Imagined Futures with Benjamin Tirone Nunes

Who is Benjamin Tirone Nunes?
The question of who I am has been influenced by the places and people that I came into the world around. I am a culturally diverse person. I grew a mix of cultures those being Portuguese, English, German and Italian. I grew up in Portugal going to a german school and then speaking english at home. I was influenced by Italian food through my mother, and Caribbean through my father. So there was a lot of diversity and a variety of perspectives that I had to consider and explore starting at a very young age.

Because of that I believe it lead to me being better at seeking to understand the intersections of cultures. It gave birth to a desire to understand other people, cultures and concepts in a deeper way. It has given me the opportunity to be more naturally curious about things, people and perspectives. Those are some of the factors and influences that make me who I am.

What’s most important to you in life?
In its simplest form what is important to me is being an environmentalist, which means I want life on this planet to survive and thrive. It’s something that I have gravitated towards since I was a little kid.

When I think about the things that are important for me in life in a deeper way, the first thing that comes up are my focuses for the past year. This past year has been about learning more about myself. This has meant asking myself a lot of questions. I asked and am still asking myself questions around: What are the things I want? What are the things I need? Who am I? How do I choose to interact with the world?

This journey and exploration through these questions with myself furthered my belief that if people have the space to be themselves, you will be a better version of yourself. It has made me be more conscious of providing this kind of freedom for myself and other people. In being the realest version of you that you can be, you help other people around you do the same and that will have an impact on the planet and not just other people. So what is important to me in my life, is heavily dependent on the questions that I am asking myself at the time.

What does your Imagined Future look like? If you can describe in 3 words, what would those be and why?
If I had to pick three words to describe my imagined future they would be abundance, comfortable, and discomfort.

If I am Imagining a Future, I would say that the key elements of that future would definitely be in contrast to what we have now. I want the future to be a place that will be defined by abundance rather than scarcity. It will give us a lot more choices that we have ever had before. In today’s economy we have choices but that can paralyze. In our future world of abundance we will be able to walk through paralysis to get to a place of comfort with our decisions rather than indecision. It is a matter of changing our social philosophy. Currently our economy is driven by always having choices, which can sound like abundance but it is actually defined by a principal of scarcity because price is defined by how scarce a resource is and economics is the science of managing scarce resources.

So what would it take to shift to a future of abundance? Let’s explore it through an example like energy. Having abundant energy would mean having energy that is renewable, that doesn’t end. It would be able to be produced wherever you are. It would have things at the base of it that are sustainable and compatible with human life and the planet’s life like the sun, the wind, etc. That would change a lot of how energy interacts with our lives. But that’s just one part of my Imagined Future.

Let’s take another important part like food. More food needs to be local. We would have more food that is locally produced and would change issues we have with transportation of food, scarcity of food and choices of our food. That also means we would have a better knowledge of what we are eating and how our bodies are affected. All these things in the future we will have a much deeper understanding of.

Comfort is a word I use as a part of our future because I want us to move to a place, where people are more innerly comfortable. People feel comfortable to radiate how they are and who they are. It would give us freedom from the restrictive cultures we have in modern society. Today we focus on putting people in boxes. Boxes in which we can easily conform ourselves because they show us an identity we want to have. I imagine the future allows us the freedom to create our own version of what it means to be “me”. That could mean anything. What is means to be masculine? What is means to be Portguese? (in my case to me) What is means to be European? All of these questions our society would allow the space and comfort to explore and define on one’s own terms.

I believe it is a freedom that we all want and deserve. To have every part of our identity and what these markers mean to be free for us to shape and mold. In a way that they don’t restrict you but they help you understand yourself better. They are not things that you adapt yourself into but things that you are empowered by.

The last element of the future is discomfort. Change is mostly uncomfortable. Having the creativity to imagine a new future will mean we have to give up ideas, things and ways of being that are central to how we are now. That process is going to provide people will inner and external discomfort. It is an inevitable part of the process it’s important to point out. And it’s the part that most allows and kick starts change, something not fitting right, a box that needs to be changed to adapt to what I need, that means I need to re-examine that box, so being comfortable enough to explore that discomfort, and going into the discomfort to come to a new, abundant comfort. Those are some of the words that I am hoping will have prominence in the future.

