Let’s get ridiculous

"Every useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous."

That is the second ”Dator's Law of the Future”, aimed to guide futurists in their work of exploring alternative futures. There is also a caveat: not all ridiculous ideas turn out to be useful. Nonetheless, the message behind this slogan is that the added value of futures exploration is the broadening of what is deemed plausible and the introduction of new ideas and concepts to the futures debate.

While Dator’s second law talks about the future, it captures a useful perspective to present as well. Many of the present ideas have been quite ridiculous when they have been introduced. And actually, many ideas still are rather ridiculous if you stop and think about them. One excellent example is this “review” of a petrol car by Tesla Club Sweden, which includes excellent crystallizations of how strange the current “normal” car actually is, such as:

“The petrol engine then uses a tank full of gasoline, a fossil liquid, to propel the car by exploding small drops of it.”

Present ideas are ridiculous but we have just grown accustomed to them, do not understand them fully or choose to ignore them. Our financial system is another rather topical example. Douglas Rushkoff argues that the problem with it is basically that it is outdated and not suited for present needs. It was meant to ensure the power of the aristocrat by creating a system where if you had wealth, you could acquire more wealth without doing any work. Before that money had had a “best before” date, because it had been tied to for example grains. This meant that you had an incentive to spend the money, which led to investments such as the cathedrals.

Futures studies and foresight thus should aim for two things: creating ridiculous ideas about futures and surfacing the ridiculousness of present ideas in order to free up space for new ridiculous ideas. In other words the task is to turn ideas about the future from ridiculous to ordinary and make the present ridiculous. In the carnival spirit of the May Day – Let’s get ridiculous!