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The Liberty Experience: Envision a World Where You Own and Control Your Own Data

SEPTEMBER 23-25, 2021


The Project Liberty Experience is on display until September 25th at The Shed in New York City

Foresight strategy (scenario planning), as a discipline, requires setting up signal and sensemaking mechanisms in order to have on hand the most unique ideas, projects, and mental models when devising futures.

The experience economy, or experiential learning, is a rewarding method for sensemaking.  The technology industry, government agencies, and scientific communities provide annual events which are designed to foster community, collaboration, and competition.  Technical breakthroughs and performance benchmarks are made experiential by these competitions and grand challenges.  A few come to mind: The IBM Watson Challenges (Chess, Jeopardy! and AI), The Google DeepMind GO Challenge Match, the DARPA Robotics Challenge and Grand Challenge (autonomous vehicles), and, of course, DefCon CTF.  There is an upcoming competition as well: the inaugural U.S. CyberGames (the 2021 US Cyber Games Draft Day will be live streaming on TikTok; Twitch from Las Vegas on October 5th).

The experience economy also provided us with the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as A Century of Progress International Exposition, from 1933 to 1934. The event is pointed to as an experience that had a clear vision of the future, so much so that it is not clear whether it was very uncannily, accurately predictive of the future, or so popular and influential it inspired (with startling referential specificity) how the future was then rendered in the latter decades of the 20th century.

Science fiction and speculative fiction are also very influential in scenario planning circles, as sci-fi aids in the formulation of what author Benedict Anderson described as Imagined Communities or Norman Klein’s

“social imaginaries as clinical tools. Academic and medical disciplines will build social imaginaries that doctors and scientists use in surgery, in space programs. Any scientific map of the unseen that leads to treatments can be called a social imaginary: Freud’s imagined maps of the unconscious: maps of the atom; maps of the birth of the universe…. All cosmologies, teleology’s, cargo cults, probably all forms of history and anthropology, require belief in an event or holy place that never existed in any provable way. And, finally, the future is a clinical map (a topology) that we visit in advance, hypothetically. All forms of the future when they are built, whether it is the Starship Enterprise or the acid rain on a cyberpunk movie set, fit as social imaginaries, what I call the Future-perfect. . .”

Science fiction also excels at “worldbuilding:”

  • The Minority Report: A 1956 science fiction novella by Philip K. Dick, first published in Fantastic Universe. In 2002, Steven Spielberg adapted the novella into a film. The Global Business Network –a seminal scenario planning consulting firm – was enlisted by Spielberg to organize a 3-day think tank during pre-production of the film to think about technologies that would be developed by 2054, the setting of the film.
  • Snow Crash: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel introduced the Metaverse. Bob Gourley, in his recent What To Know And Do About The Coming Metaverse, provides an overview of the world Stephenson built in the novel and its current influence.  Matt Devost and Will Hurd also discuss the influence of Stephenson’s novel and science fiction in general in this OODAcast.

Finally, there is the role art and art movements can play in your foresight strategy/scenario planning discipline. Art is an early warning system, like radar, not mere self-expression as the popular idea suggests.  Avant-Garde communities offer prescient strategies for tactical and strategic change. Change agency is what art does. The end goal should also be what the avant-garde hopes to achieve: art at the very praxis of everyday life, where art is a direct motivator of technology and social policy.

The Liberty Experience caught our eye, and we thought the OODA Loop Network would find the exhibit of interest. If you are in the Tri-State area and are looking for an excuse to support the re-opening of the arts in Manhattan, the exhibit runs through September 25th:

The Project Liberty Experience is a provocative, interactive art exhibit that invites you to envision a world where you own and control your own data. The installation, featured at Unfinished Live at The Shed in NYC, includes work by acclaimed media artist and director Refik Anadol, a pioneer of the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence. The exhibit is part of Project Liberty, a visionary initiative aimed at transforming how the internet works and who benefits from the digital economy. Join us in creating a world where personal data is back in the hands of individuals, where it belongs.”

We cannot promise that all art exhibits are going to find their way into your scenario planning, strategic thinking, or influence your worldview. One does not know unless one checks it out in person if at all possible. When it works out, it is always remarkably rewarding when a cultural experience awes, motivates, informs, moves, and inspires us. This exhibit, at the very least, sounds promising.

The Guardian also recently reviewed the exhibit:  ‘Privacy is at stake’: what would you do if you controlled your own data? | Art | The Guardian

Books referenced:

Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson

The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and Erasure of Memory by Norman Klein

Related Reading:

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.