Humanity’s deep future

This fascinating long form article takes a deep dive into the foreseeable and nearly unforeseeable future of earth and humanity, focusing on the work of Nick Bostrom, the director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, a research collective tasked with pondering the long-term fate of human civilisation. Bostrom considers an array of risks on different timescales, from natural mass extinctions via asteroid impact or a supervolcano to technological missteps to our possible interstellar future. Read article.

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NASA/NSF-funded study: industrial civilization at risk of “irreversible collapse” ?!?

NASA/NSF-funded study: industrial civilization at risk of “irreversible collapse” ?!?
A new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution. Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.” See article.

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Jamais Cascio: Inspiring futurist

Jamais Cascio is a futurist, and was a key contributor to our way of thinking about scenario planning. His talks and writings are endlessly fascinating and often inspiring.

Cascio’s website
Features lots of in-depth posts on topics related to scenario planning and possible futures.

Video: Bots, Bacteria, and Carbon
A good half-hour introduction to Cascio’s thinking; explores the potential course of planet Earth over the next 50 years, painting a picture of what a sustainable, resilient world could look like. Working with multiple future scenarios, he shows the often-unexpected ways in which the choices we make today will shape the decades to come.


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Adam Kahane: Transformative Scenario Planning

Book: Transformative Scenario Planning. As developed by Kahane and his consulting partners, transfomative scenario planning takes the well-established methodology of adaptive scenario planning—rigorously constructing a set of stories of alternative possible futures—and turns it on its head. It uses scenarios not only to understand and adapt to the future but also to challenge and change it; by offering ways for us to transform the systems of which we are part.

Videos: Transformative Scenario Planning
A half-hour video introduction to Kahane’s approach
A 12-minute version of his overview
An hour-long webinar on transformative scenario planning





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Tellus Institute on scenarios and the Great Transition

In the mid-90’s the Tellus Institute and Stockholm Environmental Institute engaged in some detailed scenario planning, and their three future paths—Barbarism, Conventional Worlds, Great Transition—look very similar to our Breakdown/MuddleThrough/Breakthrough framing. Since then, Tellus has been active as a voice for the Great Transitions scenarios, including recent analysis of whether it remains viable; see the links on the right side of this page for these aspirational writings as well as more recent assessments of all the scenarios. See Tellus’ early scenarios and key articles.

To dig deeper into their current work, see the Great Transition Initiative website.

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Crash on Demand: David Holmgren updates his Future Scenarios

This essay by David MacLeaod on is a good overview of David Holmgren’s “energy descent” scenarios, which focuses on his analysis of our current “brown tech” path (slow weaning from fossil fuels; rapid ramp up of climate change effects). See MacLeod’s essay. See also this somewhat more skeptical response from Dimitre Orlov on and Holmgren’s site.

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