A new NESTA paper, Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, navigates the myths and realities of good and bad futurology, from economic forecasting to science fiction.
Since time immemorial, people have tried to predict the future. In the second half of the 20th century, these efforts grew more ambitious and sophisticated. Improvements in computational power, data gathering, and analysis were all put to work to try to lift the veil on the future.
But the last decade has not been kind to futurology. Bankers’ and insurers’ forecasts of risk turned out to be drastically wrong, torpedoing the financial system and ushering in a long stagnation. Politicians’ visions of long-term stable economic growth evaporated. Perhaps relatedly, scathing critiques of our ability to foresee the future rose to the top of bestseller lists.
In this newly self-conscious mood, Nesta funded research that tries to get under the surface of different ways of talking about the future. This paper leans on that research, defending some forms of futurology.
The paper uses the image of a torch beam that shines forward in time to distinguish different ways of talking about the future. Imagine a hiker moving through unfamiliar territory using a torch equipped with a focusing lens. The narrower and more focused the beam, the brighter the light, and the more detail can be perceived about the probable path. However, an unexpected obstacle or event may force the hiker to take an alternative route and encounter dangers which were not lit up by the thin, bright torch beam. With an unfocused wider beam, the hiker can see less detail about any particular area, but is able to see some of the dangers and advantages of a wider range of plausible paths and potentially choose the preferable way forward.
Thinking about the future is not pointless or dangerous. The paper puts forward three maxims that show that thinking about the future in a structured way is not just useful, but essential
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Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]
Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.
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In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]