Introduction of Avenirology: Against The Future
Denis Maksimov | Avenir Institute

The new episode of the Pythi­an School of Futures focus­es on our shared obses­sion with antic­i­pa­tion. The host of the series, Denis Mak­si­mov reflects on the urge to cal­cu­late the con­se­quences of any action or event to take place in the future. It unpacks emo­tions involv­ing plea­sure or anx­i­ety while await­ing or con­sid­er­ing out­comes of an expect­ed occur­rence. What kind of feel­ings arise while poten­tial­i­ty becomes actu­al­i­ty? Why is antic­i­pa­tion such an essen­tial part of every deci­sion-mak­ing process? How does antic­i­pa­tion dif­fer from fore­cast­ing or pre­dic­tion? Mak­si­mov invites lis­ten­ers to con­tem­plate whether we have any space left for spon­tane­ity in our lives.

Episode Notes:

        1. The word dynamo (from the Greek word dynamis, mean­ing force or pow­er) was orig­i­nal­ly anoth­er name for an elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tor and still has some region­al usage as a replace­ment for the word gen­er­a­tor. Dynamos were the first elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tors capa­ble of deliv­er­ing pow­er for indus­try, and the foun­da­tion upon which many oth­er lat­er elec­tric-pow­er con­ver­sion devices were based, includ­ing the elec­tric motor, the alter­nat­ing-cur­rent alter­na­tor, and the rotary converter.



        2. “Actu­al­i­ty” comes from Latin its mean­ing is “any­thing which is cur­rent­ly happening”. 



        3. Poten­tial­i­ty and poten­cy are trans­la­tions of the Ancient Greek word dunamis as it is used by Aris­to­tle as a con­cept con­trast­ing with actu­al­i­ty. Its Latin trans­la­tion is “poten­tia”, the root of the Eng­lish word poten­tial. Dunamis is an ordi­nary Greek word for pos­si­bil­i­ty or capa­bil­i­ty. Depend­ing on con­text, it could be trans­lat­ed “poten­cy”, “poten­tial”, “capac­i­ty”, “abil­i­ty”, “pow­er”, “capa­bil­i­ty”, “strength”, “pos­si­bil­i­ty”, “force” and is the root of mod­ern Eng­lish words “dynam­ic”, “dyna­mite”, and “dynamo”. In ear­ly mod­ern phi­los­o­phy, Eng­lish authors like Hobbes and Locke used the Eng­lish word “pow­er” as their trans­la­tion of Latin potentia.


        4. The con­cept of poten­tial­i­ty refers to any “pos­si­bil­i­ty” that a thing can be said to have. Aris­to­tle did not con­sid­er all pos­si­bil­i­ties the same and empha­sized the impor­tance of those that become real of their own accord when con­di­tions are right and noth­ing stops them. Actu­al­i­ty, in con­trast to poten­tial­i­ty, is the motion, change, or activ­i­ty that rep­re­sents an exer­cise or ful­fill­ment of a pos­si­bil­i­ty, when a pos­si­bil­i­ty becomes real in the fullest sense.



        5. Alexan­der III of Mace­don com­mon­ly known as Alexan­der the Great was a king of the ancient Greek king­dom of Mace­don and a mem­ber of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pel­la in 356 BC and suc­ceed­ed his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his rul­ing years on an unprece­dent­ed mil­i­tary cam­paign through West­ern Asia and North­east­ern Africa, and by the age of thir­ty, he had cre­at­ed one of the largest empires in his­to­ry, stretch­ing from Greece to north­west­ern India. He was unde­feat­ed in bat­tle and is wide­ly con­sid­ered one of his­to­ry’s most suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary commanders. 



        6. Gior­gio Agam­ben is an Ital­ian philoso­pher best known for his work inves­ti­gat­ing the con­cepts of the state of excep­tion, form-of-life (bor­rowed from Lud­wig Wittgen­stein) and homo sac­er. The con­cept of biopol­i­tics (car­ried forth from the work of Michel Fou­cault) informs many of his writ­ings. In his main work “Homo Sac­er: Sov­er­eign Pow­er and Bare Life” (1998), Gior­gio Agam­ben ana­lyzes an obscure fig­ure of Roman law that pos­es fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the nature of law and pow­er in gen­er­al. Under the laws of the Roman Empire, a man who com­mit­ted a cer­tain kind of crime was banned from soci­ety and all of his rights as a cit­i­zen were revoked. He thus became a “homo sac­er” (sacred man). In con­se­quence, he could be killed by any­body, while his life on the oth­er hand was deemed “sacred”, so he could not be sac­ri­ficed in a rit­u­al ceremony.



        7. In a monar­chy, a king or queen is Head of State. The British Monar­chy is known as a con­sti­tu­tion­al monar­chy. This means that, while The Sov­er­eign is Head of State, the abil­i­ty to make and pass leg­is­la­tion resides with an elect­ed Par­lia­ment. The Monarch has a less for­mal role as ‘Head of Nation’. The Sov­er­eign acts as a focus for nation­al iden­ti­ty, uni­ty and pride; gives a sense of sta­bil­i­ty and con­ti­nu­ity; offi­cial­ly recog­nis­es suc­cess and excel­lence; and sup­ports the ide­al of vol­un­tary service.



        8. The Theogony “the geneal­o­gy or birth of the gods” is a poem by Hes­iod describ­ing the ori­gins and genealo­gies of the Greek gods, com­posed c. 700 BC. It is writ­ten in the Epic dialect of Ancient Greek. It is the first known Greek myth­i­cal cos­mogony. The ini­tial state of the uni­verse is chaos, a dark indef­i­nite void con­sid­ered a divine pri­mor­dial con­di­tion from which every­thing else appeared. Hes­iod’s Theogony is a large-scale syn­the­sis of a vast vari­ety of local Greek tra­di­tions con­cern­ing the gods, orga­nized as a nar­ra­tive that tells how they came to be and how they estab­lished per­ma­nent con­trol over the cosmos.



        9. Athena is the god­dess of war and the pro­tec­tress of the city of Athens in Greek cul­ture. She was the daugh­ter of Zeus, pro­duced with­out a moth­er, so that she emerged full-grown from his fore­head. Being the favourite child of Zeus, she had great pow­er. As a war god­dess Athena could not be dom­i­nat­ed by oth­er god­dess­es. She was in the super­in­ten­dence of civ­i­liz­ing and pro­tect­ing the city and urban life. Athena was known as Polias and Poliou­chos (both derived from polis, mean­ing “city-state”). Her tem­ples were usu­al­ly locat­ed at top of a for­ti­fied acrop­o­lis in the cen­tral part of the city which prob­a­bly stemmed accord­ing to the loca­tion of the king’s palaces.The Parthenon on the Athen­ian Acrop­o­lis is ded­i­cat­ed to her along with numer­ous oth­er tem­ples and monuments. 



        10. The con­cept of an arche­type appears in areas relat­ing to behav­ior, his­tor­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy, and lit­er­ary analy­sis. An arche­type can be a state­ment, pat­tern of behav­ior, pro­to­type, “first” form, or a main mod­el that oth­er state­ments, pat­terns of behav­ior, and objects copy, emu­late, or “merge” into. Infor­mal syn­onyms fre­quent­ly used for this def­i­n­i­tion include “stan­dard exam­ple,” “basic exam­ple,” and the longer-form “arche­typ­al exam­ple;” math­e­mat­i­cal arche­types often appear as “canon­i­cal examples.”