Shermon Cruz Director at the Center for Engaged Foresight is one of the speakers and workshop facilitators at the 5th Asia-Pacific Futures Network Conference & 1st ASEAN Foresight Knowledge Exchange. Hosted in Bangkok for the second time, the 5th APFN conference intends to take a three-track approach catering for practitioners, academic researchers, and government leaders simultaneously. The organizers of the conference intend also to increase the profile of the work futurists are doing especially in the ASEAN region. This year Thailand is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Thailand is also actively discussing the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Digital Economy 4.0 and other futures-oriented themes.

This years’ conference seeks to understand the changing futures of Asia with a concentration on ASEAN. Our focus, in particular, is on ASEAN 2030. Thematic areas for the conference are economy, knowledge, and security. Based on current trends, what might the region look like in a decade? What are emerging issues/disruptors that could take change this trajectory? And what are the alternative futures of ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific. 

For more and registration please proceed to APFN 5 official link https://sites.google.com/view/apfn2019/home

Peachie Dioquino – Valera, Futures Learning Advisor at the Center for Engaged Foresight, will be joining as a discussant at the East-West Center Human AI Symposium this September 7-10 Honolulu, Hawaii.

This symposium is part of an intercultural, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary East-West Center (EWC) initiative aimed at engaging the societal challenges and opportunities that are emerging with advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and big data. The purposes of the initiative are: to establish an ongoing forum for exploring differences in understanding the goal of aligning artificial intelligence with human values and societal wellbeing; to foster globally-shared commitments to equitable and humane artificial intelligence; and, to engage emerging perspectives on the evolving interplay of people, artificial intelligence, and related technologies. 

https://www.eastwestcenter.org/…/humane-ai-i…/2019-symposium

Resilience Frontiers, Korea Global Adaptation Week 2019. Photo by the UNFCC 2019

What might a day in the life of a person feel like in a climate-changed world? If you were to wake up in a climate resilient futures Ala Rip Van Winkle say in the year 2050 and was given the privilege to ask at least ten questions, what questions would you ask? What might a climate-changed future be or how might a climate resilient world look like from a futures standpoint? How can emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, big data and blockchain strengthen people, and communities resilience to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change? If technological growth is exponential, are humans and systems capacities to adapt exponential enough to meet new challenges of a fast-changing climate? In what ways can emerging technologies drive innovations in climate change adaptation? How might futures literacy or the future impact people and institutions perspectives on climate change? What new visions, new questions, and leadership thought streams could emerge when visionaries and thought leaders apply anticipatory tools to innovate and imagine alternative future worlds?

These among many other frontier issues were explored, imagined, debated and deliberated by 100 global visionaries and thought leaders in five-days of collective intelligence and brain-swarming sessions at Resilience Frontiers of the Korea Global Adaptation Week from April 8-12, 2019 held at the Songdo, Convensia, Incheon, South Korea.

The sessions employed UNESCO’s Futures Literacy Laboratory Framework and Futur/io’s Moonshot Approach to deconstruct and reconstruct climate change futures.

Resilience Frontiers is an inter-agency effort undertaken by the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Secretariat in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre, EIT Climate-KIC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Global Water Partnership, the Green Climate Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

According to the UNFCC, climate change adaptation means solutions or actions that respond to current and future climate change impacts. Adaptation is systemic and structural (social, technological, economic, political, cultural, ethical) changes in responding to mitigate the impacts of and create opportunities from climate change.

Waking up in a Brave New World: Rip Meets Sophia 12.0

Imagine you were Rip Van Winkle who was deep asleep for the last twenty years; wakened up by Sophia, 12.0, an advanced AI, in a brave new world. Wandering, perplexed and confused, you’ve begun asking people what, how and why the new world.

Using a technological frame and imagining themselves as Rip Van Winkle struggling to make sense of the new world, participants were asked to ideate and list 10 personal questions about the future in which they woke up.

The participants were clustered around four emerging technology themes: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, satellite technology, and sustainability ethos. The groups were asked to ideate, write or list their questions about the world in which they woke up. Anchored on the probable impacts of the fourth industrial revolution, participants reflected on the convergence points of these technologies to explore probable futures.

