TF2042: Nature Meets Future

12th February 2023
Imperial Tech Foresight looks at insights from the sciences of the natural world and how they bring new ideas for business over the next 20 years. Ideas that will help businesses overcome our increasingly wild and turbulent economic and political world.

Nature is powerful, its ecosystem harsh and its insights enlightening.

We humans have tamed manifest nature, such as minerals, plants, and beasts, through our ability to embed our knowledge and capabilities in technology.

Our technologies shape our language and our thinking, but those same technologies may also limit them.

While our economies are rife with technologies, those same economies are also undergoing social division and environmental disruption. Our businesses operate within those economies.

Our planet fights back and invites us to move with it.

We have a conceit of dominance of nature that is being challenged as our planet now appears to be fighting back; fighting back using forces representing deep natural concepts of which we have yet to fully take advantage of ourselves.

Imperial Tech Foresight 2042 presents some of these deep forces as ways for businesses to rethink themselves over the next 20 years.

What will we explore, and how can you contribute?

The project will draw upon expertise, research, and ventures from across Imperial’s community. Among other departments at the College, this knowledge is found in Imperial’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, Imperial College Business School and centres of research such as the Grantham Institute’s Ecosystems and Biodiversity group.

We’ll integrate this with the experience of our Imperial Business Partners through inclusive and interactive creative events.

The agenda for TF2042: Nature Meets Future

With insights from our experts and from our industry partners, as well as our knowledge of the ever-changing landscape around us, we’ll explore how deep patterns of the natural world play out in people, organisations, and economies.

Nature Meets Future looks at…

…ways to operate in a world of order and disorder

Murmuration of starlings. Imperial College London Enterprise. Order and Disorder. Order: Future of highly-regulated industries. Disorder: 20+ commons. #itf2042

Here we want to understand how rules and regulation both accelerate and inhibit our advances invention and innovation. We will ask the question, how are people navigating and being successful within constrained business environments?

Why is Order interesting?

Regulation needs to evolve as much as our technology and practice of using and deploying it.

We will look at the future of highly regulated industries through a panel of Imperial Business Partner members and Imperial experts.

Why is Disorder interesting?

Our powerful technological interconnectedness means easier formal communication but also less controllable informal. How do business navigate the informal communication forums where truth and facts have less weight than opinion?

We will have a recording of a panel on the future of internet commons. These are locations where information, conversation and even, to some degree, formal transactions take place. Where activities may be positioned as a being in a commons but really take place in places with unseen greater agendas.

…how we can adapt and take action to become more successful

Salmon farms in Norway. Imperial College London Enterprise. Adaptation and Agency. Adaptation: Wild biodiversity. Agency: Leadership and the future. #itf2042Why is Adaptation interesting?

Approaching the health of the natural world using the language and logic of the technological one is a mismatch. We will look at novel – but plausible – future possibilities of our biodiverse world. We will consider those novel possibilities and how our business can be resilient and successful within them.

Biodiversity is still in decline and prospections about its future are many shades of grim. We will present an uncommon view of the future of biodiversity as a provocation and possible inspiration.

Why is Agency interesting?

A changing planet means a changing environment in many parts of the world that a business may operate. Resilience to unusual variety will be an asset.

Acting without evidence or incomplete evidence is a challenge. Technologies are evolving to help this, and so are new business practices and decision-making approaches.

We will have a virtual fireside-chat with an expert from Imperial about decision making and leadership when there are large changes on the horizon.

… how new things can be born in complex environments and how old technologies must die

Life cycle of a dandelion flower. Imperial College London Enterprise. Life and death. Life: Emergence for business. Death: Technology death and transition. Why is Life (Emergence) interesting?

A high-level force of nature is life, new things, from emergence. Unexpected changes that come from many small things and their activities. The giant sequoia sometimes must die for new shoots to grow and secure the future of the forest.

We will present a series of interviews with Imperial experts where emergence takes place and rules are important enabling us to divine lessons for operating a business in the years to come.

Conditions that favour emergence might be constrained in your organisation. Encouraging and allowing emergence may make it more diverse and resilient.

Why is (Technology) Death interesting?

A ground force in nature is that of death – it’s a universal truth that everything that appears to be alive must face its own demise. This can be an organism, and it can be a collection of them. But for humans, it can also be the voluntary or involuntary discontinuation of a behaviour or a technology.

A new viewpoint and language will stimulate new thinking.

We will lead roundtable discussions with Imperial Business Partners and Imperial experts on the topic of technology death. This is not so much the technologies of the past but the ones we are moving on from now – and technologies that we wish to move on from in the future. How do we replace them? Do we need new technologies or new behaviours and values?

Are you excited yet? Let us know…

Outlined above is the Imperial Tech Foresight 2042 programme in a nutshell.

As our technologies move from mechanistic and controlled to interconnected and unpredictable, we need new lenses to examine them through to start to navigate the next 20 years. Lenses, we propose, that nature has already armed us with.

About Imperial Tech Foresight 2042

Imperial Tech Foresight 2042 is produced as part of the Imperial Business Partners 20+ plausible futures programme. You can learn more about Imperial Business Partners and more about the 20+ futures programme at Imperial Tech Foresight here.

Before you go…

While Imperial Tech Foresight produce content about the far future the Imperial Business Partners team connect their clients to Imperial experts from areas like…