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Transitioning to an Optimistic Futures Workshop - 18 May 2018

Led by Matthew MacCallum and Ben Briggs, Service Innovation Lab

The following is content generated in the Transitioning to an Optimistic Future event held as part of Tech Week 2018. Duration 3 hours.


The event was designed to build on the concepts and discussions had as part of the Digital Seven Nations and Optimistic Futures Event. In particular we wanted to focus on the human aspect of transition and what would be required of New Zealanders in the future. The topics of discussion were chosen as they we all universally understood human features and common daily activities. This created a level foundation to debate from as opposed to getting caught up in complex technologies and paradigms that could distract and exclude. The role of technology was tightly framed as an enabler and second to behaviour, attributes and activity.

Event Description:

Building on the Optimistic Futures event held earlier in the year, in this workshop we will explore what’s required for New Zealand/Aotearoa to transition to a better future, moving from an 18th century to a 21st century society.

This includes considering:

  • the role of government
  • the role of technology
  • what foundations are needed to support society
  • what role everyone would play in an optimistic future

Brought to you by Victoria University of Wellington, InternetNZ and the Service Innovation Lab.

This event is part of the Techweek series on Building Government’s Digital Service Innovation Capability. The room was divided into 4 large groups for discussion and exploration.

Group share and reflection

At the end of the day there was a group share and reflection which had the following insights.

  • The initial discussion was not about the tech, it was about the people
  • Of interest – dealing with someone’s intellect after death…and how this could benefit society
  • Huge number of changes noticed with the activity – progressing from person’s exercise to societal benefits
  • How will government incentivise the changes we’ve identified (that need to happen for optimistic future)? ** More intuitive change, tapping into the psyche of the people
  • Noted we will share outputs from session plus what is happening at MBIE (digital strategy “speed dating” sessions)
  • Starting off with the values was the right type of exercise J ** Had people think about what we’re trying to achieve/the end goal in mind
  • Next conversations we need to have: ** Some kind of personal commitment – make it concrete ** Co-build a public facing repository of the information
  • What caused most discussion: ** The ethical considerations + having a broader community discussion (beyond government) ** Where will the conversation take place + how do we bring other voices in?

Activity One - Qualities to thrive as kiwis in 2070

Participants were asked to brainstorm qualities of an optimistic future in which kiwis could thrive and then chose 5 per group they felt were the most important.

A word cloud of popular terms from the report, details below Word cloud of the key concepts from the workshop content

The qualities identified (to reflect the word cloud above) are below.

Qualities reflected in all four groups:

  • Curiosity - (learn improve collaborate)
  • Empathetic

Qualities reflected in three groups:

  • Adaptive
  • Collaborative
  • Confident
  • Creative

Qualities reflected in two groups:

  • Bi-Cultural
  • Compassionate - (Love, Mercy)
  • Critically engages/thinking
  • Empowered
  • Environmentally aware/responsive
  • Equitable
  • Open
  • Resilient
  • Trust

Finally, qualities reflected in one group included; Absentable, Abundance, Active, Agile, Ambitious, Appreciative, Audacity, Authenticity, Aware, Big picture thinker, Capability or automation, Capacity, Caring, Challenging, Considerate, Connected (place, people, history, whakapapa, turangawaewae), Courageous, Decisive, Diversity, Ethical, Explorative, Flexible, Generosity, Good natured, Honest, Hopeful, Hypocracy, Imaginative, Inclusive, Initiative, Innovative, Kind, Leadership, Love of learning, Loving, Maker skills, Mobility, Multicultural, Neighbourly, No structural inequality, Patience, Positive, Proactive, Productive, Proud, Reflect, Resourceful, Respectful, Responsible, Risk tolerant, Savvy, Self awareness, Smart, Social, Supportive, Sustainable, Survival Skills, Tolerant, Truthful, Values Driven, Visionary, Work/life Balance (2)

The cumulatirve top 5 prioritised qualities list from each group were (number of groups):

  • Empathy/sympathy/self awareness (3)
  • Diversity (2)
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Love of Learning/Curiosity
  • Maker Skills
  • Curiosity
  • Trust
  • Reflection
  • Decisive
  • Courageous
  • Resilient
  • Sustainable
  • Kind & Inclusive
  • Environmentally Responsible
  • Ethical
  • Resourceful
  • Risk tolerant

Full Definitions of prioritised qualities:

Group 1 Def

  1. Empathy/sympathy/self awareness - understanding yourself, others and the impacts/consequences of your actions

    Important because:

    • We are seeing the dehumanisation of people in our current systems. Our optimistic future is truly human centred
    • Mātauranga Māori instead of economic outcomes, we measure social and environmental ones
    • We want a trust based society, not blockchain one
    • Rehumanise the workforce
  2. Creativity - expression, problem solving, making an intuitive leap, to make an idea tangible.

