September 10, 2013

Every Day Is September 10

Patrick Marren
Partner

It's September 10 again, what I like to refer to as "Future Scenarios Awareness Day."

What were we allegedly thinking about on September 10, 2001?

  • Shark attacks. They were everywhere in the news that summer. (Even though, according to at least one source, total shark attacks worldwide declined from 89 to 75 from the previous year, and fatal attacks declined from 11 to 4.)
  • Chandra Levy, the young Congressional staffer for Rep. Gary Condit (D., CA), who had disappeared in Washington, DC that summer. (No, Condit had nothing to do with the disappearance; Levy's body was ultimately found in Rock Creek Park in May 2002, presumed murdered.)
  • Notorious street racer Alex Roy completed a lap of Manhattan in an Audi S4 in 27 minutes, amassing a staggering 731 points against his license, at times exceeding 140 miles per hour, and committing 109 moving violations. (Police at this moment are seeking a new suspect with the Youtube handle "AfroDuck Productions," who claims to have bettered Roy's performance by some 3 minutes just last week.)
  • Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt, seen as the new giant of tennis, beat Pete Sampras to win the Men's title at the U.S. Open. (Hewitt's last major title won would be Wimbledon, 2002, when he was 21; he attempted a comeback at the Open this year, but was beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in the round of sixteen.)
  • On September 10, 2001, a survey showed Congress to have its lowest approval rate of the year, at an appallingly low 42%. (Approval in Congress in 2013 is trending to be unchanged from 2012, when it was 15%.)
  • There was a fatality at the York Fair in Pennsylvania; a seven year-old boy, Matthew Potter, was killed when his roller coaster stopped abruptly and threw him against an unpadded surface. (No one has died on a roller coaster in Pennsylvania since then.)

If we were relying on extrapolative planning methods and media-driven conceptions of reality, on September 10, 2001, we would be expecting Lleyton Hewitt to rule tennis for the next decade; Congressional approval to precipitously decline to possibly around 38% by 2013; Gary Condit to be convicted of murder; roller coasters in Pennsylvania to be very dangerous for the next 12 years; and Alex Roy to be eaten by sharks on his next attempt to lower his Manhattan automobile speed record.

Or we could rely on alternative scenario planning, and try to imagine vastly different futures with non-linear changes to our world. Change does not ordinarily come smoothly; the world seems to operate with what scientists call "punctuated equilibria," periods of stability interrupted by sudden massive change.

So welcome to Future Scenarios Awareness Day. And let's be careful out there. 

Thoughts?