I was tasked to facilitate one of the four Artificial Intelligence (AI) groups. Questions below were the most compelling that participants came up with. These were shared with the group and later to the plenary. The questions were also shared via social media:

  • Are there still programmers?
  • Is AI opensource and creative?
  • Can we trust data? Can we trust AI?
  • Are AIs used under human supervision or are they completely autonomous?
  • Was AI the best solution to climate change problems?
  • Can AI help mitigate the causes and impacts of climate change?
  • Was AI able to help reduce global temperatures to 1.5 degrees?
  • Do we have augmented human intelligence – body/machine interfaces?
  • Do most people work to make a living?
  • Do we have the resources we need to build and deploy AI tools and solutions?
  • Are Big Techs owning AI?
  • Are algorithms certified?
  • Is AI empathetic?
  • Do you trust AI?
  • Has quantum computing broken through?
  • Do AI technological solutions currently exist to solve some of the problems related to climate change?
  • Has general AI been developed and deployed?
  • Are we dependent on AI for survival?
  • Is seed AI a reality?
  • Has technology helped us in preventing/countering famine, wars and other global challenges?
  • Have machines taken over power?
  • Has politics become AI?
  • Do we have AI continents?
  • Are governments in charge of designing AIs we are relying on?
  • Is there a stable and effective to enforce global cooperation?
  • Am I living in a liberal-democratic nation-state?
  • Is China running the AI show?
  • Is AI regulated?
  • Are AIs regulating resource allowance? Work assignments? Schedules? Politics?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Influencing Futures of Basic Needs

The next session had the participants reshuffled around five basic needs to survive and thrive in a climate-changed world: Food, Water, Nature, Human Security, and Health.

The groups were asked to take the discussion points from the probable futures of technologies session and explored their convergence points and impacts to futures of basic needs. Each participant were again asked to ideate individually, reflect on them and share their ideas and insights to the group. The group would then report back to the plenary to share the group’s output.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addressing the Korea Global Adaptation Week. Photo by UNFCC 2019

I facilitated one of the groups that tackled food futures. Below is a summary of the groups’ output on the future of food in a climate-changed world:

  • Technology or ethos discussed: Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Blockchain
  • Key points that summarized their discussion: 1) Technology, when it aids for production, is promising! 2) There is a need for an integrated farmers systems that universalize access to trade and markets and that helps and sustains them to stay resilient; 3) There is a need for a technology enabling global food system that guarantees food safety, security and sustainability.
  • Hashtag for each key points: 1) #foodcanfixit; #osmosis; 2) #resilientto1.5C; 3) #unchainedfood; #ALOHAS; #singularfood
  • Brief Thematic Title: Resiliocene or Sustainology

Envisioning Desirable Futures via Moonshot Thinking

Climate change, its magnitude, and multiplicities of impacts, real or imagined, to people and communities are huge wicked problems. Business as usual solutions is usually not enough to solve complex global challenges like a pandemic, food crisis, water crisis, species extinction, terrorism, etc. Simplistic or one size fits all solutions makes wicked problems even more wicked. Tackling wicked problems such as climate change requires individuals, people, organizations and systems to imagine and do the impossible. In other words, you need to shoot for the moon or create wicked opportunities to address wicked problems!

Moonshot thinking according to Google X is the creation of ridiculous ideas or solutions that borders between reality and sci-fi! Moonshot thinking is all about taking on global-scale problems with radical solutions through some form of breakthrough technology with 10X more impact. Netflix disrupting streaming, AirBnB disrupting hotels, Uber disrupting public transportation, Tesla PowerWall disrupting energy storage, self-driving cars, power loons providing internet to everyone are examples of moonshot ideas and solutions creating more impact.

The first moonshot sessions enabled participants to learn foundational moonshot via future/io’s structured, design thinking inspired and Zen-like approach to moonshot thinking. Building on Day 1’s discussions and output of probable futures, participants envisioned their desirable futures, individually reflected on it and designed moonshot ideas in breakthrough technologies to solve food, water, security, nature and health problems. Here are some of the participants’ moonshot ideas in a climate-resilient world:

  • Remote sensing energy irrigation systems and aggregation platforms that facilitate sustainability and that support smallholders farming/farms access to fair markets, manage climate shocks and avert losses;
  • Transparent pricing systems for agricultural products through blockchain and application based systems that compute agricultural carbon emissions. The system transforms consumer choices and empowers them in their investment decisions supporting climate-resilient food systems and choices.
  • Outdoor working transport pods connecting people and nature to create healthier homes and a better working world. Less physical and more virtualized services reduce carbon emissions during construction and operations.

Reframing: Breaking Free from the Business as Usual Trap

The moonshot thinking session allowed participants to imagine their desirable futures by conceptualizing, inventing or improvising a breakthrough technology or new sustainable practices to create a climate resilient world. Building on their previous discussions on the convergence points of emerging technologies, they were able to reflect on some radical solutions to some huge problems facing food, security, water, health and nature futures. What I have shared here was just the tip of the iceberg as participants might have roughly conceptualized around 50 moonshots.

