Self Help

Facing Our Futures - Badminton, Nikolas;

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Matheus Puppe

· 35 min read

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This book provides a framework for applying strategic foresight and futures design in organizations. The author, Nikolas Badminton, argues that embracing a ‘futures consciousness’ is crucial for navigating increasing uncertainty and disruption.

Through compelling quotes from industry leaders, Badminton establishes the importance and timeliness of foresight practices. Leaders must look backward to understand the past, embrace complexity and uncertainties, and learn from others facing similar challenges. The book then outlines a process for ‘facing our futures’ through horizon scanning, scenario planning, and backcasting - imagining preferable futures and identifying steps to make them more likely.

A key chapter analyzes global challenges around water, energy and food systems. Badminton urges readers to ignite their imagination about alternative possibilities. He stresses that resilience depends on collaborative, holistic thinking about interconnected issues. The book maintains an optimistic yet pragmatic tone, seeking to understand emerging trends and discover truths as more data arrives. Overall, it provides an erudite framework for analyzing a wide range of future outcomes to develop long-term strategies and establish ‘futures consciousness’ in organizations.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The author reflects on becoming a futurist and how their interest in envisioning possible futures developed from a young age. As a child in the UK in the 1970s and 80s, they were fascinated by a book about predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. They were also inspired by using early home computers.

In their teenage years, they deeply explored ideas around eastern religions, strategic thinking, philosophy and the works of authors like George Orwell. Orwell’s dystopian visions of authoritarian control in works like 1984 resonated with the author and gave them “permission to explore dystopian ideas of what the world may turn out to be.”

The author went on to study applied psychology and computing in university in 1993. There they were able to apply some of their ideas about future technologies and human-computer interaction. Over time, they developed a focus on futures thinking, design and foresight work.

The text provides context about the author’s lifelong interest in envisioning possible futures and how that informed their career path of becoming a professional futurist, foresight practitioner and strategic advisor working with businesses and governments.

Here is a summary of the key ideas about the nature of the World Wide Web from the passage:

  • In the early days of the internet in the 1990s, it was seen as a very optimistic and promising time when new technologies like virtual reality and an internet-connected world opened up possibilities for a more egalitarian future for all.

  • The early internet gave rise to new online communities and subcultures that explored the intersection of technology, spirituality, and visions of the future. Pioneers like Jaron Lanier and Terence McKenna helped introduce the author to these ideas.

  • The World Wide Web in particular was seen as connecting people globally and having the potential to positively transform society through communication and sharing of information.

  • However, over the following decades as the internet and web grew enormously, some of those optimistic visions were not fully realized and unintended consequences also emerged like mass data collection, profiling, and the potential for technologies to be exploited for profit or social control.

  • The passage reflects on both the early promise and excitement about the web’s potential as well as the realization that its development and impacts were more complex with both benefits and limitations or challenges for society.

K are an invitation to broaden your horizons and consider integrating futures thinking into your strategic planning. Foresight is the practice of thinking critically about the world and how the future may unfold. It involves imagining possible scenarios at least 10 years into the future and considering alternative paths that development could take, rather than just the most likely or business as usual scenario.

Strategic planning is often limited to the next 3-4 years at most, focusing on short-term goals and KPIs. But the world is complex and changes are happening faster, so looking further into the future is necessary for resilience. Foresight can help organizations and leaders look 10, 20, 50 years or more down the line to make better long-term decisions today and avoid being caught off guard by unexpected changes. Integrating futures thinking through foresight practices can enhance strategic planning and decision making for navigating uncertainty.

The passage discusses the importance of universities in providing education in futures studies and foresight. It notes several institutions around the world that have developed significant programs and courses in this area, including the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

It presents James Dator’s model of four future perspectives: continuation, limits/discipline, decline/collapse, and transformation. This model provides a framework for considering different possible futures.

The concept of the futures cone is also explored, categorizing futures as projected, potential, possible, plausible, probable, and preferable. The passage introduces the idea of “preposterous futures” as a seventh category to consider what is currently deemed impossible but may become possible in the future.

Overall, the key point is that universities play a vital role in educating people in futures thinking and foresight. Several models and concepts from the field of futures studies are discussed to provide frameworks for considering alternative possible futures.

  • The UN official discussed the need to diversify futures thinking and imagine multiple possible futures rather than just one. Having only one perspective of the future limits imagination and can result in past mistakes being repeated.

  • She emphasized stretching cognitive flexibility to consider different perspectives on the future. Opening up the horizon of possible futures is important for overcoming the “poverty of imagination.”

  • The author speaks to clients about collective poverty of imagination and how social media, responsibilities, and organizational culture can actively kill imagination.

  • A university published a study in 2018 that found companies actively engaged in corporate foresight saw higher profitability and growth rates compared to companies that did not prepare for future changes. This provides quantitative evidence of the value of foresight.

