Scanning our current environment in search for signals is a large part of a futurist’s everyday job. Once you have identified a signal from the future, you interpret what kind of change it represents, what driving force is at work in the background, and finally what it would mean if this signal were to be amplified or to become commonplace. In other words, signals are foresight practitionners’ raw material!
Great sources include: reading or listening to the news, looking for new products, checking the latest technologies and funding rounds, understanding new regulations, listening to social movements, scanning social media, observing your social environment, talking with people around you, noticing changes in behaviors, language, and interactions.
During the pandemic, the forced lockdown and the ensuing gloabl crisis, I have extended my techniques of scanning for signals as a result of different forces:
- Reduced time spent outside of home to observe the social environment;
- Excessive time spent in front of a screen so that I was yearning for a break from the laptop;
- Increased need to exercize without losing time because of a busy work-life-kids schedule;
- Absence of real-life social interactions with family, friends, and colleagues… until I was craving for listening to human voices.
That’s how I became addicted to podcasts and especially to podcasts who give voice to ordinary people, not just expert podcasts. I would listen to them 4-5 hours a day. They would make me feel close to other human beings all over the planet. They would make me more aware of what is going on in other parts of the world, in other age groups, in other social conditions. They would send me a thousand tiny signals of the change we are experiencing on a larger scale. They would help me envision tomorrow’s world.
Here is a short list of my favorite podcasts:
Hidden Brain: NRP journalist Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.
The Daily: This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
TED Radio Hour: Exploring the biggest questions of our time with the help of the world’s greatest thinkers. Host Manoush Zomorodi inspires us to learn more about the world, our communities, and most importantly, ourselves.
The Happiness Lab: Yale professor Dr Laurie Santos will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will forever alter the way you think about happiness.
Sapiens: This “podcast for everything human” hosted by Jen Shannon, Esteban Gómez, and Chip Colwell invites anthropologists from around the globe to help us uncover what makes us human.
Freakonomics Radio: Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do).
This American Life: “When I’m trying to explain our program to someone who doesn’t know it, I stammer a bunch of words like ‘entertaining,’ ‘funny,’ ‘surprising plot twists,’ ‘true stories but not boring I swear’ … and then I just give them this list.” — Ira Glass
World vs. Virus: A weekly podcast by the World Economic Forum that helps to answer your questions about COVID-19, by looking at the latest news, research, and analysis to break down what you need to know about the global coronavirus pandemic.
Les Pieds sur Terre: Inspired by This American Life, this podcast is built on real life stories around a common topic, told in the first person. (In French)
Smarter Leben: We all have ideas for a better life, but how do we implement them in our everyday life? The podcast hosts people who tell their story and explain how they achieve it. (In German)
I would love to hear about your preferred signal-gathering techniques and your favorite podcasts! Feel free to share and add to the list.