Introduction

Originally written on September 2, 2014 by ti8
Last modified on December 1, 2017 by ti8

Technology shapes who we are and what we can be and do. With the accelerated pace of technological innovation it is becoming harder to keep pace with the impact technology has on our lives and the way we relate with each other – objects in the mirror are beginning to coincide with the mirror.

Creating future scenarios gives us agency, makes us realize the power and responsibility we have in long-term planning, and opens up the space for a rigorous conversation on ethics, design, toolmaking, privacy, authenticity, and other issues. Good scenario planning considers not just one, but multiple, carefully researched views of the future, comparing and contrasting them to decide on a course of action. As Peter Schwartz points out in The Art of the Long View, “the point is to make strategic decisions that will be sound for all plausible futures…. The end result, [of scenario planning], is not an accurate picture of tomorrow, but better decisions about the future.” Scenario planning using a systems view changes the way we see not only the future, but how we make decisions about the present as well.

In this class, students will develop skills in future scenario planning grounded in systems thinking and research about the present and the past. We will work together to determine a question that concerns us about our future five to ten years forward. From there, we will articulate factors that are relevant to the question: driving forces, current conditions and trends which can be extrapolated, and critical uncertainties. Using this research as both source material and constraint, students will split into groups to develop multiple scenarios describing the future date which the class is examining. Final projects will be a series of live group presentations of your scenario, with multimedia support as needed.

By the end of the class, students will:

  • Strengthen their ability to research technologies and their effects
  • Become familiar with systems thinking as a tool for planning and design
  • Gain a familiarity with with current approaches to scenario planning (e.g. Royal Dutch Shell, SRI, IFTF, etc.)
  • Strengthen both written and in-person presentation skills