Describing a distributed, asynchronous method for identifying multiple narrative paths to alternative futures, using the Futurescaper software platform as a way to generate Harman's Fan scenario explorations.
Bishop, Hines, Collins – over 23 different scenario or futures image creation methods, with more being invented daily – this presents a rough grouping of methods by their various process design ‘shapes’ – narratives, connectivity-focussed, tabular, and deductive/axes-based.
Scenarios are often discussed as instruments for improving strategic perspectives – indeed, that seems to be an overarching focus of ‘scenario planning’ – but they are also excellent vehicles to enhance innovation and product research – as our systems-based scenarios for Pepsico and the Industrial Research Institute demonstrated, and also to enhance other futures and foresight activities – eg, as precursors to visioning, or as exploratory in assessing the relative costs and benefits of impacts of changes identified in horizon scanning.
The various information sources that we use don't always provide a clear message about where we are and where we are heading. Indeed, it is naïve to think that the truth can reside in a single source of data or a particular model. To an extent, this reflects the usual noise in the various types of information, as well as uncertainty about the strength of different economic relationships. Combining information from a variety of sources, and models, typically results in more robust conclusions than relying exclusively on a single source.
For several years we have presented confidence intervals for GDP growth and inflation forecasts in the Statement (Graph 2). These summarise the extent of uncertainty based on previous forecast errors. Since February of last year, we have also published an unemployment rate forecast and confidence intervals around that.
In addition to confidence intervals, the forecasting process leads us to think about the risks associated with specific economic developments and to quantify those where possible. Each quarter, we discuss a range of scenarios that explore how the economy might respond under conditions that vary from the central case. For example, what if commodity prices, the exchange rate or overseas economic conditions evolve differently to the paths embedded in our central forecasts? These exercises help us to identify events that could have a meaningful effect on the economy and to which policymakers may need to respond.
The discovery of chaotic dynamics implies that deterministic systems may not be predictable in any meaningful sense. The best-known source of unpredictability is sensitivity to initial conditions (popularly known as the butterfly effect), in which small errors or disturbances grow exponentially. However, there are many other sources of uncertainty in nonlinear dynamics. We provide an informal overview of some of these, with an emphasis on the underlying geometry in phase space. The main topics are the butterfly effect, uncertainty in initial conditions in non-chaotic systems, such as coin tossing, heteroclinic connections leading to apparently random switching between states, topological complexity of basin boundaries, bifurcations (popularly known as tipping points) and collisions of chaotic attractors. We briefly discuss possible ways to detect, exploit or mitigate these effects. The paper is intended for non-specialists.
Sensitivity to initial conditions generates uncertainty about the trajectory of the system within a known attractor, given a point on that trajectory. A further level of uncertainty arises when there are several attractors. Now a basic question is: for given initial conditions, which attractor does the system converge towards? The associated geometry focuses on basins of attraction. The basin of an attractor is the set of initial conditions in phase space whose trajectories converge to that attractor.
best used after some inventory / review / sharing / discussion of trends and emerging changes helps people digest / process the various trends / changes they've discussed compressed 'mini-scenarios' format challenging in way that spurs creativity ‘mini-scenarios' let people express specific focussed impacts on discrete components of issue AND encourages discussion about where their individual perspectives come from or what influences them emphasises alternativity expanding over time / widening field of uncertainty - and the importance of not dismissing the ridiculous too soon (female dominated society and food and water wars were laughed at initially, then we talked birth rates, CRISPR, matriarchy in Asian culture, tiger mothers etc. – and got to one potentially influencing the other as a kind of Mad Max Asian diaspora drawing on essentialist feminism and Earth Mother cues) multiple time horizons accommodate different rates of maturity of key trends and emerging changes – this one has been a good example of how hard it is to go out 50 years compared to 20 or 30, so it was critical to look at rate of change globally as well as HK culturally i.e. reflecting on 97 and hundreds of years of colonialism, also cycles of change, ruling empires/dynasties in history etc. once we’d done that it got so much easier to see the possibilities in 50 years, especially for kids just under 5 and yet to be born 'hopscotch' storyline design choices generates multiple narratives of emergence – and adds to creativity plus scope to design the intervention to prevent the unwanted/dystopian futures
ORI BAM Warwick Scenarios 2018 Crowdsourcing Harman's Fan
Fan A distributed, asynchronous method
for identifying multiple narrative paths
to alternative futures
Dr Wendy L Schultz
10 December 2018
Causal Layered Analysis
Uncertainties as Logics,
Scenario Parameter Matrix
FAR Futures Table
HARMAN FAN, 1
In An Incomplete Guide to the
Future (Norton Publishers, 1979),
Willis Harman describes an
inventive approach to extrapolating
forward into the future: creating a
fan of potential mini-scenarios -
'future states of the system' -
dispersing out from the current state
of play. Multiple narratives can be
created by choosing different paths
across potential future states as
stepping stones into alternative
HARMAN FAN, 2
1. IDENTIFY 22 different future possible states of the
system, expressed as short, vivid titles or headlines (see
Wack on simplicity). May be brainstormed in a
workshop, or result of expert research.
2. ORGANIZE these future states in a fan model based on
assumptions whether any given state may occur sooner
or later in the chronology than the others.
3. CONNECT possible sequences through time of different
states. The evolution from one state into the next
becomes a future scenario; multiple sequences may be
specified, creating multiple alternative futures.
Access without exam
All have access
This Harman Fan contains possible future
states of universities. They have been
organized in chronological order from
sooner to later in the evolution process. By
clicking on each of the states, a description
can be obtained.
HARMAN FAN, 3
HARMAN FAN, 4
Bookless All have access
The tailor-made on-line university
This scenario assumes that we move from our
current university towards more distant learning
– a ‘satellite university’ that slowly replaces all
hardcopy learning. Working with digital media
makes it easier to let students study at their
own pace, leading to a ‘no-calendar’ university.
Since universities will become widely
accessible with marginal extra costs and higher
marginal outputs per dollar invested, the
government will finally provide access to all
prospective students with repayable grants,
which will be deducted from their income over
the professional life of the graduates.
HARMAN FAN, 5
2028 2038 2048 2058 2068
LEADS TO LIMIT
ON USE OF A/C
HARBOR IS A
IN SOLAR POWER
END OF SAR;
EXPAND LAND –
NO MORE FREEDOM
FOOD + WATER
OVER 1 MN
DIGITAL CURFEWS –
WALKING & TEXTING
HARMAN FAN, 6
• Best used after some review of emerging changes
• Helps people digest / process the changes they’ve been presented
• ‘Mini-scenarios' format challenging in way that spurs creativity
• ‘Mini-scenarios' let people express specific impacts on issue
• Encourages discussing assumptions and biases
• Emphasises alternativity expanding over time and importance of
not rejecting the ridiculous too soon
• Multiple time horizons accommodate different rates of maturity
of key trends and emerging changes
• ‘Hopscotch' storyline design choices generate multiple narratives
of emergence PLUS scope to design the intervention to prevent
the unwanted/dystopian futures
changes that they
think are most
their likely causes
CHANGE, IMPACTS –
• Short, fast,
• Simple questions
build futures wheels
• Common words link
to create emergent
• Ability to crowdsource Harman’s Fan
• Making use of the possibility:
• Fastest / cheapest: Crowdsource the impact
cascades, let the research team write up variant
• Faster / workshop boost: Crowdsource the impact
cascades prior to a workshop, let participants
explore variant narratives and express them
• Fast / design + experiential futures: Crowdsource
the impact cascades, design artifacts for each node,
let participants create the future by walking into it.