convenor of the Manifesto Club
Thinking about the future is off the agenda. Much of public life is now concerned with management of day-to-day questions. A growing swathe of codes and regulations stifle people’s imagination and capacity to experiment. Freedom is seen as a fearful thing, to be reined in rather than encouraged.
Yet the human imagination has not been exhausted. It is unlikely that the new generation that comes of age in 18 years time will be a placid bunch of rule-followers. But if individuals continue to experiment, they often do so in privatised and inconsequential ways – in online communities, for example, or extreme sports.
This situation cannot be resolved by a quick fix: taking an optimism pill, or thinking up bold visions. Nor can we simply rely on new blood to inject new thinking. The challenge for 2024 is to provide cultural support for individuals who are keen to understand the world and find out how much they can do in it. It is to create a climate that affirms, rather than stifles, leaps of daring; that encourages us to collaborate with others in more systematic experimental projects; and to embrace the manifold and exciting possibilities of freedom.