the mistakes, and access to all those things that humanize the government?

A: Exactly. We had this meeting and came up with three possible courses of action. At one point, it looked like we should do this. But then we realized perhaps this other was the best alternative. Still some of us don't sleep well at the moment, but we think we did the best for the citizen under the circumstances -- that type of openness.

Q: So the real story -- not the manufactured story by some PR consultant -- and advertising has got to change?

A: Yes. It is expensive. It costs a lot. And what you get out of it is cynicism. People don't really believe advertising. They think advertisers aren't telling the truth. This applies not just to political or government advertising, but commercial advertising as well.

Q: Taking a broader look at all this -- one of the other big futurists we've interviewed in the past, Alvin Toffler, has talked about the whole power structure changing as a result of the Information Age. You are more cautious in many of your predictions. But if what you are saying bears out, is it going to have the same kind of profound effect?

A: I think so. I think a lot of futurists agree on this. They use different words to talk about the same thing. Consider John Naisbitt and "high tech, high touch." One time I was making a presentation in the morning, and he was on in the afternoon. Afterwards he came up to me and said, "We are singing in harmony."

Q: Which emphasizes the point that there is something here governments at all levels need to understand. Otherwise, they are going to start failing in their efforts to reach and involve citizens.

A: Absolutely. The thing about storytelling is the principles are simple. But we have been so oriented toward the head, toward the rational, that it becomes difficult to relate to the heart, to emotion. If you ask your friends why are they working, the first answer you get would be money. But then if you go on asking, you find out maybe it's for social reasons. Maybe it's for recognition. Maybe they just don't think about it, because it is part of life. But the rational answer is on top. It is only when you discuss at some length that you reach the emotional level that also drives or motivates them.

Q: It seems to me the rational and the scientific could get pushed too far out of the way.

A: That's the danger, I agree. Because if all you are dealing with is the emotional, then it goes wrong. But what I'm talking about is a better balance. The emotional side has been lacking at the moment. The rational is too dominating. So if you had to pick one megatrend for this century, I would suggest it involves getting better balance between heart and mind.

Q: So speculating a bit here, what might minimize the liability or danger is scientists and technologists have to become the best storytellers.

A: Yes. Look at the mobile phone companies. At the moment they are concentrating on design and color -- the look of the mobile phone -- because they found out people are buying for design and color. So top management of the mobile phone companies don't have that much time for the engineers. They want to talk to the designers instead. But of course, the scientists will have to develop storytelling. That would go for biotechnology, for nanotechnology, the genes, all these new technologies. If you don't tell the right story, you lose.

Blake Harris  |  Editor