How does this Imagined Future affect the work that you do and the person that you are?
The Imagined Future that I shared has a big impact on my life. Not just the future I shared but any future I can conceive is always about a plurality and how we need to come together. It is an Imagined future that needs to include everyone. It cannot be one that is only about the technological progress we hope to achieve but should include the communication progress we are going to achieve.

In my personal life, what I try to do for myself and other people to encourage us all to explore ourselves and ask ourselves questions to better understand who each of us are. It has been really valuable to my own experience. In a lot of ways I am projecting outward or to the future what the things and experiences that have served me are. The ideas I shared around freedom of identity are things that have helped me more easily let go of and shape identity markers, and my own journey to have the ability to use identity markers to serve me rather than the other way around.

Another part of bringing this future to life for me is living vulnerability. Being authentic and connecting with people. Allowing myself a lot more space to grow. That way of being comes out a lot through my work, since I run a part of a School of Creative Leadership called THNK. A lot of what we do and the space we create for leaders to be better at being leaders is through creating a comfortably uncomfortable space and living that vulnerability. To do that we provide a space that is comfortable enough to not be afraid of taking risk, you can fail with no judgment and creating a different cultural setting than leaders are traditionally used to. Which allows for a safe space of creation. At the same time it is uncomfortable enough that friction comes up and helps the creative process. It is the discomfort that makes your brain and heart work and the comfort that doesn’t make it freeze. That is a key element of what we do there.

I also do this through music. I curate a playlist, where songs that are outside of your sphere of normalcy bring us new but still have a sense of known. Another piece of putting into the now and future, the comfort and discomfort.

Those are just some of the things I do to try to live into a brighter Imagined Future. I think it will really come down to questions of: how we can be better at understanding and listening to each other? How we can use technology for that? We are developing better ways to communicate with each other because we understand more how things affect each other. How can we take each other seriously without being too serious? Whatever future we want to imagine should be a human future and for that we will need to be able to meet each other as just that, humans.

What does not exist in the world right now that you wish did?
What does not exist today that I wish did…the first thing that comes to mind is the Babel fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In one of the first scenes, earth is destroyed and the main character is taken out to this ship and they don’t speak english. This alien who is with him gives him a fish, that he can put in his ear. This fish feeds off of useless brainwaves and has a symbiotic relationship with humans to allow them to speak and understand any language in the universe. The joke in the movie and book is that it has created more wars than anything else in the universe because suddenly there was no barrier to communication.

Why I would really want that to exist is because it is important for us to understand one another. That means through language but that also goes beyond it to the ways that we think, feel and express ourselves. Paradoxically I feel a bit torn because, it is kind of true barrierless communication does sound risky. So, maybe I would say we opt for a slow adapting Babel fish that progressively and incrementally makes us able to understand each other, as we make more effort in getting to know one another. I think that would be a great thing to exist in the world.

There is a time capsule into the future, with a message from Ben, what would that message say?
If there was a time capsule in the future my message would be about the now and not for the then. My message would focus on three things.

The first part would be about the narrative of the now. What is our zeitgeist in society today? Be able to share what are prevailing beliefs and philosophies of the present day. In general just share the things that are happening. Which I believe the zeitgeist today has a lot to do with an existential grief. Our societies quest to find bridges and at the same time burning them. There is a lot of pain in our now. We are in a stage of growing and understanding each other. It would be a story riddled with paradoxes.

The second part I’d pose the question, what is your narrative? What is the narrative of that now? To basically give space to reflect on the past and reflect on the present.

Final thing would be to ask them to do what I just did to pass it forward to the future. I’d like to offer the experience of helping to understand this now at least through my eyes and they do the same for their time period. I feel like that comes largely from my own desire to seek to understand. I feel like the times we live in give us a lot of hope and a lot of despair in equal measure. But let’s see what our imaginative future will hold in store.

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