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The echo chamber buster, the real food guru and the digital doorway

Concepts from an introduction to future scenarios

A teenage girl lives in a world of 2030 characterised by low migration and low climate change. More people are opting to stay close to home than in previous generations, enjoying stable localised economies. Climate change is manageable - thanks to the rise of renewable energy and technologies to support efficiency, a permaculture-based agricultural system and the popularisation of plant-based diets. The challenges? Social interaction is limited due to increasing polarisation of perspective and echo chambers of interest, giving rise to social tensions and inhibiting innovation.

This was one of three scenarios devised in a two-hour workshop I ran at Hong Kong’s nakedHub on Wednesday night. The team that created it also devised an ingenious way to expand that 12-year old’s horizons: a wearable app that would monitor her social encounters and award her points when she spent time with people of other political and ideological persuasions. Thanks to this app, she braves the world of meat-eaters rather than stick with her vegan friends; she travels to Egypt rather than spend her holidays in Hong Kong; she visits the local synagogue to understand Jewish culture…

In another scenario, the world of 2030 is shaped by an ageing population and a highly automated society. Jobs are in short supply, and healthcare in high demand. High precision health interventions are delivered by robots - but what about long-term emotional support and tailored guidance in navigating the many high-tech options? Rising to this challenge, another team devised a ‘digital doorway’, functioning a bit like a long-life dating app to connect healthcare coaches with people of all ages.

Finally, in a high-tech world with high levels of migration, a young Filipino leaves behind the overdrawn soils of a failing farming community to find himself in Sydney - where all low-skilled jobs have long since disappeared. Farming itself is seen as an idyll of times-gone-by, with 95% of food grown in low-energy, robot-run high-rise hydroponics. What can he possibly do to make a living? He creates an immersive 'man-made food' experience, enabling people to discover for themselves the forgotten pleasures of sewing seeds and harvesting fruit…

Here’s what the combination of a structured scenario planning process and rapid prototyping can do for your awareness of future risks and creative imagination - and in the space of one short evening! If you’d like to give it a go, look out for my next Introduction to Future Scenarios, or drop me a note to explore an inhouse exercise for your company.

Finally, here are some comments on the workshop from participants - gathered anonymously through SurveyMonkey:

"It made us think outside of the box and make connections to themes and topics that would conventionally seem unrelated. It was great to be in a creative space that can do with innovative thinking."​

"In a short period of time, a small somewhat diverse set of people did a creative mind journey together that helped us all - individually and collectively - view the world a bit differently."

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