Future Generator

Another chose-the-fate- of-the-world style climate change game has come out of the UK. Unlike the BBC's earlier version, the focus this time is urban rather than national. Hosted by the London Transport Museum, The Future Generator is a slick way to explore what our cities could become. It presents you with a variety of choices and then uses your responses to assemble a vision of what the cities of 2050 would look like if everyone thought like you. Despite some painfully obvious questions -- didn't we already know that recycling was a good idea!?! -- the real surprise is that people's responses are generating a clear split between two very different worlds.

The three thousand people who have played so far are divided almost equally between a world that is simpler, more local and more politically active, and one that is governed by high-tech surveillance systems that steer our lives (and our cars, which incidently we also sleep in!) to meet the needs of big business. As with more complex interactive planning programs like metroquest, the scenarios are rendered as simple but slick visualizations that give some substance to the abstract choices that generated them. Somehow a tall surveillance tower loomed over my city and I am still not sure how it got there.

It'll take you five minutes or so to play and is definitely worth a try. But more than the game itself, the scenarios it provides and the cumulative results are the most interesting part. The "living local" scenario seems rigged to win (did anyone else notice the man about the jump off the bridge in the walk-through of the "Always On" scenario?). The game takes a good shot at making other ways of living together tangible. Despite its simplicity, it also leaves you wondering not just about how we can avoid environmental decline, but about the social implications of the choices we make as we move towards a less destructive future.


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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

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