Category Archives: FATE INSTITUTE

Using the Future to Save the Future


Personal Futures – My talk at IFTF’s Future of Persuasion Conference

Personal Futures - the foundation to my personal futures thesis project.

As part of the IFTF’s Future of Persuasion conference I was asked to introduce my Personal Futures research project that became the foundation to The FATE Institute thesis work I have been developing since the RCA. I was billed under the part of the conference known as ‘Future As Persuasion’ and introduced by Lyn Jeffery, director of Technology Horizons Program and Jason Tester, the IFTF Research and Design Manager who introduced the notion of Future as Persuasion and discussed the human-futures interaction techniques he uses at the IFTF.

I used this opportunity to showcase some of the FATE personal futures services and processes and to discuss the interaction and debate around alternative futures, technology, and personal action in the present. I introduced my personal futures background research and highlighted some of the key drivers that influenced my thesis.

Examples included: My internship on the Tackling Obesities project at the government think tank called Foresight that looked at the causes of obesity and how it will affect society in 40 years time. Here I was introduced to horizon scanning methods and systems modelling.

Another moment of realisation for me was when i stumbled upon the ‘jessica the palm reader’ service and thought to myself I wonder what Jess has to say about my future? So i began to look in to a number of different esoteric and ancient divination services people spend their time on money on.

Jessica The Palm Reader

And finally i was particularly interested in the rise of commercial predictive risk personal genome testing companies that were popping up in the US and the UK and the impacts it would have in how we understand our futureselves.

Why Personal Futures?
To me these drivers indicate how more and more people are looking for systems, frameworks, mapping or beliefs to manage their emotions, ideas and relationships and guide them in the everyday decisions they make and enable them to have a sense of their potential and possible future paths. Each of these drivers affect the way we interpret and understand ourselves and the Personal Futures phenomenon will continue to grow as more people will find more techniques and models to borrow from.

The FATE Institute
This became the segway into introducing some examples that demonstrate my research into personal futures by the services and interactions i created for my design interactions masters thesis whilst i was at the royal college of art in london. Here i introduced The FATE Institute : the futures association for therapy and entertainment and explained how I bought together this research to then generate and develop a range of personal futures service.

The FATE Institute

I continued to explain the infrastructure of the institute and how it is divided up into 3 research and therapy areas, nurture, nature and neither.  Each research & therapy group develops their own range of personal futures services depending on the focus of the research.

The FATE Institute Infrastructure

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Crowdsourcing Your Future – ask your friends to predict your possible/preferable futures

Crowdsourcing Your Future postcard - ask your friends to predict your futures

For my recent talk at IFTF’s Technology Horizons Program Future of Persuasion conference at the Quadras Conference Center last week I brought along some newly printed ‘Crowdsourcing Your Future’ postcards to hand out to the audience in conjunction with my presentation about my Personal Futures research and The FATE Institute.


Crowdsourcing Your Future is a double sided postcard that you send to friends to ask them to predict your futures.

To start them off, you as the sender will plot your ideas of what you think their possible and preferable future timelines might be. Once they receive your predictions they are kindly requested or perhaps provoked to send the postcard back to you with their predictions of your future timelines.

The more you send out perhaps as a birthday card, the more collective ideas you will receive of what your friends think about your possible future timeline and perhaps their preferable idea of your future lifepath.


1. Download this ‘crowdsourcing your future’ A4 postcard pdf document

2.Print on to A4 card, do not select fit to page but choose’ A4 borderless’ on your printer settings

3. Print both sides and cut down th emiddle to make 2 separate double sided postcards

4. Choose a friend and plot their possible and preferable timelines

5. Fil in the postcard section

6. Stick a stamp on it and put in the mail.

7. Wait to see what your friends predict!

Future of Persuasion and Personal Futures @ IFTF

Persuasive Microtrend Card: Disagreement?

Persuasive Microtrend Card: Narcissistic?