Now the reframing session was about enabling participants to question their probable and desirable futures. By identifying the gaps and making upfront their biases about the future of basic needs and knowing what informs or drives them in perceiving alternatives and in imagining a climate resilient world, participants were able to distance themselves from their probable and desired futures and think of alternative ideas and questions their assumptions of the future.

Questions such as was our probable and desirable futures a used, purchased or default futures? Was our moonshot ideas driven by the status quo? Were our assumptions about desirable futures business as usual driven? What are the gaps or what were our biases in imagining probable and desirable futures of a climate resilient world? Were our moonshots bold, daring, radical or ridiculous enough to create 10x more growth and 10x more impact? Or were these moonshots a byproduct of trends? were asked to trigger conversations at the reframing session. Tools such as the Causal Layered Analysis and the DESTEP framework were learned and applied to push the boundaries of extrapolation, map and deepen participants analyses and insights and explore the unimagined or unthought of.

The session began with the head of UNESCO’s futures literacy Riel Miller’s short video explaining the context and intent of reframing via the futures literacy laboratory framework. According to Riel, reframing is all about imagining the future without paying attention to probabilities or desirability. Reframing is about abandoning the idea that the future is something that we want to get to but rather reframing is the place where we play by using our imagination, a critical resource, the future. It is an attempt to rethink without being constrained by reality. Reframing is an exercise where we invent a world that we have not seen before. It has to with unique creations and acknowledging that the future is fluid and open requiring a change in the conditions of change. For more about UNESCO’s futures literacy laboratories and the learning intensive society, check and download https://www.routledge.com/Transforming-the-Future-Open-Access-Anticipation-in-the-21st-Century/Miller/p/book/9781138485877

Questioning Assumptions about Food Futures via Causal Layered Analysis

CLA or the Causal Layered Analysis is one of the most powerful foresight theory and tools used by futurists and policy analysts to analyze and integrate diverse modes of knowing reality to explore plausible futures. The tool is applied not for its predictive value but it allows end-users to peek layers of, vertical and horizontal, plausible futures. The real or the future can be deconstructed, understood and re-imagined at different levels namely: the news headlines or the litany and quantitative trends; systems – STEEPLE analysis or technical analysis backed by data; worldview – the deeper values that are actor-invariant or discourses we use to understand or frame an issue; and the metaphor or myth level of analysis that incorporates emotional feelings, the narrative that constitutes reality or the inner story level of experience that gives meaning to beliefs, values or cognitions. For more about the Causal Layered Analysis, check or grab a copy of CLA readers at http://www.metafuture.org/product/cla-reader-and-cla-2-0-pdfs/.

The group that deconstructed their assumptions of probable and desirable futures, the food group, in particular, acknowledged their biases in that each of them interprets the problem as they’ve experienced them. The fact was that they were influenced or that they’ve held onto some deeply held views or value propositions to what and how must the future of food be and should be like. It was difficult to distance oneself from the analysis and it was even more challenging to imagine the future beyond the business as usual. Via the CLA, knowing our cognitive biases enabled participants to not just be aware of them but to open up, disclose and share these biases for a deeper and more inclusive, sublime or perhaps a more spiritually or emotionally connected, or for lack of a better word, mindful or being-full conversation.

Youssef Nassef, Director, Adaptation, UNFCC welcomes the facilitators and participants of the Resilience Frontiers. Photo by UNFCC 2019.

Participants were able to individually and collectively reflect on what their biases in their assumptions were and questioned them. The breadth and depth and the layers of the group’s reflections revealed a previously dormant futures assumptions. The quality and inclusiveness in the conversations, the content and contexts were surprisingly different from what was imagined or discussed on Day 1. Some unique ideas and perspectives of alternatives hit the group and me, as a facilitator, to the core. The group began to re-frame the future by questioning them at different levels of reality.

News headlines – What if there are no one way of getting people or farmers organized to scale and upscale their interests in production, consumption, trade, and markets, etc. at the local and global levels? What if singularity or homogeneity leads to oppression or authoritarianism? What if our choices evolve into something more heterogeneous and not homogeneous? What if all that has been or that what we’ve had previously assumed or imagined are disrupted by some certain events like a global catastrophe that leads to global food crises? What if this one singular desired future or breakthrough technology increases single point of failure types of risks? What if suddenly our body mutates into something that requires lesser physical food? What if the food we eat becomes weirder? What if the way we produced and consumed food evolved into something really strange (something that was un-imagined in 2019)? What if we humans due to some human body induced, tech-altering human natural biology suspends or totally ends the feeling of hunger or need of food in human bodies (i.e. neural food ends human hunger in 2040)?

