Macro photograph of human skin

Photo: Montavius Howard, Pixabay

The Parable of the Sower: Science Fiction or Science Fact?

Octavia Butler is an inspiration to many. The Octavia Butler Legacy Network has promoted research and scholarship into her work for over ten years. In Octavia’s Brood, 20 contemporary writers use Butler as a springboard to speculate on the futures of radical social change. In 2017’s niche-hit Emergent Strategy, you can barely go five pages without adrienne maree brown name checking Butler.

I’m just late to the party.

I first heard of Butler’s iconic novel Parable of the Sower in the first years of the Trump era. People were making comparisons to the current age, citing the similarity between the president in the book and our real-life president. I left the book unread. It felt too raw to expose myself to fiction that too closely resembled real life (bleak!). But now that we (maybe briefly) are in the Biden era, I wanted to know: were the comparisons apt, or apropos nada?

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October 29, 2021 Science Fiction or Science Fact Octavia Butler Collapse

Radar installation at sunset with mountains in the distance

Image: Pxfuel

My Scanning Toolkit

By taking a wide angle lens look at the present, the goal of scanning is to find points of information in the present that can be connected to form images of possible futures.

After a few classes worth of scanning, I’ve found a few tools that help with the process.

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October 9, 2021 Foresight Process

School reseeding into a vortex of books

Illustration: Eben Kowler, Photo: Pixabay

Unbundling Public School: Possibilities & Pitfalls

I was surprised to read this stat from the 2021 House of Representatives State Fair Poll:

  • Should a school voucher system be established whereby the state issues parents a voucher equal to the state’s cost of educating a child for a year, and parents can then choose the school their child attends, whether public or private?

    • Yes — 46.2% (2,367)
    • No — 40% (2,049)
    • Undecided/No opinion — 13.8% (709)

I remember this issue being hot, hot, hot when I was in middle school. Maybe it is on the horizon again because, in 2019, Minnesota ranked 50th when it came to racial disparities in high school graduation rates. Whether you are yes, no, or undecided, I hope you agree that business-as-usual isn’t working.

What might the future of education vouchers in Minnesota look like?

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September 14, 2021 Learning School

Flock of sheep grazing in a green pasture.

Photo by ArtHouse Studio from Pexels

Is The Tragedy of the Commons False? Questioning a Systems Archetype

A couple of weeks ago I saved an article for later: The tragedy of the commons is a false and dangerous myth.” ( I am a sucker for most headlines that question widespread assumptions. But this one especially caught my eye.

The concept of The Tragedy of the Commons has been disseminated far and wide as a systemic explanation for why we fail to address many of the challenges we face at the intersection of ecology and economics. In my very first semester as an undergrad, Garrett Hardin’s original essay The Tragedy of the Commons” was assigned reading in my favorite class — Fish & Wildlife 1002: Ecology, Values, and Human Impact. This summer, I was in a graduate seminar where The Tragedy of the Commons came up again. I’m not alone. According to Google Scholar, nearly 48,000 people have cited Hardin’s idea in their own research.

Is the real tragedy that we were misled from the beginning?

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September 13, 2021 Systems Thinking The Tragedy of the Commons

Arnold sitting in the memory implantation chair from Total Recall

Still from Total Recall. (Tri-Star Pictures, 1990)

Total Recall: Science Fiction or Science Fact?

I’ve always thought of Arnold as kind of a futuristic person in his own right. Not just because of his taste in film projects, but also because he is a pro-immigrant Republican wise to the perils of climate change. We may not be 100% aligned politically, but I can get down with Arnold. So, when Netflix suggested that I might enjoy watching Total Recall I thought: why not?

I was surprised to find myself not just escaping into a campy fantasy, but feeling surprised at how plausible the story seemed. Experience shows that overtime science fiction can become science fact. So — how realistic is Total Recall?

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September 8, 2021 Science Fiction or Science Fact Neuroscience Mars

Drawing of three posed skeletons

Image: New York Public Library

Anatomy of a Foresight Process

The benefits of foresight include increased readiness for change, solutions with a higher level of creativity, increased number strategic options, and a greater awareness of the future and its implications.

But, how does it work? And what should you look for in a foresight process?

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September 3, 2021 Foresight Process