One of the most alarming blog posts you were likely to read last week – even in a week when the world’s financial system teetered on the brink a couple of times – was at the Institute for the Future. Their in-house games designer, Jane McGonigal, has been hard at work building Superstruct, a simulation about the potential end of the species. The model identifies five critical factors, and a ‘most likely’ date which is – and this is alarming – less than 35 years away.
As the US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was promoting his $700 billion scheme to use tax revenues to buy bad debt from the US financial system – there are critical perspectives by Paul Krugman and in Dissent, and also at the Centre for Research on Globalization – I found myself at the National Gallery, looking at Sassetta’s 15th century picture of St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio (see the right-hand panel above).
There’s certainly too much to say on the financial crises blowing through Wall Street and billowing around Canary Wharf, but from a futures perspective what is perhaps most striking is that the people who have been shrewdest in their judgments – and often among the earliest as well – have been financial and economic outsiders, usually writing from the perspective of political economy rather than economics or finance. Their comments and critiques, of course, had been drowned out by the noise of received wisdom.