Friday, August 25, 2006

Honolulu Futures Salon: Jamais Cascio

This evening, HRCFS ran its sixth Futures Salon, hosted by Jackie Ward at the fabulous Ward's Rafters in Honolulu, with guest Jamais Cascio. Jamais, a futurist and scenario specialist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, presented and went on to lead a great discussion about the historical development of the scenario methodology in futures, the current state of play, and emerging varieties of immersive scenarios, including "artifacts from the future". Their crucial role in improving futures thinking, he suggested, lay in offering "provocation and evocation": encouraging us to think more deeply and creatively about our options. Rather than trying to predict the most likely future, they instead (at their best) describe plausible, compelling, internally coherent visions of, and stories leading from the present into, potential future worlds in which we could find ourselves. He offered some excellent insights into the "democratisation of futures", which is what he sees as the gradual supplanting (or supplementing) of broadcast-model "genius forecasting" with collaborative exploration.

An interesting method Jamais used to illustrate the useful application of this collaborative approach was a "futures mash-up", in which we each wrote down, on separate post-it notes, a trio of the next decade's possible trends, or events in the social, environmental, economic, political -- and yes, technological -- realms, then partnered with another participant to brainstorm on a fourth piece of paper some interesting possible consequences of matching any random pair. The future, he pointed out, is both exhilarating and frightening to consider, but, like the exercise, is best seen as a synthesis -- the result of what we do together.

All this is, not coincidentally, highly relevant to the "Hawaii 2050" kickoff happening in Honolulu on Saturday 26 August, where HRCFS is staging four alternative immersive futures, reflecting divergent possible paths for change in Hawaii, out to the year 02050, for participants to use as a basis for more meaningful discussion about decisions in the present day. At this event, Jamais (together with 500 of our closest friends) will have an opportunity to witness a Hawaiian take on the cutting edge of immersive future scenarios, as a provocation aimed at improving our collective futures conversation. More on this to come, but for now, mahalo nui loa to Jamais for joining us in Hawaii to share his ideas.

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