    Important because:

    • It will enable us to have a viable empowered future
    • Without creativity there is no progress
    • Forward momentum and flow
    • We can’t understand or express the art of the possible
    • Learned helplessness and inability to envisage better systems
    • Creativity makes people unique
  3. Curiosity and love of learning - desire to explore, understand the world around you

    Important because:

    • In a changing world, a love of learning will enable us to advance and embrace change with joy.
    • Change as an opportunity not a threat
    • The world will only become more complex
    • Love of Learning as a platform for your ability and confidence to respond to complexity
  4. Critical thinking - ability to discern truth, deconstruct content to value, truth and facts, ability to contextualise information - natural motivations, values etc

    Important because:

    • Deception will become grander and more complex (especially technological ability to fabricate falsehood)
    • Value truth over a good story
  5. Maker Skills - the skills and perspective that assumes you can form the world around you, you are not bound by the tools you have, you build what you need and are empowered to do so

    Important because:

    • We have the tech to create anything - enables us to build bespoke solutions for what we need
    • Don’t have to be passive consumers
    • Empowered to be critical creative and make things

Group 2 Defs:

  1. Trust - don’t fear interactions, know/respect boundaries and rules, vulnerability, it’s reflective/2-way, honesty, accountability - implied or explicit, foundation of the relationship, being treated as a human being
  2. Diversity - wanting to scan all options and ways of doing things, sense of self is valued, open ears, allowance for differences, ability to express views, how to channel power through process, inclusion, learning from others, rights, “recognising the power of paradigm”, respect for people, ability to participate, social norms
  3. Empathy - do things with people not to people, understanding without appropriation, try to feel what other people feel, empathetic > Sympathetic (empowering > Patronising)
  4. Curiosity - opportunity to learn, improve, contribute, at the top of the hierarchy of needs, in the boundaries of what’s acceptable, ethics, different power structures, may be self-disruptive, it’s good but can be dangerous.
  5. Reflection - share failures, transparency, look in the mirror, meditative, requires space and time, truth - don’t erase the facts, fits with work/life balance, understanding our past and learning from it, take pause and reflect integrate inputs

Group 3 Defs:

  1. Courageous - Be brave about change, be willing to be the first to act.
  2. Resilient - Internal strength and ability to push through adversity with optimism and adaptability
  3. Kind & Inclusive - With compassion and responsibility actively enable and support participation in society and valuing differences
  4. Sustainable - Consider long term impact and understand we’re living from finite resources
  5. Decisive - To make decisions and act with confidence, with timeliness and being aware of trade offs. Clarity of thought, long term thinking. Being more comfortable with failure.

Group 4 Defs:

  1. Resourceful - Curiosity, innovative adaptive and critically engaged
  2. Ethical - Empathetic, considerate, equitable
  3. Risk Tolerant - Confident, positive and patient in response to changing environment
  4. Diverse - Open, tolerant, values driven, respectful of difference
  5. Environmentally Responsive - Improvement driven, technologically fluent, climate disruption, responsive

    Important because:

    • Innovate or Die
    • Subjugation aint cool
    • Without progress and the confidence to take risks only stagnation results
    • Acceptance of diversity underpins respect
    • Survival!
    • Empathy - How does it work through technology? It’s a very human characteristic

Activity Two - Performing actions today vs 2070

Participants were asked to choose one of the following activities and explore the process both today and in 2070 and how their qualities from Activity One might impact how they are performed.


  • Start a business
  • Get a health check
  • Grow food - Group 2, Group 3
  • Visit a friend or family member
  • Campaign for rights/beliefs
  • Prepare a meal
  • Do exercise - Group 4
  • Shop for a gift
  • A day of high school
  • Have a funeral - Group 1
  • Travel on holiday

Below are the present and future states each group brainstormed. We intentionally looks 50 years out to think about new horizons rather than iterations on the status quo.

Have a funeral - Group 1


  • person dies of incurable disease, old age, car accident
  • their passwords and access dies with them
  • paperwork to formalise death - probate, govt processes
  • obiturary in the newspaper
  • funeral happens, people travel to it
  • body is buried or cremated
  • mind is gone
  • mourning - family remembers them through photos, videos, letters, social media?
  • religious and cultural components


  • less unexpected deaths, so person has time to manage affairs, more euthanasia, plenned funerals
  • bio tracking knows you’ve died, user-authorised services are notified and person’s wishes enacted - still human gatekeeper
  • funeral - laws prohibiting satellite corpses, energy considered in body removal, homogenised religious/cultural approach?
  • relationship to physical body changes as consciousness is able to be uploaded
  • therapy for mourning
  • An AI likeness lives on
  • The life long learning of the person lives on in IP commons. Can someone else download a consciousness or ideas/knowledge from that person?

Grow food - nutrition - Group 2


  • Plan (space, season, crops, compliance)
  • Prepare (dig, single vs family vs commercial consumption, water requirements, pest control, fencing, composting/supplements)
  • Plants, maintain, harvest and back to planning with some automation employed for larger operations.


