Eight Questions With Featured Grey Swan Guild Member: Akash Das
Futures Researcher, Holistic Designer and Educator; Co-Founder and
Strategic Foresight Lead to his newly formed futures-axised-designtank, MeWeStudioX
Our Eight Questions is part of our ongoing series profiling some of the amazingly talented members of our global Grey Swan Guild and get behind the curtain of what makes them think and sense the world differently and more effectively than others.
Akash Das —Designer by training, futures articulator & educator by profession, critical thinker and dot-connector by habit — currently based in India, but not for long!
Bio: Akash has a decade of multidisciplinary experience comprising
fashion & systems design, speculative & futures research, strategic
planning, CMI research, visual communications and branding, with
education at the crux.
He specializes in horizon scanning and cross-connecting socio-cultural
signals to potential innovation opportunities, in order to generate
industrially viable and beyond-human-centred holistic designs.
Along with consulting for clients such as The Future Laboratory,
london, The Futurist, UK and TrendVision, Italy — Akash is building
MeWeStudioX, his newly-formed futures-design-tank and strategic
foresight consultancy studio aimed at providing holistic and glocal
solutions while being a faculty + course lead for Speculative &
Futures Lab at Indian School of Design & Innovation, Mumbai — in
collaboration with Parsons School of Design, New York.
A Sensemaking Metaphorical Tool You Personify:
A PARTICLE COLLIDER:
“We do not know what we do not know” — is the operating vision with which I approach the futures; the answers to what lay ahead may not be exact to our visualizations, but can still be reasonably anticipated — like with the Higgs Boson.
Futures Thinking is much like Particle Physics. You can deduce, therefore, prove(?), the underlying theoretics associated to an observed event’s causes. However, to know if the approximate values to intrinsic causalities are true, and therefore, determine potential impacts, we have to use our minds (like physicists use the LHC), to accelerate & collide concepts and systems that may seem polar opposites and contradictory — in a bid to get split seconds of
isolated visibility of their elemental compositions — within their exoskeletons of perceptions and biases — as they explode outwards on impact, revealing deeply layered causal insights, and intricately woven interconnected STEEP x H(human) yarns.
The seemingly chaotic tapestry (hidden before impact) — futures thinking is also a bit like Chaos Theory — reveals to a sensemaker, fundamental workings beneath superficial symptoms of problems, helping to analyze, gauge, experiment and divulge scenarios and trajectories which can better inform best-case future courses.
For instance, ramming the complexities of capitalism to the radical
disrepairs of our environment, generates a snapshot of the way our
world consumes — revealing systemic contributions behind the
behavioral motives of users and consumers. The only way to imagine
critical impossibilities, is to deliberately bring about friction-based relationships between seemingly mutually-exclusive happenings
1. Who are you/ what makes you tick?
I consider myself an inter-disciplinary mind, in pursuit of laying the groundwork to a post-disciplinary world, where skills are not restricted to narrow constructs of ‘careers’.
I am an implications thinker. If say Zuck or Musk comes up with a brilliant new innovation and show me, I specialise in bringing their spirits low and asking “ok, so what are some of the potential backfires we aren’t anticipating yet?” One of the core reasons I enjoy dissecting and understanding systems behavior in order to anticipate what lies ahead, is because of the opportunity it allows me to be in flux between different modes of thinking and doing.
As an extension, what keeps my engines revving, is also the pursuit of a convergence point between futures thinking, design thinking and systems thinking, that brings about the possibility of a perfect holisticism — because it needs to always evolve — as opposed to attaining a singularity.
Ways to understand what makes Wicked Problems so elegantly complex, makes me tick — as that’s truly their Achilles’ Heel.
2. What are some of the important questions that you are making sense of nowadays?
One of the questions that keeps me moving is analyzing what
opportunities we may have we missed in the search for opportunities?
- Can speed be our greatest barrier to meaningful productivity, and yet,
does slowing down cascade into inequities we are happy to overlook
because it’s the “right thing to think about” now?
