25 November 2006

Partick Dixon: Futurolgist

An unusual morning listening to the slightly alarming 'futurologist' Patrick Dixon.

He's an interesting character: so far as I can gather he makes a living with ideas - giving speeches, consulting and writing books, of which he's written many, spotting trends and analysing significance. Good work if you can get it.

He was speaking in a church and his thesis went more or less like this

1) Modern Society isn't sustainable

  • in business, surveys of the 25-35 and 35-45 age groups reveal widespread wish and plans to 'downsize' and leave business. They are disillusioned and lack purpose
  • fast mutating viruses threaten world health
  • birthrates are falling in developed countries (and in Britain the government has adopted an unofficial policy of unlimited immigration to counter this)
  • divorce rates are rising and families breaking down
  • large corporations no longer offer the comforting stability they once did, as they all fall victim to rapid take-overs, restructurings and name changes
  • people are failing to achieve work-life balance - and becoming more concerned about that
2) A sense of the unsustainability and purposeless of much of modern life is causing people to look at the spiritual side of life

  • people are becoming more 'spiritual' than they used to be and realising that we are more than 'a bag of bio-data'
  • and even non-spiritual people, atheists, become spiritual in the face of death
  • but this is trend is unfocused, and too much is wasted on crystals, alt medicine etc etc.
3) The way forward is for people to find Jesus

  • this will provide a purpose in an otherwise purposeless and morally bankrupt society
  • even if it seems unlikely, at first sight, that Jesus was "who he said he was", just the small possibility that he might have been dictates that we should investigate (a weak form of Pascal's Wager)
  • and anyway, if you look around you can see that Christians do good works
4) The best way to find out more is to sign up the Alpha Course

  • this is a challenging 12 week course that offers people the opportunity to find out what Jesus actually wrote (sic)

[hmmm, the logic isn't entirely unassailable , is it?]

Anyway, he wasn't as structured as I've made him seem. The reverse in fact: he gave an emotional speech, with anger, at the modern world, sorrow at what he saw around him, a very emotional and touching present-tense first-hand account of a death, a trembling lip relationship with Jesus. All this with humour and passion as well.

He was good, but he was also slightly scary. I left somewhat glad that he's directed his religious energies in a mainstream direction. I'm sure he wouldn't have the slightest interest in founding a cult, but I half-think that if he wanted to, he could.

I did like and admire

  • his way of connecting trends and features in modern life to make patterns and conclusions
  • his fluency with, respect for and enjoyment of ideas
  • the way he's found to make a living (I'd like his job)

I didn't like

  • his casual way with statistics (but give him the benefit of the doubt, this was an informal talk, presumably his books are footnoted)
  • his furthering of the idea that a life without religion (indeed without his particular religion) is necessarily purposeless and without direction
  • his use of emotion to carry his audience - there was a little Thomas Hardy's preacher about him
  • for a futurologist, he didn't give the sense he was grounded in history (is is really the case that people are more spiritual than in the past? It seems unlikely to me)
But if you get a chance to hear him - especially perhaps in a business, rather than a religious context, go along. He's a good way to fill an hour.

1 comment:

outside-jane said...

Strikes me that people are becoming less spiritual. As little as 200 years ago belief in demons, ghosts and other supernatural hobgoblins was commonplace, but that's certainly not the case any more. Also, church-going decreases every year. I think the interest in crystals [and New Age stuff in general] is less about spirituality and more about a quick-fix, cure-all remedy for something undiagnosed/able. New Age types tend to believe in bits of various philosophies rather than following any one path - which kind of defeats the point, doesn't it?
NB. He may not have started a cult, but he has joined one!