Thinking the unthinkable: Challenges of imagining and engaging with unimaginable practice futures

Steven Cork, Debbie Horsfall

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    What might practice and work look like in a range of possible futures? This is the central question posed by this book. It seems a straightforward question that simply requires some anticipation of how the world might change and what roles practice might play in different future worlds. But asking this seemingly simple question causes us to confront some powerful limitations of human thinking processes. In some ways, it challenges us – both the authors of this book and its readers, as members of societies that are creating, and preparing for, possible futures – to think in ways that we normally find unthinkable. In this chapter, we will consider evidence suggesting that human brains have evolved powerful ways to avoid engaging with complex and uncertain questions like “What might the future be like?” We will consider many implications of this avoidance, including powerful ideas that go largely unchallenged and so leave humanity vulnerable to inevitable surprises, many of which will be undesirable and even potentially catastrophic(Schwartz, 2003). We will touch on some aspects of societal governance that inhibit thinking about unthinkable possibilities, but we will also give examples of processes by which groups of people can help, and are helping, one another to break free of thinking constraints to make us better prepared for what the future might hold. And, of course, we will discuss what all this might mean for our focal question about the possible futures of practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationChallenging future practice possibilities
    EditorsJoy Higgs, Steven Cork, Debbie Horsfall
    Place of PublicationRotterdam, The Netherlands
    PublisherBrill | Sense
    Number of pages12
    ISBN (Electronic)9789004400795
    ISBN (Print)9789004400788, 9789004400771
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Publication series

    NamePractice Futures
    PublisherBrill Sense


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