CHAPTER 2The latent resource

The business case for scenarios has never been stronger

World Expo 88 was a successful World’s Fair hosted by the city of Brisbane over a six-month period in 1988. The theme of the Expo, Leisure in the Age of Technology, pointed to the optimism of the day when the pre-eminent conundrum was seen to be ‘What are we going to do with all the free time technology will give us in the future?’

So how’s that working out for you?

The idea of a reduced working week and increasing leisure time was hardly new, but in the late 1980s, when personal computers and mobile phones were about to go mainstream, the forecast of a leisure-rich future seemed entirely plausible. At least it did if you were simply to extrapolate from the rising influence of technology.

At the same time, however, an equally powerful force was emerging, one that when combined with technology would produce a cultural shift that contrasted sharply with the leisure-rich scenario imagined. That force was materialism.

With the growth of materialistic values came a culture of comparative consumption, instant gratification, debt, stress, insecurity and increased working hours. Personal identity became intertwined with material success — ‘I am what I own’, ‘I am what I earn’, ‘I am what I wear’. Perversely, over the next 20 years it was actually leisure time that was increasingly challenged as being busy (‘busy-ness’) assumed a form of social status. So rather than being the great facilitator of ...

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