We can't predict the future, but we can help shape it. At last night's Tech For Good London meet-up, Matt Stokes at innovation foundation Nesta had the audience thinking about how to create a more positive future by considering some of the issues we’re likely to face. But 'daunting' is an understatement when it comes to thinking about how to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental challenges.
Employing principles from The Situation Lab, teams at the meet-up chose a particular societal or environmental challenge and were given a narrative arc to give context to the scenario. The future of weighty issues like homelessness, food security and sustainability were all explored with gusto, followed by a discussion of ideas on how these might be solved.
But whether it be climate change, sustainability, fake news or the democratic process, what's important is that the challenge is at the forefront of the conversation. The solution, including the tech, comes second. Indeed the evening's second speaker Ann Mei Chang, author of Lean Impact, implored us to "fall in love with the problem, not the solution" if we’re to drive successful impact.
And that's where the tech comes in. It's no silver bullet, but the potential impact of technology on many of these issues is endless. Giving the homeless unused addresses so they can set up bank accounts – innovations being pushed forward by the likes of Monzo, what3words and ProxyAddress. Getting vision to those with poor vision in lower income countries, like VisionSpring. Even ethical ticketing platform Ticketpass.co, which donates 50% of booking fees to charity projects around the world.
By focusing on the challenges affecting society and the world we live in, innovators like these are working endlessly to ensure we find the solutions – whether that is through tech or otherwise.
Far from setting out a single ‘accurate’ vision of how the future will be, most futures tools and methods are simply ways of engaging with this kind of uncertainty. Whether it be Robolawyers or personalised management of our gut health, with our predictions series we’re looking at that particularly uncertain moment just before an idea, technology or trend makes the leap from the realm of the ‘ridiculous’ to the ‘normal’, when there is still scope to redirect its path.