Tomorrow I am off to Palo Alto to participate in a 2 day conference called The Future of Persuasion as part of the Technology Horizons program at the IFTF. The conference will be using a variety of formats and methods to enable participants, clients of IFTF, to experience the emerging theories and behaviours that will shape the development of persuasive technologies over the next few years.

I have been helping out with some of the developments of certain immersive experiences at the conference alongside the magnificent Jake Dunagan (Institute For The Future) and Stuart Candy (Long Now Foundation). I will also be presenting some of the personal futures methods I have been exploring in The FATE Institute work including The Microtrend Diary and The Delphi Party alongside the wonderful Jason Tester.

My Myers Briggs Test and The Microtrend Diary



A few weeks back I was asked to fill in my own Myers Briggs questionnaire to enable me to find out about what personality type I am likely to be. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is “a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions”. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types. He stated that there are four main functions of consciousness, two of them being perceiving functions: Sensation and Intuition and two being judging functions Thinking and Feeling that are then modified by two main attitude types: extraversion and introversion. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers began generating the questionnaire during World War II, believing that knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be “most comfortable and effective”.

The idea that a set of questions with certain weighting that ask me about how I deal with certain situations and turns that into a four-letter personality type has been something that has always bemused and slightly annoyed me. Whether self discovery questions in Cosmo magazine or psychometric questionnaires that get you certain jobs depending on the results have remained a constant aggravating mystery to me. Yet I felt this was a challenge for me to overcome my anger and have personal experience to criticise against. As a result of this questionnaire I am an ENFP: an innovator and inspirer…allegedly!

Quantifying the Unquantifiable

The idea of quantifying the unquantifiable; the fluid thoughts and emotions of our everyday lives has in recent times become more and more popular as algorithms in social media focused applications have enabled us all to  invest and share data and act as conceptual self-knowledge mirrors. Originally used in organizational management, social media has enabled a more personal approach to help evaluate ourselves. Indeed the rise in self-help and self-knowledge have become a huge business and created opportunities for organisations and individuals to offer more and more self-reflective tools that allow them to record, quantify, reflect and evaluate on their everyday lives; their thoughts, feelings, mental and physical health. 

My original fascination came when I stumbled across Jonathan Harris & Sep Kamvar’s “We Feel Fine” project: An algorithm that collects around 20,000 feelings per day as expressed by the blogging community and splices up the feelings according to demographic information about the author of each feeling (age, gender, geographical location, and local weather conditions). It then presents these findings in a series of playful interfaces, each of which paints a different picture of human emotion.  Other applications/products/questionnaires have crunched this kind of qualitative, touchy feely soft data to allow you to see how good you are in bed, a rolling history of your sex life, your daily mundane activities calculated into graphical visualizations, psychological phenomena translated into quantifiable scales or your daily tweeted interests simply autoplotted into a diary format. The artist and designer Lucy Kimbell has also been investigating the evaluation cultures in management, technology and the arts; her performance/service: Free Evaluation Service is one example. And more recently Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly set up the Quantified Self program to enable self-quantifiers to meet and compare and analyse their own methods and processes of evaluation.

The Microtrend Diary: a Personal Futures Thought Experiment

The Microtrend Diary is kept in its own monthly slipcase

This initial interest in quantifying the absurdity of our feelings inspired me to consider how we might use these psychometric approaches to create personal futures services. What if you could create a self-reflective  diary that made use of our everyday thoughts to provoke us in such a way that you are able to change your future actions. As a thought experiment I devised ‘The Microtrend Diary’ during my final year on the MA Design  Interactions course in 2007 and have made a recent 2nd prototype. I am currently looking to develop this further with some initial user testing and then publish a small batch for distribution.

Daily self-fulfilling prophecy questions.

