Scifi Econ Residency - Facilitation and program wiki

Goal

Cocreate narratives of life in different paris-compliant futures and how we got there, complemented with slower & more contrarian work (this cannot work with that/ … ensuring creative storytelling is robust and credible for real-world circumstances).

What narratives of paris-compatible futures can people come up with for a pre-defined location? What realistic transition paths did they use to get from where they are today (what economic thinking, policy instruments and strategies for implementation that take social dynamics into account)?



Residency Process

The process below should be split across dedicated breakout and plenary sessions…

  1. Participants Priorities - Pre-event Personal Introductions posted on forum here

    • Who are you?
    • What leads you to participate in this event?
    • Connect what you would like to see happen/discussed during the event to something you are working on IRL
  2. Characters - Collaboratively created here pre-event & Introduced

  3. Setting - Messina 2050,

    • Institutional goals: Translation of Post-Paris goals translated into local context based on official documents e.g Regional Development Plans or Mayors’ convention - @Nic010 - we need this from Messina team
      • quantified +
      • non-quantified, a
    • Major Challenges/ Crises it faces - Tbd on Day 1
  4. Narration Exercises: We are in 2050, a (crisis) event happens in Post-Paris Messina
    i. how do our characters respond to navigate/ mitigate the event? How do others in their environment? (Individual, Collective, Institutional)
    ii. What historical developments and choices/ critical “infrastructure” enabled/ lead to these outcomes?
    iii. Where along the road have there been points of attrition or conflicts of interest between the characters and people around them?
    iv. How were these conflicts related or interdependent? Who were key actors involved and dynamics between them?
    v. How were these conflicts navigated? Who were key actors involved and dynamics between them? Enablers (e.g bottom up - top down, social contracts, critical infrastructures, crises, policies/ legislation, political mobilisation, diplomacy etc)
    vi. Implications on Paris-agreement goals implementation? (1. Messina Institutional Goals + 2. Participants Priorities +

  5. Incoherence identification - still needs a bit of work to hash out the promits and outputs here

  6. Policy Implications: The path from here to there

  7. Consolidation: We use outputs templates + artistic rendering


Agenda

Day 1: Sharing and Discovering

(@Nic010 please add: location + address)

  1. Keynote by Ha-Joon Chang, as
  2. Field visit to exploring the Messina advanced cluster (info in Italian ) as a real-life science fiction economy.
  3. Messina Briefing: History? Where are there big complex issues in Messina right now? In the future? (what is at stake? what could be at stake?) Ecological Threats most likely in IPCCC scenario?

Day 2: Narration & Incoherence Resolution

(@Nic010 please add: location + address)
Two-hours thematic parallel sessions. Each session imagines an aspect of a fictional, radically different, conceptually sound economy.

08:30- 09:00 I Team Debrief

09:00-09:30 I Opening

09:30-11:30 I Breakout Session 1

11:30-12:30 I Plenary

12:30-14:00 I Lunch

14:00-14:30 I Opening

14:30-16:30 I Breakout Session 2

1630-17:00 I Coffee

17:00-18:00 I Plenary

18:00-18:30 I Team Debrief

Day 3: Ideation

(@Nic010 please add: location + address)
Two-hours thematic parallel sessions. Each session imagines an aspect of a fictional, radically different, conceptually sound economy.

08:30- 09:00 I Team Debrief

09:00-09:30 I Opening

09:30-11:30 I Breakout Session 1

11:30-12:30 I Plenary

12:30-14:00 I Lunch

14:00-14:30 I Opening

14:30-16:30 I Breakout Session 2

1630-17:00 I Coffee

17:00-18:00 I Plenary

18:00-18:30 I Team Debrief

Day 4: Consolidation

(@Nic010 please add: location + address)
Curation of the materials generated, with a view towards publication. We need: a smaller curation group on a voluntary basis.


Formats

1 hr Plenaries
2 hr Breakout sessions
Materials here: Topics tagged scifieconresidency

Pre-Event prep

Participants

  1. Instructions for use of this platform/ online discussion space + credentials for each participant who doesn’t already have an edgeryders account.