  • The role of a futurist involves scanning for weak signals of change, identifying trends, building scenarios, using speculative fiction to experience possible futures, linking futures to present actions, and ongoing sensemaking through research and discussion.

  • In summary, futurists help organizations and society diversify thinking about the future, overcome limitations of imagination, and proactively prepare for changes through various foresight methods.

  • There are many different types and perspectives of futurists, as there are diverse ways of thinking about the future.

  • As futurists, we need to use our imaginations radically, think critically and inclusively, and work democratically.

  • We must create our visions of the future together through discussion and sharing multiple perspectives. This helps anticipate risks and strengthen planning.

  • When acting as a futurist, some guidelines are to question your own assumptions, be curious and courageous, suspend judgment, think creatively, look for signals of change in the present, take a long-term view, focus on non-zero-sum thinking, be careful about prediction, and save discussions of implementation for later.

  • Framing our thinking around “what if” instead of just “what is” can help unleash imagination and avoid confrontation by acknowledging multiple possible futures instead of asserting one view. This shift came from learning from a challenging experience where viewpoints were firmly defended instead of explored through open dialogue.

  • More organizations are embracing futures thinking, which is an encouraging sign of being willing to anticipate challenges through creative exploration of potential futures.

  • We must understand how we arrived at our current reality in order to envision positive futures and avoid repeating past mistakes. Looking back historically provides necessary context.

  • Industrial revolutions transformed economies from agrarian to industrialized, powered by new machines, energy sources, and organized work. Each revolution accelerated information exchange and transportation.

  • Early forecasting and planning emerged in the late 1800s alongside weather data collection and mapping. However, this was forecasting not foresight, which is more speculative and long-term oriented.

  • The colonial era and Berlin Conference of 1884 set the stage for today’s geopolitics in Africa. Technological progress throughout the 1900s shaped transportation, energy, information networks, and wars drove both destruction and innovation.

  • Emerging computer and internet technologies in the mid-late 1900s set the stage for today’s digital era. Understanding this progression is important context for envisioning futures beyond today’s social and economic complexities.

The key idea is that to envision positive futures, we must understand how historical events and decisions brought us to the present reality, in order to avoid repetition and unlock new opportunities. Looking back provides necessary context for looking forward in a strategic, thoughtful way.

  • The passage describes the current era as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by exponential technologies like AI, automation, biotech, and more. It is a time of disruption as new business models challenge old ones.

  • As a foresight practitioner, the author aims to navigate this sea of change and find a safe path forward that protects humanity. However, shaping the future will require carefully considering the complex intersection of technology and people.

  • The author uses past industrial revolutions and their environmental impacts as an example for foresight work. Pollution from fossil fuels has led to climate change, yet we remain dependent on those industries.

  • Warnings about climate change date back to the 1850s, but political will and short-term thinking have often ignored these warnings. Early futurists in the 1940s-60s also raised alarms that were not fully heeded.

  • Books like “The Population Bomb” in 1968 sparked concerns, though advances like the Green Revolution proved those particular fears wrong. “The Limits to Growth” in 1972 similarly warned of resource constraints if growth continued unchecked.

  • While some predictions were inaccurate, these works helped inspire environmental movements by highlighting long-term risks from unchecked economic and population expansion relative to planetary boundaries. The author sees value in challenges to short-term thinking that open possibilities.

  • The author shared a personal experience presenting climate change research to a group of energy executives in 2018. The presentation was met with skepticism and denial from some in the audience.

  • In 2020, Gaya Herrington published an update to the 1972 book “The Limits to Growth,” concluding the current trajectory could lead to economic decline by the 2020s and societal collapse by 2040 based on the original MIT model’s predictions.

  • The author helped a large European produce company envision their future by researching trends like a 2021 Politico article detailing the severe impacts of climate change in different parts of Europe, especially increased heat, water scarcity, flooding and diseases in southern Europe.

  • Communicating future scenarios and climate impacts can be challenging due to skepticism. The author is careful about citing well-researched sources like U.S. military reports on climate implications.

  • Long-term thinking is important for companies but quarterly targets often dominate. The 4th industrial revolution requires evolving operations and thinking beyond constraints through approaches like “bionic companies” that organize capabilities around outcomes.

  • Some Asian companies like SoftBank take a very long view, aiming to strategically grow and evolve their group for 300 years through approaches like decentralized collaboration and acquisition.

SoftBank and its Vision Fund invest $100 billion in a wide range of businesses through mergers, acquisitions and spinning off of units. Some of the sectors and technologies they invest in include microchips, artificial intelligence, shared workspaces, food packaging and finance.

The Vision Fund makes massive investments to help companies grow rapidly on a global scale. It pursues an aggressive strategy of developing businesses through internal development as well as mergers and acquisitions. Once companies reach a certain scale, SoftBank may spin them off as independent entities to realize returns for investors.

