Exploring the future Ep5: Considering uncertainties in the future of infrastructure


I recorded this episode of my vlog when I was at the Building Nations Symposium in Auckland, New Zealand to give a keynote on ‘Making the Future Real’.

Infrastructure is highly tangible, and those involved in infrastructure tend to be highly grounded. Yet infrastructure decisions have an impact over a longer timeframe than any other industry.

The multiplicity and depth of uncertainties around infrastructure planning make planning challenging. Yet there are well-established methodologies that experienced foresight practitioners can bring to the table. It is critical that structured thinking about the long-term future is consistently applied to our infrastructure decisions.

Video transcript

I am at the Building Nations Symposium in Auckland, New Zealand, where I gave a keynote on ‘Making the Future Real.

Which covered all about infrastructure with the grounded, solid things that are the foundation of our civilization: roads and trains and airports and power plants.

Which have been, I suppose, literally the infrastructure on which our society is built.

My key message here was that as infrastructure designers, we must be thinking about the future in a structured fashion.

We have so many tools to be able to think effectively about the future. Notably scenario planning, to be able to deal with the uncertainty of the long term.

If you’re in digital media for example, then you might have a three year time frame for uncertainty.

In infrastructure the decisions you are making will have an impact for 20, 30 years or more and once you’ve made those decisions it’s very difficult to go back on those.

So it is absolutely critical that we must be thinking about the uncertainties which lie, not only in technology such as AI, and how that impacts where we live, where we work, where hospitals are located.

But also in terms of the technologies that we can use in infrastructure, in terms of modular design, in terms of the new materials and so on.

In infrastructure it is absolutely critical that we start to use scenario planning and other futures methodologies.

So the decisions we make today take into account the uncertainties of the future.