Nov
18
2011

Planning for an Unknowable Future (An Introduction)

In preparing to write this post, I was investigating ways in which we as a society plan for an unknowable future. Naturally, I began with psychics (wouldn’t you?). Did you know that there is an American Association of Psychics? Or that right here in St. Paul you can pay $150.00 for your “One Year Future Forecast” or a “Five Year Future Overview” at a place called Astrology by MoonRabbit? And my personal favorite, did you know that in 1995 it broke that the U.S. government had spent millions of dollars on psychic research?
Sketchy in a haunting way: I think I will take my future elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.
Sketchy in a haunting way: I think I will take my future elsewhere, thankyouverymuch.Courtesy stephanie

You’ll be happy to know public officials and decisionmakers (following the lead of businesses) have developed a better method to plan for an unknowable future called scenario-based decision-making. That sounds fancy and all, but it really begins with a simple tool: imagination.

Before you get all up in arms saying, “KelsiDayle, imagination isn’t that much better than psychics,” let me correct you: Yes, it is. At least it can be.

What were you thinking? That decisionmakers willy nilly imagined any old plan for the future?! No. Not when their using SBDM (my fingers are lazy, so I’ve created my own acronym for the much longer scenario-based decision-making… you know, what we’re talking about here). The key to SBDM is plausibility (believability, credibility, or having an appearance of truth or reason). Participants of varied expertise get together and hash out the facts they know and make a list of the important unknowns. Then they use their imagination to project (kind of like predict, but based on present facts) multiple future scenarios that are different but equally plausible given what they know and what they expect might happen to the unknowns. Finally, they create plans for how they might respond to each scenario. Ta-da!

Alright, it’s more complicated than that, but I don’t want to overwhelm you too much… at least not in one blog post, so I’m going to write a series of posts.

Up next, I’ll share about my own experience with SBDM, the city of St. Paul, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

A psychic told me it’s going to be great.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

melvin goldstein's picture
melvin goldstein says:

Numbers are the Supreme Court of science. However Godel proved that we may not prove everything. There are Physics Foibles!! Unknowables!!!

posted on Sat, 11/19/2011 - 3:28pm
Melvin Goldstein's picture
Melvin Goldstein says:

Numbers are the Supreme Court of science. However Godel proved that we may not prove everything using numbers. Physics needs numbers. There must be Physics Foibles. Always more to prove.

posted on Thu, 06/28/2012 - 1:34pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options