Inspired by the abundance of self-help books, self-discovery personality tests and psychometric questionnaires, the Microtrend Diary is a mirror of your daily actions and emotions that reveal provocative ways to alter your future actions. This personalised diary, is printed to order based on a set of preliminary personality questions. As the owner makes a daily record of their actions, a unique set of provocative aide memoirs are revealed under a perforated flap that suggest changing your behaviour in certain ways for the following day.

A perforated seal is torn open to reveal the daily self-fulfilling prophecy questions.

My Happiness Scale

Other pages in the diary include the hourly ‘happiness’ chart, ‘what will this day be?’ join the dots exercise, ‘crowdsourcing you future’ postcards to send to friends and a weekly ‘hopes & fears for the future’ scatter graph. After each week the diary owner is asked to plot their hopes and fear for the coming week and after each month these thoughts are plotted against a time series analysis graph identifying historical trends and pointers for the future. The self-fulfilling prophecy diary is printed weekly and each week is stored in it’s own dedicated monthly box.

Crowdsourcing Your Future: Two postcards sent to friends to plot their ideas of your own future against a timeline and a future history.

A self-addressed Futures History postcard sent to a friend and with the obligation to be returned a year later.

Futures Timeline Postcard sent to a friend with a blank timeline in order to be filled in and returned to sender.

The Self Help boom & the Happiness Cult

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Tony Robbins: Motivational Speaker. Captured  from The Century of the Self

In last Sunday’s Observer, journalist Carole Cadwalladr, discussed the increase in the huge profiting market of selling happiness: the world of self-help.  Self help books used to be something my dad talked about in the early 90s that made me think he was a little strange and that it was just a way to fake his real self. Yet in some ways I have become to realise that there is some good in enabling people to self administer happiness much like how self medication has become more and more common with the help of the internet. Whether that actually increases paranoia and hypochondria is another matter.

Creating The FATE Institute, a fictitious personalised futures institute was a comment in some ways on the way we all want to have someone/something/somewhere to believe in and have the answers and know more about us than ourselves. For there to be someway to control and manage the unknown and know how to get what we want out of life using techniques, methods and knowledge from the diverse fields of ancient divination, corporate forecasting and personal genomics & genetic futures.

This Observer article describes how this common feeling we have has created an opportunity for psychologists, counsellors, hypnotherapists and entrepreneurs to use their skills and speak to a wider audience by creating their brand empire with books, weekend courses, DVDs etc and in doing so turn self help into a huge money making genre.

Self help means investing time and money to listen to a 3rd party agency describe our potential risks in the future and then explore ways to control it to essentially make us feel happy in the now. We will join societies, buy memberships, read the horoscope, hire foresight consultancies and futurists, read horizon scanning reports, subscribe to predictive gene testing services, listen to counsellors,

This article also reminded me of Adam Curtis‘s doc, The Century of The Self and the way Edward Bernays applied Sigmund Freud’s understanding of  the subconscious to create the practice of public relations. Finding ways to understand and explore the self and introduce techniques to persuade and  encourage consumption and self obsession.  Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

See also The World of Happiness post

Peter Schwartz by proxy supports the personalised futures methodologies of The FATE Institute

Future Implications: Is the future still the four box model?

Future Implications: Is the future still the four box model?

Peter Schwartz, co-founder of the GBN and a key advocate for scenario planning recently wrote in Wired about how to apply the methods of scenario planning normally applied in a corporate horizon scanning to a personalised futures context much in the same way as FATE develops personalized forecasting with the help of The Delphi Party service and The Microtrends Diary.

As personal genomics continues to become more accessible and affordable, it has opened up another way of understanding ourselves in the future, enabling individuals to quantify and digitise their future health and real time activites. There has been a coming together of how we understand ourselves by the use of other methodologies that are normally used on a large scale. The services that form The FATE Institute experience are about applying corporate horizon scanning to our personalised futures.

Yet The FATE Institute is still not in actual practice but in research and prototype stage. The next steps for The FATE Institute is to evolve beyond its current scope of research …. but where?