Sci-fi as Foresight Methods: Science Fiction Prototyping, Future Personas, 6 Archetypes

Sci-fi as Foresight Methods: Science Fiction Prototyping, Future Personas, 6 Archetypes

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What's going on everybody?! so if you're  interested in futures and foresight   you might have heard that science fiction  can be used as foresight, or that foresight   practice can actually draw from science fiction  to imagine the futures. In fact, in the past decade   the interest in using science fiction as a  form of foresight has literally skyrocketed,   with many organizations purportedly  doing it, as you can see just a few here.   But what does it mean to use science fiction  as a form of foresight? well in this video I will try to explain that by sharing with you three  "science fiction as foresight" methods that I think   are great, and that is science fiction prototyping,  future personas and the six archetypes framework.   And along the way I will also share with you  my personal opinion on when and how to use   each method. But before we start, one disclaimer: everything I say in this video is evidence based,   and you will find all the references I've  used to create this video in the description   box down below. If what I'm going to say is not  evidence based, but just my opinion, I will say it.   Okay so let's jump right in! first of all,  science fiction as foresight methods can be used   for four main objectives, and that is first: product  innovation, second: reflection or inspiration,   third: engagement with an audience, and fourth:  expanding the boundaries of scenarios imagination.  

Now, I'm going to explain each and every one  of those objectives along the way, but for now   just keep them in mind because they will be super  useful when we're going to be looking at what each   method can do for us. Okay that being said, let's  get down to brass tacks. The first science fiction   as foresight method that I want to share with you is  science fiction prototyping. This is also by far   the most common and widely used method among the  ones I'm going to share with you. Science fiction   prototyping was developed by Brian David Johnson  when he was working at intel and then popularized   in his book "Science Fiction Prototyping".  Science fiction prototyping is a method  

that allows us to create short pieces of fiction,  or as the name says, science fiction prototypes.   More specifically, science fiction prototypes  are short stories, movies or comics   about scientifically grounded present technologies,  their potential developments in the future, and   their potential implications for future societies.  In other words, science fiction prototypes are not   prototypes in a narrow engineering sense,  and that is, they are not early versions of   products or services to be eventually sold in  the future. Instead, they are short versions of   science fiction creations, and that is, stories,  movies or comics about potentially engineerable   technological prototypes that may or may not  physically appear in the future. So how do we   create science fiction prototypes? well Brian  David Johnson has a five-steps procedure, but   I think that is quite confusing because some steps  overlap with each other, so I'm going to share with   you a more parsimonious four-steps approach.  In the first step, we choose the technology   and the underlying science about which we want to  develop the science fiction prototype. For example,  

an emerging technology that would allow us to  build a robotic dog, or a new scientific discovery   that would allow us to manufacture a medicine  that would make us live longer. We can do this   either by researching the scientific literature  in a specific domain of interest, or based on the   emerging technological developments of our lab, if  our organization is doing research and development.   In the second step, we speculate on the  future implications of the technology   for the society at large. Is it improving or  worsening people's lives? are there any risks?   is it solving current problems? is it creating  new ones? are there solutions to such problems?   etc. In the third step, we convey the answers to  these questions in a story. Here is where we need   to think of who are the characters of the story,  including the protagonists, and their experiences. 

Ideally, the story should feature some  conflict or climax where the characters'   experiences are brought to the extreme,  maybe because the technology chosen is   even putting their lives in danger, and also  a resolution, where the conflict is solved.   Finally, in the fourth and last step, we use the  story as an instrument of learning. We ask what   could have been done differently to prevent the  conflict in the story and thus what should we   pay attention to in, the present, when we design and  further develop such technology. So as you can see  

there are at least three basic elements of a good  science fiction prototype. First: the technology   itself, but not only that. Also, second: the future  context where such technology can plausibly exist.   And since this context is social in nature, also  third: the fictional people who are in contact   with such technology. Now, this is super important  because if we go back to our four objectives of  

science fiction as foresight methods, we can see  that science fiction prototyping covers the first   three out of four objectives, so we can choose  to design our science fiction prototypes with a   heavier focus on one of the three elements I just  mentioned, and that is, technology, context or people,   based on which specific objective we want to  achieve. For example, if our science fiction   prototype is meant to encourage or inspire  engineers or scientists in an organization   to innovate products, then we would emphasize the  technology. If with the science fiction prototype   we want to sensitize policy makers to understand  the social implications of an emerging technology,   then we would emphasize the context. And,  if our science fiction prototype is meant   to emotionally connect with an audience, creating  engagement perhaps because we want to communicate   the potential of a technology to an organization, then we would emphasize the people in the story.  

