Publishing a book in a year

Publishing a book in a year: July

This week has been a first for me. I went on a future walk. Participants joined me as we walked around in 2050! We didn’t use a time machine, just some imagination, but I think people found it helpful.

Why were we walking around in 2050 you may be wondering. Good question. As part of our book on regenerative design we thought it would be helpful to describe what it might look like to be a structural engineer working regeneratively in 2050. This form of future casting enables us to stop worrying about the next step and instead think about the bigger picture. And I have found it incredibly helpful.

To write the chapter I immersed myself in other people’s view of the future (see list below for my top references). I’ve read books, listened to music, watched short videos, stared at pictures. I have tried to imagine the future when out for walks, especially on my regular commute from Bath to Bristol. I gave my walk-dreaming time over to this pursuit – and started making lists on my phone.

The ideas started growing and growing.

I spoke to my co-author – who gave me some excellent ideas, like creating a table of contents for an engineering magazine in 2050 – and going on a future walk.

I started doodling and capturing moments on paper. I started collecting photos and images that might work.

Separately I had been involved in the design of a Martian house. I am sure much of that imagination was repurposed in this space.

The ideas kept growing. My mental chatter, when I was resting and not focussed on another task, started to wander into the future space. And my head became full, in fact over full!

So I did the only thing I know to do, I wrote everything down. I imagined a number of scenes in a day in a life and tried to capture the key elements for each on my giant A3 thinking pad. Then, over the course of 2-3 days (and not when my schedule said I should) I started writing. I just threw the ideas down. I added loads of notes, to try and ground as much of this in both other people’s ideas and in science.

Once I was done I shared it with Oli. He was super supportive. So supportive in fact that he suggested I read extracts of the chapter at our Regenerative Design Lab in the woods as a provocation. But rather than just read them, we would also do a future walk. So that is what we did. I read extracts, moving around from site to site, as people imagined what the role of an engineer might look like in 2050.

Image courtesy of Alexie Sommer

I got some really helpful feedback and will be making a number of changes. I was also surprised by which bits people didn’t like (not in a you can’t say that way, but in a please tell me that the future won’t be like that way). And I was really surprised at how well received it was.

So, if you’ve read this far, you might like to join me and Oli on a future walk. We will be walking the future on the 6th September – if you would like to join us pop me an email – james.norman@bristol.ac.uk

And I look forward to sharing more as the book moves from writing to the editing stage (which is the job for next month).

Read

  • The Future we Choose by Christian Figueres
  • Unlocking Sustainable Cities by Paul Chatterton
  • From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins

Look

Listen

  • Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
  • MB Jones – Troposhere 7

Watch

Image used on cover courtesy of Alexie Sommer.

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