Say you wanted to outline some future scenarios. Where would you begin?
A good place to start is to consider different possible interactions between a variety of technical and relational changes we can see unfolding today.
Many people and organisations pay attention to megatrends, some look at weak signals of emerging trends, and a few consider shifts in cultural norms and worldviews.
Mechanics and dynamics
I’ve borrowed the concept of mechanics and dynamics from game design to frame these different moving parts.
Mechanics are technical elements that can be observed.
In game design, these are the rules, tools, and processes that govern how a game is played. Finely tuned mechanics create the fun in games of skill.
In foresight, our mechanics are weak signals, trends, and the patterns of history. We look at what is already in motion, what is building momentum, and consider how these different forces might react when they come in contact.
Dynamics are relational elements that can be felt or experienced.
In game design, this is the underlying emotional logic of players or characters that drive their choices and actions. Dynamics are central to storytelling games.
In foresight, our dynamics are the worldviews, values, and goals of actors. We consider how people might make sense of what is happening around them.
The best of both worlds
Thinking about the futures just in terms of mechanics only tells half the story. To create future scenarios that compel us to act, we need to go beyond trend analysis and bring in the messy, human, relational aspects of what it means to live in that future.