- Also, can contradictions harbor the greatest solutions — such as, can
we reduce production and consumption yet increase / stabilize profits?
3. How are some of the ways you go about making sense of the world?
One of the best ways for me to make sense of the world is to scan
for signals, and observe the underlying causes the are manifesting
them. I call it “collect the dots before you connect them” phase. You
do that enough, with increasing but controlled frequency, you garner
insights intuitively, and gauge implications to signals instinctively.
But insights aren’t necessarily useful unless we channelize them, and
that’s where the next phase of “filtering and funneling through a
framework” happens, wherein the parameters and variables change as per
the needs of defined goals, but the process remains mostly focused on
finding order within the multiple inter-connections of data.
“Iterative Synthesis” is my most favorite sense-making phase, which
happens lesser than one hopes, but therein lies the keys to
situational and systemic clarity around causality, potential impacts,
and holism, and a chance to ‘photograph’ the rarest of ‘grey swans’ in
4. What is overhyped? What is underhyped?
Careers are overhyped: Imagine a world where work-related stressors
doesn’t become the axis around which we revolve? The system rewards
linearity and certainty — although human skills and problem-solving
hardly benefit from both. Careers press advantage through iterative
skilling though — that produces experience and with it higher
probabilities of right decisions — which an ‘expert generalist’ can
find hard to generate: can we merge both these benefits?
Career Breaks are underhyped: LinkedIn just created a feature to put
up your break between jobs as a badge, commencing a pivotal shift in
normalizing them. Its integral to reimagine systems to support these,
as they deploy benefits — ranging from boosting global mental health �
index, to helping multi-potentialities find befitting opportunities,
as research suggests solving Wicked Problems is well beyond the depth
of specialists’ to solve. Even with teams made of specialized units,
versatility trumps I-Shaped experiences.
5. Who is at your sensemaker last supper? Five people?
- J.R.R. Tolkein — master worldbuilder and storyteller with abilities
to craft details that invoke the purest of immersive realities.
- Buckminster Fuller — disruptive thinker, designer and prognosticator
who clarified the need to deploy sustainable & transformative futures
through trans-disciplinary methodologies, long before it was ‘trendy’
- Alan Turing — the enigma who broke the Enigma, specialist sensemaker and expert logician.
- Leonardo DaVinci — polymath extraordinaire, the quintessential
multi-disciplinary thinker, anatomical systems thinker and futurist
- Virgil Abloh (special guest?) — post-modernist artist, architect and
fashion designer who read and made sense of the incredibly complex
cultural terrains of today, subverted the idea of high-fashion like a
neo-dadaist, and challenged long-standing traditional constructs of
6. What big and small question would you love answered or solved?
Big Question: If there truly is a Great Filter, is it (super)natural or artificial
Small Question: Can a post-work civilization work?
7. When you are not thinking deeply about the world, what else are you passionate about in your day to day life?
Traveling and wandering to new places / forests / mountains, via
walking, trekking and climbing; having coffee & conversations — though
I mostly listen — with loved ones while training my mind to refrain
from thinking; writing the many books snailing towards conclusion;
and, photographing wildlife & nature — with a mental note to start
uploading the over-spilling content on Behance / Instagram (I try to
be regular at posting but, sorry!)
8. What do you enjoy about being part of the Guild, being part of the F+S Expert Squad and being 1,000 Day Radar?
The sheer diversity of minds, but thinking alike in so many ways — almost like finding a tribe you belong to — is an immensely gratifying and exciting proposition. If there needs to be any further reason to be enjoying being part of the Guild, that’ll the opportunity for me to co-learn and challenge myself in knowing a lot of things — ever so gracefully and seamlessly from the astute minds here — I didn’t know I don’t know.
Find Adash at:
His Company: MeWeStudioX (website in development)
Akash Das — Living, Knowing & Sensing Slightly Ahead of Our Time
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