Nan Nelson, Envision Board Member

As you explore creating scenarios to introduce possible, plausible futures to your organization, consider how award-winning professionals — science fiction writers — do this. Not the folks who write Star Wars-type space operas or the sword and sorcery fiction of novels like Game of Thrones. Rather, consider Horizon 3, near-future “hard” science fiction like Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry For the Future or Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock (both about climate change). These “world-building” science fiction writers take trends you are following in areas such as artificial intelligence, gene therapy or cybersecurity and create mind-expanding scenarios that are entertaining and sometimes alarming. 

Here are some recent reads of mine:

  • Upgrade by Blake Crouch features scientists who secretly decide to implement some improvements in the human genome.
  • 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis features a carefully calibrated Chinese maneuver in the South China Sea that spirals into what Gen. James Mattis in his book review calls “a realistic series of miscalculations leading to the worst consequences.”
  • NY Times columnist Ezra Klein recently posted an hour-long podcast interview with science fiction author Adrian Tchaikovsky, who is addressing neurodiversity as a survival trait.  His Children of Time is about an advanced civilization built by sentient spiders. A sequel, Children of Ruin, is about a society run by super-intelligent octopuses. His latest book, Children of Memory, is ostensibly about crows, but it is also about what it is like to interact with, and perhaps even be, an artificial intelligence system. “What is mind? What is alive? What is sapient?” his books ask.

If you decide to consume the podcast or audio-book versions of such science fiction, make sure not to drive off the road while you listen. Just saying…