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3 ways to plan for the (very) long term

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    So I've been "futuring,"
    which is a term I made up --
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    (Laughter)
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    about three seconds ago.
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    I've been futuring for about 20 years,
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    and when I first started,
    I would sit down with people,
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    and say, "Hey,
    let's talk 10, 20 years out."
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    And they'd say, "Great."
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    And I've been seeing that time horizon
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    get shorter and shorter
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    and shorter,
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    so much so that I met
    with a CEO two months ago
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    and I said -- we started
    our initial conversation.
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    He goes, "I love what you do.
    I want to talk about the next six months."
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    (Laughter)
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    We have a lot of problems
    that we are facing.
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    These are civilizational-scale problems.
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    The issue though is,
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    we can't solve them
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    using the mental models
    that we use right now
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    to try and solve these problems.
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    Yes, a lot of great
    technical work is being done,
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    but there is a problem that
    we need to solve for a priori, before,
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    if we want to really
    move the needle on those big problems.
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    "Short-termism."
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    Right? There's no marches.
    There's no bracelets.
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    There's no petitions that you can sign
    to be against short-termism.
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    I tried to put one up, and no one signed.
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    It was weird.
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    (Laughter)
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    But it prevents us from doing so much.
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    Short-termism, for many reasons,
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    has pervaded every
    nook and cranny of our reality.
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    I just want you to take a second
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    and just think about an issue
    that you're thinking, working on.
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    It could be personal, it could be at work
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    or it could be
    move-the-needle world stuff,
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    and think about
    how far out you tend to think
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    about the solution set for that.
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    Because short-termism prevents the CEO
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    from buying really
    expensive safety equipment.
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    It'll hurt the bottom line.
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    So we get the Deepwater Horizon.
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    Short-termism prevents teachers
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    from spending quality
    one-on-one time with their students.
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    So right now in America,
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    a high school student
    drops out every 26 seconds.
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    Short-termism prevents Congress --
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    sorry if there's anyone
    in here from Congress --
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    (Laughter)
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    or not really that sorry --
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    (Laughter)
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    from putting money
    into a real infrastructure bill.
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    So what we get
    is the I-35W bridge collapse
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    over the Mississippi a few years ago,
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    13 killed.
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    It wasn't always like this.
    We did the Panama Canal.
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    We pretty much
    have eradicated global polio.
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    We did the transcontinental railroad,
    the Marshall Plan.
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    And it's not just big, physical
    infrastructure problems and issues.
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    Women's suffrage, the right to vote.
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    But in our short-termist time,
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    where everything seems to happen right now
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    and we can only think out
    past the next tweet or timeline post,
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    we get hyper-reactionary.
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    So what do we do?
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    We take people who are fleeing
    their war-torn country,
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    and we go after them.
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    We take low-level drug offenders,
    and we put them away for life.
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    And then we build McMansions
    without even thinking
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    about how people are going
    to get between them and their job.
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    It's a quick buck.
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    Now, the reality is,
    for a lot of these problems,
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    there are some technical fixes,
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    a lot of them.
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    I call these technical fixes
    sandbag strategies.
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    So you know there's a storm coming,
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    the levee is broken,
    no one's put any money into it,
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    you surround your home with sandbags.
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    And guess what? It works.
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    Storm goes away,
    the water level goes down,
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    you get rid of the sandbags,
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    and you do this storm
    after storm after storm.
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    And here's the insidious thing.
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    A sandbag strategy
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    can get you reelected.
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    A sandbag strategy
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    can help you make your quarterly numbers.
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    Now, if we want to move forward
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    into a different future
    than the one we have right now,
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    because I don't think we've hit --
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    2016 is not peak civilization.
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    (Laughter)
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    There's some more we can do.
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    But my argument is that unless we shift
    our mental models and our mental maps
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    on how we think about the short,
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    it's not going to happen.
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    So what I've developed
    is something called "longpath,"
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    and it's a practice.
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    And longpath isn't
    a kind of one-and-done exercise.
