Untapped Potential

By Patterson, Tom | The World Today, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Untapped Potential


Patterson, Tom, The World Today


Untapped Potential Publisher: Prestel Price: £40

Drivers of change is a collection of 175 cards aimed at identifying, anticipating, understanding and responding to future challenges likely to confront society. The cards are the brainchild of Chris Luebkeman, Global Director for Foresight and Innovation at Arup, the engineering and design consultancy behind some of the world'smost iconic structures, including the Sydney Opera House, London'sMillenniumBridge and China's Central Television headquarters in Beijing.

The project began as a series of lectures and workshops between 1999 and 2005. The central themes of these were published as a set of cards in 2006. The current volume consists of seven chapters, each of which focuses on one leading 'driver': poverty, urbanisation, demographics, water, climate change, waste and energy. The drivers act as umbrella headings for key issues, which are organised into five STEEP - social, technological, economic, environmental and political - categories according to their primary area of influence.

Having selected a card fromone of the seven drivers, the reader is confronted with a series of information. The driver in this case is energy, the category is environmental and the issue is emissions. The central question posed at the top of the card reads 'is electricity clean?' The reader is then treated to a suitably evocative photograph and a 'factoid' to provide context. The back of the card contains amore developed explanation of the challenges posed by this issue and a number of graphs and tables illustrating the relevant data.

FORMAT FAULT

At first glance, individuals who are unfamiliar with the series' origins could be forgiven for wondering what it is all about. It is not immediately clear to whomthe cards are being addressed. By giving each issue equal weight, the cards impose an artificial reality on the subjectmatter. Unsurprisingly, this wide-ranging survey comes at the expense of detail. As such, they work well as an educational tool, but the analysis is necessarily limited and experts in the respective fields will gain little.

Moreover, it is difficult to see how effective the format would be in all the suggested scenarios. …

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