If you're not reading WorldChanging Ally #1 Bruce Sterling's weblog at Wired News, now's definitely the time to start. The class that he's teaching at Pasadena Art Center College of Design has embarked on an exploration of scenarios for the 2010 future of Southern California, the most provocative of which (and the one the class is now focusing on) is "Scout World":
In "Scout World," the threat is hysterically extreme but people are hysterically inventive! They're out beating the boundaries of the possible, looking for anything thatworks or even doesn't work!
"The Scout World society... will probably make quick (wrong?) decisions when the conflict between science and ethics rears its head. The growing population and aging demographics will continue to pose threats that cannot completely be answered with technology. Scout World denizens may put off long-term solutions... people also want to feel secure and install any gadget that they feel might enable them to cope with any catastrophe."
"Yeah, sure, we make mistakes here -- but we can make a MILLION brand-new mistakes super fast!"
For the last week, Bruce's blog has been filled with artifacts of this future -- magazine covers, newspaper headlines, and, most recently, product designs: what does something as simple as a bottle of apple juice look like in 2010? The students have come up with a variety of options. They've been using "personas" (or, as they've been called elsewhere, "microscenarios") -- stories of individuals, their lives, needs and desires -- as anchors for the designs. This is a standard technique in the world of design, but is increasingly becoming a useful tool for business and organizational strategists.
As with any set of scenarios, you don't have to agree with the assumptions or conclusions to learn something. And Bruce's posts on this project form a well-illustrated primer on the intersection of design, futurism, and innovation. I greatly look forward to what this group will come up with next.