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Cascio on the Utility of Futurism

Jamais Cascio explains the cognitive benefits of good futurist methodology:

Foresight exercises that result in a single future story are rarely as useful as they appear, because we can’t predict the future. The goal of futures thinking isn’t to make predictions; the goal is to look for surprising implications. By crafting multiple futures (each focused on your core dilemma), you can look at your issues from differing perspectives, and try to dig out what happens when critical drivers collide in various ways.

Whatever you come up with, you’ll be wrong. The future that does eventually emerge will almost certainly not look like the scenarios you construct. However, it’s possible to be wrong in useful ways–good scenarios will trigger minor epiphanies (what more traditional consultants usually call “aha!” moments), giving you clues about what to keep an eye out for that you otherwise would have missed.

Yes. I would add that such thought experiments also help to improve pattern recognition in analyzing reality. From teasing out logically sound, if fictional, consequences, we become more discerning about recognizing causation and potential second and third order effects of events or policy choices.


3 Responses to “Cascio on the Utility of Futurism”

  1. onparkstreet Says:

    I am not a science fiction reader, but it always amuses me, and fascinates, when someone will pop up in a comments section and say, "hey, this scenario was already gamed out by," such-and-such a SF author.
    I guess, like a lot of stuff in real life, practice makes, well, not so much perfect, as better!
    Interesting post.
    – Madhu

  2. Jaqui Says:

    I am relieved that Cascio admits that he has been wrong on global warming. The dogmatic certainty displayed by the true believers in the church of climate devastation has been a huge disappointment to one who wants to see the best in all people.

    Perhaps there is hope for Cascio yet, although he has a lot to make up for.

  3. zen Says:

    Hi Jaqui,
    I am not a big fan of climate dystopianism either but Jamais seems to have been moving in the multiple-scenario direction for at least a year, which is good. Leaves the big picture dynamic rather than static.

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