So as you can see science fiction prototyping  is a great and flexible tool that can help us   to achieve a number of objectives. That being  said, for me the real question is: how can   science fiction prototypes enhance a futures and  foresight approach? and that is, an approach that   looks at a multiplicity of futures in the external  environment. And in my opinion the answer to that   question is that science fiction prototypes  should be used as add-ons to scenario planning   in a futures and foresight project, rather than  as a substitute to it. And that is because   the two are complementary with each other. On  one hand, the detail of analysis of multiple   external environments that can be achieved with  a well done, thorough scenario planning process   is unlikely to be achieved with science fiction  prototypes. In fact, in the original science fiction  

prototyping method, the detail of analysis of  the external environment was not emphasized,   nor was the multiple futures perspective. But  on the other hand, science fiction prototypes   can make up for the often weak narrative and  sensorial component of scenarios when it comes   to experiencing technologies in the future. In  fact, although scenarios are often described as   stories, they are, yes, stories. But they are stories  of the external environment describing a society   in the future, and oftentimes do not involve people  and their everyday experiences and interactions   with future technologies. Scenarios are macro-level and abstract. Science fiction prototyping is  

individual-level, concrete and technologically  focused. So my recommendation is that, to get   the best out of both worlds, we should use one  scenario planning method of choice, and then,   if we have any specific technologies we want to  zero in on within those scenarios, we also create   one science fiction prototype for each scenario.  And this recommendation leads me to the second   science fiction as foresight method that I want to share  with you. The second science fiction as foresight   method that I want to share with you is the future  persona. Now as I said, science fiction prototypes   are great when we want to enhance the narrative  and sensorial component of scenarios if we have   specific technologies within those scenarios  that we want to talk about. But what if we want  

to make our scenarios more narratively engaging  and interesting to an audience, but we don't have   those technologies we want to talk about? Well,  that is the case when we create future personas.   The future persona is a method I have personally  developed when I was an assistant to my mentor and   scenario planning executive educator Clement Wang  at Nus Business School in Singapore. The future   persona method consists in creating fictional  future characters inhabiting future scenarios,   and this is to expose the key takeaways  of each scenario through the description   of these characters' daily life, actions and  psychology, to literally bring scenarios to life.  

In the article where I formally introduced this  method, I explained a seven-steps procedure to   create personas, but let me share with you  a more simplified four-steps approach here.   This method assumes that a set of scenarios has  already been created, so in the first step, we   create a fact sheet for each scenario, distilling  its key information, such as narrative overview, key   facts and depending who the scenarios are for, the  implications of each scenario for the organization,   policy makers, or the community of interest. So  if we have four scenarios, we will create four   scenario fact sheets. In the second step, for  each scenario fact sheet, we create a future  

persona fact sheet, distilling the key features  of a fictional character living in that scenario,   such as demographical information, socio-economic  status, and most importantly mindset and values.   While doing this, we keep in mind what elements  of each scenario we want to reflect through the   personas. Usually, the mindset and values are the  most important component because they reflect   the social and ideological values of the future  scenarios. To help this process, we can also connect   each persona's fact sheet with the corresponding  scenario fact sheet using arrows and lines.   In the third step, we write a short day-in-life  narrative conveying the key points of each   persona's factsheet in a narrative form. For  example, a future persona's typical day at  

work in the future and some potential problems he  or she might face is a great way to give away a   lot of key information about its corresponding  scenario, from jobs of the future to the common   mindset of individuals in that scenario, and so on.  Finally, in the fourth and last step, we illustrate   the personas with lively images, either digital  or hand-drawn, which really bring them to life in   the minds of an audience, and here is where we can  give free rein to our science fiction creativity.   So in the end, we will have one persona for each  scenario. So if we go back to our four objectives  

of science fiction as foresight methods, we can  see that the future persona really focuses on the   third objective, and that is, creating an emotional  engagement with an audience, which makes it a great   tool to communicate scenarios, to an organization,  to policy makers, or to a community of interest.   And that is because the target audience would  perceive the personas as real human beings living   in the future, which helps them connect with and  remember the scenarios. In other words, the future   persona singles out the advantageous component  of science fiction prototyping as stories about   people, while at the same time doing away with  the necessity to have an underlying technology.   On the top of that, as a recent article published  by Vallet and colleagues about this method pointed   out, if we choose to modify this method and create  more than one persona for each scenario, this   method can also help us to showcase how different  groups of people perceive the scenarios differently.  

