Society 4.0 — Prototyping Humanity’s Future
Introducing a low-risk, iterative way of building our future civilisation
After recently completing the two highly recommended courses from the Presencing Institute (Leading change in times of disruption and Leading from the emerging future) I committed to adopting an iterative prototyping method for Project 2030, as PI recommends doing. At the end of this post there is a 10 minute video explaining the approach. But first…
What’s missing in PI?
Before building the prototype, I came across a thesis written by three Masters students from the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, which has a distinctive focus on applied IT and innovation for sustainability— two areas I am keenly interested in. The thesis is called Transforming U.Lab: Re-designing a participatory methodology using a strategic sustainable perspective. In the thesis, the authors make the following observations, which mirror my own thoughts after analysing every existing prototype in PI’s prototype library:
- Many respondents didn’t connect with Society 4.0 as a guiding ideology, because it’s not clearly defined. PI contends that by defining Society 4.0, there is a risk of limiting what Society 4.0 could become. They prefer a concept of “leaning into the emerging future.”
- Insufficient urgency of the Sustainability Challenge is conveyed through the two courses. The authors’ suggested solution is to introduce an additional funnel metaphor overlaid over PI’s iceberg model.
- Prototypes developed by participants have the potential to be inherently unsustainable as PI provides no clear boundary conditions for sustainable development. The authors’ solution is to introduce a tree metaphor (ignore the detail contained in leaves and focus on core principles contained in the branches and trunk) and Sustainability Principles from Karl-Henrik Robèrt and Göran Ingvar Broman, published in 2015 as “A Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development.”
- A lack of the concept of backcasting from a vision of success framed by a principled definition of sustainability, constituting a more intuitive, generic, and practical approach to sustainable development.
Is it possible to define Society 4.0 without limiting its emergent qualities?
I understand PI’s reluctance to define Society 4.0, because our current thinking limits us from seeing what is possible. By keeping the concept undefined and fluid we also keep ourselves open to future possibilities. However, by not defining Society 4.0, we make it more difficult for those rooted in Society 3.0 to envision what a more inclusive future could look like.
I believe the answer lies in a crowdsourced, constantly iterating definition, in which the definition doesn’t necessarily consist of a bunch of words strung together. Instead the definition exists as a constantly evolving collection of best practices, case studies and concrete examples of Society 4.0 emerging. Fortunately, the technology exists for us to create this kind of model society prototype, and in the following brief presentation I explain how we could make it work.
Prototyping Society 4.0
- Simplified Evolution of Societies (Society 1, 2, 3,4)
- Loomio — Better decisions together
- Discourse — Civilised discussion
- Why 10 Percent is All You Need
- District 0x — Create, operate, and govern communities
- Mindmap of Society 4.0 — The Movie
- Download Project 2030 Prototype