Unleash Imagination – Shape the Future
Arthur C. Clarke and the Power of Imagination
The year 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Arthur C. Clarke, renowned writer, futurist, and technologist. In honor of Sir Arthur, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation launched an intergenerational imagination movement to unleash imagination’s power to address the momentous challenges that will shape humanity’s future. The kickoff for this undertaking was the first “Unleash Imagination – Shape the Future” Conference on December 9, 2017 at George Washington University —a few days shy of Sir Arthur’s birthday. We followed it with presentation of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Awards and a special Centenary Celebration Dinner.
The aim of our intergenerational movement is to stimulate renewed attention to imagination as a critical tool in helping humanity actively choose its future. This future is already with us, posing a range of global and historic challenges—the earth’s environment, the spread of artificial intelligence and smart electronic networks, and the very idea of what it means to be human.
To face this future, the Clarke Foundation looks to inspire leaders, workers, youth and adults to embrace imagination as a critical method for preparing themselves and their organizations, their communities, and their fellow humans around the world lead through new ideas, through fresh yet empirically rooted actions. As an intergenerational undertaking, a special focus will be on encouraging youth to think imaginatively and, in turn, to stimulate society’s leading organizations to themselves reassess their decisional processes to reawaken imagination as a partner in their preparation for these future challenges, now and going forward.
Through his life and actions, Sir Arthur stood for a clear ideal, that to realize a healthy, secure humanity, we must use all of our cognitive and creative capabilities to address the future of our planet, its inhabitants and the potential of our universe and beyond. There are times when the challenges confronting us feel intractable, when we worry that we stand on the precipice of technical and other changes that we cannot control. Sir Arthur’s life work, though, reminds us that we already have a singularly, powerful tool to shape a positive future– imagination – a tool that too often sits in our toolbox unused or underutilized.
We know children have rich imaginations but have yet to acquire expertise and experience. In contrast, adults, regardless of age, have acquired expertise but often see imagination as marginal to their professional lives. Our educational systems, our institutions, our companies too often squeeze imagination out of decision-making. All of which raises the question, “Are we prepared for and able to lead thoughtful responses to future challenges?”
Sir Arthur’s Centenary is a prime moment to create a global community more attuned to ways in which we can understand our most urgent needs and think constructively and imaginatively about shaping our future. “Unleash Imagination” conference launched our program, which has been designed for these purposes and, more specifically, will be comprised of three connected streams:
• The Clarke Young Leaders initiatives aim to nurture young imagination through science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, which we call I-STEAM. We seek to empower creative young leadership with a heart for benefiting humanity today and strong, imaginative leadership for our future. This will be implemented through several initiatives: organize international youth competitions to examine challenges in their communities; develop toolkits for I-STEAM projects and establishment of Clarke Imagination Clubs; and opportunities for peer-to- peer and intergenerational mentoring and collaboration. We are pleased to announce that the first Imagine the Future Youth Video Challenge was launched this week. It is open to young people aged 11 to 18 years old. It can be found at https://www.clarkefoundation.org/imagine-the- future-youth- video-challenge.
• The Arthur C. Clarke Conversations on Imagination: Reimagining the Future, will be an on-going series of live and live streamed, curated “conversations” between highly imaginative solution finders. The Conversations will seek to open new pathways for addressing problems that might otherwise seem intractable. They will focus on using imagination to illuminate big ideas, actions, and consequences facing humanity through the next 25 years. The Conversations will be designed to demonstrate that organizations, institutions and individuals can productively use imagination in their day-to- day decision-making and, as Sir Arthur said, venture “a little way into the impossible.” The two inaugural Conversations on December 9 will be “Reimagining Imagination and its Power to Shape the Future” and “Reimagining the Future for Humans in an Advanced AI World.”
• Unleash Imagination will create space and opportunity for inter-generational conversation and collaboration. As part of the 100th birthday celebratory program, we will hold our first session between young leaders and some of today’s fertile thinkers and actors. The ideas growing from this dialogue, “Reimagining Leadership – The Power of Intergenerational Collaboration,” will feed into future Clarke Conversations on Imagination. The Clarke Foundation will be adding on-going opportunities for intergenerational communication, collaboration and co-mentoring. The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s programmatic partners for Unleash Imagination are the Foundation’s sister organization, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California at San Diego, www.imagination.ucsd.edu, Youth Service America, ww.ysa.org, and KID Museum, www.kid-museum.org.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in December for our celebration of Sir Arthur’s Centenary and our first “Unleash Imagination – Shape the Future” Conference and the Clarke Centenary reception and celebratory dinner. Thank you for joining our imagination movement.