My colleagues and I have been waiting for this year for a long time. When I first started talking to people about starting a 'wide-open-book' social innovation business one of the ideas we came up with was to have a special '2020 Vision' department designed to train people's creativity using the newest psychological research on creativity enhancement- and then elicit their visions for the future. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the project (July 23, 2020) we'll be taking an around the world tour of the projects that grew from those visions.
There's much to celebrate. There have been literally 100's of visions submitted over the years, but it's the very first few, mostly coming from those early players on Evoke, that I think of most often. Projects like the one submitted jointly by Ursula Konchanowsky, Daniel LaLiberte, and Tomas Kozlik that have transformed every aspect of where we get our food and what we eat. Or Riko Kamachi, PJE, Sarah Hickox, Reema, Ninmah and Mita Williams' work on creating a 21st century 'curriculum' of learning games and improv theater to develop skills in everything from music to mathematics. (I say 'curriculum' but of course the wh*** terminology of school and teaching was quickly abandoned. Before long we were just talking about 'being in the game'.)
I can hardly believe how different the lives of children are today than my own was: instead of classrooms there are tiny measuring devices for almost every physical activity you can think of that let you keep track of your progress as part of a 'game' format. There are a huge number of physical and virtual learning collaboration centers making use of tools and techniques first pioneered by Michael Wesch, Howard Rheingold and others.
Nothing is viewed by today's game designers as a handicap-- just another interesting challenge to design around. So autistic children, for instance, have specially designed games that take advantage of their tendency to compulsive, repetitive behavior to teach them to recognize and respond to facial and verbal social 'cues' and to take turns with other children. Even the very deep difficulties of fragile-x children which include, but are not limited to, autistic symptoms are being addressed with some success.
But our grand tour is still a few months off. This morning, April 2, 2020, I've just finished my morning swim and checked the holo-screen to make sure my sim-meter has updated my 'Grannie Parkour' scores correctly when I get a mission inquiry from my Alchemist. I know-- not many people are lucky enough to have their own personal Alchemist and I know some of you younger folks who weren't yet thirteen when the first game started feel kind of cheated.
Really, though, if anybody needs a personal Alchemist it's me. I have such a quirky, contradictory mind-- it takes a special concoction of all my best personal motivators to keep me focused and on-track enough to get anything accomplished. In fact, if it weren't for my Alchemist I'd probably be disabled-- if not dead- by now. It took a smart cookie of a program indeed to tear a life-long couch potato like me away from her books and computer screens and turn her, at 65 into a triathlon runner.
Entering that first race a few years ago was a 'peak moment' I'll never forget-- but there have been many others since that fateful day when I finally, with bated breath, released my 'Quaker Challenge' to the world. Of course it wasn't really the earth-shattering, world-changing event I'd hoped-- in fact not many people even noticed it-- and when the deadline arrived for entries I had a grand total of three...
But what it really changed was me. You see I'd been sitting on that 'Syndicate' idea for years -- almost a decade-- by then. Once in awhile I'd get up the courage to tell someone about it but no one showed much interest-- and several people shot it down pretty thoroughly. Being able to introduce an idea dear to my heart this way-- indirectly, through a game-- somehow made it safe enough for me to finally put it out there.
But it brought me connections that we ultimately wove into an amazingly effective network. And with an effective network, I've come to believe, there is literally nothing that can't be achieved.
I come out of my daydream and realize I haven't really been paying attention to my mission inquiry. I look at the mass of statistics and news reports about the growing crisis of an aging population and decide the first thing to do is to call on my network for a brainstorming session. I like to think I have a key role to play, but really-- it's all about community.
Note: I wish I could have mentioned more of you by name, but I decided in the interests of finally finishing this post I had to stop. ;-) Catch you next time!
* Neither 'think tank' or 'innovation incubator' seemed quite appropriate for this new entity-- it was really intended to both come up with new ideas and develop simple, effective implementations. I started calling it a 'Thurb Tank' after the noise made by Torve, the inter-galactic side-kick of Alex Panshin's hero Anthony Villiers. Torve, described as looking like a giant, furry toad, is a member of a species divided into races with distinct professional casts. These races are not supposed to be able to interbreed, but somehow, Torve displays color characteristics of several races. He does not believe in causality and prefers to think of life in terms 'lines of congruence'. Thurb is the English rendering of the deep humming sound he used in meditation to reconcile the disparate parts of his nature. This seemed to fit, and before long everybody was using it.