  • Vertical, shared and more diversity in crops and methods
  • Disruption to supply chain
  • Tracability of crop lineage and social responsibility
  • Better ways to measure the value of growing food
  • Reflection, measurements and iteration on resource usage
  • Empathy on food security and sharing
  • Curiosity on food as medicine and eHealth
  • Understanding how our past shapes our food

Grow food - nutrition - Group 3


  • Mix of mass and individual production
  • Organics are popular
  • Community gardens and distribution
  • Highly seasonal - problematic
  • Labour intensive - problematic
  • New plant varieties not keeping up with climate change
  • Inefficiencies - waste distribution
  • Competitive global market
  • R&D is great
  • Environmental threats - pesticides, biodiversity, etc
  • Farming is in our kiwi DNA
  • Site prearation and decision making
  • Resourcing - equipment and people
  • Know your market and integrate with environmental factors
  • Supermarkets dominate

2070 (with qualities):

  • NZ developes best protein DNA
  • DNA of cow - headless carcass with no pain (ethics)
  • grow at home - 3D printing, predictive & inspiring, based on individual needs, land gets back to early state and rich biodiversity
  • open sourcing of food production - sharing DNA code, incentivised social schemes & govt policy with different motives and measurements from today
  • All supported by: decisive, courageous, resilient, sustainable, and kind/inclusive values.

Exercise and healthy living - Group 4


  • decide on exercise
  • find and wear appropriate exercise clothes
  • choose venue
  • plan time
  • find appropriate companions
  • double check motivation
  • book/schedule events
  • transport to and from
  • stretching and exercise
  • review performance
  • procrastinate at any stage


  • greater access to diverse, affordable and open access options
  • built into daily routine (treadmill desks?), big analytics focus
  • Companions less necessary due to a) corporeal and b) human options
  • Mental health reflection built in (mindfullness)
  • Diary optimisation and automation
  • More bio monitoring to optimise exercise plan according to need
  • Generate power or credits from tasks

Activity Three - Roles & Requirements

Participants were asked to then reflect on the previous activities and discuss and answer the following questions:

  1. What effects could this have at a community or national level e.g. benefits and challenges?
  2. Should government play a role? if so what?
  3. How could technology enable these?

Group 1 - have a funeral

  1. National and Community level:
    • Pragmatics sorted control
    • Will of how your ‘mind’ can be used after your death
    • How can you participate in society after you die? E.g. can you vote, give testimony etc.
    • What are your rights
    • How does this effect whakapapa? Does your mind get passed down - whole new oral tradition
    • Can virtual minds aggregate knowledge/take action? E.g. indigenous minds protect against colonialism
  2. Role of Government:
    • Does government ‘own’ its citizens minds after death?
    • Can a person choose a different nationality after they die?
    • Protecting a persons rights/privacy after they die
  3. How can technology enable:
    • Safeguards - controlling/choosing how your mind can be used/altered - git control not blockchain
    • Death bureaucracy automated
    • Having your own AI avatar as executor
    • Living on virtually after death

Group 2 - grow food/nurtrition

  1. Effects on Community/Country:
    • Sharing economy
    • Will we be able to “grow” meat?
    • Nutritional Value
    • Based on values = optimistic future = no gap
  2. Role of Government:
    • Regulations/framework across/ standards
    • Research - promote/encourage = partnership with academia
    • Local government - info on soil, percentage of public land available to grow food?
  3. How can technology enable:
    • Robots
    • Soilchecking
    • Fruit salad trees via grafting
    • Enable traceability
    • Water conservation
    • Meteorological forecasting
    • Nutritional check
    • GMO? More nutritional
    • Harvesting distribution based on need

Group 3 - grow food/nutrition

  1. Effects on Community/Country:
    • Position NZ as quality and food experts
    • Better use of global resources
    • Our small population means being able to test and identify benefits quickly
    • Better health through personalised food solutions
    • Less ethical dilemma over consuming protein
    • More options for learning about alternatives
    • Equality and no poverty
  2. Role of Government:
    • Education on how it works
    • Regulation of ‘programmable’ food
    • Maintain a group of people who are aware of the tech
    • Incentivise communities for uptake
  3. How can technology enable:
    • Sharing IP (open source)


    • History of being a primary provider
    • Decreasing food scarcity


    • Identity crisis
    • Changing mindsets may take a while to get there
    • Socialising change in food production
    • Isolation is possible - too much time with nothing meaningful to do
    • Reliance on technology

Group 4 - do exercise

  1. Effects on Community/Country:
    • More likely to try different things as potential lower risk
    • Specialisation in work/activities
    • Who will be motivated to fund? Medical insurance, government…
    • Medical /physical/mental health measurement, monitoring and development - more efficiency and comparatives
    • Community contribution = credit generation (?)
    • Early diagnosis
  2. Role of Government:
    • Funding
    • Enabling and encouraging activities
    • Exposure to different roles and activities
    • Provides right guidelines to encourage healthier choices + private sector innovation in this area
    • Regulation for ethical implications of data use
  3. How can technology enable:
    • Regular open and VR access
    • Regulate or schedule daily routines
    • Monitors detect physical level and give optimal preparations

Key themes of the effects on Society

  • Participation in society before and after death
  • Sharing of knowledge and passing down generations
  • Specialised in what we do and offer
  • Key themes Tech:
  • Traceability and control
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Key themes Role of Govt:
  • Encouragement and incentivisation
  • Measure and evaluate
  • Protect privacy

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