Futurists talk at Sngular 

"As for the future, your job is not to foresee it, but to enable it." — Antoine de St. Exupéry 

Speaker 1:  Ignacio Villoch

The future can't be predicted. It is designed, it is created. Examples: 
  • EU Horizon 2020 (past) 
  • United Nations 2030 Agenda 
  • Singapour's Land Transport Master Plan 
A useful tool is the cone of futures. It allows us to differentiate possible futures, plausible futures, probable futures and preferable futures. 
We consider trends — e.g. the demographic winter — and plan accordingly (or decide to ignore them). 
Unexpected Black Swan events such as the September 11 attacks happen but  Goals  often help you and guide you. 
Optimism is the most important factor in innovation. 

Five schools of thought of exponential implications: 

  • Dystopians:  AI and robots might cause mass unemployment , salary drops, economic crises, environmental disasters, etc. — Netflix's  Black Mirror
  • Productivity skeptics: growing inequality and stagnation of developed economies due to  Climate Change  costs, migrant crisis and demographic winter 
  • Realist optimists: economic growth, new jobs, increasing inequality between skilled and unskilled labor 
  • Optimist technologists: Economic growth and asymmetric growth due to exponential technologies. Need to invest in lifelong training. 
  • Utopians: abundance, immortality, exponential growth,  Basic Income , technological singularity,  Human Augmentation
"When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills." – Chinese  Proverb
Current challenges: 
  • Covid-19  — Ignacio says it's practically over 
  • Recession —  European Union  's funds will help to recover in 12-18 months according to Ignacio. 
  • Biodiversity Collapse  — It's going to pass like the U2 song: "With or without you" so better prepare for it 
Ignacio ended with a mention to his recent book "Una breve historia del futuro" — A brief history of the future:  https://www.casadellibro.com/libro-una-breve-histo...

Speaker 2:  Monica Quintana  — personal futures 

We live in a time when human progress is exponential. 
However, humans naturally think lineally due to evolution. We should try to think exponentially. 
Chimpanzees and humans share 98% of  DNA  and all amazing unique things that we humans have done are the result of that 2%. 
In the  Intelligence Staircase , we might coexist with a  Superintelligence  sooner than we expect. 
We live 4000 weeks. 
Cognitive Biases  help our brain to be more efficient. 
Some  Cognitive Biases  are related to time. For example, we often overestimate what we are able to do in a year but underestimate what we can do in ten. 
A brief history of  Time
  • Ancient civilizations — e.g.  Maya Civilization  considered time as a cycle due to sunlight, the Moon position, seasons, etc. 
  • Then some religions made us think lineally in terms of past, present and future. 
  • Now we face many potential futures which depend on what we do today. 

Tools to make better decisions as a person  #Decision-making

  • Discover who I am and what motivates me: Think and define my  Values
  • How do I see myself in my preferred potential future? How would my future be if I grow, keep stability, collapsed and transformed? Think in 10 years time about family, work, diet, exercise, etc. 
  • What steps backwards from my preferred future to today do I have to do? For example, if I want a Phd in 10 years, I need to start it 5 years before the end of the 10-year period.  #Backcasting
  • What am I going to do from today on? First, what I'm going to do today, then plan your  Goals  for this year, what do I need to learn (or unlearn) and how I commit to it and what next steps I am going to do. 
Monica is optimist because she and  Ignacio de la Torre  believe that  AI  will augment humans instead of replacing them. 
Therefore, she encourages each one of us to design what we want to be in the book of our life. 
Not only these methodologies are useful to discover what I want to be in the future and in business strategy, but in little things of our daily life. 
Why do we need to think in futures? 

How could we increase the chance that a potential future becomes a reality? 

We need to understand where we are, where we want to go and the variables and change vectors that take us from where we are to the future. 
Far and near into the feature depends on the environment. For example, at some points during  Covid-19  we didn't know what would happen in the following three months. 
Goals  need to be realistic. 
Future analysis started in the military to understand risks in the 40s-50s. Then, governments followed. If the ocean level increases, Hawaii would disappear. Another example is Dubai due to its current dependency on oil. 
We need to put down in words the potential futures to understand them — @hec:  Having a language helps us to see deeper
The space program of some countries are very modest compared to others, but it could change in 30 years. 
Some time ago it was difficult to predict that China could challenge the United States, but now it's not so far-fetched. 
As there are different potential futures, we should diversify. 

