A recent request on Twitter for anyone who had run a Future Backwards exercise predicting the pandemic set me on a mission. In 2005 English Nature (where I worked) had hosted a huge Climate Change Conference on behalf of the EEAC (European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils). I was asked to run the preliminary warm up day for the conference in Oxford, and I ran a Cognitive Edge based exercise which Dave Snowden named ‘future backwards’ looking at Today, the past, a worst case future (Hell) and a best case future (Heaven).
The conference was held near Oxford and attended by specialists in Climate Change from across Europe. Unfortunately because of the scale of the event and the logistics of running ten groups of 15 people in breakout rooms all across the hall I only have a few sample photographs of the outputs.
As you can see from these pictures almost ever group predicted the current pandemic on at least one of their hexxies.
This latter vision of ‘Hell’ is particularly chilling producing as it does, a small cluster of hexxies that include: Plague of unknown aetiology hits 80 million; Every nation for itself; UN dissolved; China/US war and just over to the left: European Union collapses.
I might just look back through my archive of pictures dating back as far as 1999 when Dave Snowden first introduced me to these participatory narrative inquiry methods.
It is interesting to look at the other issues raised around the different versions of ‘Hell’ shown here. Remember, these were all European experts specialising on the Environment/Climate Change. Lets just hope none of them prove to be as prophetic as these.