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    I'm sure everyone here
    at some point has done an off-site
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    with a lot of Post-It notes
    and whiteboards,
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    and you do --
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    no offense to the consultants
    in here who do that --
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    and you do a long-term plan,
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    and then two weeks later,
    everyone forgets about it.
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    Right? Or a week later.
    If you're lucky, three months.
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    It's a practice because
    it's not necessarily a thing that you do.
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    It's a process where you have
    to revisit different ways of thinking
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    for every major decision
    that you're working on.
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    So I want to go through
    those three ways of thinking.
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    So the first: transgenerational thinking.
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    I love the philosophers:
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    Plato, Socrates, Habermas, Heidegger.
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    I was raised on them.
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    But they all did one thing
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    that didn't actually seem like a big deal
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    until I really started
    kind of looking into this.
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    And they all took,
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    as a unit of measure
    for their entire reality
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    of what it meant to be virtuous and good,
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    the single lifespan,
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    from birth to death.
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    But here's a problem with these issues:
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    they stack up on top of us,
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    because the only way we know
    how to do something good in the world
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    is if we do it between
    our birth and our death.
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    That's what we're programmed to do.
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    If you go to the self-help section
    in any bookstore,
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    it's all about you.
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    Which is great,
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    unless you're dealing
    with some of these major issues.
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    And so with transgenerational thinking,
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    which is really kind of
    transgenerational ethics,
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    you're able to expand
    how you think about these problems,
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    what is your role
    in helping to solve them.
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    Now, this isn't something that just has to
    be done at the Security Council chamber.
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    It's something that you can do
    in a very kind of personal way.
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    So every once in a while, if I'm lucky,
    my wife and I like to go out to dinner,
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    and we have three children
    under the age of seven.
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    So you can imagine
    it's a very peaceful, quiet meal.
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    (Laughter)
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    So we sit down and literally
    all I want to do is just eat and chill,
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    and my kids have a completely
    and totally different idea
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    of what we're going to be doing.
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    And so my first idea
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    is my sandbag strategy, right?
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    It's to go into my pocket
    and take out the iPhone
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    and give them "Frozen"
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    or some other bestselling game thing.
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    And then I stop
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    and I have to kind of put on
    this transgenerational thinking cap.
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    I don't do this in the restaurant,
    because it would be bizarre,
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    but I have to --
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    I did it once, and that's how
    I learned it was bizarre.
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    (Laughter)
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    And you have to kind of think,
    "OK, I can do this."
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    But what is this teaching them?
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    So what does it mean
    if I actually bring some paper
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    or engage with them in conversation?
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    It's hard. It's not easy,
    and I'm making this very personal.
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    It's actually more traumatic
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    than some of the big issues
    that I work on in the world --
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    entertaining my kids at dinner.
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    But what it does is it connects them
    here in the present with me,
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    but it also --
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    and this is the crux
    of transgenerational thinking ethics --
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    it sets them up to how they're
    going to interact with their kids
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    and their kids and their kids.
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    Second, futures thinking.
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    When we think about the future,
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    10, 15 years out,
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    give me a vision of what the future is.
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    You don't have to give it to me,
    but think in your head.
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    And what you're probably going to see
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    is the dominant cultural lens
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    that dominates our thinking
    about the future right now:
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    technology.
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    So when we think about the problems,
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    we always put it through
    a technological lens,
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    a tech-centric, a techno-utopia,
    and there's nothing wrong with that,
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    but it's something that we have to
    really think deeply about
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    if we're going to move
    on these major issues,
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    because it wasn't always like this. Right?
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    The ancients had their way of thinking
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    about what the future was.
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    The Church definitely had their idea
    of what the future could be,
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    and you could actually pay your way
    into that future. Right?
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    And luckily for humanity,
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    we got the scientific revolution.
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    From there, we got the technology,
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    but what has happened --
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    And by the way, this is not a critique.
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    I love technology.
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    Everything in my house talks back to me,
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    from my children
    to my speakers to everything.
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    (Laughter)
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    But we've abdicated the future
    from the high priests in Rome
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    to the high priests of Silicon Valley.
