Margaret Heffernan - How should we think about the future?

We are addicted to prediction, desperate for certainty about the future. But the complexity of modern life won’t provide that; experts in forecasting are reluctant to look more than 400 days out. History doesn’t repeat itself and even genetics won’t tell you everything you want to know. Ineradicable uncertainty is now a fact of life. But thinking ahead is what we all do: planning careers, families, companies, countries. So how can we face the future if we don’t know how it holds?

Margaret Heffernan’s new book Uncharted: How to Map the Future argues that not knowing the future must not leave us passive. She looks at long-term projects developed over generations that could never have been planned the way that they have been run. Experiments, led by individuals and nations, discover new options and that radical exercises in forging new futures with wildly diverse participants allow everyone to create outcomes together that none could do alone.  Existential crises reveal the vital social component in resilience. And preparedness – doing everything today that you might need for tomorrow – provides the antidote to passivity and prediction. 

This session challenges us to resist the false promises of technology and efficiency and instead to mine our own creativity and humanity for the capacity to create the futures we want and can believe in. Margaret Heffernan is joined by two people each of whom appears within the book:

David Farrell, a political scientist who helped bring citizens’ assemblies to Ireland

Ian Green, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, on existential crises

The future is forged by those who aren’t passive believers in forecasting – but by those who can think and act together. Join us for an evening of exploration and invention. 


This is an extended evening event with an interval. There will be a bar at this event.




Margaret Heffernan produced programmes for the BBC for 13 years. She then moved to the US where she spearheaded multimedia productions for Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard&Poors. She was Chief Executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and then iCast Corporation, was named one of the “Top 25” by Streaming Media magazine and one of the “Top 100 Media Executives” by The Hollywood Reporter. Her third book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, was named one of the most important business books of the decade by the Financial Times. In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for A Bigger Prize: Why Competition Isn’t Everything and How We Do Better. Her TED talks have been seen by over nine million people and in 2015 TED published Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. She is Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co, mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organisations.


Ian Green is the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust. He joined the charity in March 2016. He has more than 25 years’ experience of high profile leadership, having held strategic roles in local government, health, housing and social care, as well as non-executive roles in the NHS. He was also involved in YMCA for over 25 years, including five years as the chief executive of YMCA England. For over 20 years, he held a number of positions of public office in the London Borough of Ealing, as an elected member of the Council, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Housing and as Mayor. For five years, he was Chair of Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and was until recently a member of the board of West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group.


David Farrell is the head of the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. He is a specialist in the study of parties, elections, electoral systems and members of parliament. His current research focuses on the role of deliberation in constitutional reform processes. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is a member of the Stewarding Group of the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly; member of the evaluation team of the UK Climate Assembly; and member of the research team of the 2020 Irish Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. In addition, he is the chair of the Finance Sub-Committee of the European Consortium for Political Research; and membership of the international advisory boards of the Electoral Integrity project and Making Electoral Democracy Work project.



6 Mar

How Much

£10 | £8 concession


2nd Floor, We The Curious

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