Wednesday 7
Imagining the Future in the Anthropocene – Overcoming Cognitive Limitations with the Help of Art and Culture
Manjana Milkoreit
› 14:30 - 15:30 (1h)
› Barthez
Imagining the Future in the Anthropocene – Overcoming Cognitive Limitations with the Help of Art and Culture
Manjana Milkoreit  1, *@  , Victor Galaz, Kaitlyn Rathwell  2, 3, 4@  
1 : Global Institute of Sustainability  (GIOS)  -  Website
P.O. Box 878009 Tempe, Arizona, 85287-8009 -  États-Unis
2 : University of Waterloo
3 : Environmental Change Governance Group  (ECGG)  -  Website
4 : Post-Normal  -  Website
* : Corresponding author

Humans have barely begun to understand what living in the Anthropocene means. Scientists are at the forefront of creating the knowledge needed to make sense of and thrive in this new planetary reality, but the academy is still far from ‘the full picture.' A key feature of this human-dominated epoch is the multiplication of governance challenges with extremely long problem time scales that create links between human action in the present and their effects in the distant future. Understanding the power of the present generations to influence the well being of many generations to come is an unprecedented challenge for humanity; yet, it is a fundamental requirement for making ‘good' decisions, especially in global governance. Rising to the challenge of decision-making in the Anthropocene requires cognitive skills that is currently woefully underdeveloped even in the brains of the brightest scientists and the most passionate global policy-makers: the ability to imagine the distant future and to imagine complex change at large scales. Our imagination of possible futures, both at the desirable and undesirable ends of the spectrum, has to include complex global environmental change processes, but also the multiple possibilities for social change and transformation – forced or pursued – that are intrinsically linked to changes in nature.

This panel opens a conversation among scientists, artists and policy-makers about the need to imagine the distant future and non-linear change, and the tools that can help us develop the cognitive abilities to do so. Inspired by movies like The Day After Tomorrow, Avatar and After Earth, we discuss humans' cognitive-emotional limitations when it comes to thinking about the future, the important role of art and culture to help us imagine the unimaginable, the ways movies, stories and music can help create cognitive “regime shifts,” and the challenges of creating strong bridges between science and art in order to ensure that the futures we learn to imagine align with our developing knowledge base.

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