Overall, SoftBank takes a broad, venture capital-style approach to investing in diverse sectors that are positively impacted by technological trends like AI, automation and connectivity. Its massive Vision Fund allows it to back ambitious growth plans across a vast portfolio of companies.

  • The passage discusses how humans have an innate tendency to feel fear and dread when considering dystopian or challenging futures. This is an evolutionary instinct meant to avoid danger, but now prevents us from productively thinking about difficult possibilities.

  • Three cognitive biases are highlighted that are activated by negative news and information - negativity bias, availability bias, and confirmation bias. These cause us to overfocus on and reinforce negative events, prioritize recent negative stories, and seek information that confirms existing views respectively.

  • Together these biases trap our thinking in a negative state and stop us from contemplating dystopian futures. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified base fears and exposed human tendencies towards panic, control-seeking, and limited future imagination.

  • To free ourselves from these limiting views, we need to tell new stories that liberate the future from solely focusing on current anxieties and past narratives. However, embracing difficult situations is challenging for humans due to our inherent biases.

So in summary, the passage examines how human psychology makes it hard to consider dystopian futures, outlining specific cognitive biases that get in the way, and calls for new narrative frameworks to help broaden future imagination.

Confirmation bias plays an important role in hindering progress on important issues like climate change. People tend to selectively look for and remember information that supports what they already believe, while discounting conflicting evidence.

Futures work needs to address confirmation bias by understanding stakeholders’ existing views and respecting their perspectives. Simply arguing against entrenched beliefs will not change minds. Instead, we should regularly question our own assumptions, seek diverse views, and frame discussions around exploring alternative possibilities rather than declaring what will or won’t happen.

The Johari Window model illustrates how there are “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” “unknown knowns,” and “unknown unknowns” when considering uncertain futures. Metaphors like black elephants, black swans, and black jellyfish can help explain these categories in futures contexts like examining potential events or signals we should pay attention to.

Overall, an empathetic, open-minded approach that challenges preconceptions through respectful discussion of alternatives, not declarations, can help overcome confirmation bias barriers and liberate thinking around important issues. Understanding different perspectives is key to productive dialogue and progress on complex challenges.

  • Pandemics have been occurring more frequently in recent history and many experts warned that a respiratory virus could cause a major global outbreak. Initiatives like PREDICT and the Global Virome Project identified new viruses with pandemic potential.

  • In 2016, the UK government conducted an exercise called Exercise Alice imagining a MERS coronavirus outbreak. The report highlighted the need for PPE stockpiles, contact tracing, experimental therapies, etc. However, these lessons were not adequately acted upon for COVID-19 preparedness.

  • While COVID-19 differed from MERS, Exercise Alice could have enabled better coordination and reduced mortality. Discussing potential pandemics in strategic planning with clients in late 2019 and early 2020 did not receive significant attention, as COVID-19 had not emerged as a concern yet.

  • The author had to abruptly shift focus to emerging challenges related to the pandemic when clients’ work evaporated due to lockdowns and disruptions. This highlights the importance of considering potential black swan events in futures planning.

  • The passage discusses four key areas of change that would be important to focus on: medicine/healthcare in light of new diseases, the water-energy-food nexus amid climate change issues, business operations/technology infrastructure as work becomes more virtual, and citizen movements/crime amid rising unrest.

  • The client and futurist conducted extensive research and scenario planning on these topics, producing reports that accurately predicted many of the trends that have emerged during the pandemic.

  • One notable example of foresight was Wimbledon taking out pandemic insurance years in advance, allowing them to receive a $141 million payout when the tournament was cancelled in 2020.

  • The pandemic has increased demand for strategic planning, scenario development and future-focused capabilities across government and business. The futurist significantly expanded their consultancy work during this time.

  • The rise of technologies like computers, networking and the internet are discussed, from early pioneers like Douglas Engelbart to the growth of the “Californian Ideology” centered around optimism in technology’s potential. Figures like Josh Harris also embodied the excited, experimental culture in Silicon Valley during its formative years.

  • In the early 1990s, Joe Deisseroth invited over 100 artists to live in an underground bunker in New York City surrounded by cameras. He said everything was free except the video they captured of the artists, which they would own. This set the tone for how much of personal data and content would be monetized online.

  • In the late 1990s during the rise of Web 1.0, the internet consisted mainly of static web pages hosted on central servers. People built personal websites on services like Geocities. This was a foundational period where surfing the internet and accessing new dot-com businesses was popular.

  • Web 2.0 emerged with the rise of user-generated content, social networks, blogs, videos and other participatory media. This marked the shift to the “social web” where people connected through online profiles and platforms. Many major tech companies and platforms we know today grew out of this era.

