Last updated on Jan 6th, 2021 at 04:29 pm

“It is not a book to be read once and put on a shelf – it is a handbook on how to be part of shaping the future.”


FutureNext: Reimagining our world and conquering uncertainty was written as a “guidebook for readers” as they adapt to the changes brought about by Covid-19.

Crucially, it was written by two authors who describe themselves as “optimists” – South African-born futures-strategist John Sanei and well-known economist Dr Iraj Abedian. It evolved out of two e-books written by Sanei while locked down on the family farm in Limpopo (he now lives in Dubai).

Abedian in his preface says the world is “in the throes of an evolving and game-changing evolution”.

Essentially, the premise of the book is that the existing “world order” is broken, and all Covid-19 did was accelerate its inevitable demise.

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“The good news is that I believe we now have the technology, tools, thinking and growing willingness to make it (the transformation of society) a reality,” he adds.

That transformation, according to the authors, starts with the acceptance that, in the words of Yogi Berra, “the future ain’t what it used to be”.

The book starts by illustrating how we have moved from a “complicated world to a complex one”.

While the pandemic itself (or one like it) did not really come as a surprise, what was impossible to predict was the way it would affect our society, both at home and globally. There is still no certainty what 2021 will be like socially, politically and economically. What we do know (we think) is that the virus will not magically disappear on January 1.

And if it does, the consensus is that we have done so much environmental damage to the globe that there will be another one.

8 Tools for coping

Now that the reader is thoroughly alarmed, Sanei shares eight “tools” for coping with a world in which much of what we took for granted is no longer true. It is a cathartic exercise, and one that cannot be rushed. The “tools” take the reader into the inner depths of their minds and forces them to face up to their fears and to come to terms with the loss of the old world order.

Part 2 of the book sets out to “ask new questions and re-imagine our collective future”

It starts by showing the reader how we arrived where we are today as a global society. Then it moves on to the burning question of what we want a future world to look like. “The point is this: capitalism as we know it is dead. Communism died a while back, and socialism has been in ICU over the past few decades,” according to the authors.

Then we are told that “there is no such thing as certainty” for the foreseeable future. In a strange way this reviewer found it a comforting message. If two such eminent thinkers believe that it is impossible to predict the future, then my own uncertainty and confusion are fully justified.

We cope with this uncertainty by asking “how” instead of “why”

The reason is simple – “how” looks to the future and is practical. “Why” harps back on a past which was broken anyway and about which we can do nothing. The authors then work through some of the systems that are broken (like an Amazon which made US$11 billion profit in 2018 but paid no tax in the United States and CEOs who earn 1 000 times more than their lowest-paid employee) and asks how we change them.

Essentially, for the authors, the focus has to switch from profits to people

“If we can replace our belief in self-interest and cut-throat competition with collaboration, and develop an approach that promotes reciprocity, we can unlock collective growth rather than rewarding and enriching the established elite”.

The second half of the book then goes into depth about how we all can be part of forming a new and more equitable society. The advice is for consumers, employers, employees, entrepreneurs, executives, policy-makers and policy advocates.

Each chapter ends with a list of questions and suggestions of what we as individuals can do to change the situation.

In summary then, it is not a book to be read once and put on a shelf – it is a handbook on how to be part of shaping the future.

It should be a catalyst to both accepting and then driving the changes that are needed in society in a Covid-19 world.

The virus and its ilk, as well as the global economic and societal impact are not going away any time soon, so we have to adapt.


FutureNext: Reimagining our world and conquering uncertainty


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