The challenges our societies face, such as climate change, require radical innovation (Proactionary Principle [Fuller]). But the complexity of our societies also demand that we be more attentive to the consequences of those innovations (Precautionary Principle). The challenges we face are, after all, the result of previously unanticipated consequences. It is by definition not possible to anticipate ‘black swans,’ but we should perhaps expect more than to cultivate an anti-fragility that merely awaits shocks [Talib]. How then to develop rich senses of the consequences of innovations designed to respond to phenomena like climate change?
We call this capacity ‘seeing around corners,’ since the aim is not merely to build a system model that can predict an end state, but instead to sense what is possible and likely once at the position of that end-state. An analogy would be the ability to forsee texting-while-driving whilst designing the user experience of a cell phone.
Theoretically, the point would be that designers have privileged access to niche temporarily materialized potential futures, as such they need to be equipped to not only make effective decisions about quality of life, but also be aware of the moral and ethical consequences of instantiating these futures in the wider world.
As an aside, we are interested in ‘feeling around corners’ in reaction to an increasing tendency in commercial systems design to give up on larger-scale forethought and instead trust in Lean Emergence. We wish to preserve the Situatedness that comes from these ways of working (that is a corrective to temptations to ‘See like a State’ Planning), but nevertheless see the need for more forceful directedness, especially when negotiating societal challenges requiring strong, voluntary actions.