  • Web 3.0 is driving towards a hyperconnected, decentralized internet powered by blockchain, AI and ubiquitous devices/sensors. It is fueled by big data and algorithms that impact lives and societies in both positive and negative ways. Some critics warn that these systems can encode and spread bias at a large scale.

  • The evolution of the internet has been rapid and largely unplanned, with consequences for individuals, economies and democracy that were not fully anticipated or addressed early on. It remains an ongoing challenge to shape technologies towards beneficial outcomes.

Here are the key points about n, work and business from the passage:

  • If virtual worlds become a large part of daily life, they may have an impact on the macroeconomies of Earth. It will also raise certain constitutional issues.

  • Many big tech companies like Meta, Microsoft, Alphabet, Sony, Roblox, and Epic Games are moving into creating and developing virtual worlds/the metaverse. This could create new streams of revenue and business opportunities for them.

  • There are concerns that Web3.0 and the metaverse may become stifled by excessive old-style regulation imposed by those who don’t fully understand the technologies. However, others see risks of anarchy without proper oversight.

  • Some view the metaverse and virtual economies as enabling personal empowerment, while others see them as ways to maintain control through anonymity and concentrate power with large crypto stakeholders.

  • The development of virtual worlds and economies could turn humanity itself into an active “layer” or product within these systems, with behaviors, data, and psychologies manipulated for profit or control.

  • Issues around privacy, surveillance, addiction, misinformation, and how virtual economies may impact the real world need to be further examined and discussed. Overall, there are both opportunities and risks for business and economies with the continued growth of virtual worlds and digital technologies.

  • The passage uses a Venn diagram to explore the intersections between pandemics, the internet/big tech, and mental health.

  • It speculates on both positive and dystopian effects at each intersection, such as remote work enabling business continuity but also increased screen time leading to burnout.

  • Mental health impacts of pandemics like increased stress, loneliness, and substance abuse are also discussed.

  • The internet/big tech intersection brings both benefits like remote healthcare but also threats like data exploitation and online coercion.

  • The author then envisions some speculative dystopian scenarios for the 2040s around topics like politics, finance, climate change, health, technology, work, etc. to provoke thought about challenging futures.

  • These scenarios are meant to represent the “inverse” of positive futures and show how trajectories from today’s signals could lead to such outcomes if unaddressed.

  • The purpose is to warm up the reader and start considering both positive and negative potential futures using a “Positive-Dystopian Framework” as part of futures design and foresight work.

Here is a summary of the key points from the article:

  • Mental health issues have been a growing crisis in the US for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic significantly exacerbated problems. lockdowns, isolation, uncertainty, and job/income loss have taken a massive psychological toll.

  • Even before the pandemic, 1 in 5 US adults experienced mental illness in a given year. Rates of depression and anxiety had been steadily increasing for over a decade. Suicide rates rose over 30% since 1999.

  • The pandemic caused widespread increases in depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts rose 51% for teenage girls during pandemic lockdowns.

  • Certain groups have been disproportionately affected, like young people, healthcare workers, essential workers, minorities, those with preexisting conditions. Domestic violence and child abuse also rose during lockdowns.

  • The mental health system was already overburdened and underfunded prior to COVID. The surge in need has overwhelmed resources. Many lack access to care due to provider shortages and costs. Telehealth expanded but does not replace in-person care.

  • Sustained support and funding will be needed to address the backlog of unmet mental health needs. Investing in prevention, early intervention, community programs, and expanding the healthcare workforce are priorities. The crisis emphasizes the urgency of reforming the broken system.

  • The Positive-Dystopian Framework aims to introduce rigor to conversations about positive future scenarios, while still supporting a positive view. It does this by also considering “dystopian” or risk-focused futures.

  • Clear definitions of “positive futures” and “dystopian futures” are needed to guide how the framework is applied. Positive futures are defined as equitable, health-focused, reducing disparity, and empowering individuals. Dystopian futures perpetuate power imbalances and short-term thinking.

  • The framework involves a 10-step process including defining hypotheses, horizons, principles, scanning signals/trends, developing scenarios, backcasting, and strategic planning.

  • Setting foundational principles upfront is important to provide guidance and boundaries for the futures exploration. Both positive and “dystopian” reflective principles should be considered to inform the analysis.

  • The goal is to identify opportunities and risks to inform strategic planning, while maintaining a hopeful orientation toward futures that improve lives and societies. Rigor is added by holistically envisioning multiple possible futures, both desirable and undesirable.

  • The passage discusses several steps involved in conducting technological foresight and scenario planning for an organization.

  • The first steps involve developing a clear problem statement, business hypotheses, and scanning themes to guide research.

  • Signals of change are identified through secondary research on emerging technologies, events, trends across different domains.

