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First Part - From Divine Metaverses to Aquifiner Movements: Some Unthought-of-Futures from Asia

The Center for Engaged Foresight recently launched its “Dreams and Disruptions” (D&D) Global Foresight Workshop Series. The primary goal of these workshops is to offer foresight practitioners and enthusiasts worldwide an opportunity to delve into the game, discuss the essence, nature, and futures of foresight, engage in meaningful questions and conversations, and reflect on the role of gamification and its application in foresight practice.

Furthermore, the series aims to enable participants from across the globe to contemplate the meaning, function, and value of imagination and emergence in anticipatory studies and practices. It also seeks to foster communication, collaboration, and networking among participants.

Following our engaging Dreams and Disruptions Scenario Global Workshop Series in Asia a few weeks ago, I am excited to share two compelling scenarios developed by the two D&D breakout groups.

The Center for Engaged Foresight further refined these scenarios for story flow and clarity.

The Dreams and Disruptions Game, at least in its generic version, are played progressively in three phases.

Phase 1. World Building. Construct narrative of hybrid future environments. Here participants share their imaginings and craft collectively their depictions of alternative future worlds. These futures could be the worst, weird and preferred futures. The scenario archetype, time horizons and emerging conditions of change forms the bedrock by which to build the scenarios.

Phase 2. Social Psychology. Drawing upon Sarkar’s theory of social cycle and leadership, which encompasses diverse ways of knowing and understanding shaping the conditions of change, participants imagine how they scenarios would evolve or transform given the various epistemes exhibited by a particular leader or a movement’s mental or collective social pyschology — laborer, warrior, intellectual, capitalist and the Sadvipra.

Phase 3. Anti-Fragile Futures. Here participants delve into the realm of anticipating the repercussions of a planetary stressor on the scenarios crafted in phase two. We further explore how a leader or movement might react, manage, and transcend the effects of these planetary disruptors. This phase unravels potential prospects for innovation and novelty aimed at transcending crisis.

The game can be played in its entirety, in single or multiple phases, such as Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, or any combination thereof, like Phase 1 and Phase 3, Phases 1 and 2, or Phases 2 and 3. For the complete instructions and guide on the gameplay here it is.

In a forthcoming piece, I will explore the concepts, assumptions, and inspirations that spurred me to conceive the development of the game. Additionally, I will delve into the questions, insights, and the framework that underpin the game’s construction, including:

  • The essence of randomness, along with its form and function in futures studies and strategic foresight.

  • The implications of not being able to choose our forces of change during scenario building.

  • The reality that we do not select our crises. How do stressors and disruptors influence or alter our understanding of reality and the future, affect complex systems, or drive transformation or chaos?

Furthermore, I will examine whether games can enhance our cognitive processes and develop our capacity to transcend the limits of our imagination, thereby enabling us to envision previously unimaginable futures.

Here are the scenarios crafted during the Asia workshop, refined and analyzed by the Center for Engaged Foresight alongside the Dreams and Disruptions ChatGPT Hyrid Futures Builder and Image Generator. I will be launching this soon and plan to dedicate a piece to it.

Scenario 1: The Aquifiner Awakening and the Struggle for the Soul of Healing

The scenario, categorized under the “Weird Futures” archetype, is set a decade from now. It explores changes driven by aquifers, nature worship, mental health, the influence of capitalists, and the significant disruption of a comet hitting Earth.

In 2034, amidst a backdrop of growing mental health challenges and a society increasingly disconnected from nature, a unique religious movement known as the Aquifiners emerges. This group, centered around the worship of aquifers, believes in the transformative power of water not just as a life-sustaining resource but as a conduit to mental and emotional healing. Their deity is not personified in the traditional sense but is represented by the rock formations that encase the aquifers — seen as the body of a benevolent, living Earth that cradles the sacred waters below.

Aquifiners live in harmony around these natural underground reservoirs, which they regard as sanctuaries. They engage in daily rituals that involve immersion in the aquifer’s waters or the carrying of its contents in chalices, practices believed to heal the mind and soothe the soul. Unlike many religious movements, the Aquifiners do not actively recruit followers. Instead, they extend open invitations to anyone drawn to their way of life, always ready to warmly welcome newcomers without any pressure to stay. This openness and lack of proselytization, combined with the genuine happiness and mental well-being observed in the community, quietly attract those suffering from the so-called “emotional drought” afflicting society.

