How does the Envisioning Group Work?

It thinks imaginatively, speculatively and critically
It may advise the whole team about strategies and issues
It may reflect upon possible roles for the other Groups
It may work at the critical level of thought
It may develop scenarios and visions of possible futures
It may monitor and/or revise the purpose, potential, and likely outcome of a given mission.

John Backwell (Coordinator) asks:

Could Cellular Automata Inspire Tools for Envisioning?

Cellular automata are systems that analyse cell behaviour by structuring organisms on a grid and monitoring growth, death and division.
Mathematically this serves as a means of documenting cell colonies over time.
Cellular automata are now considered a branch of mathematical research in their own right.
In abstract form, rules can be attributed to cells that govern their behaviour, even determine their very existence.
There are many such automata, but for sheer simplicity of definition and beauty of outcome my money is still on Conway’s Game of Life  (external link)(Scientific American, April 1970, p120).

John Conway devised three states: birth, death and survival all of which took place on a grid in one plane:


A birth meant the emergence of a cell in an unoccupied square on the grid.
This could happen when such a square had exactly three occupied neighbours.
Survival was construed as ‘living’ into the next generation and only possible if a cell had either two or three neighbours.
If a cell had less than two neighbours it would die of loneliness.
However, if it had four or more it would die of overcrowding. That is it.

A grid must be ‘seeded’ i.e. set initial conditions.
Analysis must reveal all squares that warrant birth, survival or death and these are enacted in one go.
This is a generation.
The process is repeated to reveal behaviour over numerous generations.


Can we draw parallels with concepts of change, transience and sustainability?
Will this assist mapping change, recording transience or predicting sustainability?

View the Envisioning Poster

View the Envisioning redesigned poster

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