-Signals are analyzed to identify broader trends and themes at different levels - megatrends, system trends, localized trends.

  • Trends are clustered and prioritized based on their relevance and potential impact.

  • The next step involves developing “What if…” scenarios to explore different plausible futures based on intersections of trends and uncertainties.

  • The key goal is to identify solutions and risks for the organization under different scenario conditions to better prepare strategic planning.

-The overall process aims to shift thinking from predictions to exploring a range of possibilities through scenario analysis, to develop robust strategies considering technological, social and economic uncertainties. Ensuring human welfare is also highlighted as an important principle.

In essence, the passage discusses the foundational steps and principles involved in conducting technological foresight and scenario planning for an organization, with a focus on identifying signals, trends, developing scenarios and deriving implications for strategy and risk mitigation. Data and technologies are recognized as important drivers of change that need to be analyzed through a human-centric lens.

The process of building scenarios is more detailed and involves considering impacts across multiple dimensions. The key steps are:

  1. Identify 3 trends to focus on and collect associated positive/dystopian effects as opportunities/risks. Brainstorm speculative solutions.

  2. Structure thinking into “What if…” scenarios by taking 3 solutions, identifying business opportunities/risks, and exploring impacts on 4 dimensions - Organizational, Cultural, Environmental, Technological using the acronym FORCEPTS.

  3. FORCEPTS covers 8 dimensions - Financial, Organizational, Regulatory, Cultural, Environmental, Political, Technological, Social. Some examples of factors in each dimension are provided.

  4. Build out scenarios in two parts - first take trends, effects and speculative solutions, then focus scenarios on 3 solutions and 4 impact dimensions.

  5. Develop at least 5 well-considered scenarios to generate diverse visions of the future horizon years being considered, like the 2040s. Get feedback from others.

  6. Speculate on how dynamics in the scenario horizon, like 2040s, may evolve further into the 2050s and become more dominant over time. The goal is rich scenario development to better understand potential futures.

  • The organization is conducting futures design and foresight analysis to help plan for resilient and sustainable agriculture given challenges like climate change, population growth, and urbanization.

  • Their focus areas include the water-food-energy nexus, agricultural resiliency, in-field agriculture, food supply chain management, and the relationship between food, health, and communities.

  • They have a global scope but are based in California to be near funding opportunities and study challenges faced by climate change like drought and water scarcity.

  • The organization wants to develop visions and solutions for sustainable agriculture that can meet the needs of growing megacities in potential futures where resilience and urban sustainability are critically important.

  • They are well-funded, private investors actively building partnerships with startups, venture funds, and companies working in areas related to their strategic goals.

  • Conducting futures analysis and backcasting will help them identify preferable trajectories, signals of change, emerging risks, and strategic opportunities to guide investments and planning for the interim period leading to their target futures time horizon in the 2030s.

  • There is a need to increase and improve global food production to meet rising demands as the world population grows to 9.6 billion by 2050. Food production will need to increase by 60% to feed everyone.

  • Organization X wants to create an “agritech portfolio” of companies through strategic investments and partnerships to revolutionize agriculture. Their goal is to create more productive and resilient food systems, starting in California and expanding to North America and other regions like Africa and China.

  • Organization X has engaged a futurist think tank to help them understand trends impacting global food markets and availability over the next 10-30 years. This will help Organization X develop strategic visions and plans to influence investments, R&D, partnerships, policies and customers.

  • The futurist think tank will use a “Positive-Dystopian Framework” to explore potential futures. Key areas of focus include food prices/logistics, population/city growth impacts, climate change, energy shifts, novel/plant-based foods, urban/vertical farming, agritech/sensors/AI.

  • The goal is to imagine both optimistic and challenging futures to help Organization X properly prepare and guide investments and actions to create more sustainable, resilient and equitable global food systems over the coming decades.

The summaries identify several key trends regarding the global economy, population growth, climate change impacts, the energy landscape and novel plant-based foods over the next few decades:

  • Population and economic power are shifting, with explosive growth expected in Asia and Africa. By 2100, Africa’s population could reach 4.5 billion people. This will accelerate the growth of urban and megacity populations.

  • Climate change is projected to cause a 40% shortfall in available water globally by 2030, reducing yields for global food production. This threatens water-intensive agriculture.

  • Increased efforts to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy sources like wind, water and sunlight could create jobs but also fuel potential energy wars as major producers are disrupted.

  • The rise of on-farm and independent energy production through technologies like agrovoltaics and anaerobic digestion may provide new revenue streams for farmers but could reduce food-growing land.

  • Global supergrids spearheaded by China and others may revolutionize low-cost, cross-border energy trading but also become geopolitical tools.

  • The plant-based food market is growing rapidly due to health, sustainability and COVID concerns, but the industrial meat industry may counter with protests or political pressure.