As the world grapples with the escalating crisis of disconnection from nature and worsening mental health, the Aquifiners offer a stark contrast and a beacon of hope. Their practices, especially the weekly aquifer baths, become renowned as a potent form of emotional healing. This newfound cure, relying solely on the natural properties of aquifer water, ignites curiosity and skepticism alike. Rumors swirl about the water being infused with naturally occurring, happiness-inducing drugs, though these remain unfounded myths bolstered by the dramatic transformations witnessed in those who join the Aquifiners.

Meanwhile, a counter-movement gains momentum, fueled by a distrust of nature’s intentions. This faction views the planet’s increasing hostility — in the form of climate change and natural disasters — as evidence of nature conspiring against humanity. They cast a wary eye on the Aquifiners, whose blissful existence and deep connection to the earth stand in stark defiance of their own beliefs.

Yet, it is the simplicity and purity of the Aquifiners’ lifestyle that ultimately draws wider attention. Their practices, devoid of the technological and pharmaceutical interventions that characterize modern life, offer a profound statement on the healing potential of reconnecting with the natural world. The Aquifiners do not claim to have all the answers, nor do they seek to convert the entirety of humanity to their ways. Instead, they present an alternative path, one that emphasizes harmony with nature, community, and the pursuit of mental well-being through the most fundamental elements of life.

As we look toward the future, the Aquifiners’ philosophy raises critical questions about the direction of societal progress. In a world where technological advancements and material achievements have failed to quell the rising tide of mental health issues, the Aquifiners’ return to nature represents a radical yet profoundly simple solution. Whether this movement will grow to reshape society at large or remain a peaceful enclave of tranquility amidst a turbulent world remains to be seen. However, their impact on the conversation surrounding mental health, community, and our relationship with the planet is undeniable, marking a pivotal shift in the ongoing search for healing and happiness in the 21st century.

By 2036, the Aquifiner movement has undergone a profound transformation, driven by the relentless forces of capitalism. The once unified community of believers, known for their peaceful coexistence with nature and their open-hearted approach to mental wellness, finds itself at the crossroads of commodification and commercialization.

The Rise of Commercial Spirituality

The undeniable healing properties of aquifer water, coupled with the growing public interest in alternative mental health solutions, catch the eye of enterprising capitalists. Spiritual retreats centered around aquifer baths quickly become commercialized, transforming what was once a sacred, communal experience into a luxury commodity. These retreats boast exclusive access to pristine aquifer sites, offering a blend of spiritual awakening and opulent comfort — at a price.

Fragmentation and Aesthetic Distinctions

As the Aquifiner movement becomes more mainstream, it splinters into various sub-groups. These factions distinguish themselves through minor aesthetic differences, ranging from the design of their chalices to the specific rituals performed during their water ceremonies. What was a unified belief system fractures into a mosaic of competing brands, each vying for followers and market share in the burgeoning industry of spiritual wellness.

Monopolization of Aquifers

The most significant shift, however, comes with the acquisition of aquifers by private entities. Wealthy individuals and corporations, recognizing the value of these natural reservoirs, begin to buy up access to aquifers across the globe. This monopolization not only restricts public access to aquifer water but also allows these entities to control the supply and, consequently, the price of what becomes known as “healing water.”

These aquifer owners tout the benefits of the water, publishing reports on its mental health benefits. However, the commodification of aquifer water creates a stark divide between those who can afford these spiritual retreats and the masses who are left behind, exacerbating societal inequalities.

Conflict and Consequences

The commercialization of the Aquifiner movement and the privatization of aquifer resources spark a societal backlash. A war of ideologies erupts between the believers in the sacredness of aquifer water and those who see it as yet another resource to be exploited for profit. Protests, both peaceful and violent, break out around gated aquifer sites and luxury retreat centers, symbolizing the broader struggle against the commodification of nature and spirituality.