Basic elements of practical prospection 

We can't prepare for everything, but we cover the maximum possible futures and prepare our organisations so they are ready to face unexpected futures. 
Sustainability includes user, business and technology. 
We often solve a short-term "pain" and invest in "gains" in the medium and  Long-Term
We should plan and work in different time-frames despite the fact that we usually spend more resources in the short term. For example,  Facebook  works in different horizons: 


Conversations define  Trends
  • To know if the hype around something is growing, it's not as relevant the number of occurrences of a word as the conversations around those words. 
Sources to follow. The more number of sources, the better is the picture 
  • User Research 
  • Digital media 
  • Academia 
  • Employees 
  • Competition 
  • Partners 
  • Ecosystem in general 
Define problem -> Develop scenarios -> develop strategy 
Analyse concrete challenges. "Where will my company be in 20 years?" is too generic. "How about my product in 20 years? And how about the current technology of my product in 20 years?" That's more concrete. 
If you think about an industry in the future, it's convenient to define one or more users as they probably have different goals. E.g. doctors and patients in healthcare. 
We start evaluating many ideas and we end up working on a few of them — @hec: this is related to the  Design Diamond


  • Notion — knowledge management, team coordination, processes, etc. 
  • Feedly — aggregate webs, blogs, digital media, keywords, twitter, newsletters, reddit, RSS feeds, youtube channels, podcasts 
  • Graphext — data visualization, understand trends, segment 
  • Shaping Tomorrow (OCDE tool) — from megatrends (environment, diversity, etc.) to concrete trends and territories 
  • ffwd. (Fast Forward) — prospect signals and variables 

David Alayon  — future toolbox 

Jim Dator  says that strategic planification closes a future and the prospective planification opens it to multiple futures. 
David said that  Donella Meadows  has a brilliant book —  Thinking in Systems (book) by Donella Meadows  — where Donella says that our most important value has nothing to do with natural resources but with understanding different views at the time of making strategic decisions.  #Decision-making  @hec: This reminds me what  Alex Pentland  said:  "The biggest problem in the world is not climate change, war or poverty, but how we organise among ourselves to make good decisions and carry them out"
As the cone of futures, scenarios, backcasting and trends have been introduced by the previous speakers, David is talking about other ones: 

The wheel of futures 

  • It allows us to think in second and third degree to improve  Critical thinking  and  Systems thinking
  • Try to identify opportunities and risks which are not easily seen. 
  • First, it identifies first-order impacts. Then, for each first-order impact, it analyses second-order ones. And finally, third-order impacts. For example, a first-order impact of Facebook is to connect people. Second order impacts from connecting people are an address book, re-connecting with old friends and online stalking. 
  • In order to think about second- and third-order impacts, you think about PESTEL: Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, Ecologic, Legal and Technologic impacts. 
  • Then, you categorise which impacts are positive and which ones negative (for a an organisation or segment). Next, we explore scenarios, identify which ones we want to mitigate and which ones to promote and reach a plausible scenario. 

Futures Triangle — Pull of the future, Push of the present and Weight of history 

  • Once we identify a scenario that we'd like to promote, in the futures triangle we define what we need to take into account to design and promote it. 
  • It creates images of the future, aligns visions and identifies  Cognitive Biases  and promoters. 
  • We start with our desired future (Pull of the future), often with post-its. Then, we move into the Push: What things of the present push us to the desired future such as  Trends  and things that we're doing well that we want to promote, etc. Finally, probably the most important, what things from the past difficult us our progress. 
  • Next, the three corners of the triangle help us to identify things where we need to focus (Pull of the future), What we need to promote (Push of the present) and what things we need to leave aside, unlearn or change (Weight of history). 
Fred Polak  said that the progress of civilisations depends on their images of futures. If these images are utopian or dystopian, it will heavily influence where they end up. 

Speculative Design 

  • It makes people imagine things that don't exist but could in the future. 
  • It's often used as fiction design. 
  • The plan is not to be commercially successful at the moment of launch but change mindsets and/or position themselves. 
  • Examples: future IKEA catalog, Mercedes-Benz car of the future in CES every year, Amazon Drone Delivery, Amazon Go, etc. 
  • TV Series such as  Black Mirror  and Years and Years literally change the mentality and vision of a potential future. 
  • The great book that introduced the concept is  Speculative Everything (book) by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby

Look Back To Look Forward 

  • Creates a context and allow us to detect patterns. 
  • For example, to better understand what life can be after  Covid-19 , we should go back to SARS (2001-2009), to the Spanish Flue (1918-1945) and even to the black death. 
  • The book about the future of humanity  Homo Deus (book) by Yuval Noah Harari  is more reliable because  Yuval Noah Harari  wrote Sapiens (book) first — which deals with the history of humanity. 
  • We should look at the past double the time that the future. 
  • Paleofuture studies how previous generations saw the future. 
Video (in Spanish): 
Notes that link here:
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