Minds on the future
Show and tell
Stuar t Candy
Fly me to tomorrow
ithin a generation, those unable to afford time
outside Toronto’s dense urban environment will
resort to Nature Deﬁcit Disorder Clinics, where
they will get essential dietary supplements along with
simulated rainforests and birdsong.
In Singapore, a popular museum exhibition will
chart the startling social transformations over the previ-
ous few decades in romance, sex and marriage, includ-
ing the introduction of state-subsidised love robots to
maintain well-being across the population.
Mexico City will be subject to severe ﬂooding, and
a peer-to-peer emergency service called Operación
Axolotl will emerge as citizens help meet each other’s
By 2044, young people in North Carolina will face a
critical choice at the age of 18: whether to let life’s slings
and arrows take their natural course, or to accept the
wonders of modern medical technology and become, in
How can anyone possibly claim to predict all this,
you may ask? Actually I’m not predicting that these
things will happen—even though I witnessed them all
As an experiential futurist my job is to create, and
to help others create, transmedia situations where such
possibilities can be thought, felt and used to make better
decisions. In this practice, all media are fair game for
bringing futures to life, from interactive performances to
physical artifacts, from video to food: whatever enlivens
a future scenario as a potential reality-in-waiting.
If Andy Clark, a cognitive scientist at the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh, is right, thought isn’t conﬁned to the
boundaries of our skulls. We think with our environ-
ments. The map or smartphone in your pocket is a de-
liberate extension of your thought processes.
We can design situations that help us understand
possible futures by visiting them. How much more pow-
erful this is than the white papers and slideshows that
are the typical focus of future-gazing in boardrooms and
Driven by the irrepressible human urge to bring our
inner worlds to life, the culture of public imagination
is set to make a leap: in coming years we can expect to
see more and more companies, governments, advocacy
organisations and communities creating and sharing
experiential futures. The sooner we learn to use and de-
mocratise collective imagination to dramatise our alter-
natives, the more powerful will be our capacity to shape
change towards just and worthwhile ends.
Stuar t Candy : director of the Situation Lab and assistant professor of strategic
foresight and innovation at OCAD University in Toronto, and fellow of the Long
We can design situations
that help us better understand
possible futures by visiting them
We may end up with the
best of both worlds
chief economist, IBM
in aggregate the data they record can be useful in understanding the pace of activity in the
economy as a whole—and some companies now provide such data.
For example, Intuit offers a small-business employment index. Zillow releases property
Commerce tracks retail trends daily.
Prices Project offers price indices based on online data. Goog-
le’s data on searches for “jobs”, “hiring” and the like are used
to extract good estimates of the current unemployment rate.
These data series are not as extensive or as detailed as the
ofﬁcial government ones. But they are much more timely. Over the next decade, we will see
increased use of such sources by governments and central banks. By using statistical methods
to combine the low-frequency but carefully constructed government numbers with the high-
frequency private-sector data, we may end up with the best of both worlds: ﬁgures that are
both accurate and timely. Combining the public and private data won’t give us a crystal ball to
predict where the economy is going, but it will give us better information about where we are
right now—and that should be a big step towards better economic policy.