Now, as far as my opinion on how to use this  method, well, that goes along the lines of my   opinion on science fiction prototyping. I think we  should use it as an add-on to scenario planning   rather than as a substitute, and that is because,  like science fiction prototypes, this method makes   up for something that scenarios often lack, in this  case, it is the communicating aspect of scenarios.   Now, at this point you might have  realized that we have talked about   three out of four of the original science  fiction as foresight methods' objectives   but we haven't talked about the fourth objective,  and that is, expanding the boundaries of scenarios   imagination, which leads me to the third science  fiction as foresight method I want to share with you.   The third and last science fiction as foresight  method that I want to share with you is the six   archetypes framework. This method was developed by  me and my doctoral advisor, professor Song Zhaoli,   also at Nus Business School in Singapore, as an  update to Jim Dator's four archetypes framework.   And by the way, if you don't know what that  is, you can take a look at this video, where   I have explained that in detail. To develop this  method, we have analyzed 140 science fiction films  

with the purpose in mind to extract predetermined  images of the future, or archetypes, of the external   environment, to help scenario planners to think  about the futures more transformatively. Especially   about future shocks and disruptions. In other words,  we have created this scenario planning method from   science fiction with the idea in mind to, indeed,  expand the boundaries of scenarios imagination.   Now, the procedure to create scenarios using  this method is very similar to Jim Dator's   four archetypes method, and it goes like this.  In the first step, we identify all the major   driving forces affecting the futures, for example,  certain developments in artificial intelligence.  

In the second step, we interpret the behavior of  the driving forces in the six predetermined images   of the future, or archetypes, that give the name to  this method. These are: Growth and Decay, a future of   continuation of the current growth trajectory,  but also with elements of social decadence.   Threats and New Hopes: a future where  an incoming threat significantly   challenges the status quo globally, and forces  humanity to build new resilience capabilities.   Wasteworlds: a future where a catastrophic event or  phenomenon transforms the atmospheric environment,   and the world regresses due to scarcity of  resources. Disarray: a future of disorder,   with high levels of war, famine,  epidemics, disinformation or social unrest.  

Inversion: a future where a transformational event  or phenomenon inverts human beings sovereignty   over the globe, and The Powers that Be: a future  where a totalitarian or dictatorial regime   significantly decreases the agency of  organizations and individuals globally.   Interpreting the behavior of the driving  forces using these archetypes means that,   for each archetype, we ask: how would the set of  driving forces identified behave, together, if this   archetype were to occur? effectively pre-imposing  the archetypes before creating scenarios.   And finally, based on this interpretation, we  write scenario narratives, making sure that   each scenario reflects the key features of each  archetype, as in this guideline table provided in   the article that formally introduced this method.  The table compares the six archetypes against   the five STEEP dimensions, and that is, social, technological, economic, environmental and political.  

So as you can see this method uses science  fiction as a conceptual framework to actually   build the scenarios. So this is a full-fledged  scenario planning method rather than an add-on   to scenario planning like science fiction  prototypes and future personas, and as such, it   can be and should be combined with science fiction  prototypes and future personas to enhance the three   objectives we have been talking about, and that is,  it can be combined with science fiction prototypes   when we want to enhance product innovation,  reflection or inspiration and emotional engagement   with an audience when we have a technology  we want to talk about within the scenarios,   and it can be combined with future personas when  we want to enhance the engagement with an audience   but we don't have that technology. On the top of  that and, no matter if we combine this method with   science fiction prototypes or future personas,  this method is also generally a very good   pick when we want to enhance the preparedness of  an organization to disruptive futures of crisis,   and in this it is arguably better than other more  traditional scenario planning methods, and that is   because this method draws from science fiction,  which is rather creative and disruptive. In fact,   each of the six archetypes contains some elements  of crisis and shocks in the external environment.  

Okay! so now you know all the major science fiction  as foresight methods, which is great! but to be fair,   also let me share with you the major challenges  of these methods. Because these methods involve   the adaptation of science fiction, which is a genre that is not primarily meant for foresight practice,   as foresight methods, the risks in applying these  methods are that, 1) the output is not plausible,   only curiously entertaining, and 2) the output is  not revealing enough of the scenarios because they   are framed as science fiction mystery thrillers.  So to prevent these risks you will have to be   conscious of them and make sure to strike the  right balance between plausibility and speculation,   and between mystery and detail. And that is why  I recommend to use one scenario planning method   in combination with either science fiction  prototyping or future personas as add-ons.   Because if you do that, you can emphasize  plausibility and detail in the scenarios,   and speculation and mystery in the scenario  add-ons, thus achieving the best of both worlds.  

Okay, so this was just my take on what I believe are the best science fiction as   foresight methods out there, but for sure there are  other methods, and for sure they are just as great!   so I really hope that you liked this video  and I really hope that it helped you  to understand how to do foresight for yourself  or for your organization. If you did, I would super   appreciate you give me a thumbs up and subscribe  to my YouTube channel! that would really mean a   lot to me and it would encourage me to do more of  these videos! and !'ll see you in the next one! ciao!

2021-02-17 02:57

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