Finland turned a respectable 100 in 2017, but what will the country be like after the next century? Futurologist Elina Hiltunen emphasises the significance of the choices made by individuals: ”Every one of us has an impact on what our future will be like.”
Futures studies builds alternative future scenarios based on an analysis of historic data and the current state of affairs, narrowing outcomes down to what is possible or probable, desired or undesired. The task of futurology, as the field is also known, is to provide material for public discussion and support decision-makers. The goal is to see the desired future scenario realised.
In other words, futurists are not fortune tellers. ”We are not telling people what the future will be like. We are presenting them with alternatives. Our key message is that we have the power to influence our future. That is why we need to consider the consequences of our actions and choices and why futures studies plot out the paths that our various choices could lead to”, Hiltunen says.
Anticipation of changes and their consequences is one aspect of futures studies. ”The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), for example, has formulated a lot of scenarios for the evaluation of climate change and its consequences.”
Futurology means endless curiosity
Hiltunen exhorts us all to work on how we think about the future. The first step is educating yourself, for example by reading. ”The most important thing is to be interested in learning new things. Getting stuck in a certain way of thinking blinds you to everything else going on in the world. That’s when changes can catch you off guard”, says Hiltunen.
Therefore, staying curious about the world around us is invaluable to a student of the future. In this sense, we could take a lesson from children, Hiltunen says: ”Kids are always wondering and asking questions. They keep noticing new details in their environment. This kind of attitude is precisely what a futurologist needs.”
Looking a hundred years ahead
So, in the opinion of a futurologist, what will Finland be like one hundred years from now?
”In my opinion, one of the most important factors will be climate change and the direction it takes. The question is, how strongly is it going to affect us? Will we be able to limit the rise of the average global temperature and greenhouse gas emissions? Or maybe humanity will have come up with technological solutions that will actually decrease the average temperature”, Hiltunen muses.
Technological advancement is itself affected by a multitude of variables. ”The adoption of new technologies can be accelerated or slowed by things such as legislation.”
By decree of the Ministry of Finance, the ”Finland in 100 Years” gold coin has been minted in honour of Finland’s future. Commemorative coins are struck in honour of significant people or phenomena. The gold coin’s theme, water, highlights Finland’s current and future role as a country of clean waters. Elina Hiltunen was part of the jury that picked the design for the gold coin minted by Mint of Finland.
”The theme of the Blue Bioeconomy design touched me, since water is the foundation for all life. We simply cannot survive without it.”