Imagining the future

22 March 2013

There is a lot of pseudo-scientific claptrap published about the future. There are people who carefully extrapolate trends, construct complex scenarios, weight many outcomes, some of whom necessarily get some things right through sheer chance, but many of whom appear to rely on nobody checking back from the future to see how well they did.

The future doesn’t have to be analysed, of course. It can also be imagined. Some imaginings are pure and unashamed fantasy. Others are based on thoughtful consideration of what the not very distant future might look like, based on the often overlooked premise that ‘the future is going to be like the present, only with extra layers’ – though tempered by the earlier thought from the same author that ‘trying to second-guess the near future is increasingly impossible’.

But imagination is not just for science fiction writers. More than a little surprisingly, Consult Hyperion, who describe themselves as ‘thought leaders in digital money and digital identity’ organise an annual competition ‘to develop links between the financial industry and creative practitioners from around the world’.

This year’s challenge was to design a future financial crime. I got to see the shortlisted entries being presented last week, and they have now been published online. I was particularly taken with the eventual winner, Bigshot:

What happens at the convergence of Anonymous Routing, Crypto-Anarchy and Crowd Funding?

In 2013, the individual is capable of wielding more power than ever before. The proliferation of anonymous, web based technologies will enable this yield exponentially, creating the potential for devious criminal activity on a scale never before possible. Imagine a world where dangerous minds have a public platform to solicit support from anyone with an internet connection.

That world is imagined in this video – well worth three minutes of your time.

As well as being an entertaining piece of dystopian thinking, I think it’s worth thinking about the approach more generally. Kudos to Dave Birch and the Consult Hyperion team for having the imagination and confidence for introducing this kind of experimental creativity into a sector not renowned for it. But the cross fertilisation of business strategy and creative arts has equal potential elsewhere. Back in 2006, I noted the splendid performance of the Helsinki Complaints Choir, which does precisely what the name suggests (and is worth another eight minutes). And in a sense, this reframing of the context, forcing a different view of an issue, is what service designers do as, for example, this extract from Snook’s principles shows:

We generate innovative concepts by making space, mentally and physically to be creative and take risks. Design is not just about incremental change and service design but about systems and transformation.

It would be great to apply artistic creativity more widely to understand the futures we might build and the futures which might create the environment in which we build. Perhaps Bigshot will give us the means to crowdsource it.

2 comments

Interesting video – although there’s a very weird moment at 2.25 where Nigel Farage pops up.

by Miles on 22 March 2013 at 4:25 pm. #

And if you look carefully, at 2.51 Gordon Brown is the prime minister, sometime after 2015.

by Public Strategist on 22 March 2013 at 4:30 pm. #