Digital Thought Experiments – plotting our digital world and our digital future through looking at our past and present, and tweaking the parameters slightly. This can be seen as a form of lateral thinking (as championed by Edward de Bono), and can be useful for questioning our assumptions and thinking what might and could be different in a future existence.
To illustrate via a literary example, Philip Roth does something similar in the alternate universe he creates in “The Plot Against America“, with Germany winning WWII and the US being led by an anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh.
Some of the examples are not big enough to be referred to as alternate universes, but are more like potential historic side streams, gently running alongside our current history, like a small stream next to a massive river.
- If Martin Luther King’s idea of the state providing a guaranteed income to all citizens had become reality. Atlantic has a story on this here. More on other undelivered speeches in alternate universes here.
- Illegal unemployment. In a similar vein to number 1, unemployment is arguably one of the greatest scourges in society. What if it was illegal? The government would outlaw being unemployed, and provide some kind of employment or compensation for all citizens. Unrest and dissatisfaction would plummet by default.
- How global development for the world as a whole would have looked had we not invented free markets and adopted capitalism as the simplest method of wealth creation for society as a whole.
- How the world would have looked without any religion.