inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #76 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Wed 30 Jan 13 13:15
    
Scott, Bruce -- the demographics analogy feels spot-on. In my own
scenario and world-building work, creating just for myself or to
undergird an independent project, that's the approach I like to take
(and Bruce, for the record, I am again in awe of your prose -- you
capture that 2080 feeling in a few short sentences in a way I only wish
I could).

For client-facing stuff, as a working futurist, this approach has its
risks. Most of the time, the scenarios and forecasts are created at
least in part by the clients in workshops, and they're usually not as
well-versed in the climate science as we are. Trying to build climate
change in as a context element, affecting everything, can too easily
lead to it disappearing into the background, or functionally replaced
by something like "sustainability." Pulling it out and making it an
explicit driver is more likely to push the clients into thinking about
it as a real issue -- but here the risk is making it seem like an
exogenous factor outside of our influence. These risks *can* be
avoided, but it's something that I have to give close attention over
the course of the engagement.

That's the thing about being a working futurist: I have to balance an
ability to think big, think philosophically about the possible futures
we face with the practical, hands-on work of using forecasts as a tool
for organizations making present-day decisions. I can't just dismiss
either one. The practical stuff pays the mortgage, while the
philosophical stuff makes the practical side meaningful.

<keta>, thank you for those links. It's good to remember that
"adaptation" has a strong emotional and psychological component, that
it's not simply a mechanical process. 

<jonl>, one thing that IFTF has been doing lately that I'm extremely
pleased with/proud of is a real effort to build new models of 21st
century governance. The recently-concluded "connected citizens" digital
workshop was a remarkable bit of idea generation:

http://www.iftf.org/future-now/article-detail/congrats-to-all-connected-citize
n-players/

One thing that keeps showing up as we consider many of these big
issues: the people who hold political/economic power are the ones who
stand to lose if we take real, immediate action. It's rare for the
incumbent powers to willingly give up -- but it does happen. Men voting
in the US to extend the vote to women; Gorbachev dissolving the Soviet
Union. It might be useful to dig into these kinds of events to see
what we can learn.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #77 of 99: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 31 Jan 13 09:13
    
Well, if being eloquent about reality can fix it, then maybe I can
preach to Brother Fire like Saint Francis did, and the smokestacks will
shut off just like that!
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #78 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 1 Feb 13 13:14
    
It's worth a shot.

One of the problems I have with futurism (or future studies,
futurology, forecasting, prediction, etc.) is that it's inherently a
high level exercise that can't get much into the details where, as we
all know, the devil resides. The best hard science fiction does get
into the details somewhat, and can be useful in steering our
assumptions and setting our expectations, but it doesn't focus on
problem resolution. I like the concept of design fiction, ficton that
has a deliverable. 

Viridian design was useful in coming at climate change from a
different angle, not hand-wringing or gut-wrenching environmentalism,
but a design movement that could probe for "bright green" solutions.

Then again, 2012 was the best year ever, I hear.
http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-week/leading-article/8789981/glad-tidings/
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #79 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Sun 3 Feb 13 10:51
    
The beauty of a scenario approach with multiple simultaneous futures
is that you can get into the weeds of details a bit without losing too
much of the forecast. It's a delicate thing, though; I've seen far too
many scenarios (including some of my own) that ultimately read like bad
science fiction: flat, uninteresting characters doing boring things in
a world that's overly-detailed in its descriptions of minutiae.

As I understand it, in science fiction you build the speculative world
to service the story; with scenarios, you build a story to service the
speculative world.

Two things unrelated to this.

The first is that, as I may have mentioned earlier in this
conversation, I've been going through what is now a
longer-than-a-month-long arthritis flare-up, and occasionally that
leaves me without much energy for doing things such as writing.
Apologies for the sporadic disappearances.

The second, and hopefully more interesting, is that in about a month
I'll be heading to the DC area to participate in a government-sponsored
exercise looking at the potential drivers and signals of non-state use
of chemical/biological weapons. I'm not an expert in the field, so
what I'm bringing to the table is a facility with thinking through
implications, making connections, and articulating different future
possibilities.

