The diverse long-term challenges of modern society such as climate change, resource depletion, energy, maintenance and management of social infrastructure, and technological system design issues will truly transcend generations. However, there are limited approaches to address these "future" issues. One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of adopting sustainable decisions, actions, and practices that take into account the interests of future generations under the existing academic and social system.
In Future Design, we design various social systems that lead to sustainable decision-making and actions to bring the interests of future generations to the center. The first discussion about Future Design began in 2012 at the research gathering led mainly by researchers at Osaka University then. Latest research related to Future Design suggests that through the transformation of human decision-making and behavior, it is possible to shift current design practices to include society and technological systems.
The concept of Future Design was implemented for the first time in Yahaba town, Iwate Pref., in Japan in 2015, supported by JST RISTEX (PI: Keishiro Hara) (Reference 1). In such practices, adoption of "Imaginary Future Generations" turned out to be effective to incorporate the preference of future generations into the present (Reference 2). These two papers are listed as "Further Reading" of a paper by Fehr-Duda H ＆ Fehr E published in Nature .The first practice of Future Design implemented in Yahaba town is cited in various articles including those in BBC, Wasington Post and Foreign Affairs.
In our laboratory, we combine engineering with various specialized fields, such as social sciences, to conduct research that is linked to the two pillars of 1) deepening the Future Design theory and establishment of new social technology, and 2) the practical application and solution of actual problems through co-creation between industry, academia, and government by applying Future Design methods.
Based on existing research and knowledge, we will elucidate the methodology and detailed mechanisms for sustainable decision-making and behavior that take future generations into consideration, and develop methods for intergenerational consensus building. We will then formulate optimal decision-making that is sustainable, including the time axis, and develop theories that contribute to the design of social transition processes representing the interests of current and future generations. Finally, we will build a new foundation for social engineering that explicitly incorporates the concept of "future" and considers establishing a general-purpose Future Design method as a social technology.
We will apply the pioneered theories and methodologies developed by theoretical research related to Future Design to the actual social problems and promote the organization and systematization of new innovation models guided by Future Design. We will conduct vision formation, design of social transition processes through co-creation in industry, academia, and government, and conduct research that contributes to the design of social and technological systems that support a sustainable society. For example, we will apply our Future Design approach to the following themes A-C.
A）Process Design for Transition to a Carbon Neutral Society
Based on the methodology of Future Design, we will derive a vision of a carbon-neutral society by 2050 based on introducing distributed energy resources such as electric vehicles (EV) and photovoltaic (PV) power generation in urban systems. We will clarify the socioeconomic and institutional issues involved in the introduction of these technologies, and design a social transition process through consensus building among local governments, residents, and industry. In particular, we will reproduce the consensus-building process between imaginary future generations and current generations in a participatory social experiment, and identify the optimal social transition process and prioritize measures and technologies to be introduced, using data from techno-economic analysis, modeling, and simulation.
Future Design practice by Kyoto city officials for the theme of “Decarbonized society in 2050” (2019)
Future Design practice by Suita city (Osaka Pref.) officials for the theme of “Environmental planning” (2019)
B）Building a Vision of Resilient Social Infrastructure and Presenting a Maintenance Management Model
By applying the concept of Future Design, we will present a sustainable infrastructure maintenance and management model that responds to sudden events such as disasters, and progressive stressors such as population decline, targeting key infrastructure for water supply, sewerage, and public facilities. By introducing a consensus-building process based on the concept of imaginary future generations, we will develop an assessment method for infrastructure maintenance and management that comprehensively reflects various factors such as vulnerability to disasters, social infrastructure, and the interests of future generations. We will also build a general-purpose prototype that can be used by other local governments, and work with them to create a framework for the continuous application of such a method.
Future Design practice by citizens in Yahaba town, Iwate pref., for the theme of “Regional revitalization 2060” (2015)
Future Design practice by stakeholders in Ho Chi Minh City, for the theme of “Water Environment and environmental infrastructure”
C）Design for Industrial Technology Innovation
We will apply the concept of Future Design to technology, R&D, and management strategies in industry, and present an innovative direction guided by the introduction of a "future" perspective. Through experimentation and practice and in collaboration with industry, we will pioneer and systematize new approaches and methodologies for innovating industrial technology.
Application of Future Design into Industry for the theme of technology innovation, R & D strategy and business plan