Who's minding the future? Whose responsibility is it to keep an eye on the possible outcomes of current scientific research, technological development, corporate initiatives, government strategies, and societal trends?
The easy answer is to say that it is everyone's responsibility, that we all should pay attention and take part in making decisions that affect our future. However, in the day to day press of real life -- going to work, helping the kids do their homework, paying bills, watching "American Idol", etc. -- it's practically impossible to keep track of everything.
Most of us, intentionally or not, confer this responsibility on others. We elect politicians to represent us in government, we buy products from companies that meet our commercial needs, we get our news from outlets that tell us what we think we need to know, and we may contribute to charities or advocacy groups that focus on issues we care about. But are all those people doing what is needed?
For elected officials, and those who work for them, the emphasis much of the time is on doing what they believe will get them reelected, or give them a chance at a higher office. This is not intended as criticism; it's just the way the real world works.
Similarly, for corporations, the emphasis is often on what must be done to increase short-term profits, produce an acceptable quarterly earnings report, and keep your job. Most businesses will try to envision ways in which they could evolve to be more successful in the future, but we must always understand that their natural emphasis is on corporate success. Again, that's not to say those people are bad; they're simply playing the game according to the rules of their sphere. (We've written a paper called "Three Systems of Action" that explains the motivations of different groups.)
It turns out that advocacy groups, policy think tanks, charities, and other NGOs are the most active in minding the future.
The World Bank defines NGOs as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development". In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non-profit organization which is independent from government. NGOs are typically value-based organizations which depend, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary service. Although the NGO sector has become increasingly professionalized over the last two decades, principles of altruism and voluntarism remain key defining characteristics.
Knowing that various NGOs are out there working hard and taking the long view may or may not be reassuring, depending on your particular perspective. But increasingly, that's the way our world works.