Stop Reset Go
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Stop Reset Go

Storytelling as a Prototype of the Future

World building through collective sensemaking, imagination, and speculative fiction

In our second meeting as a team, I introduced the idea of inviting people into a story where they were protagonists in an adventure. I proposed that this could be a way to include everyone in the process of imagining the kind of world that we might want to live in.

I was inspired by a couple podcast episodes that included discussions of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who had made a distinction between allegory and the intention of their work as writers of mythopoetic literature.

I thought about creating a Medium publication called Mythopoeia to invite people to share their ideas of the kind of world that we would all want to live in. In the Design Science Studio, we learned about world building and backcasting as a means of imagining the future and working backwards from that imagined world to think through the steps that we could go through to bring that imagined world into reality.

For more information about world building, refer to The Ezra Klein Show podcast episode with N.K. Jemisin.

Jeremy Lent has written The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning and The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe. These books can help us to understand our history and our current context to provide us with the tools to use our imaginations to prototype the kinds of future that may still be possible.


The following is a writing prompt or design brief for building a world that we want to live in. You can find the original article on Medium.

Building the world that we want to live in, through imagination

Welcome to Mythopoeia!

You have entered a virtual reality where sentient life is being born in random locations on a planet with everything needed for the flourishing of organic life.

Each life inherits a past, lives in the present flow of experience, writing the future into being as they find their way in the world.

The world finds itself in an existential crisis, and there is less than a decade to figure out how to avoid the ecological collapse of the planet and the destruction of the species from social, economic, and political crises driven by the ecological disaster that has been caused by thoughtless social, economic, political, and technological experiments that have inadvertently caused the destabilization of the fragile equilibrium of the planet’s living systems.

How will they redesign the world they have inherited so that it works for all of the living beings who share the planet?

A Builders Collective

The sentient beings devise a plan to gather a group of writers, artists, designers, scientists, engineers, architects, and educators to reimagine the social architecture they have inherited.

They realize that they have made some faulty assumptions about their world that seems to be driving the world into chaos faster than they are able to respond to the changes in themselves and their environment. A force known as entropy seems to be tearing the world apart around them, driving a process of separation, death, decay, and disintegration.

However, they have been learning more about their world through the technologies that they have invented. These new inventions have extended their senses and cognitive abilities to detect another force in the universe that is the catalyst for creativity and innovation. This mysterious force is adding greater levels of adaptability to environmental changes, learning, integration, and collaboration that has brought about the complexity and diversity of all matter and life in the universe. This force appears to be in effect at every scale of the system, from the cosmological to the chemical, biological, and even the social systems of their diverse cultures.

These beings have a sophisticated capability to recognize patterns, which has helped them to create symbol systems, languages, and stories, which have become a powerful means of coordinating their actions as individuals. They have created global social systems that, while providing amazing new capabilities, are also depleting the finite resources of the planet. As resources run out, many of their species and many other species are dying, even to the point of extinction.

As they have been trying to discover ways to deal with their problems as a species, they began asking themselves questions:

What if we could imagine a future together through collaborative storytelling? What if we could go beyond imagination to engage in the process of design to prototype and build the world that we had imagined? Could we really change the world?

So, they put together a team of individuals who could collectively imagine the possibilities of building the kind of world where they could all live together in peace. They made a simple declaration:

We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.

Then they got to work, learning how to focus their time, energy, and resources to build a world that works for all of life.

#Mythopoeia #Worldbuilding #CollectiveIntelligence #DesignScience #BuildersCollective



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