So in summary, these trends point to significant population, climate, energy and food production challenges, but also opportunities, over the coming decades if properly managed for positive outcomes. Geopolitics and industry disruption could also potentially have dystopian impacts.

Positive effects of plant-based foods becoming mainstream:

  • Increased funding accelerates growth of the plant-based industry
  • Cultural shift towards more plant-based diets

Potential downside effects:

  • Grassroots pro-meat movements could engage in violence and vandalism against plant-based businesses

Positive effects of growing plant-based meat and dairy alternatives market:

  • Reduced reliance on industrial meat and dairy production

Potential downside effects:

  • As above, possible violence and vandalism from pro-meat activists

Positive effects ofcellular agriculture disrupting the raised protein industry:

  • Protein can be grown sustainably with lower land and water use
  • localization of protein production

Potential downside effects:

  • Mass unemployment in industrial livestock industry
  • Rising costs of “real” animal proteins

Positive effects of growing medicinal plants and collaborating with pharma:

  • Crop diversification
  • Decentralized medicinal crop production

Potential downside effects:

  • Impact of climate change on medicinal crop supply
  • Risk of crop theft

Positive effects of growing plant-based medicines:

  • Reduced reliance on pharmaceutical companies
  • Recognition of indigenous knowledge
  • Healing of trauma through plant medicines

Potential downside effects:

  • Risk of misuse without ceremonial guidance
  • Disinformation campaigns from threatened industries

Positive effects of indoor and vertical farming:

  • Increased local food production with less land and resources
  • Quicker harvests and lower costs at scale

Potential downside effects:

  • Higher initial costs
  • Food insecurity if prices not kept affordable

Here are some positive and dystopian scenarios based on the identified trends:

SCENARIO 1 (Positive) What if in the 2040s, renewable energy infrastructure, vertical farming and cellular agriculture were widely adopted?

This creates opportunities for new jobs in renewable energy production and cellular agriculture. Farmers gain energy independence and additional revenue streams. Food is produced locally using less land and resources. Protein production is more sustainable and affordable.

However, risks include disruption to traditional agriculture and protein industries, potential for commodity price increases, and increased geopolitical competition over energy. Regulations and agreements are needed between new and traditional industries to manage this transition.

SCENARIO 2 (Dystopian)
What if in the 2050s, data collection and use outpaced privacy protections?

Advances in IoT, sensors and machine learning led to pervasive data collection on farms, homes, workplaces and public spaces. While this data drove efficiency and insights, it also fell into the hands of large corporations and foreign actors. People have little control over how their data is used and shared. Behavior is increasingly monitored and influenced. Some communities lose access to technologies due to their data or ideas being seen as risky. This fuels social unrest and distrust in technology. Stronger data regulations are needed but lobbying prevents meaningful reform.

SCENARIO 3 (Positive) What if in the 2040s, investments in agritech led to more sustainable and resilient food systems?

Investments in areas like crop protection, precision agriculture, logistics and animal health allow smaller farmers to access innovative technologies. Yield losses are reduced and crops are better able to withstand impacts of climate change. Food waste is minimized through improved storage and transportation. Local food hubs strengthen regional food security. While large producers still have an advantage, smaller farms partner together in new cooperative models. Overall food supplies are more stable and affordable globally due to increased efficiency and localized production.

You raise excellent points. Focusing solely on one region or country risks missing many important global perspectives and dynamics. Some ideas to broaden the scenarios:

  • Relocate the setting to multiple urban areas across different regions - e.g. cities in China, India, Africa, South America. This shows interconnected global systems.

  • Highlight partnerships and knowledge/technology sharing between communities in different parts of the world facing similar challenges.

  • Consider rising economic powers like you mentioned and how new models may emerge from places outside traditional incumbents.

  • Reflect the diversity of cultural traditions, environments and policy approaches in different locales. One size rarely fits all.

  • Explore implications not just for major powers but also smaller countries and vulnerabilities/opportunities for local empowerment.

Futures thinking benefits greatly from diversifying assumptions and avoiding biases toward any single perspective. An explicitly multi-regional, multi-stakeholder approach can generate richer, more nuanced and globally relevant scenarios. Thank you for prompting us to broaden our thinking in a way that leads to more responsible and thoughtful futures envisioning.

  • By 2030, China is predicted to become the number one economic power by GDP, surpassing the US which would be in third place behind India.

  • The UN predicts India, China, and Nigeria will account for 35% of the world’s projected urban population growth between 2018-2050. India will add 416 million urban dwellers, China 255 million, and Nigeria 189 million.

  • When considering futures scenarios in other countries, it is important to seek local knowledge, understand country dynamics deeply, immerse oneself in the local culture and settings, and test ideas with local people to avoid perpetuating past patterns of colonial expansion.

