The Challenge Network

   go back   

Discussion of the scenarios.

Discussion of the scenarios.

You can go back to the scenarios here.

Response 1: I want to thank you for a very interesting read. I really like the Waking Up scenario. However, I do not understand the long introduction about politics. I do not see how this is really relevant. You are saying that ideas rather than nations set the boundaries, I think, but it is still politics which make the choices. Or is it that the choices are all fixed?

Response 2: To us, this is nice stuff but I don't see how we use it for our every day work. Yeah we want to be Waking Up people but how do we get there?? Our industry relies on new stuff coming through all the time, and we get that by trying hundreds of singers until one hits the button with the public. I would like to know how we can manage this better, and get a hit every time.

Response 3: If the environmentalists want us to go into your consumer-light future dream on say I - not a hope. So what are you saying - we are all condemned to the harsh one, Neglect and Fracture? Or that there are little islands of hope? What I got from this more than anything was the idea of lots of systems problems, not just climate, climate, climate. I guess we may have more hope with the practical stuff? The really difficult things are always political, and this sounds like a very political future to me.

Response 4: This is the best I have read - really realistic and I feel I could live in any of them. (I wouldn't want to, though, except Waking Up.) I wonder if you are "science fictional" enough? By that I mean if you have say fusion, that changes the game for the whole energy system and the things that hang off it. My idea is that things like personal immortality - or anyway very long life - brain boosting and things like that are really practical in 30 years. They are going to change how we think about "us", and also change how we live. If I can immerse myself in paradise all day, I'm a really Lite Consumer.

Response 4: It is repulsive how you deny the spiritual issues of the times. The crime that is poverty, the insult to the Mother Earth should be at the center of what you say. You will solve nothing if you write the same boring analysis stuff when what you should do is be shouting about these crimes against humanity and more than humanity. And what of God? There is nothing about the coming religious rebirth that man will endure.

Editor's note: as 1 March 2010, we have received around 700 comments. It is not helpful to publish all of these. In broad terms:

53% Very interesting, thank you for the effort.

21% Questions, many relating to student projects

13% Asking for work. (Please, no more of these - we have no vacancies.)

9% Abusive - who do we think we are?

4% Incomprehensible.

Response 5: (Financial Trader asks:) I ask myself where long-term value is to be found in these worlds. Not: if I was placing a bet in Waking Up, what would I back; but rather, given where I am now, and given that I am making guesses about the next 15-25 years, where is value to be found?

Here I have found what you have written really quite helpful. First, you show me that I am wrong to think about sovereign debt in terms of primarily of nations. I should be looking for issuance from entities that are sub-national and which have their hands on the deep levers that you point to. City bonds, maybe, based in exciting, pleasing places with the ability to keep a young, able population humming.

Second, you show me that the fundamentals are going to be about organisation and not about things. Apple are doing great stuff in the consumer world because they are organising their forces, not because they are innately cleverer than others. So I am looking for a tranquil poise, a clarity about direction that enables frantic activity within it. (I think of my time in Hong Kong in the Seventies, or Shanghai a decade ago.)

Third, you tell me that there is a new consumer class in the making which is never going to be a duplicate West. The model that all Chinese will aspire to buy a BMW is just wrong - they may aspire, but they won't get. But there is an enormous market for what they will get, and companies like Tata seem to have grabbed onto this. I take from your analysis that sleek green is never going mass market - it will be slightly tatty, dressed up green that is actually quite a bit worst than current aspiration.

Response 6: Can we avoid conflict? Too many people are going to be disappointed in every case you advance. But taking a poll in the office, most of my colleagues agree with what you say. (We had a big seminar for all the regional commanders around your work - thanks for that.) Two views came out. One said: no, people will start to grab - the Neglect & Fracture on cannot stay peaceful. We couldn't agree on who would be fighting, though.) The other view was that people get used to what is practical. Sure, it could be better but it could also be a lot worse. We thought that this was going to dominate, as it has in the past.

The big learning for us was this idea of the scenario social groups co-existing. I hadn't seen how people carry a world in themselves before, but they do - that's what we are fighting, right here. But that raises a problem. If what you call the the N&F narrative is always going to be there somewhere, and if these guys get really horrible weapons, then what? If a country threatens you, you can threaten right back. If guys in the slums do it, and their won government is trying to ding them, then you can't do nothing. But they still want something, and you can negotiate, or take it away from them. But, and here's the big butt to kick - yeah! - what happens when they don't want nothing you've got? If they want you to be gone, or to be something that you're not?

Well, that wasn't so new until one guy said - isn't that how the bad guys see us? Well, that made us all silent. So - thanks for a thoughtful day. I hope you felt us thinking.

