Episode: Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, Incomprehensible: How One Futurist Frames the Pandemic

Soonish Logo
Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, Incomprehensible: How One Futurist Frames the Pandemic

Futurists—who sometimes prefer to be called scenario planners or foresight thinkers—specialize in helping the rest of us understand the big trends and forces that will shape the world of tomorrow. So here’s what I really wanted to ask one: Is a cataclysm like the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 the kind of event we should be able to see coming? If so, then why didn’t we do more to get ready? Why has the federal government’s response to the spread of covid-19 been so inept? And above all, what should we be doing now to get our political and economic institutions back in shape so that they can cope better with the next challenge?

This April I had the opportunity to speak about all things coronavirus with my favorite futurist, Jamais Cascio. Jamais is widely known for his work with the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, and he has a bit of a reputation as the “dark futures” futurist—the one who isn’t afraid to dwell on how things could go wrong. It turned out he’d been thinking about many of the same questions, and that he’d been developing a new analytical framework for just such an occasion. It’s called BANI, and it offers new insights into our strange historical moment, when institutions left brittle by years of deliberate neglect now face shattering stresses. 

In this episode, Jamais and and I tour the BANI concept and discuss how we could come out of pandemic with some new tools for confronting catastrophe.

Chapter Guide

00:00 Hub & Spoke Sonic ID  

00:08Soonish Theme

00:22 Futurism in a Time of Pandemic

02:03 Introducing Jamais Cascio

04:12 Explaining VUCA

08:32 Meet BANI

10:43 How BANI Fits Our Moment. Part I: Brittleness in the Pandemic

13:48 Part II: Anxiety

14:17 Part III: Nonlinearity

15:10 Part IV: Incomprehensibility

16:01 Pandemics as Wild Cards

18:48 Planning for Pandemics

19:56 The War Against Expertise

21:44 Responding to Brittleness and Anxiety

23:50 Responding to Nonlinearity

26:03 Responding to Incomprehensibility 

27:46 Paths Forward: Thinking More Like Futurists

30:30 Muddling Through

32:36 End Credits, Acknowledgements, and Hub & Spoke Promos

Users who viewed this episode also viewed...

Soonish > How "2001" Got The Future So Wrong

Episode 1.01: This inaugural episode of Soonish is about the boldest vision of the future ever put down on film: Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey." The movie came out in 1968, and it offered a detailed and inspiring forecast for life the early 21st century, including giant space stations, moon bases, thinking computers, and humans traveling to Jupiter...

Soonish > Election Dreams and Nightmares

The moment in the voting booth when you put your pen to your ballot (or put your finger to the electronic touchscreen, as the case may be) is democracy distilled. It’s the act that makes America a republic. But while the casting your vote is critical, it’s everything that happens before, during, and after that moment that makes up the larger election system...

Soonish > When Minds and Machines Converge

Can thought-power control the world outside our heads? Thanks to new brain-machine interface technology, the answer is yes. But the real question is whether it can it help us control the world inside our heads. In the Season 3 opener of Soonish we meet Ariel Garten, co-founder of Interaxon, a Canadian startup that’s one of the first to offer a consumer neurofeedback device...
Comments (0)

Login or Sign up to leave a comment.

Log in
Sign up

Be the first to comment.