I came across this article today and thought it might serve as food for thought.
Briefly, the author points out that, in the midst of crisis, we tend to make all sorts of predictions about global, systemic change - "Things will never be the same..." and "The age of [important value or activity] is over..." - but posits that, often as not, the naysayers get it wrong. Not always, but enough of the time that we really should know better than to make grand, sweeping pronouncements about how life will look 12 months or 12 years into the future. That asking questions and following those trails does far more to help us navigate great uncertainty than extrapolating forward based on historical data.
I tend to agree. Citizens - even very smart, well-read citizens - lack the expertise required to analyze or assess technical information accurately. Conversely, experts become experts by virtue of complete devotion to a specific topic or mode of thought and suffer the attendant intellectual blindspots. Add to this that most of us are... freaking out? Just a bit? And it seems to me that trying to guess what on Earth the world will look like has about as much value as spitting on a bonfire.
That said, I think the author misses a an important step, here. What we ask, and how, impacts profoundly the quantity and kind of information received. Politicians pay pollsters an enormous amount of money, not just to interpret survey results, but to design questions that yield useful data. (Or ensure that they receive the desired response.) It's not enough to simply shift our stance from one of reactive planning to responsive curiosity, we need to consider our lines of inquiry and direct them effectively.
This takes on special resonance in the context of globalization, I think, both because all voices on the global stage do not speak at the same volume and because how we engage in this kind of dialogue could change that. A world remade according to the priorities of Vietnam probably diverges from that envisaged by Boris Johnson, but we're never going to know that unless we: a) Ask Vietnam for an opinion; b) listen to that opinion; c) ask questions that do not take as axiomatic our own worldviews; and d) receives responses as value-neutral, rather than 'good or bad' depending on our own perspectives.
Which brings me to: What should we be asking now? Of whom?