is co-founder of the CONSULTATIVE mediation approach and serves in its steering board, Associate to Prof. F.J. Radermacher, of the FAW Research Centre for Applied Knowledge Processing, in Ulm, co-founder of infoterm, Vienna, and advisor to Ervin Laszlo, founder of the Club of Budapest, which originally invited him to join the roster of "Creative Members".