I’m in the UK, finally back home after flying in early morning yesterday and going straight to Oxfordshire to attend the wedding of friend (and co-director of ReAgency) Quentin Cooper to his (now) wife Suba.
The flight turns out to be more inspirational than I might have expected. By luck I find myself sitting next to Imran, who’s returning to the UK after a week’s training in working with Autistic children. Imran radiates positive vibes and practical optimism, which is all the more surprising when he tells me some of his life story. As a Pakistani Muslim who fell in love with an Indian Catholic, he was ostracised by his entire community. His family won’t speak to him. “It was complete rejection,” says Imran. “I mean, I lost everything”. The couple have two daughters, the youngest of whom was born with autism (hence his trip to the States). You might expect someone facing the twin challenges of cultural abandonment and a child with developmental problems to be rather serious. Imran by contrast almost exudes light. I don’t get the feeling this is over-compensation, a contrived cheery demeanour that seeks to reject or not look at what has happened. More that these experiences have helped him find the essence of who he is. He just seems to embody himself without artifice, sacrifice or apology.
Both of us find the muffin that comes with breakfast hilarious, made as it is by US food supplier Otis Spunkmeyer. I kid you not.
Before parting we agree to meet up sometime back in London. I’m looking forward to that. Imran is as inspirational as any of the ‘great thinkers’ I’ve been meeting.
After touching down at Heathrow I head not home, but north to Quentin and Suba’s wedding, via the Aylesbury Holiday Inn. I eat a lunch that reminds me of something Frank Zappa once said before heading over to the nuptials.
There’s a certain cachet to saying you’ve just ‘flown in from New York’, especially at a wedding – which makes up for the fact you feel jetlagged and jaded. I think I managed to pull off an acceptable appearance, with the help of not insubstantial amounts of champagne, and I met some lovely people, including the incomparable Vivienne Parry (something of a science presenting deity), Mai Davies (who you’ll know if you watch TV in Wales) and uber-music journalist Mark Ellen (the man who set up both Word and ‘Q’ magazines and presented the Old Grey Whistle test). I like weddings. Everyone looks their best and most people are usually in a good mood.
I finally made it home this morning to a pile of junk mail and brain full of new ideas. It’s fair to say the world doesn’t look the same anymore. When I started this project I thought it was going to be a journey to understand how the science happening now will impact on my future. What I have found out so far has blown my mind. In fact I’ve got used to having my mind blown. But that science is only half the story.
In the very early stages of researching this book I met with a futurist called Stephen Aguilar-Milan, a key player in the European chapter of the World Future Society. He told me that there were two historical ways of looking at the future. “One way is to say that technology leads society,” he said. “This is the American model of futurism that says technology drives societal change”. The other ‘European’ perspective is that society leads technology. “This argues that we create the technologies that society demands.” But there’s a third model. “This is the Asian school of futurism. That actually it is our values that lead both society and technology”. There’s something happening at the back of mind that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I know it’s going to be important to the book. It has something to do with values, but that’s not all of it. I think it’s something to do with attitude…