  2. Participants post their responses to three questions in a post:

  • Who are you?
  • What leads you to participate in this event?
  • Connect what you would like to see happen/discussed during the event to something you are working on IRL
  1. Participants get a character sheet to fill in along with some inspiration to help them define characters:
  • Descriptions of places
  • List of heterodox economic thinking,
  • List of policies/ tools (some known and tested, some novel)
  • Descriptions of a range of paris-compliant futures (which differ from each other)

Facilitation

  1. Plenaries: we will have several - some aim to set the foundations for narrative ideation, others for the contrarian/ rhobusting and others still for weaving it all together

    • ideation - content/ format?
    • rhobusting/ coherence - content/ format?
    • synthesis - content/ format?
    • bridging - content/ format?
  2. Breakout sessions:

  • 2 hour breakout sessions with a task: During the breakout sessions participants will play out interactions between pre-defined characters in a boiling frog scenario at a set location in a specific IPCCC scenario -

  • Each breakout session is set in a pre-defined location, but they all have the same IPCCC scenario as the backdrop and draw inspiration from a list of heterodox economic thinking, policies and contexts/ opportunities for implementation (existing or near future real world work/ contexts participants bring with them).

  • Re-focus prompts: Questions to get conversations in breakout groups “on track” when they veer too far away from a good balance between ideas and coherence building: “our benchmark for successful outcomes of the retreat is our ability to bridge the gap between new ideas and the reality of 'you can’t lift a finger without someone shooting you down”.

  1. Materials
    a. Location Descriptions: identify four locations (descriptions for each are prepared ahead of the events)
    b. Character sheets
    c. Descriptions of places
    d. Prompts for discussions: 1) Plenary (coherence) 2) Breakout sessions (imagination)
    e. List of heterodox economic thinking,
    f. List of policies/ tools (some known and tested, some novel)
    g. Descriptions of a range of paris-compliant futures (which differ from each other)
    h. IPCCC scenario
    i. Near-future realistic crises (frogs in boiling waters)
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From Daniel K:

  1. Economic policy is still policy. There’s politics in them. Therefore, I strongly believe there should be several “end points”, i.e. several ways to reach the goals of the Paris agreements. We could decide everything happens in the same place. We could ask groups to take a number of common things into account. But it seems problematic to me that there would be only one future in the end.

  2. Fiction is good at exploring interactions among many different factors, as well as path dependency (actually, it’s maybe better at describing the path than the end point). Many of the reasons why policymakers may be frustrated in their attempts to move towards sustainability are not economic, and they will not go away. They interact with economics in so many different ways (one of them being: in all scenarios, some groups fare better than others). We should use it for that purpose. Otherwise, I have a hard time understanding why it’s useful at all.

  3. The coherence constraints that Alberto wants to see can be imposed within the narrative processes. That is not a problem, constraints are good for fiction. However, we should let the groups deal with them in their diversity. If we ask the finance guys to design their stuff, then the market guys to do what they do etc., we’re designing and economic model, most likely within the existing paradigms that define every specialists’ specialities, and that might be coherent, but hasn’t it already been done many times, with little effect? My feeling is that the residency should be about mixing expertises, both economic and others, and coming up with coherent but diverse narratives of change, which will then need to be refined using the knowhow of different disciplines.

Role playing vs. economic and social future history?

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one location vs four locations?

Ideas for Character Creation Prompts:

What are your tasks?
What is your history?
Portrait Picture?
Gender?
Abilities?
Technologies?
Where feels like home?
What is your secret?
Who do you hate?
Who do you fear?
Who will you come to aid without hesitation?

This needs dissection.

In a city, four locations can be the library, the forest clearing, the townhouse and the harbor.

In a rural setting, it may be islands or villages that each have their own internal network of policy institutions.

Personally, I agree with “one location” for the purpose of all characters in the universe can send messages and interact with each other, but also with “four locations” as in the rooms that the groups meet in represent a specific location with specific properties (like “harbor => all outside trade for all groups goes through here, you got physical control over customs, immigration and network infrastructure” or “Bank => high security environment processing information and locking it behind complex lock-and-key games, permanent video surveillance and recording, use of force will be responded to by escalation of violence through higher authority” or “Vulcano Island => High resource location, can only use lightweight infrastructure and readiness to evacuate on a few days notice” etc. pp. depending on our attendees choice)

Typically in a role playing game with more than one group, you have one dominant in-group-story per group that interacts with shared outgroup stories that only one individual per group is interwined with (e.g. each location has a trader, those traders can find agreements that solve problems posed by the in-group story)

Basically every player is member in two groups, one determined by starting location and the other by role / job / quest.

