maps, space race and tomorrow
In the history of man, maps have always been of great importance. Maps provide an essential tool for navigating in unknown landscape. With a map, you can plan the easiest or most scenic route through a landscape. If you get lost, you turn to your map to regain your sense of place and direction. With a map you can move through unknown territory with a certain amount of confidence.
Tomorrow’s Land is a project funded by the EU. A collective attempt to draw a map of the future landscapes. To give form to insights, glimpses of what the future might look like. And to encourage young people to take responsibility of creating a better future. The Project is a collaborative exploration of trends and tendencies pointing toward what the near future might actually look like. Six organizations from six different European countries, are engaged in co-developing social innovation for future Europe. The goal of the project is to educate the next generation of social innovators, fully capable of influencing and contributing to the development of a better, more inclusive and innovative society.
The challenges we are facing are serious. The profound inequalities within the societies, the climate change, the unemployment rates, and many other factors demand for a new socio-economic model and innovative solutions. Tomorrow’s Land is an attempt to start resolving existing challenges for the benefit of people and planet.
The future is by definition impossible to foresee entirely. Tomorrow is an uncertain and always evolving landscape. Almost anything could happen. Some scenarios are very plausible. Some scenarios are probable. Some are just possible.
Tomorrow, it is plausible that you will have a nice cup of coffee in the morning. It is probable that some president will dye his hair yellow. It is possible that the Earth will be knocked in the direction of the sun by a huge meteor, and we will all boil and burn. That might not happen, but it is possible.
All the time, we are traveling toward tomorrow. Whether we ignore or embrace it, does not change the course of time, but it can potentially change us. Change the way we travel toward tomorrow. And ultimately, that might change the landscape of tomorrow to something we would actually prefer.
The domain of preferable futures belongs to the people engaging in the present. We can design the future by our decisions and actions in the present.
When John F. Kennedy became president in January 1961, the general opinion among Americans was, that the United States was losing the space race to the Soviet Union, who four years earlier with success had sent the first satellite in orbit around earth. The perception grew when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space during April 1961. Less than a week later came the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba, a failure that publicly humiliated the United States. Kennedy and the White House were convinced that the American strength and liberty would be secured through demonstrating technological supremacy. After consulting with NASA to identify such an achievement, Kennedy stood before Congress on May 25, 1961 with a very bold proposal:
»I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space«.
In his speech Kennedy describes a scenario for the future of a nation. He commits himself and the entire country to a seemingly impossible goal. If America had to land on the Moon in order to preserve a peaceful and free world, then landing on the Moon was an absolute necessity. It was a political need. James Webb, the space agency’s administrator, had previously conceded to Kennedy that he believed it could be done, but the fact was, that NASA had absolutely no idea where to even begin. As Kennedy came back to the White House, he said to his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen,
»That didn’t go over well, did it?«.
And truly, the proposal wasn’t greeted with immediate enthusiasm by the members of Congress. Kennedy spend a lot of effort trying to win the argument and convince Congress why going to the moon was of such importance. It wasn’t clear until a couple of weeks later, if Kennedy would have the political support needed to get started on this adventure. But his declaration set in motion research activities, investments and technological leaps that in the following decade increased the chances of actually sending a man to the moon. And as the years passed, the scenario slowly took form. And finally on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module Eagle, and felt the surface of the moon under his feet for the first time. Three days later, the crew returned safely to Earth.
Kennedy’s speech not only charted the course of NASA for a decade, it scaled up an idea of space travel to become an achievement, that still today, almost 50 years later, is a pillar in human history. When events and people alter things and rules in the present, new potential futures emerge and other vanish. This is why it matters to change the way we travel toward the future. And that is what project Tomorrow’s Land is all about.
The collaborators challenged the concepts of leadership, waste, connectedness, systemic design, responsibility, technology and more in the report. They collected vast amounts of data about trends and tendencies, and boiled the lot down to eight insights pointing toward the future. This is creating the basis for the education of young social innovators. Changing the minds of the people, gazing into the future. It is possible to use tomorrow as an inspiration for today. It is possible to design the future.