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 the 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”.