Note — Jun 19, 2022

Facing the Strategic Sublime: Scenario Planning as Gothic Narrative

I’ve kept this one last of the featured article because I’m trying to balance “futures” topics with others, and because it’s a long and academic(ish) read, which might not be everyone’s thing. However, it is highly recommended if you are interested in futures work/foresight/scenarios, with a really good overview of the practice, and why it’s needed. Then the authors delve into why they think gothic narratives might be a better fit than science fiction, and that “the sublime” plays an important role. They also come again and again to one of the ways futures can be useful and why I’m paying attention to those practices in our current context: as we saw in Old Thinking Will Break Your Brain, we operate with outdated worldviews, here the authors talk about “mental models,” “inner models of reality,” “views of the world,” and “existing frame of reference.” All roughly similar and all in need of being reassessed and reconstructed.

Scenarios are not forecasts that predict likely futures, but spaces in which unexamined assumptions can be confronted and potentially suspended or transformed. They are aesthetic depictions of plausible futures that enable us to re-examine our current understanding of our environment, appreciating the power of uncertainty and its capacity to inspire fear and wonder. […]

Rather than predicting or assigning probabilities to future events, scenario planning develops plausible futures in order to challenge assumptions and mental models in the present.