In my new book, LEAP!, I talk in Chapter 7 about keeping close watch on the “adjacent possible.” The term and the idea are borrowed from Stuart Kauffman, the American complex systems researcher.

Kauffman’s idea is that (in LEAP! terms) it is easier to make the LEAP! successfully if your surroundings are ready for it (and therefore supportive of it).

I kept thinking of the “adjacent possible” the other day as I plowed through a proofing copy of a new book due out in November called Knowing Our Future: The Startling Case for Futurology.

It is written by Michael Lee, a world-traveled financial services industry trade association executive who is also the founder of the South African chapter of the World Future Society.

I am suspicious that Knowing Our Future is an expanded version of Lee’s thesis for his Masters of Philosophy Degree in Futures Studies at the University of Stellenbosch business school in Cape Town, although I didn’t ask him that.

But you kind of need to be an “ivy tower” type to begin with to keep up with many of Mike’s arguments. In more than a few places, his book veers heavily toward the academic and, occasionally, cites concepts that are just not likely to be accessible to the non-scientific mind, even a bright one.

Never you mind, though, if you are open to doing some imaginative thinking about what we humans might be able to know about the future and when we might be able to know it.

Lee’s thesis is that the future is far more knowable than we’ve realized—and is getting more knowable by the day. He thinks we are close to having “a science of futurology” which can sufficiently pick up on “the endless progress of time in which everything in the universe evolves through a predetermined sequence of states towards its final purpose” to enable us to figure out a lot about the future before it gets here.

More than once I smiled as I read Knowing Our Future. Lee bends over backwards to be cautious, evidence-based and scientific, and for the much of the way, it’s a mind stance he’s able to maintain. But in the end, he can’t hold back a joyous enthusiasm for this idea: that it’s time to throw off our belief that “the future cannot be known, given that it is non-factual and not-yet-real.”

His belief is this:

“Using the right tools and skills, we can paint pictures of the world of the future which are accurate and illuminating. We can construct plausible portraits of the coming times. With increasing visibility, we can see the future.”

What Mike Lee is about to find out is the status of the “adjacent possible” for such ideas. If they take root and flower, he is likely about to earn himself a lasting place in the Futurology Hall of Fame. Even if he’s early (or mostly wrong), he still deserves credit for pointing out that a tectonic shift in how we generate foreknowledge may be just around the corner. Either way, he’s someone for devotees of the LEAP! to keep an eye on.

For more information about Knowing Our Future, go here.

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