Universe Coherence

In respect for summer, we will keep this newsletter succinct. We hope yours has been easy—ours has pr


August 21 · Issue #30 · View online
A periodic look into research threads on critical futures, strategy, post-normal innovation, providing a look over the shoulder of the team at Changeist. Each issue includes brief analysis, links, updates, and occasional auditory hallucinations.

In respect for summer, we will keep this newsletter succinct. We hope yours has been easy—ours has provided us time to catch up on long-neglected housekeeping, catch up on writing assignments, work on some enjoyable projects, and do some important planning for the coming year. You will hear more about the latter bit soon.
One great collaboration came in this guise of a recent project collaboration for the Emerging Technologies team at the Royal Society in London. For it, we partnered with what’s best described as a micro-consortium led by Smithery, and containing talented designer Thomas Forsyth,  Stanley James Press, and students and teachers from London’s School 21. The product of this collaboration was a conceit called the Time Capsule Retrieval Service, described in detail by Smithery’s John Willshire in this post
The purpose of the TCRS was to bring to life the texture, possible impacts and implications of a series of scenarios developed by the Royal Society to engage scientists and policymakers thinking about possible futures. To do that, the Royal Society team chose to populate situations within these scenarios with artefacts that could provide entry points for curiosity and exploration, providing the dispersed details of daily life in these futures—as they might be captured by students creating time capsules—for others to stitch together. 
Our role in this was to provide not only some of the artefact concepts—such as the government-backed asteroid mining lottery scratch card picture above*—but to oversee what we called “universe coherence,” a kind of in-scenario plausibility/continuity supervision that ensured we were sensibly tracking alongside technological, social, economic and environmental change at a plausible pace. Think of it as a kind of worldbuilding quality assurance.
As we deal with materializing or depicting more complex, interconnected futures, and hug the terrain as well as describe these worlds from cloud level, more carefully considered universe coherence is a priority. These narratives have a greater number of moving parts, and are meant to be traversed by experts and public alike, so careful attention is paid to the speed of various pace layers, and a critical eye is cast on the effects of narrative sinks such as hype cycles. Time spent making sure the bits hang together pays off in richness and engagement.
We’re also experimenting more often with simple tools to assess scenario coherence, normativity, etc. We’ll report more as we learn.

*In this scenario, one element is a UN oversight of private asteroid mining licensing, pressuring mining companies to share benefits of mining as a condition of licensing. We played with the idea of a lottery as a form of crowdfunding to build financial support and public opinion favorable to possibly dangerous and messy offworld mining ventures bringing minerals back to Earth markets. Also, with the possibility of fantastical financial payoffs for those holding asteroid mineral rights, lottery prizes/revenue sharing might be equally substantial. 

How to Future
We’ve had some great sessions this summer—with diverse groups for a financial institution, government bodies and a venture development team—building better futuring capacity. 
1. While we still do multi-day workshops, we’ve broken out individual, 1-day modules to allows teams and organizations to focus on building the future skill they most need at the moment.
  • If you’re interested in building better future sensing capabilities, from desk to field, and creating collaborative systems for capturing these signals, check out Module 1: Sensing and Scanning
  • To spend more time on ways to draw actionable patterns, themes and implications out of your sensing work, Module 2: Sensemaking and Mapping is a great way to do that.
  • To explore the different ways scenarios can be developed and used, from probing macrostrategy to envisioning new innovation platforms, Module 3: Scenario Development and Use gets into the “how-tos” and “when-tos"of these tools.
  • Turning narratives into material objects and experiences that engage audiences and stakeholders is the focus of Module 4: Prototyping and Storytelling.
Each of these modules can be taught on site, with teams from ~8-30, in an engaging, interactive experience. Our goal is to build capacity in a way that fits the culture and workflows of each organization. Get in touch to discuss details, availability and costs. 
2. We’ve had numerous requests to run workshops for individuals and small groups, which we’re open to do. If you are interested in a workshop, but have a group smaller than 8-10, we’re happy to combine several groups to get to a viable course size—interactive exercises work best with a diversity of teams. 
Also, if you are in an organization, like a charity or other third-sector group, that would like to sponsor or support a workshop for mixed groups, get in touch with Susan Cox-Smith to discuss how we can make it happen.
**Lastly, we’re likely to be in SE Asia, mainly Singapore, in mid-December. Anyone interested in setting up a workshop, let us know and we can discuss scheduling.
If you know of someone who may be interested in what we offer, please forward this, send them to howtofuture.com, or follow @howtofuture.
On The Agenda
Time Capsule Retrieval Service Time Capsule Retrieval Service
New Transport Horizons or Mobility Spam?
Connecting Perspectives To Enrich Common Futures
How Will We Work? - Vienna Biennale 2017: Roboter. Arbeit. Unsere Zukunft How Will We Work? - Vienna Biennale 2017: Roboter. Arbeit. Unsere Zukunft
Dutch National Algorithm by Sjef van Gaalen
Speculative and Critical Design Summer School
Universe Coherence
On the Obsolescence of the Bourgeois Novel in the Anthropocene
4C | Bight | Coast
Turnton Docklands Opening | Time's Up - Laboratory for the Construction of Experimental Situations
While schedules are always subject to change, here’s a list of some of our upcoming travel in case you want to meet and have a chat.
- Short notice, but Scott will be in London this coming week for various conversations. DM @changeist to connect.
- Susan will be attending Episodic in London October 20. DM @hauspa to connect.
- As mentioned above, both are likely to be in SE Asia in December. DM either to discuss a talk, workshop or event.
As always, if this is not of interest, feel free to unsubscribe. If you think a friend or colleague would benefit from what we share, please pass this on or recommend.
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Future New Mastic, Long Island NY, as imagined for the Bight project above.
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