To be a futurist is like being a midwife to imaginal cells

Do futurists predict the future? No, of course not! Especially not in phases of transformation when the old structures are crumbling, the new haven’t emerged yet and nothing around us makes sense. But maybe we can understand a bit more if view it through the metaphor of when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly?

Living through a societal transformation is like being a cell somewhere inside a caterpillar when the metamorphosis into a butterfly takes place inside the chrysalis.

Norie Huddle described this process of metamorphosis beautifully in her book Butterfly:

The caterpillar’s new cells are called ‘imaginal cells.
They are so totally different from the caterpillar cells
that his immune system thinks they are enemies… and gobbles them up.

But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them!
Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system
cannot destroy them fast enough.

More and more of the imaginal cells survive.
And then an amazing thing happens!
The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to clump together
into friendly little groups.
They all resonate together at the same frequency,
passing information from one to another.

Then, after awhile, another amazing thing happens!
The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together!
A long string of clumping and clustering imaginal cells,
all resonating at the same frequency,
all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.
Then at some point,
the entire long string of imaginal cells
suddenly realizes all together
that it is something different from the caterpillar.

Something new! Something wonderful!
…and in that realization
is the shout of the birth of the butterfly!

Since the butterfly now “knows” that it is a butterfly,
the little tiny imaginal cells
no longer have to do all those things individual cells must do.
Now they are part of a multi-celled organism—
A FAMILY who can share the work.
Each new butterfly cell can take on a different job—

There is something for everyone to do.
And everyone is important.
And each cell begins to do just that very thing it is most drawn to do.
And every other cell encourages it to do just that.
A great way to organize a butterfly!

Imagine that you are a cell, how do you know where you should be heading? The answer is that you don’t. You actually don’t know anything – at least not consciously. And what would there be to know when everything around you is crumbling and nothing have yet taken a comprehensible shape.

What these cell “know” is not conscious but hardwired into their genes by evolution. So the important thing here is that they need to act as they are programmed to do, and not being restricted by what they’ve been been doing while embedded in the caterpillar.

By networking and collaborating with other similar cells around themselves and find out what works and what comes natural a new future will emerge – a future that we are not able to consciously plan or design.

One inherent strength as human beings is to form groups who together solve problems, imagine the future and build what is necessary or beautiful.

A futurist’s role is to help the imaginal cell being born and direct them to the cracks where the light gets in and where their is space for the future to emerge.