Found Futures: Talking with Stuart Candy

Stuart is a researcher at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies and a research fellow of the exceptionally farsighted Long Now Foundation. He's also a guerilla futurist who takes alternative futures to the streets.

Maui Poster
Image Credit: Matthew Jensen for FoundFutures

With mentor Jim Dator and co-conspirator Jake Dunagan, Stuart has unleashed a slew of artifacts and experiences from the future upon an unsuspecting public, including postcards from 02036 and plaques honoring those who suffered and died in the great pandemic of 02016.

As the sceptical futuryst explains, these exercises in ambient foresight and anticipatory democracy are intended to engage the public in creative thinking about possible and preferable futures.

By creating immersive experiences that provoke an emotional response and are difficult to ignore, futurists can elude the dryness that can be associated with the two-dimensional text and statistics of traditional scenario planning.

These experiments are also answers to a question at the heart of Stuart's research: how can we study human behavior in contexts that don't yet exist?

This question is clearly relevant to those of us in the design world as well. Our work requires both insight and foresight. Whether the design horizon is three months or five years, our deliverables bring imaginable futures to life.

And, as these examples illustrate...

...we also engage directly in the design of more provocative tangible futures.

Imaginable Futures
Image Credit: Design for Future Needs

These experiments in what Jason Tester calls Human-Future Interaction are just the beginning. One of Stuart Candy's hopes is to engage wider, more distributed audiences through simulations and gaming. Inspired by the success of World Without Oil, he's accepted a spot as game master of Superstruct. Whoever said being a futurist can't be fun?

Of course, futures thinking is hard work too. Towards the end of our conversation, Stuart noted that as Stumbling on Happiness makes clear, most of us are quite terrible at looking forward. We make basic and consistent mistakes. And, we retrospectively edit our imagined futures, quietly building our false memories and false confidence.

But, despite our inability to predict how we'll feel after eating a burrito, Stuart intends to continue searching the future, and engaging us in the process with surprising experiences and shocking artifacts. So be prepared and stay alert.

You never know what might happen next.

"These experiments are also answers to a question at the heart of Stuart's doctoral research: how can we study human behavior in contexts that don't yet exist?"

This makes me think about the "psychohistory" fictional science by Isaac Asimov... That's interesting yet a bit frightening to see how some bits could become reality in the near future.


I'm not familiar with Asimov's psychohistory, but thanks to Nicolas and the Wikipedia...

...I will be in the future :-)

10 Futuristic User Interfaces...

...courtesy of Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond.