Note — Jun 12, 2022

How to Eat the Future

At Real Life, Cameron Kunzelman reviews Jane McGonigal’s career and most recent book, Imaginable. The article was discussed in the members’ Discord, Johannes had some follow-up thoughts you should read. Basically, in corporate foresight “most scenarios are evaluated simply on metrics of success (from revenue to attention) and not on aspects like indirect consequences, possible discrimination, exploitation, and many other effects on people and groups in society or even the planet.”

Kunzelman and Kleske make good points I agree with, and some have raised the argument that it’s hard to get this kind of nuance and critique done in a corporate setting. I’d like to go less “pro” and recommend the piece as a good opportunity to see that the ‘s’ in futures is not only for the multiplicity of possibilities to invent, but for the multiplicity of sources and biases in those already in use and being sold. We need to invent new one, but also to understand those that already exist.

People are already speculating about the future, they are doing it in large groups, and they are doing it structurally. We do not have a shortage of future-thinking. We have a shortage of thinking about how different ideological futures compete with one another, a problem that McGonigal is not interested in addressing. […]

The problem is not getting people to dream together; the problem is in how to bring dreams together in a way that is good, equitable, and just in a way that the past has not been […]

Our era is governed and embattled with the imagination, and it is not clear to me McGonigal’s self-help of the imagination, does much more than allow me to play with a mental model of a catastrophe of my own invention, rather than the disaster we’re living through in the present