Where's Waldo? (and by "Waldo" I mean me)
This has already been a busy year, and it's just getting more hectic.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've talked bioterrorism near DC and sustainability in the snows of Minneapolis. I'm now immersed in the Institute for the Future's annual Ten-Year Forecast production. A couple more quick talks (non-public, sadly) are on the calendar for the next month or so, too.
The Minneapolis talk was for ENSIA, the new environmental media project from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. I spoke about different scenarios of what a sustainable future could look like -- one driven by politics and control, one driven by community and resilience, and one driven by experimentation and technology. There will be a video of the talk real soon now, and the audio will be made available by Minnesota Public Radio. Links to come.
In the lead-up to the talk, I was interviewed by Midwest Energy News (one of the sponsors of the ENSIA Live! events); it's a brief but good conversation, with (unsurprisingly) a bit of a focus on energy. It can be found here.
[MWEN:] When many of us think about the future, we extrapolate out from today’s conditions. But if you look back over the last couple of decades, you can see numerous events that few people expected, such as the Internet boom, smart phones, or the natural gas boom. How do you, as a professional futurist, go about predicting the future better than the rest of us?
[Jamais:] Actually the term "prediction" has become something of a dirty word in the futurist community because of the implication it has of telling you the one thing that will happen. The term most of us tend to use these days is "forecasting," which is a parallel concept, but the implications are less precise. You hear about a weather forecast, and you know going in that it’s not telling you what will happen, but that it’s a best estimate based on everything that we know.
More critically, most professional futurists these days talk in terms of scenarios, of multiple possible futures. It’s irresponsible to say, here’s the one thing that you know will happen—end of story. You can only talk about multiple possible futures because of this potential for surprises, for complex interactions of disparate dynamic forces.
In addition, a few months ago the comic book author Brian Wood asked if I'd be willing to write an introduction to the trade paperback collection of the first six issues of The Massive, his new graphic novel series taking place after a global environmental catastrophe. It's an intense story, and worth reading. The collection will be available April 2. My intro essay, "Life After the Apocalypse," is available now as part of Wired's interview with Brian. Here's a taste:
The Massive gives us a different, and essentially unique, take on the story of the end of the world. It doesn’t revel in destruction; when scenes describing the planetary crisis show up, they make clear that this was a true disaster, not a disaster movie. Millions have died, in dirty, tragic, and decidedly noncinematic ways. Instead, The Massive is a story of the necessity of resilience. While it leads us through the catastrophic aftermath of the Crash, we soon see that survival here is not the purpose in and of itself -- it's survival with the hope of making things better, even while recognizing that the old world's legacies (in materials and ideologies) yet remain.
But it’s a hope of making things better, not a guarantee[…] The old ways will fight to retain a stranglehold on civilization, no matter how pathological their effects. While Ninth Wave reminds us that this isn’t the only option, it too has to contend with a world coping with collapse. Compromises are inevitable— but compromise isn’t the same as surrender.
Lots of fun stuff on the horizon, including a (likely) trip to Kosovo!