Nat Irvin is a futurist, and the son of a baptist preacher. He wonders why we have such a hard time talking about race in the context of the future. Specifically, the invites us to think about our vision of race in the future, as a way to get us thinking about race and the lilly-white community of TED.
His key idea is the vision of a new society where a black culture is emerging around people who are not just surviving, but thriving. These new leaders, over the past few decades, will become anew urban tribe of competitive, critical thinkers and meme spreaders. They’ll be based in the US, but will spread to urban areas around the world. It will be a global movement of blacks centered in urban areas, near centers of higher learning.
The thrivals are defined by this philosophical shift from “survival to thrival”. It’s a move from seeing oneself as victims of history and oppression to a belief that you’re a shaper of the future, not someone shaped by the past. The thrivals are linked by a single powerful meme: struggle. Struggle is the cold fusion drive that powers the thrivals.
Nat tells us that he almost missed the emergence of the thrivals because he didn’t have the language, the mental categories, the frame to see this new group emerging. He wonders if he, who writes about race for a living, could miss this, how much is everyone else missing?
When we don’t find a new way to talk about race in the future, we miss the future of a black James Bond.
How should we, at TED, begin to think and talk about race? Nat asks us to write our answer on a paper airplane and throw it in the air – we’re asked to catch someone else’s and let Nat know what we find.
There’s more about Nat’s thinking about the Thrivals in an article he wrote for The Futurist in March 2004.