Response 7: I want to ask you a question. You have talked about "systems issues". In he support papers, you have generated a great deal of material that is unfriendly to the crucial attempts to get policy makers to pay attention to climate change. Do you think that this is helpful? If you give the deniers ammunition, what do you think that they will do with it? You have a lot of influence with policy people. Are you not ashamed to be standing in the way of progress?

Response 8: Here's a chart that you may like. It is taken from IPCC scenarios, just plotted as a chart. Vertical axis: the net increase in effective energy - 'forcing' - due to reduced infra-red loss to space, as predicted by global climatic models. Horizontal: the total effective greenhouse gas concentration, normalised to CO2 parts per million by weight.

IPCC scenarios

In discussion, you said that the asymptote was not known, or was not taken into account. Well, here is one. the trouble is that it is way, way off the actual CO2 absorption curve. The fall off is due not to CO2 saturation but to the reflective outcome of more cloud in the atmosphere in a hot, humid world. In other words, the ever so top secret code used in these models assumes a straight line relationship, modified by cloud cover. So CO2 in, heat out. I know this 'cause I worked on one. You read it here first.

(Ed: The Figure is an accurate reproduction of the IPCC scenarios. We cannot vouch for the rest. Author, please let us have more substantive information.)

Response 9: (Ed. On posting the breakdown of messages received, I got an immediate flow asking what "incomprehensible" means. Here is an example.)

The rising future gives us a pause to think. You think to throughly [sic], and the thought becomes lost. Feel forward into a less thinking way and your future becomes yours today. Will is all, and will become manifest in foreward thrust into becoming.

Response 10: I appreciate the space that you exploring. It seems a good one to me. That said, it does nto capture all possible futures, just as your scenarios do not explore all of that space. Yes, there are a lot of extreme futures that are possible but not really useful to explore, like epidemics that kill most of us. (A bad thing? Depends who's talking.) But what isn't there and what matters is the non-systematic stuff, those Napoleon moments where an idea or an individual makes a new future. I guess that is what Waking Up is about, but where there are lots of Napoleons at work. Still, this feels super-tanker to me, all driven by stuff that we already know about and not things that will surprise us.

I know that this is an unhelpful criticism, because if we coudl guess at them, then they wouldn't be surprises. But what would make a big difference if it happened? Like, what if we could solve all crime? What if all babies were healthy and nobody ever went off the rails? Here is my take:

I can think of lots of others, things that woudl make a difference. So can you, I expect. But if you scatter them around, you get that scatter, like a gene mutating of a particle bouncing off another. It isn't so - I don't know, heavy and predictable. But that sounds kind of negative - it's great work, but it needs a kindof sparkle to bring it to life.

Response 11: I read this and though What a great science fiction background some of this could make. Then I thought - wouldn't it be easier to read if it was fiction? You could get in a lot more detail, and get people to read it for much longer. So here is my suggestion - that you get someone to novelise this stuff, and make it easier for more people to get into. [Ed: Any offers?]

Response 12: The climate stuff is really interesting. Did you know that the very cold period in the 1640s - called the Maunder Minimum - was a period without sun spots? A quiet sun, with not many sun spots, radiates less than a spotty one. The solar maxima come in cycles, and greatly influence the climate. Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record happened in the last 50 years. (People have been counting sun spots for centuries, so this is exceptional in a long record.) That means that Earth has been getting more energy shone onto it over the last 50 years, too.

We are now in an exceptional "quiet" period with no sun spots at all. Visible brightness is down by 0.02% - that is, 0.3 watts versus greenhouse forcing of 1.5 watts or so - but the higher energy parts of the spectrum are down by as much as 6%. Radio output is also down to the minima of the 1950s. My point - after 50 odd years of supernormal output, the sun is now back to 150 year "normality". That kind of offsets any terrestrial measurements of climate change, I think.

Response 12: I tried some of this out on our listeners are we got the richest telephone call in feedback we have ever had. I hadn't realised how hungry people are for some guidance on the future and the big issues.

Response 13: It is truly very making of anger that the poor countries cannot get rich if they are not already on their way to it. Can you tell us what we should be doing to avoid your wedge coming in before we are being ready for it? (Ed: everything that drives productivity - education, transport, good government - will accelerate the development process. Everything that weakens this - low competition, unthinking resistance to change - will slow it down. However, "modernism" is not the answer. It has to be right for the society, accepted by people and actively supported by them. This puts a huge premium on inspired political leadership: where would China be today without the courage and persistence of Deng Shao Ping?)

You can go back to the scenarios here.

 to the top