Charles Johnston is a cultural psychiatrist as well as a futurist. His perspective has its foundations in Creative Systems Theory with it concept of Cultural Maturity, the idea that our times are requiring—and making possible—an essential “growing up” as a species.
Cynicism today is rampant. Few people hold positive expectations when it comes to the future. This lack of hopeful images has critical consequences. It is unlikely that we would encounter today’s escalating rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, and violence if people were more generally optimistic about what lies ahead. And we confront the simple fact that cynicism all too easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If our future is to provide fulfilment, we must have compelling and realistic images of what that fulfilment would look like and how it might be achieved.
In my most recent book Insight: Creative Systems Theory’s Radical New Picture of Human Possibility, I describe how most at all current positive images ultimately fail at the task. Certainly this is the case with utopian pronouncements. Techno-utopian claims promise that new inventions will save us. But we know all too well that as often as new technologies provide benefit, they put us at risk. Invention can work as an answer only to the degree we are capable of using invention wisely. We also find utopian images of a more spiritual sort. For certain people, they can be particularly inspiring. But in the end, they reflect wishful thinking more than anything that can provide real guidance. And they commonly suffer from a more specific shortcoming. They tend to attract people who share specific idealised, ideological beliefs. We do not in our time need contemporary versions of time-worn “chosen people” narratives.