On being a good ancestor

Kristin was a guest presenter at Vitalstatistix Theatre Company’s Cutaway – A Ceremony on Friday 29th November 2013 alongside Rosemary Wanganeen. You can listen to both Rosemary and Kristin (from 8:36 min) recorded here, as well as a selection of  speakers from other performances. This is the prepared copy of her speech.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging place, these traditional lands and the history of this hall.

I’d like to continue by acknowledging those who have gathered for this ceremony of the future today.

Each and every one of you.

In my role as a futurist, my key task is to help people make wiser decisions about the future. In this talk I draw on the wisdom of Otto Scharmer, Australians futurists such as Sohail Inayatullah and Richard Slaughter, recent work I’ve done with the Australian Academy of Sciences and way too much time reading Wired and watching TED talks.

Quiet. Listen. Do you hear that?
Listen closer.
That’s the sound of the future.

That’s the sound of the future rushing towards us.
These things that jostle for our present attention.

Threats of climate change and biodiversity loss
Redefinition of marriage to be based on the principle of love
3-D printed kidneys restoring life instead of waiting, waiting for an unavailable donor trA wheelchair that can be steered by a just a tongue piercing, a tongue piercing! and a mobile phone.
Integration of our external brains, our phones, into the meat layer of our human brains
Not just cctv, but tiny sensors everywhere tracking everything we do from steps to sleep to food to anger, feedback loop for being our best selves
Rising availability of part-time jobs as industries become more specialised, more discrete. loss of roles in manufacturing, journalism, academia, retail. Rise of low-paid roles in aged care.
Clash of values turn to violence, people flee their homes for safety, but not compassion on our shores

A cliche: the author William Gibson is famously quoted for saying the future is already here it’s just not evenly distributed.

Last night he tweeted: “Huh. And here I just “invented” a magnetic tongue-piercing as an interface device a few months ago, in new book. + a palate “keyboard”.

See? The future is already here, around us.

How do we harness the momentum of our imaginations, of the ideas and inventions of things that give us energy, propel us forward?

how do you offer a resistance? To those things that repel you to your core?

Who are you? Now. How do you move forward?

forward from where you are
forward from where we were

Listen. That’s the sound of our history

but whose history?

My British ancestors coming to Australia for new opportunity during the late 1800s as small colonial outposts had already been established?
or the waves of people arriving from boats, post war, post-war again?
or the people who were here prior to any invasion of hopefuls?
the history of this port?
the history of this building?

The experiences that have forged who we are as families, communities and nation? Or even just those things that form our own spirit.

How do we know what to leave behind, and what to carry forward? How do we heal the wrongs of the past?

So we can offer a different, ….. a better future

Sshhh. That’s the sound of our hopes, our dreams, our assumptions about the future.

Why do we find it so difficult to think about well the future?

Because we do.
We argue about it.

I have a friend whose workplace picks up the future at every Friday night drinks. Until all the problems of the country are obviously caused by the calibre of the prime minister and if we paid the prime minister’s more, well obviously that’s the problem. Yes. No. And things get heated until someone drags the boys away before another beer, it’s time to go. The debate is left to rot and be repeated.

Why? Because we walk away without understanding the assumptions.
What matters to us for the future and why?

Shhh, quietly, that’s the sound of our descendents looking back and asking, what did you do that shaped who we are and how we live.

What is now?

The futurist Richard Slaughter argues we should live in a 200-year present, the centre of time stretching back to our grandparents and forward to our grandchildren. The centre of who we know and who knows us.

It is only by holding this as the present that we can make wise and sustainable choices for how we live.

The Iroquios people, of what is now modern-day New York had a Great Law. This law required that the voice of the seventh generation, yet unborn, be considered at Council, and be a consideration of Council decisions.

We are the ancestors of the future.

Some family history. On marrying my grandmother, my grandfather’s family severed all contact with him, and we didn’t discover the threads of this family until well after his death. Why? Because he’d married a catholic. The bonds of love are stronger than the rules of any institution. And each generation in my family has gone through waves of rejecting religion ever since.

What do you do, that shapes who you are, and who your descendents will be? How will your descendents tell your story?

We can’t always rely on the past. The future cannot be predicted. Sometimes we learn from the future as it is created. Created by each moment by moment.

By the look you give to the person next to you when this is finished.
By how you choose to get home and who you go home to.
By the memory you take from tonight that inspires you.
And by the values you cherish generation by generation by generation.


  1. […] Kristin was a guest presenter at Vitalstatistix Theatre Company’s Cutaway – A Ceremony on Friday 29th November 2013. Here is a copy of her prepared speech on “How to be a good ancestor“. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: