If you watched the American State of the Union address last night, in part or in total, you couldn’t have escaped noticing one particular phrase: “win the future.” President Obama used it (or “winning the future”) nine times in the speech; he used “future” 15 times, in total. You might think that, as a futures guy, I would be thrilled at the Presidential shout-out, but I’m not.
When thinking about the future, “winning” is a terrible metaphor. It’s not just that “winner” implies “loser;” it’s not just that “win” demands competition. For me, the fundamental problem with the metaphor is that “win” means that the competition is over. Okay, we’ve won the future… now what? Everybody goes to Disneyland? Or if “win the future” means the future is a prize, once we’ve won it, what do we do with it? I don’t think my office bookcase is big enough to hold the whole future. I might have to get a storage locker.