This is one of the things that makes being a futurist fun. Not all of
the work is the same "let's help a big company get bigger" corporate
work. Sometimes you get to work on stuff that's even more nightmarish.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #80 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 3 Feb 13 17:00
    
How do you prepare for something like that?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #81 of 99: From Paul Raven via E-mail (captward) Mon 4 Feb 13 03:01
    
Jamais;

"As I understand it, in science fiction you build the speculative
world to service the story; with scenarios, you build a story to
service the speculative world."

I just spent the whole weekend putting together a presentation that
argues exactly this point over the course of about 25 minutes; you just
did it in a sentence. So while I'm a bit irked at my own lack of
concision, I'm kinda relieved to find I hadn't come to an outlying
conclusion. :)

(That said, and detouring slightly into sf criticism mode, I'd argue
that the "world extrapolated from the novum" mode of sf is pretty
antiquated by this point, and largely only found in short stories
published by the 'Big Three' magazines. That said, they're
predominantly being replaced by more literary work that sidelines the
speculative-exploration side of things, but hey, I guess the
Singularitarian lobby has stepped up to fill the boosterism gap as far
as outlandish Panglossian skiffy is concerned... )
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #82 of 99: Gail (gail) Mon 4 Feb 13 09:47
    
Thanks for Paul for emailing the comment, and now as a bystander I
need help.  I get "Panglossian" since I read Candide long ago, but can
anybody around here parse "outlandish Panglossian skiffy" please?  Not
following... 
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #83 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 4 Feb 13 12:43
    
Science fiction derived from baseless optimism. ("Skiffy" a rendering
of "sci-fi").
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #84 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Mon 4 Feb 13 13:30
    
> How do you prepare for something like that?

Increase my dose of anti-depressants.

Try to catch up on some of the relevant literature on the state of
chem/bio weapons (in my case, having a friend from college who went on
to become the executive director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
helps). But for the most part, my role in this is not to be an expert
in the weapons or even the non-state actors, but to listen for ways to
make otherwise hard-to-spot connections.

Paul: Would you really say that big world building is no longer part
of big time SF? It may be my own reading biases at work, but Charlie
Stross, Iain Banks, and Vernon Vinge all seem to still be at it.

Gail: "...outlandish Panglossian skiffy" = science fiction
(scifi=skiffy) that portrays ridiculously wonderful or transformative
futures, largely without consideration of downsides, problems, or bugs
in the system.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #85 of 99: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 5 Feb 13 09:03
    
Got it. Towards utopian rather than towards distopian. Thanks.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #86 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Tue 5 Feb 13 09:38
    
To be careful, it's going towards an unmoored, irrational utopianism.
We should be careful not to sweep away all positive future scenarios at
the same time; some are more plausible than others.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #87 of 99: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Wed 6 Feb 13 07:12
    
Funny, I just happened to reread Roger Zelazny's The Last Defender of
Camelot last night. Summary: Lancelot lives 1000 years and is there
when Merlin wakes up in the present day. Merlin is ready to go right
back to utopian worldbuilding and Lancelot says, not so fast, human
nature has not changed much, the world is way too complex now, and a
pure idealist with power will end up doing way more harm than good.

I wanted to add another to my list to look at for places to start now
- Christopher Alexander, the architect, author of A Pattern Language. 
Especially look at the last chapters of A Luminous Ground, Book 4 of
his Nature of Order.  In those chapters he argues that you can "feel"
order (the presence or absence of "living structures"), and in fact
that one of a designer's most practical tools is honing one's attention
to how the abstract rules applied to the design result or dont result
in an emotional substance.

><keta>, thank you for those links. It's good to remember that
"adaptation" has a strong emotional and psychological component, that
it's not simply a mechanical process. 

Thanks for putting my comment in that context.  I personally don't
think you can separate the two, but the reality is that most everyone
begins with the assumption that they are self--evidently separate. 
That's what got me to thinking and remembering Alexander.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #88 of 99: From Scott Smith via E-Mail (captward) Wed 6 Feb 13 07:26
    
amais—you're correct when you point out the dangers of a binary
approach to drivers. Subtlety, and knowing when to surface an issue and
when to deal with it in the background are where the skills come in.
Forecasting in this sense isn't a machine process. It also depends on
the method or tool being used. Even scenarios can be a little too
binary. It's more analogous to cooking—knowing who you want to push
with new flavors, and who has a bland palate. Knowing when and how to
foreground the issue of climate change is important, just as knowing
when aging (to use my earlier example) is a critical driver and when
it's more of a background factor. Not all drivers are created equal in
all circumstances.

