The Evolution of Future Consciousness

The Evolution of Future Consciousness: Table of Contents

The Evolution of Future Consciousness - Examines the human ability to be conscious of the future, to create ideas, images, goals, and plans about the future, to think about these mental creations and use them in directing one’s actions and one’s life. The opening chapter looks at the psychology of future consciousness and its values and benefits, as well as ways to enhance this human ability. Subsequent chapters describe the emergence of future consciousness in pre-historic times and how it was critical in the development of love and bonding, the family, tools, and human aggression and hunting; the central importance of the future and time in early myths, religions, and classical philosophy; and the rise of modern futurist thinking, covering the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Western Enlightenment, and the Romantic counter-reaction. The book concludes with Darwin and how the theory of evolution revolutionized humanity’s conception of both the past and the future.

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Book Reviews

Dr. Lombardo has accomplished what most of us can only dream about.  He has produced two innovative, thoughtful and weighty overviews of the study of the future, written from two dynamically different perspectives, at the same time.  And as an added bonus, the two books compliment each in highly original ways.  The more traditional book, Contemporary Futurist Thought, is a classic review of future studies literature, but much broader in scope than comparable reviews – and it benefits from that imaginative breadth.  Its companion, The Evolution of Future Consciousness, is a much more ambitious endeavor, aiming at nothing more that establishing the place of futures thinking in the history of human culture.

The first book of this set is the more adventuresome of the two, and the greater challenge to the reviewer.  While Contemporary Futurist Thought includes the realm of science fiction under its umbrella, this realm and the futures practitioners and scholars considered by Lombardo are relatively familiar to those involved in the foresight universe.  In The Evolution of Future Consciousness, the author moves to consider those collateral fields which may have an influence on futures thinking (and vice versa), including psychology, anthropology, theology, sociology, political science and philosophy.  While this creative undertaking illustrates the truly ‘Renaissance’ nature of Dr. Lombardo’s thinking, it is not clear that every reader, including this reviewer, can match his understanding of so many disparate fields.  Accordingly, some may find themselves unable to fairly assess the accuracy of all of his conclusions about the role of ‘future consciousness’ in the evolution of the human condition over the entire history of humanity (such is the breadth of his vision).

Given that caveat, it is easy admire the undertaking and to offer comment in the more familiar areas. The uniting of future awareness to the fundamental ‘temporal awareness’ of humans is a bold move, as it places the future at the very center of most human activity.  Hope, motivation, memory, language, ethics, self-consciousness and even basic cognition now seemed shaped by a questing after the future.  This bold supposition thus explains the depth of the discussion that follows and why of the two volumes, this is the longer book.

This is not a complaint, but more a statement of awe.  The ensuing discussion is cogent, enlightening, entertaining, and at points transformational in its insights.  One of the influences on this volume is the work of Leonard Shlain, a leading neurosurgeon who has also found time to write extensively on human cultural evolution and Shlain’s breadth of vision clearly matches Lombardo’s own, which challenges the reader at each turn in the discussion.  Moving from the author’s assertion that, “Acting on the future proactively alters one’s self identity” to “Changes in human psychology and mental health affect economics and vice versa.  Biological and medical advances affect society and social growth” gives just a small sense of the width of the author’s reach in this volume.

At points, the benefits of future consciousness begin to approach the feel of a patent medicine show, as it is undoubtedly “improves imagination, creativity and flexibility…facilitates the development of courage and wisdom (and) energizes, enriches and benefits the total human mind.”  The most impressive aspect of this potential overdose of admiration for the study of the future is that the author then proceeds to systematically illustrate and convincingly support these points.  For example, he convincingly aligns future thinking with adaptive learning and anticipatory behavior, a strong ingredient in species and individual success. 