  • Next steps for Organization X could include revisiting its vision and strategy to integrate futures thinking, developing formal foresight capabilities, and building bigger futures stories using speculative fiction and backcasting to inform current plans and lay the foundation for desirable futures.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passages:

  • Speculative fiction and experiential futures involve writing fictional stories or creating visual/interactive experiences that extend upon scenarios created through foresight work. This allows for more immersive exploration of potential futures.

  • Storytelling has long been a way for humans to connect, build relationships and impart perspectives. Stories represent communities and allow for meaning-making.

  • Research shows that stories are powerful for building cooperation, trust and a sense of shared purpose in organizations. They inspire in a more impactful way than transactional communications.

  • Telling transcendent stories is one of the most effective ways for businesses to inspire and influence employees, partners and customers. It can help shape the organization’s identity.

  • Speculative fiction in organizations can create a safe space for exploration, elevate inspiration/reflection/contribution, influence attitudes and behaviors, and foster connections.

  • The medium used to convey a story (written, video, etc.) doesn’t matter - what’s important is that stories generate oxytocin and nurture relationships within the community.

  • Linking scenarios into larger fictional narratives allows for more immersive speculation about potential futures and helps guide strategic planning.

The passage discusses using speculative fiction like stories, writing, and filmmaking to bring dystopian ideas to life. It argues that stories are powerful tools for futurists because they can engage people emotionally by taking them on a “hero’s journey.”

Some examples of stories that do this with dystopian futures are discussed, like 1984 by George Orwell and “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick. The comic Transmetropolitan is also mentioned.

The hero’s journey structure is analyzed, but it is noted this is limiting and other narrative structures exist. Alternative models from Scandinavian, Indian, Central African, and indigenous stories are discussed as offering more diversity.

Indian storytelling traditions are highlighted, as are the importance of consulting actual communities for accurate representation. The concept of “speculative fiction” is introduced as a way for futurists to explore “what if” scenarios. The short film “Brad the Toaster” is used as an example of an experiential design fiction.

Overall it advocates using stories and speculative fiction as a way to bring futures concepts to life in an engaging way, while acknowledging the need for narrative diversity and cultural consultation.

  • The story describes an artist named Rebaudengo who created an animated short and working prototype of an internet-connected toaster that could develop feelings like jealousy if not used enough.

  • This explored the idea of how smart, connected objects in the future may develop relationships with humans and each other.

  • The book “Speculative Everything” helped promote the idea of using design fiction and speculation to imagine possible futures and increase creativity.

  • The author was invited to help Vancouver Airport with public consultation for their 20-year master plan. He proposed using design fiction stories to inspire people’s ideas.

  • He wrote 5 short stories imagining travelers’ experiences at the airport in 2037 using futuristic technologies like autonomous vehicles, biometric security, and vertical farms.

  • The stories were published online and promoted to gather public input on shaping the airport’s future. Sessions were held where people discussed possibilities raised by the design fictions.

  • The approach was successful in significantly increasing community engagement around the airport’s long-term planning.

  • The event was discussing an original idea for a vertical farm project at Vancouver International Airport that would grow produce for on-site restaurants.

  • However, after feedback from the community, the project was altered to be a “glassed-in island forest with access to the outdoors”. This provided a similar visual experience with immersive projections and nature sounds, while addressing community concerns.

  • This was cited as an example of “foresight and futures design at work” - where an idea is refined and adapted based on stakeholder input to still achieve the overall vision and experience, even if not identical to the original concept. It showed flexibility and responsiveness in project development.

The passage argues that certain types of future projections pose an existential threat by denying possibilities and agency to African cultures. Specifically, it claims:

  • Denying a “future space” in cultural projections of Africa’s future distorts its potential and denies the intrinsic human capacity for planning and organizing to African people.

  • This has insidious effects, gradually eroding the agency and subjectivity of individuals and communities, and persistently alienating their humanity.

  • By not envisioning how African cultures may evolve and adapt, it denies their intrinsic abilities and perpetuates a distorted view of them as lacking agency over their own futures.

The overall argument is that certain ways of projecting Africa’s future without considering the role of culture pose dangers by undermining the humanity, agency, and potentials of African peoples and societies. It erodes subjective experiences and perpetuates perceptions of lack of control over destiny.

  • The chapter discusses the importance of backcasting as a follow up step to exploring future scenarios and representations. Backcasting helps link future visions back to the present to enable strategic planning and action.

  • It provides guidance on conducting a backcasting process through 9 steps: starting with problem definition, developing future visions, backcasting to identify solutions and pathways, option selection, stakeholder roles, and implementation planning.

  • Backcasting works best for complex problems requiring major change, when dominant trends are part of the problem, and the scope and time horizon allow for deliberate choice-making.

  • Strategic planning (step 10) uses insights from backcasting to identify strategic considerations that can inform an organization’s current strategy and planning.