Worldviews – The bias of scalability is in itself a problem; The bias that I have the solution to every problem and jumping straight to a solution or our tendency to commit ourselves to a singular solution blinds us from knowing what the problem really is, is the problem. This holds us back from being, from knowing, from experimenting and innovating; Being super optimistic or being overly pessimistic is a negative cognitive bias.

Metaphor – Our tendency to upscale, intensify; the human addiction to speed and growth; the pursuit for excellence is our fatal flaw. The strong belief or the mindset to expect an outcome is a perceptual and behavioral bias. The expectation of an outcome is a corrosive cognitive bias. It shuts us off from imagining an alternative story of the future; of life and progress. (To be continued…)

What is futures literacy? What is futures thinking? What makes a futures literate person? How can we use the future in different ways? How do we make sense of it or “use the future” to change the conditions of change and transform the way we perceive and imagine child and adolescent futures? What are the products or possible outcomes or potential impacts of futures thinking and literacy to child and adolescent issues and concerns? How can a UNICEF facilitator build a futures-driven skillset and use anticipatory ideas, systems and processes to increase UNICEF stakeholders and partners capacity to use the future to innovate today?

From a policy and community development perspective, what might the futures of HIV treatment and services, adolescent engagements to governance and inclusive education access look like in the year 2030? What are the trends, the emerging issues and drivers of child futures at the local and global levels? How might it look and feel like for a child to live in an alternative future world where every child is free and protected from cyber abuse and exploitation?  What might a day in the life of a child be like in a world where every child can express themselves, develop their full potential and capacity and become active change agents of civil societies and communities? How can we better engage parents and families in reproductive health and create a stronger support system in the protection of the child from cyber world, physical and verbal abuse? Are UNICEF trainers and facilitators optimistic or pessimistic about their power and capacity to influence the future?

These are some of the ideas, topics and questions that participating UNICEF trainers and facilitators collaboratively questioned, debated and explored through the futures thinking and futures literacy workshop organized by UNICEF and facilitated by the Center for Engaged Foresight, a premier strategic foresight and futures literacy hub in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific. Around 25 UNICEF trainers and facilitators participated in the 2.5 days’ workshop held on November 22-25, 2018 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig city Philippines.

The workshop was designed to introduce futures thinking and train UNICEF facilitators to become futures literate.

This workshop aimed to provide an open and safe space for UNICEF trainers and facilitators to survey and align diverse hopes, interests and perceptions about the future by learning futures thinking and developing futures literacy skills. The imperative of this workshop was not to fix or resolve a specific policy issue or to engineer a new solution but rather to elucidate the value of futures literacy and foresight in child protection and adolescent development. The project sought to engage participants in a collective reflection and spurred their creativity in the difficult task of questioning used and default futures, reframing and reflecting the future of the child in a world driven by emerging technologies, the cyberspace, social networks, family, multiple identities, climate change, etc.

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Playing anticipatory assumptions via the Futures Triangle. 2018.

Integrating Futures Thinking and Futures Literacy

Learning the importance of context and knowing how to use anticipatory systems and processes in different ways makes a futures literate person. The participants organized into groups explored the futures of the following topics:

  • Youth engagement and participation in governance
  • Access HIV/AIDS education, prevention, treatment and management
  • Cyber Child Protection Policy
  • Reproductive Health Implementation in the Philippines
  • Inclusive and Equitable Access to Education in the Philippines

The UNICEF workshop integrates five of the six pillars of futures thinking with UNESCO’s futures literacy process:

Reveal. To question and reveal participants contexts and assumptions about the future and that of their chosen topics, mapping tools such as futures in motion, the Polak game, shared history and futures triangle futures techniques were applied.

Rethink and Reframe. To learn how to rethink and reframe ways of knowing and perceiving futures and learn the value of imagination in the creation of alternatives and preferred futures – anticipating, creating alternatives and deepening futures techniques were used: emerging issues analysis, the thing from the future game, STEEEP analysis, double variable scenario method, storytelling and prototype construction.

