Part I: How to Temper the Future?

Crashing the Party with Constraints

I lit a fire. It was simple: ask a group of teenagers gathered from across the country to design an “iPhone 8.” The previously subdued group exploded, with rapid-fire ideas quickly filling the classroom’s white board. Being given free reign to envision one’s future can be a blast. I remember feeling the same surge of excitement during similar exercises in graduate school. The rush of forging something cool and new was what I came for. I waited as long as I could before throwing a curve into the students’ adolescent brainstorming frenzy: what about the environmental and social impacts of this device that we’re creating? Silence. Well, that’s no fun. I tried to show them how considering these additional factors could be just as engaging as generating the long list of possible features, but they were slow to warm to the idea. During the rest of the two-week seminar, we never reached the same pinnacle of excited fervor. As a teacher, I will admit, it was edifying to invoke such an enthusiastic response. Yet as an instructor, I also bear the responsibility for integrating foresight and responsibility. The lingering question being: how much and when? More on that next week.

Peter Nicholson, Innovationist

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