I live in Perth in Western Australia. A place which is built on the enormous wealth of non-renewable natural resources in the ground and under the ocean floor. As a futurist, I naturally think about the future of this city.
What are some possible futures or future scenarios for Perth?
One of the pillars of futures studies is scenario design. Scenarios are images of the future, stories about possible futures, which (among other things) serve to inspire or instil hope or fear in people. Good scenarios allow us to step into them, feel part of them and almost live in them.
The four places in the image above are four regions with a history of resource wealth. Just like Perth. Histories with stories that started centuries ago.
One of the aspects of futures studies is history. We futurists look at past societies and civilisations to learn from them. Jim Dator, one of the giants of futures studies has identified four generic alternative futures, which seem to recur through history. These are described as follows, in Joseph Voros’ paper Galactic-scale macro-engineering: Looking for signs of other intelligent species, as an exercise in hope for our own:
- Continuation – the current historical trajectory continues, most usually conceived of as ‘continued economic growth’;
- Collapse – a breakdown of the social order due to one or more of a number of possible causes, such as economic instability, environmental overload, resource depletion, moral degeneration, military conflict such as an external attack or internal civil war, meteor/comet impact, etc;
- Disciplined Society – a society organized around some set of overarching values, whether ancient, traditional, ideological, natural, environmental, God-given, etc;
- Transformational Society – which sees the end of current forms of behaviour, beliefs, norms, or organization, and the main sub-variants are ‘emergence of new forms (rather than a return to older or traditional ones, as above), possibly even including intelligent life-forms. The two high-tech’ (technological) and ‘high-spirit’ (spiritual) transformation.
When I read these four alternative futures I thought of four different regions in the world as potential future scenarios for Perth:
1. Continuation – Dubai
“The emirate city has certainly changed more than others over the years, having grown from the seed of a sandy wasteland, struck gold, and transformed into a rich, diverse stretch of innovation, fast-becoming the cornerstone of architecture and culture. After stepping out of a financial crisis in the late 2000s, Dubai is back to its glittering best.”
From Virgin Travel – How Will Dubai Look in the Future.
2. Collapse – Klondike
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush, the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there on August 16, 1896 and, when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of prospectors. The journey proved too hard for many, and only between 30,000 and 40,000 arrived. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain and only around 4,000 struck gold. The Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1899 after gold was discovered in Nome, prompting an exodus from the Klondike. (From Wikipedia)
3. Disciplined Society – Kiruna
Kiruna is a boring town in Northern Sweden, which was founded in 1900. It quickly became an important seat for iron ore extraction and mining industry. The Swedish sensibility and discipline has kept it pretty much the same since then.
4. Transformational Society – California
a) The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma.
b) Today – despite the development of other high tech economic centres throughout the United States and the world, Silicon Valley continues to be a leading hub for high tech innovation and development, accounting for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States.
(Both quotes from wikipedia.)
These four stories are all possible for Perth. Of course there are many others. But it is nevertheless interesting to look at these for us Perth residents.
How would you live if you were to prepare for all these four scenarios?
How would you prepare to be open to all four possibilities; continuation, collapse, discipline and transformation?
Would you start saving money?
Would you get a mortgage?
Would you work harder?
Have more kids?
Move to the countryside or into the city centre?
Learn more languages?
Go back to university?
Quit your job?
Nurture your creative sides?
Would you stay or leave?
Would you do something to work towards or away from one of these scenarios?