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Eno’s Unthinkable Futures

April 10, 2007

“Unthinkable” thoughts have the virtue of bringing serious consideration of wholly repressed ideas, as evidenced by the laugh that often accompanies them. They frequently express real fears that people have, that are based on real events, but which they are forbidden from speaking for one political or psychological reason or another They posit the kind of harsh turnabout in public affairs that often happens in reality. And they relieve a serious limitation of scenario planning, which is plausibility. This is the crucial difference between fiction and real life: fiction must be plausible; real life has no such constraint.

Eno’s Unthinkable Futures
>From charly@hal.com Mon Nov 22 20:39:54 1993
Unthinkable Futures: Eno in The Whole Earth Review (via The WELL)

The 25th Anniversary issue of Whole Earth Review (No. 79 Summer 1993) leads off with thoughts and stories by Eno and Kevin Kelly. Too voluminous to include here, I can at least type in the introduction:

What follows is a conversation. Knowing its original context may add to its value. Kevin Kelly — editor of this publication from 1984 to 1990 — and Brain Eno — British musician, music producer, and artist — posted these conjectures in a private conference on The WELL run by the Global Business Network (GBN). GBN’s main activity is long-term strategic planning for organizations large enough to plan ten to twenty years in the future, and its main tool is scenario planning. Scenario planning encourages responsibility in organizations by helping them think far ahead, but the process of generating wide-ranging scenarios gains from *irresponsible* thought. You need “what if” ideas unpolluted by wishful thinking.
“Unthinkable” thoughts have the virtue of bringing serious consideration of wholly repressed ideas, as evidenced by the laugh that often accompanies them. They frequently express real fears that people have, that are based on real events, but which they are forbidden from speaking for one political or psychological reason or another They posit the kind of harsh turnabout in public affairs that often happens in reality. And they relieve a serious limitation of scenario planning, which is plausibility. This is the crucial difference between fiction and real life: fiction must be plausible; real life has no such constraint.

So inspired, Kevin Kelly created a topic (string of on-line comments) on “Unthinkable Futures” in GBN’s WELL conference. Brian Eno took Kevin’s bait and then turned into a monster of perverse creativity. Kevin fought back gamely. Later Brian expanded three of his notions into Unthinkable Stories (p. 9). Can you predict which ones?

Charly, here again…. What follows this intro is nearly 80 scenarios from Kelly and Eno, most no more than a sentence or two. After that, the three Eno stories, about a page and a half each. They are titled “Cosmetic Psychiatry,” “Personal Profile,” and “Auction.” The latter story I recently saw in another unexpected magazine…damned if I can remember where exactly now…. Maybe I’ll pass on a few of these scenarios for later Eno-Lists… Or better yet: Everyone on the List go out and buy the Summer 93 issue (25th Anniversary) of Whole Earth Review. It’s as chock-full of thought-provoking tidbits as it ever was!

Charly

A Few Unthinkable Futures from Eno
The set of “Terminator 9” is wrecked by a pressure group of offended industrial robots.
Famous and talented men routinely auction their sperm for huge amounts.
Everybody becomes so completely cynical about the election process that voter turnout drops to 2 percent (families and relatives of prospective politicians) until finally the “democratic process” is abandoned in favour of a lottery system. Everything immediately improves.
It turns out that nearly all the conspiracy theories you ever heard were actually true — that the world is being run by 150 malevolent men with nasty prejudices.
Smoking is proven to be good exercise for the lungs.
Genetic research shows that it is possible to create gifted scientists, great artists, sublime linguists, and supreme athletes. Everyone starves to death through lack of farmers, cooks and waiters.
Excerpted from the Summer 1993 issue (25th Anniversary) of the Whole Earth Review.

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One Comment
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