Amid this turmoil, a radical faction of Aquifiners emerges, dedicated to “liberating” aquifer access for the public good. They argue that the healing properties of aquifer water should not be a luxury but a right accessible to all, especially those suffering from mental illness. This group engages in direct actions, from hacking corporate systems to physically reclaiming aquifer sites, aiming to dismantle the monopoly and restore the original ethos of the Aquifiner movement.

Looking Forward

As the conflict unfolds, society is forced to confront fundamental questions about the intersection of capitalism, spirituality, and environmental stewardship. The struggle over aquifer water becomes a microcosm for larger debates on the privatization of natural resources, the ethics of commercializing spiritual practices, and the right to mental wellness in a capitalist society.

In this scenario, the future is uncertain. Will the original values of the Aquifiner movement inspire a reevaluation of how society views and values natural resources and mental health? Or will the forces of capitalism continue to fragment and commodify spiritual practices, widening the gap between those who can afford to heal and those who cannot?

As the world watches the evolution of this conflict, the outcome remains in the balance, with the potential to redefine the relationship between humanity, nature, and the marketplace in the decades to come.

The New Currency and the Comet Cult

As the dust settles, a frantic struggle for control over the remaining aquifers unfolds. The value of an aquifer skyrockets, with access to these waters now deemed more precious than gold, effectively becoming the new currency in a world grappling with scarcity. Amidst this chaos, a faction of Aquifiners makes a startling discovery: fragments of the comet itself harbor extraordinary qualities. This revelation divides the community, with some trading their cherished aquifer access for pieces of the comet, while others form a new sect — the Comet Cult. This group venerates the celestial body as a divine agent of change, believing it has brought not destruction, but a higher calling to humanity.

Capitalists and The Comet-Contaminated Aquifers

The contamination of the aquifers with the comet’s alien element attracts global attention, transforming the impacted country into a focal point for tourists seeking cures for their ailments. Capitalists quickly move to monopolize these resources, controlling the flow of the miraculous water. The battle between believers and non-believers dissipates, replaced by a bustling economy centered around health tourism. Workers flock to the country, drawn by the promise of employment and the allure of a potential cure.

Restoration and Harmony

As society adjusts to this new reality, the Comet Cult and remaining Aquifiners explore ways to restore balance to the planet. Harnessing the energy from the contaminated aquifers, they develop methods to not only treat diseases but also to sustainably power their communities. Rituals evolve around both aquifer waters and comet fragments, aiming to reconcile humanity’s relationship with the cosmos and the Earth.

Response to Global Depression

The massive global depression triggered by the comet’s impact forces a reevaluation of values and systems. With the realization that material wealth pales in comparison to health and longevity, efforts to redistribute the newfound resources begin. The Aquifiners, now with a broader, more inclusive doctrine, advocate for equitable access to the healing waters. The Comet Cult, focusing on physical and spiritual strength, works to share their knowledge and fragments with the world.

In this transformative period, the dichotomy of science and spirituality blurs, as both are seen as necessary for healing the planet and its inhabitants. Communities form around shared goals of sustainability, health, and spiritual growth, leaving behind the capitalist models that once threatened to monopolize the very essence of life.

A New Dawn

As the world rebuilds from the brink of collapse, a new societal model emerges, one that values collective well-being over individual wealth. The comet, once a harbinger of doom, is now seen as the catalyst for a global awakening — a reminder of the fragility of life and the interconnectedness of all beings. The Aquifiners and the Comet Cult, along with new movements that arise, work towards a harmonious coexistence, mindful of the lessons learned from the past.

In this future, humanity navigates the challenges of a post-comet world with a renewed sense of purpose, understanding that the true measure of civilization is not in its conquests or wealth, but in its ability to heal, adapt, and thrive in harmony with the universe.

This era is characterized by a harmonious coexistence with the planet, a deep reverence for life in all its forms, and a commitment to the well-being of future generations. The legacy of the comet, far from being a tale of destruction, is remembered as the catalyst for a new dawn, where equilibrium between advancement and sustainability, community and individuality, marks the foundation of civilization.

For more about the upcoming Dreams and Disruptions workshops here.


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