Thinking about it practically, we do need to have at least one round of response and editing of character sheets. Game hosts need to add a connective backstory that fits the various players into each others narrative.

image

So apologies for the rather clunky meeting yesterday, I thought we were going to assign tasks for the ramp-up, and found myself in a meeting I was not prepared for. It was clearly needed, though, so no harm done.

Nadia and I met this morning and worked through a (hopefully) clearer understanding of what we are trying to do. Basically:

  1. Create a coherent, as rich as possible (though time will be an important constraint), incentive-compatible description of a Paris Accord compliant-economy (scale is important, see below).
  2. Create an account of how, starting from where we are now, we get there. I am told futurists call this “backcasting”, because the end state comes before the process to get there.

Agreed.

This part I don’t understand, but I trust it to lead to the final objective.

Agreed. I guess a fairly plausible outcome would be a long list of compromises: we insist on a serious marine reserve, buying off the fishing industry with Keynesian job creation, but farming stays more or less the same

Exactly. This is why KSR, an author who freely admits he does not understand economics, did a better job at charting a path than any academician or policy maker I am aware of.

In the meeting, I interpreted “location” as “economy”, like in Space Economy Camp (Earth Orbit, the Moon, Mars…). But I now see that Tim uses the word differently, as nodes in the same economy:

As I see it, we will have 5-7 breakout sessions in all, and I would prioritize texture of the economy we are imagining over variety. So, I would focus on one single economy.

In fact, we could even center this on Messina, and think about how the city can contribute to a Paris Agreement-compliant economy. This would make maybe the best use of the local expertise of our Messina colleagues. On the other hand, we lose some levers, as, for example, a city cannot reform its own welfare, at least in Italy. But on the whole, I would be willing to “jump”, because we might find half-hidden paths that empower a city to do more than we (or it) think.

So maybe we need to clarify the format of the outcome.

To me, I’m looking at a story, with characters doing stuff (falling in love, dying, killing, trading, cheating, stealing, cooking the books, smuggling, etc.) which portraits an economic system through the cracks and faultlines exposed by the systemic response to said actions.

This is where character creation and specific physical locations come in - no story is set in “an economy”, but plenty of narratives unfold in a harbor, a warehouse or a marketplace.

I am still with the Witness mode of operation: build the world, then the authors can set stories in it. But, as Nadia pointed out, Witnesspedia also has characters, typically nested under “Notable people”: Denton, Flo Royal and the other components of CRTL + ALT + REVOLUTION, etc.

Yet another way to use characters of sort comes from the design tradition of personas.

Hi all, thanks for all this.

Excuse the length . . .

I’m liking the idea of a single place, and letting all the breakout groups work on the same locale. And by locale, I mean an economic region, either politically or geographically defined, anything that is autonomous and cohesive enough to make and implement its own plans (though perhaps conflicts between that autonomy and cohesion will become part of the narrative.) Then we only need to do the prep work for one place instead of 4, yay! (see below wrt to group sizes)

I think it would be useful if the stories that arise out of these three days of working together focused on the macro level, ie the ‘history of the future’, and while I agree with both Nadia and Alberto that Witness had people, it seems they were the carriers of cultural ideas (personae) rather than players in personal dramas.

The camp in AZ had 2.5 hour breakout sessions, and those were about right, could move to 3 hours if people in the Messina sessions want time to do research. It would have been disruptive to the creative processes that we observed in AZ if the sessions had cut off at 2 hours. Each session also ran into something like a break or lunch, so many times the sessions extended into that time, and ended up being longer than 2.5 in practice.

In AZ, we have 5 writers in each group, plus a facilitator, an economist, and an expert floater (such as an astronaut or JPL engineer.) So each group was effectively 8, but three of the participants were guiding the process more so than contributing to the worldbuilding. This is something we should think through . . . roles within groups (not to be confused with characters). Will groups be pre-assigned so each has a creative person, a Messina person, etc . . .

I’m going to need “Paris Compatible” translated into a handful of specific policy objectives, ie instead of ‘reduce emissions’, say reduce transport by 50%, or electricity consumption by 30%, or decrease population or retire this type of infrastructure. These specifics, I imagine, would be tailored to our location of choice, and will provide tangible goals for the worldbuilding.

Given these objectives, I can see the mission for each group to be:

Chart a viable yet imaginative pathway from here to 2050 that meets the objectives, while providing for the needs for your community using creative economic mechanisms, and incorporating the current material, social and political realities.

This is in line with Alberto’s and Nadia’s framing above.

