Work With Life


Retrocasting from Nature: A Confident Future


Imagine your desired future in 2030. What is a commute like? What are you eating, wearing, or watching? If you write down those impressions, ideas and concepts, and build a map in five year increments from now till then you would have created a tangible (maybe not viable or feasible) plan to achieve those dreams. This process is called 'retrocasting'. It has been used to help large companies imagine their future, and innovators develop plans for the next big thing.

But one thing that gnaws at the dreams of the future is their lack of confidence. Will this actually be possible? Can we achieve the steps to get there? Is this really a desirable future? We look to people to supply that confidence. The Elon Musk's of the world not only help develop the concepts and business, but they cultivate the confidence that their dreams are possible. We are thrilled when they succeed, and scorn them when they fail. But what if there was a different way? What if we looked to the technology of the organisms around us as a vision of our own future technology?


Want to imagine renewable energy? Look to how every autotrophic organism on earth works, maybe starting with the grass outside your home that captures sunlight and turns it into fuel. Imagine if we could build any surface we wanted with a dye sensitized photo system that provided free electricity.


Want to build a resilient medical infrastructure? Look at the communication networks of forest fungi, and how they build and evolve their relationships with other organisms through time. Imagine a responsive system medical information system that was always on your side, understood the entire system of medical care, tracked your progress through time, and adjusted what you needed in real time to your actual medical needs. 

If we were to imagine our future, not only of our own desires but in combination with a model from nature, we would find that we have a partner in developing our future technology. We could confidently put our foot down and say, yes we should use more energy, but it should be energy gathered from the sun every day. Or yes, we should build a comprehensive medical information system, but to do so we need to create partnerships with the local stakeholders. By looking to the natural world for our future, we gain the confidence of experience, of what has worked and evolved for millions of years. We get what innovation experts cry out for, and futurists dream of - prototypes.

Timothy McGeeinnovationComment