Collective Conscience

A Dark Future of Storytelling

© Leah Zaidi, 2017

In 2035, a spa offers behavioural modifications for convicted criminals on behalf of the government. The spa delivers its proprietary 'narrative therapies' using AI implants, ingestible tech, and the smart city grid. 'Collective Conscience' is an experiential future (situations and stuff from the future) created to explore the dark futures of storytelling.


As a foresight method, experiential futures allow us to explore organizational strategy, policy innovation, etc. through a tangible experience. As an order and control scenario, Collective Conscious challenges:


  • How we use storytelling to direct morals and behaviours;

  • What constitutes a crime in the future (and the role of government and for-profit organizations within this context);

  • The measures we may take to combat complex problems such as climate change and wealth disparity.



The Implications 


From a policy standpoint, using storytelling and technology to alter behaviour has profound implications for society. For example, what does it mean for our criminal justice system when we can change your behaviour through tech and storytelling? How bad does climate change have to get before we criminalize environmental destruction? What are the unintended consequences to allowing private organizations to wield such power?


Collective Conscience also has implications beyond the justice system. What if we used this tech to educate and condition children or soldiers?The AI implants mentioned in the video were inspired by the U.S. military’s current research initiatives. Think about the economic and innovation consequences of altering humanity from the inside out and the outside in. Facebook has taught us that unchecked entrepreneurship can undermine the very fabric of democracy. Are we willing to let startups engage in this level of behavioural control?


I can imagine giants like Disney wanting to use storytelling-based technology to extend their brand experience far and wide. We know that infrastructure and architecture have significant psychological and behavioural impact on us; what are the implications when the smart city can be rigged or hijacked for widespread control and manipulation? Google is already exploring how can they can leverage data to shape behaviour over generations. What’s stopping them from building those mechanisms in a way that we can’t detect?


Are we prepared for this reality? How many existing policies protect society against these possibilities?


This Black Mirror-styled experiential future was constructed using the Seven Foundations of Worldbuilding model, and is a Discipline scenario (Dator's Generic Images).


© 2019 by Leah Zaidi