Reflect and Consolidate. This focused on participants reflecting on the process, their transformed futures and aligning the same with one’s personal values or future visions including capturing what was learned, what might work or not, some tips on futures facilitation and more importantly participants thoughts, ideas, feedback, comments and experiences about the workshop and futures literacy as a system or as process, as a concept or as a tool to trigger and manage social transformation. Possible next steps were explored. To do this, creative visualization techniques and questions such as what is the overall feeling? what were the lessons learned? what are the key takeaways? and what are the possible next steps? were asked in a brainstorming, feedback and Q&A session.

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Futures Literacy for UNICEF Facilitators Workshop. Manila. 2018

Anticipation through emergence: transforming child and adolescent preferred futures

Having been able to draw out four scenarios, the groups were then asked to choose their preferred future of the issue they had been working on. They were then given boxes of materials, colored papers, paper cups and plates, popsicle sticks, scissors, tape, paste, magazines, and other art materials to make a prototype of their preferred future.  The groups were asked to make the prototype as vivid a representation of their preferred future as possible. They were asked to give a title for their prototype and can answer questions about it. By doing the prototype, the participants could have a tangible representation of the future they want and are working on to achieve.

Building prototypes enables participates to demonstrate, test and refine their alternative future worlds and encourages invention with a purpose in mind. It allows participates to provide in more details into their stories of for instance a day in the life of child in alternative future environments (i.e. the future of HIV or anti-child pornography in the Philippines). It makes more vivid or visual the stories of alternative futures that participants create. Building prototypes brings workshop participants alternative and preferred futures to life. It helps them to go beyond preconceived notions of the future and explore alternatives as much and as deep as they can.

The participants presented in plenary through lively and creative narration of their transformed futures prototypes: 1) The Peak – In Pursuit of Filipino Excellence and Well Being One Step at a Time; 2) Fantasia Our Reality – Zero Stigma, Zero New Cases, Zero deaths in the Philippines; 3) The Village of Clouds (Barangay Langit) – A Safe Haven for Kids; 4) Pangarap kong Bayan (The Town that I Dream Of) and 5) Freddy’s Dioaramic Future. The scenario narratives will be shared by UNICEF in a publication this year. A UNICEF futures literacy toolkit and the comprehensive final report will be shared to target audience and participants.

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The Village of Clouds, prototype of an alternative future world where children are safe, secured and protected from all of forms of online harm, cyber sexual exploitation and abuse. 2018.

Overall feeling? Lessons learned? What we take with us? Next Steps?

For the final synthesis, UNICEF facilitators were asked to share the lessons they have learnt and insights gained in the plenary. All the participants expressed appreciation for the experiences, insights, learning and new tools they gained within the two-and-a-half-day workshop. Most agreed that their expectations like “enrichment”, “development” and “fun learning activity” have all been met and expressed their desire to apply and share this new capacity and skillset acquired.

Using the future requires the understanding and application of a spectrum of futures literacies. Like history where we focus the study or analysis of the origins and implications of the past to the present, futures literacy increases our competency and capacity to anticipate possible and unfamiliar futures and study which does not exist yet.  Futures literacy uses images (imagined or real), values (contexts and experiences) and meanings (the way we interpret stories and data and reframe things, policies and stuff for instance) including using a wide range of tools to learn the capacity to explore, negotiate and create alternative future worlds, preferred futures and anticipate emergence.

This futures literacy workshop is a learning journey. Through the futures literacy lab, participants learned how to facilitate a futures literacy workshop and learned how to use the future to improvise, experiment and innovate in the present. And through the pillars of futures thinking, they learned how to use and blend different ways of learning and futures facilitation —creative, critical, interpretive, action-learning, intuitive, games and evidence-outcome based approaches – to create alternatives, identify and transform preferred futures. While they learned new knowledge, and gained a new skillset, the participants felt a renewed sense of commitment to their advocacies and to social transformation. This workshop according to them also kept their desires for change alive. That it radically changed their perception, perspectives and ways of knowing the future. They also acknowledged the value of anticipation in decision-making, policy analysis and strategy development. They realized the beauty and worth of imagination and self-awareness in building a better world for all of us.

UNICEF training partners were asked to share the knowledge that they gained and test the toolkit and lessons learned that will be shared after. They were encouraged to apply the toolkit creatively and whenever possible customize or glocalize it to suit the needs and contexts of their respective stakeholders.  Participants were urged to be creative in facilitating their sessions, to document their experiences and insights and report back the lessons learned to UNICEF to improve the design of futures literacy lab at the community level. The effort to utilize the future in child and adolescent issues is a work in progress. Everyone was excited and see this endeavor as an adventure to create a better and brighter futures for all especially children and adolescents.