  • An example roadmap is outlined mapping strategic priorities and activities over 5 year increments from 2023 to 2038 based on insights from future scenarios and the backcasting process.

  • The chapter emphasizes linking futures work to present actions and planning to maximize its value and influence within organizations.

New business models that support sustainable development goals and circular economic principles can act as agents of change from our current industrial system. These disruptive solutions challenge traditional companies that have underinvested in sustainability.

One example presented is a hypothetical company in 2038 that generates over $1 trillion in annual revenue but chooses to reinvest all profits beyond operating costs and dividends back into innovative sustainability initiatives. Their vision is true transparency and equity while aiming to deliver positive impact every day.

Strategic considerations can be identified from scenarios analysis to guide planning. These include understanding dynamics around energy, agriculture and food; acquiring farmland for agrovoltaics that maintain high food yields; stabilizing urban food costs; establishing community ownership models; connecting with government on new rules; and developing technological farming solutions that require new skills while reducing water usage and increasing food/energy output.

Backcasting scenarios can intersect with other strategic tools. For branding, scenarios inform brand, product and customer truths to future-proof positioning. For PESTLE analysis, scenarios provide future views of political, economic, technological and other factors. For lean canvases, scenarios help develop problems, solutions, metrics and unique value propositions aligned with future horizons and customer needs. This embeds foresight more deeply within organizational strategy and decision-making.

  • Backcasting involves working backwards from a desired future state to identify actions that can be taken in the present to help achieve that future. It is a useful technique for futures design work and gaining organizational acceptance.

  • Establishing a chief futurist role can help make futures thinking a core organizational capability rather than an occasional side project. The futurist would ensure futures discussions at board level and engage external expertise.

  • A chief futurist’s team may include creative directors, futures designers, signals analysts, and external specialists. They would undertake activities like signals scanning, trend analysis, scenario building, speculative fiction, and backcasting to link futures to present decisions.

  • Key roles proposed include the Chief Futurist as overall leader, Futures Creative Director overseeing projects, and Futures Design Leads managing specific initiatives. Content creators like employees and contractors would help develop and share the futures work.

  • When established effectively with executive support, a foresight capability using techniques like backcasting can result in improved strategic planning, communications, and organizational preparedness for the future.

The passage discusses establishing organizational capabilities for strategic foresight and futuring work. It proposes various roles within a Futures Design/Foresight capability, including:

  • Expert storytellers like authors, filmmakers and artists who work collaboratively to envision futures.

  • Signals and Trends Analysts who constantly scan for signs of change, add to a knowledge base, and link hypotheses about future trends.

  • An Organizational Futures Think Tank, composed of interdisciplinary thinkers who convene regularly to discuss policies, issues, and ideas to inform organizational thinking.

  • An “artists in residence” program that brings in diverse artists for 1-3 months to create experiences and thought-provoking art inspired by the organization’s work.

It also discusses governance, transparency and communicating futuring work to stakeholders. The concept of “futures consciousness” is introduced, which refers to an organizational mindset of ongoing futures scanning from every employee. Character traits of heightened futures consciousness are outlined. Finally, it discusses new modes of thinking like the “protopian” approach of aiming for incremental, constant progress towards better futures.

  • The author discusses the concept of “Protopian futures” proposed by Monika Bielskyte as an alternative to utopian visions of the future. Protopians portray the future positively while still addressing difficult problems through innovative solutions.

  • Bielskyte is working to develop the Protopia platform through collaborations with thinkers and artists to create visions of radically hopeful futures and open conversations about how to get there. She sees it as an iterative process rather than a fixed destination.

  • The author was initially skeptical of Protopian futures but is coming around to seeing it as complementary and challenging established futurist thinking by focusing on inclusion, diversity and real-world application.

  • Indigenous and ancestral perspectives are discussed as important to informing futures design work. References are made to pagan traditions, indigenous knowledge systems, and the Long Seventh Generation Principle of the Haudenosaunee people.

  • Overall the key point is that futures work should look to diverse knowledge systems, including indigenous cultures, for guidance in addressing modern challenges in a sustainable, long-term oriented way. Respecting ancestral perspectives is important.

  • The passage encourages considering positive possibilities for the future and using our imagination, which is our superpower, to visualize and plan for desirable futures through foresight.

  • Foresight can make imagination useful by applying it to organizations, government, communities and personal situations. This helps harness the power of imagination.

  • It emphasizes that everyone faces the future and choosing to do so together with an open mind and heart, with the goal of creating an equitable and progressive world, is imperative.

  • The overall message is optimistic and focuses on unity, cooperation, positive thinking and using our creativity and foresight to envision better futures for all. It calls on readers to look beyond present challenges and limitations to possibilities for progress if we work collectively towards shared goals of justice and improvement.

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About Matheus Puppe