I agree that in some situations, 'sustainability' can be where facing
up to climate change goes to die, much like hiding the need for
alternatives behind 'resilience'. Another important skill is knowing
when to quietly block the escape routes so critical, in some cases
existential, issues aren't able to be swept away or sugar coated.

To rephrase my original response: climate change is now a given (we're
deep into the process of changing), and how we treat that given in
forecasting is driven by context. 

Great stuff by the way.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #89 of 99: . (mirmir) Thu 7 Feb 13 11:05
    
hello <cascio> 

do you venture any opinions about the shape of the future social
ethos?

to put another way, do you think the current social ethos of technique
& engineering will control the consensus in say, 2050?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #90 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Thu 7 Feb 13 13:50
    
Hi <mirmir>. That's an interesting question, if I'm interpreting it
correctly -- would you mind saying a little bit more about what you
mean?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #91 of 99: . (mirmir) Thu 7 Feb 13 15:57
    
if i have interpreted your previous posts correctly--and please
correct me if i haven't-- there is a current scientific and
materialist, can-do, engineering and technical ethos as to how our
society agrees to tackle our immediate and looming challenges.  

and i wonder if you think this controlling consensus will hold through
the next 50 years.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #92 of 99: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 8 Feb 13 08:36
    
Jamias, along those same lines, how about the future in terms of the
ways we manipulate the very data we use to find and forecast trends,
along with the shift to mobile as the 'seventh media' (as outlined by
Tomi Ahonen.

I caught this article by Wired, about the coming changes in what is
being termed the 'worldstream':

http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/the-end-of-the-web-computers-and-search-a
s-we-know-it/
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #93 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Mon 11 Feb 13 11:45
    
Hi folks. Sorry for the sudden silence.

<mirmir>, the "controlling consensus" will almost certainly be
scientific, but the engineering and technical mindset will very likely
change. Replace engineering and [hard, material] technology with
biology and ecosystems. The science is still there, but the perspective
is more Rachel Armstrong than Elon Musk.

<tcn>, I suspect we're still in the early days of figuring out how to
co-exist with the (soon to be) zettabytes of information we create.
Indexing, search, the Google-type interactions are fine, but are
limited -- they're becoming as clumsy as the typical file/directory
model for hard drive filesystems. We need something that can spot
subtle, second and third-order connections. This would probably be
considered AI, but the question is whether building an Artificial
Intuition system would lead to something more profound.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #94 of 99: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 11 Feb 13 12:14
    
Jamais, do you use game theory in planning strategies for future
scenarios?
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #95 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Mon 11 Feb 13 12:32
    
I don't, but I know that there are some more quantitatively-focused
foresight strategists who do. I take a more inductive/abductive
approach. I haven't seen good evidence (yet) that a more quantitative,
formally-structured methodology obtains significantly better results.

It will happen at some point, possibly soon.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #96 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Tue 12 Feb 13 15:01
    
Just FYI: I have a new essay at the University of Minnesota's new
environmental magazine Ensia -- "Shaping the Anthropocene"

http://ensia.com/voices/shaping-the-anthropocene/

Two bits of phrasing I use in the piece have already started to show
up in people's comments about the essay: "Anthropoforming" and "the
rats & kudzu future."
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #97 of 99: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 13 Feb 13 07:38
    
Sobering. Hadn't realized we were that far gone. But, it's good to
face the realities of scenarios ahead. Thanks for that.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #98 of 99: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 21 Feb 13 18:46
    
Many thanks to Jamais Cascio for taking so much time with us. Jamais
is working on a book, and we hope to have him back when it's published.
Meanwhile, you can find more from Jamais at his blog,
http://openthefuture.com.
  
inkwell.vue.460 : Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
permalink #99 of 99: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Thu 21 Feb 13 19:06
    
Thanks for the conversation, folks! And thank you, Jon, for the
invitation.
  



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