Given the time constraints, we’d at most have 5 breakout sessions, maybe four if we wanted presentations or some other sharing. So each session could focus on one of four or five sets of community needs, ie infrastructure, food, health, though all such provisioning should in the end consistently wrap up into a value-incentive-compatible structure.

Finally, we’d need to prepare information on our chosen location much as Nadia described above. I think it would also be important to look at the particular climate scenario for that location in 2050, so that world builders can adapt to those environmental changes as well as mitigate by changing the economic structures. Other than that, we need political lay of the land, demographics, current infrastructure, and anything else that would inform the provisioning issues we’re asking the groups to address.

2 Likes

One, Messina could be good, very real because we’ll be sitting there!

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Certainly future history, given our output goals, and it’s not clear to me how characters who fall in love will help in devising a viable transport structure that is half of the current one, but I’m certainly open to the possibility. I would hope that the character drama wouldn’t detract from the focus on the ‘how to’ in transforming the economy given the time constraints.

The fiction part in Science Fiction allows to describe the public transport through the lense of a broken heart lover heading home at 2 AM with a public night transit system after facing rejection on a rave on the dykes. Maps, schedule, fees, ticket controls and propulsion systems (i.e. the economics of public transit) can be woven into that scene - but without the broken heart, it’s not fiction, but just dry theory…

If I’d be my mean self, I’d describe the approach taken in Whitnespedia as a “tell-don’t-show” attempt at world building and thus quite the contrary of the usual advise on how to write such works - and would encourage to move away from that and towards a living and breathing world description through the eyes of interesting lives of personas / characters facing fault lines emerging at the breaking points of the new economy.

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Tim, that sounds great, so I guess it comes back to what we’d like as an output, and the path best taken to get there. Are we looking to produce narratives, or descriptions of how to get from A to B.
I’m curious as to what we come up with, and look forward to participating.

See the content summary and the art prints (zines) links here, it might help with understanding what we produced at Space Camp, which you might also describe as tell don’t show:

https://interplanetary.asu.edu/space-economy-camp-for-writers/

The content summary from Space Camp includes Alberto’s fab post on value-incentive-compatibility as well as an outline of the evolving Moon society by Mary Robinette Kowal. The zines are the graphical representation of the outputs from each of the four breakout groups.

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@alberto @zazizoma @Tim_Reutemann @Nic010 and Daniel - Below you will find a visual overview of the contents of the workshop, preparations, and detailed description of the non-narrative plenary sessions to ensure coherence.


Residency Setup


Plenaries (2 sessions)


To prepare:


I need help to prepare the following materials - please let me know what you would be willing to take on:

  1. Email to participants:
  • Program Description text
  • Pre-event Process:
    • Write Blog on platform answering 3 questions - who are you? what brings you to the lab? What
      connections would you like to see with the work you are currently doing?
    • Come to one evevent: info + Meet and Greet (so people know what to expect and who is coming)
  1. Session Output Templates: One canvas per session for participants to fill in to facilitate documentation and synthesis

  2. Narrative sessions materials: Character Sheets, and Prompts

I am on 1, perhaps with @zazizoma .

There is also a step 0, which is:

So we also are on that.

And: hell yeah for Messina. Let’s make it a fufure history of Messina, and a direct contribution to the Foundation’s strategic plan. Maybe this is step -1: write to @giacomo.pinaffo and Gaetano and get them on board with this. I expect they will love it.

Also, @nadia , this becomes a prototype for a service: the Lab moves into a location and makes a future history as the basis for an action plan on decarbonization.

This works.

For the Paris Compatible goals: I suggest discussing with @Tim_Reutemann as he is deeply familiar with its architecture and the reasoning behind as well as past/ongoing initiatives to implement it (he was at the table negotiating on behalf of the Swiss government).

Also Daniel referenced some examples of speculative futures around alternative paris-compliant futures which can serve as inspiration.

Yes, happy to help! I’m excited about this facilitation process.

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Here are the alternative 2050 futures produced by Ademe, which is the agency in charge of supporting ecological transitions in France. This exercise went further than their usual modelling works, (i) because they explored 4 alternative paths to the same end point, i.e. carbon neutrality in 2050, and (ii) they included more social science, including reflections on why and how each scenario could fail. Each scenario includes quantified hypotheses on what it would take to reach the goal via this or that path: % of renewable energy, % of reduction in meat consumption, changes in mobility, etc. What this shows, among other things, is that there are very different sustainable worlds…

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