Dr. Lombardo then proceeds to weave in the ‘discovery of death’, the evolution of family and human love, the development of agriculture, etc., weaving each into a context with future consciousness.  The conflicting impulses toward conquest and cooperation and other central dualistic concepts are well explored, as is the power of myth and story and the development of human religions. The author argues that reciprocity is one of the central concepts of cultural development and that foresight is a central element as well.  The continuing conflicts between the doctrines of destiny and free will are traced and explicated, setting the stage for the modern world and the struggle between authoritarianism and individuality (with future consciousness displaying a strong affinity for the latter). 

Lombardo closes the book with a review of modernist scientific and philosophical thought. Darwinism, pragmatism, and even psychotherapy have been productive partners in the more recent and ongoing development of future consciousness and this is certain to continue.  The term ‘holistic’ is used in the book to describe the connection between futures thinking and the rest of human experience and it is a testament to the author that by the end of the book, the reader is likely to be sympathetic to his closing assertion that “Clearly, future consciousness has been of pivotal importance in defining the meaning and purpose of human existence for people around the world.”

Timothy C. Mack
President, World Future Society  


Future thinking through the ages - 5 Stars on Amazon


THE EVOLUTION OF FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS is an engaging, readable and informative tour through major themes of human evolution, from myth and early religions through several schools of psychology and fields of science.  To me it represents a maturing of future studies, placing it solidly within the larger frameworks of human thought, and I would recommend it to anyone practicing or teaching in that field.

Walter Truett Anderson

President, World Academy of Art and Science


A beacon for educators, politicos, & citizens to follow - 5 Stars on Amazon

Being able to be "conscious" of the future is perhaps, as Dr. Lombardo suggests, the most unique and adaptable feature of the human mind. Here, in "The Evolution of Future Consciousness", Lombardo takes on one of the most pressing yet heretofore unarticulated matters of our time: how individuals adapt to change of unprecedented speed and scale.

Lombardo's grasp on philosophy, psychology, and the study of time is simply incredible - making this book quite a tour de force. This would be an excellent companion to Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" - as this book outlines the underpinnings of strategies for dealing with the monumental global changes rearranging social, economic, and technological interactions that Friedman explores.

The pursuit of Future Consciousness is a cornerstone of our species and of our planet's survival.

Read This Book.

Jonathon Richter
University of Oregon

“Heroic synthesis, serving as companion to Contemporary Futurist Thought.” 

Michael Marien
Future Survey

Copthorne Macdonald's review of The Evolution of Future Consciousness submitted to

A comprehensive look at humanity's relationship to the future - 5 Stars on Amazon

Rarely does an author cover an area of knowledge so comprehensively that there is little more to say about it. But that is what Thomas Lombardo has done with his two recently published books about humanity's relationship to the future. THE EVOLUTION OF FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS focuses on the psychology of the phenomenon he calls future consciousness and the history of its development in many cultures, from ancient times through the 19th century. CONTEMPORARY FUTURIST THOUGHT focuses on the various expressions of future consciousness in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

THE EVOLUTION OF FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS is devoted to giving the reader a sense of what Lombardo means by future consciousness. His short definition is that future consciousness is "the total integrative set of psychological abilities, processes, and experiences humans use in understanding and dealing with the future." Among these are

* the perceptual awareness of time;

* emotional feelings about the future and ingrained attitudes coming out of them such as hope, fear, despair, goals, purposes, motivations, etc.;

* thoughts about the future; and

* higher cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, planning, decision making, ethical thinking, and (ideally) wisdom.

The remainder of the book is devoted to outlining the evolution and complexification of future consciousness. Lombardo begins by discussing its origins in prehistoric times. He then discusses the effect on future consciousness of the many mythic, religious, and philosophical developments that occurred in East and West from about 3000 BCE to roughly 1000 AD. He concludes with a discussion of modernism, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the theory of secular progress, and important 19th-century theories such as those of Marx and Darwin. 

If you are interested in our complex relationship to the future and would like to know more about it, you will find this book and its companion volume to be highly informative and satisfying reads.

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