Foresight and Future-Tanks
Denis Maksimov | Avenir Institute

This episode delves into the his­to­ry of the future from an anthro­po­log­i­cal point of view, to scru­ti­nize our con­tem­po­rary con­di­tion. Mak­si­mov refers to it as the ever­last­ing present, which could be described as being trapped in a con­stant state of sta­sis. This con­di­tion­al state obstructs us from dream­ing towards a bet­ter world and from devis viable plans towards this cause.

Start­ing from the fall of the tem­ple of Apol­lo,  Mak­si­mov trav­els through time. Search­ing for crit­i­cal actors and events that par­a­lyzed our present moment, he crash-lands in the midst of the Cold War and its insti­tu­tion­al her­itage. On the way, he encoun­ters fore­seers of a dif­fer­ent nature: for­tune tellers, prophets, fore­seers, scry­ers, priests, imams, augurs, politi­cians, and final­ly tech com­pa­nies deal­ing with big data, to con­sti­tute an incon­sis­tent lin­eage of future producers.


Episode Notes:

      1. A think tank or pol­i­cy insti­tute is a research agency that sur­veys and advo­cates for issues such as social pol­i­cy, polit­i­cal strat­e­gy, econ­o­my, mil­i­tary, tech­nol­o­gy, and cul­ture. Think tanks range from those asso­ci­at­ed with high aca­d­e­m­ic or schol­ar­ly activ­i­ties to those that are overt­ly ide­o­log­i­cal and push­ing for a par­tic­u­lar pol­i­cy, with wide­ly dif­fer­ing qual­i­ty of research among them. 



     2. The Del­ph­ic Ora­cle known as the Pythia was the high priest­ess of the tem­ple of Apol­lo and she was the most author­i­ta­tive ora­cle among male-dom­i­nat­ed Ancient Greece and the most pow­er­ful woman of the clas­si­cal world. Pythia’s coun­sel was most in demand to fore­cast the out­come of pro­ject­ed wars or polit­i­cal actions. 


    3. Pythia gave exten­sive prophe­cies to cit­i­zens, for­eign­ers, kings, and philoso­phers on sub­jects of dif­fer­ent nature. Inquiries were rang­ing from a vari­ety of top­ics such as eco­nom­ics, cul­ture, mil­i­tary tac­tics, and war, duty, crime, fam­i­ly, laws even per­son­al mat­ters. Her utter­ances were not direct­ly record­ed by the inquir­er; instead, they were inter­pret­ed and ambigu­ous­ly writ­ten down by her priests. 



   4. Dodona was known as the ora­cle of Zeus. She was the most pres­ti­gious ora­cle after Pythia.



    5. The ora­cle’s pow­ers were high­ly on-demand and nev­er doubt­ed. Any incon­sis­ten­cies between prophe­cies and events were dis­missed as fail­ure to cor­rect­ly inter­pret the respons­es, not an error of the ora­cle. In the orac­u­lar cul­ture, prophe­cies were often word­ed vague­ly to cov­er all con­tin­gen­cies by the consultants.




    6. The­ol­o­gy is the sys­tem­at­ic research of the nature of the divine and, more broad­ly, of reli­gious belief. It occu­pies itself with the unique con­tent of ana­lyz­ing the super­nat­ur­al but also deals with reli­gious epis­te­mol­o­gy to answer the ques­tion of rev­e­la­tion. The­olo­gians use var­i­ous forms of analy­sis and argu­ment like expe­ri­en­tial, philo­soph­i­cal, ethno­graph­ic, his­tor­i­cal, and oth­ers to help under­stand, explain, test, cri­tique, defend, or pro­mote myr­i­ad reli­gious topics.



   7. The ori­gin of the term Magog referred to Lydia, in what is now Turkey. Its use in the Book of Ezekiel, Chap­ter 38 men­tions “Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” has led to it being asso­ci­at­ed with apoc­a­lyp­tic tra­di­tions. This was the sec­ond of the sev­en sons of Japheth men­tioned in the Table of Nations in Gen­e­sis 10. Var­i­ous ancient and medieval tra­di­tions have built on bib­li­cal ref­er­ences and added details to them. The leg­end of Gog and Magog and the gates were also inter­po­lat­ed into the Alexan­der romances. In one ver­sion, “Goth and Magothy” are kings of the Unclean Nations, dri­ven beyond a moun­tain pass by Alexan­der, and blocked from return­ing by his new wall. Gog and Magog are said to engage in human can­ni­bal­ism in romances and derived lit­er­a­ture. They have also been depict­ed on Medieval cos­mo­log­i­cal maps.



     8. McK­in­sey & Com­pa­ny is an Amer­i­can glob­al man­age­ment con­sult­ing com­pa­ny, found­ed in 1926 by Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go pro­fes­sor James O. McK­in­sey that advis­es on strate­gic man­age­ment to cor­po­ra­tions, gov­ern­ments, and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions. He con­ceived the idea after wit­ness­ing inef­fi­cien­cies in mil­i­tary sup­pli­ers while work­ing for the U.S. Army Ord­nance Depart­ment. The com­pa­ny advis­es on using account­ing prin­ci­ples as a man­age­ment tool. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McKinsey_%26_Company



     9. RAND Cor­po­ra­tion is an Amer­i­can non­prof­it glob­al pol­i­cy think tank cre­at­ed in 1948 to offer research and analy­sis to the Unit­ed States Armed Forces. The estab­lish­ment is financed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment and pri­vate endow­ment, cor­po­ra­tions, uni­ver­si­ties, and pri­vate indi­vid­u­als. The com­pa­ny research­es and devel­ops solu­tions for oth­er gov­ern­ments, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, pri­vate com­pa­nies, and foun­da­tions with a host of defense and non-defense issues, includ­ing healthcare.