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    So when we think, well,
    how are we going to deal with climate
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    or with poverty or homelessness,
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    our first reaction is to think about it
    through a technology lens.
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    And look, I'm not advocating
    that we go to this guy.
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    I love Joel, don't get me wrong,
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    but I'm not saying we go to Joel.
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    What I'm saying is we have to rethink
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    our base assumption about
    only looking at the future in one way,
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    only looking at it
    through the dominant lens.
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    Because our problems
    are so big and so vast
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    that we need to open ourselves up.
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    So that's why I do everything in my power
    not to talk about the future.
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    I talk about futures.
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    It opens the conversation again.
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    So when you're sitting and thinking
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    about how do we move forward
    on this major issue --
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    it could be at home,
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    it could be at work,
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    it could be again on the global stage --
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    don't cut yourself off from thinking
    about something beyond technology as a fix
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    because we're more concerned
    about technological evolution right now
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    than we are about moral evolution.
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    And unless we fix for that,
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    we're not going to be able
    to get out of short-termism
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    and get to where we want to be.
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    The final, telos thinking.
    This comes from the Greek root.
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    Ultimate aim and ultimate purpose.
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    And it's really asking one question:
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    to what end?
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    When was the last time
    you asked yourself: To what end?
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    And when you asked yourself that,
    how far out did you go?
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    Because long isn't long enough anymore.
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    Three, five years doesn't cut it.
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    It's 30, 40, 50, 100 years.
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    In Homer's epic, "The Odyssey,"
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    Odysseus had the answer to his "what end."
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    It was Ithaca.
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    It was this bold vision
    of what he wanted --
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    to return to Penelope.
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    And I can tell you,
    because of the work that I'm doing,
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    but also you know it intuitively --
    we have lost our Ithaca.
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    We have lost our "to what end,"
    so we stay on this hamster wheel.
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    And yes, we're trying
    to solve these problems,
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    but what comes after we solve the problem?
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    And unless you define what comes after,
    people aren't going to move.
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    The businesses --
    this isn't just about business --
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    but the businesses that do consistently,
    who break out of short-termism
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    not surprisingly
    are family-run businesses.
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    They're transgenerational. They're telos.
    They think about the futures.
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    And this is an ad for Patek Philippe.
    They're 175 years old,
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    and what's amazing
    is that they literally embody
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    this kind of longpathian sense
    in their brand,
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    because, by the way,
    you never actually own a Patek Philippe,
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    and I definitely won't --
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    (Laughter)
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    unless somebody wants to just
    throw 25,000 dollars on the stage.
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    You merely look after it
    for the next generation.
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    So it's important that we remember,
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    the future, we treat it like a noun.
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    It's not. It's a verb.
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    It requires action.
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    It requires us to push into it.
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    It's not this thing that washes over us.
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    It's something that we
    actually have total control over.
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    But in a short-term society,
    we end up feeling like we don't.
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    We feel like we're trapped.
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    We can push through that.
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    Now I'm getting more comfortable
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    in the fact that at some point
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    in the inevitable future,
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    I will die.
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    But because of these new ways
    of thinking and doing,
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    both in the outside world
    and also with my family at home,
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    and what I'm leaving my kids,
    I get more comfortable in that fact.
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    And it's something that a lot of us
    are really uncomfortable with,
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    but I'm telling you,
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    think it through.
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    Apply this type of thinking
    and you can push yourself past
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    what's inevitably
    very, very uncomfortable.
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    And it all begins really
    with yourself asking this question:
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    What is your longpath?
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    But I ask you, when you ask yourself that
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    now or tonight or behind a steering wheel
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    or in the boardroom or the situation room:
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    push past the longpath,
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    quick, oh, what's my longpath
    the next three years or five years?
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    Try and push past your own life if you can
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    because it makes you do things
    a little bit bigger
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    than you thought were possible.
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    Yes, we have huge,
    huge problems out there.
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    With this process, with this thinking,
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    I think we can make a difference.
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    I think you can make a difference,
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    and I believe in you guys.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
3 ways to plan for the (very) long term
Speaker:
Ari Wallach
Description:

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
13:42

English subtitles

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