Anab Jain: One sniff of a bad future, and a better one could open up

Amazing TED talk from the futurist Anab Jain, of Superflux, showing how her concrete imagining of possible futures can help empower us to choose better futures. This story - a transcript from the talk, embedded above - is an exemplar:

We have learned in our work that one of the most powerful means of effecting changeis when people can directly, tangibly and emotionally experience some of the future consequences of their actions today. Earlier this year, the government of the United Arab Emirates invited us to help them shape their country's energy strategy all the way up to 2050. Based on the government's econometric data, we created this large city model, and visualized many possible futures on it. As I was excitably taking a group of government officials and members of energy companies through one sustainable future on our model, one of the participants told me, "I cannot imagine that in the future people will stop driving cars and start using public transport."And then he said, "There's no way I can tell my own son to stop driving his car."

But we were prepared for this reaction. Working with scientists in a chemistry lab in my home city in India, we had created approximate samples of what the air would be like in 2030 if our behavior stays the same. And so, I walked the group over to this object that emits vapor from those air samples. Just one whiff of the noxious polluted air from 2030 brought home the point that no amount of data can. This is not the future you would want your children to inherit. The next day, the government made a big announcement. They would be investing billions of dollars in renewables. We don't know what part our future experiences played in this decision, but we know that they've changed their energy policy to mitigate such a scenario.