David Houle

David Houle is one of the Co-Founders and Managing Director of the Institute. David Houle is a futurist, thinker and speaker. Houle spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment. He has worked at NBC, CBS and was part of the senior executive team that created and launched MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and CNN Headline News.


COVID-19 is Preparing Us for the Fork in the Road



Note:  this column was published first on Medium.  I will be joining Gerd Leonard and Glen HIemstra for a presentation to Sarasota Institute – a 21st Century Think Tank this Tuesday at 1p eastern time U.S.


As one of the initiators of the #forkintheroadproject I hold the high-level view that from now to 2030 humanity will be confronting a fork in the road. One road can lead to the positive, good future we want to create. The other will continue us down the unaware, unconscious, ignorant path humanity is on toward a most uncertain, probably catastrophic future.


We get to choose, but we must choose with a sense of urgency.


The global COVID-19 pandemic has, ironically, begun to prepare humanity for the fork in the road. As I have written here on Medium, a way to think of the pandemic is a bike with training wheels. Whether as a child or parent you have probably had the experience of helping your child to learn how to first ride a bike using training wheels. How to pedal, brake, do hand signals, learn about traffic and to learn everything except the balance part. Then the training wheels come off and balance is learned; a bit wobbly at first but then it all gets easy.


All of us have had that conversation when one person says that they are about to do something they haven’t done in a long time, say skiing. The other person then says: “It is just like riding a bike, it will all come back, don’t worry!” We have all had such a conversation.


Well, COVID-19 has taught us, many with training wheels still on, to ride the bike of adapting to disruptive change. Many have already lost the training wheels and are learning balance amidst rapid change. For example, if there is another pandemic this decade — and there is high probability that there might be- we will all have had the current experience with the current virus.


So, the bike we now ride with some sense of balance amidst sudden and massive change, prepares us for the disruptive decade that is the 2020s. It is this decade when we must take the road to the future we want to create. Going down a new road, one that is different than the one we are all on, will take a readjustment that in some ways will be massive, other ways less so. We are now at least prepared for rapid and significant adaptation to a new way, down a new road to a brighter future.


Another lesson we have all learned, to greatly varying degrees, is that ability to recalibrate what the new, rapidly changing “reality” will be. Many of us now work from home and will continue to do so. We have established new entertainment consumption habits that will stay with us to a significant degree post-COVID-19.


I forecast 10 months ago that living in this time of virus would accelerate change and it has. Different areas of work, culture, society and use of technology have had some five years of change collapsed into a single year. We have moved more quickly to our collective future than if the virus had not happened. This is great preparation for our coming effort to take the road to a good, chosen, collectively created future. We have moved so far so fast. We are much better prepared for maintaining our balance for the acceleration and disruption ahead.


NOTE: the #forkintheroadproject has just launched our initial, basic web site. We will be updating it in the weeks ahead. If you would like to learn more about this effort and the growing collective of initial signers to the #forkintheroadproject Manifesto, please go here. You can now read the Manifesto and enter your name and email. Stay tuned for updates and an enhanced site. Thank you!