Sep 23, 2020

2 min read

Speculating on the future

We focus too much on what has happened and not enough on what could happen. We take too much of a narrow view of what is happening — through the lens of questions & hypotheses that have been framed in a very different context than we’re in now.

We depend too much on static indicators as well as privatised insights or polling from commercial data that has been created to sell products, rather than from the lived experience of people navigating the present. We don’t spend sufficient time learning lessons from the past or assume in the future everything will be the same as now.

We don’t invest as much in planning future scenarios, let alone simulating them, or developing more inclusive and participative futures. With the pandemic, we might think it’s too late to model the future or that’s it caught up with and submerged us like a tsunami.

However, it’s an even more important time to model the spread of the virus and the impact of interventions, impact of measures on the economy, impact of the interventions on our communities, businesses and other ways of living to understand how best to work together.

If we want to move beyond modelling of trends, how about using speculative design to help prefigure potential futures and test the following?

  • Impact of our behaviours on the environment (i.e. as councils have done introducing pop up cycle lanes)
  • Acceleration of the decline of high streets to reinvent an economy of proximity or a last mile economy
  • Acceleration of distribution to reverse to more local and ethical production & distribution of food
  • Impact of sharing platforms to help match assets to needs at both a personal level (i.e. food help) and an institutional one
  • Impact of policy interventions on social norms (i.e. offering everyone sleeping on the streets accommodation is changing the norm of rough sleeping being acceptable in our society)
  • Widening gap between ethical and unethical businesses (between those not remunerating dividends and instead paying health insurance to their staff and those telling people they can go and get a job elsewhere)