Announcing Spark Camp :: Uncertainty

It’s been a while! After a short break, we’re pleased to announce our next Spark Camp, which will be held June 7 – 9, 2018 at Harvard University. We host Spark Camp events when we think there’s an important conversation that needs to be had, and our sense of urgency has never been as great as it is right now.

We are confronting a vast fog of unknowns, where the future is as unclear as what’s unfolding in the present. Black Swan presidents and prime ministers won their elections. The U.K. is Brexiting. North Korea seems ready for a fight. Refugees are still looking for homes. Even as Puerto Rico was awash with seawater, Napa Valley was engulfed in flames and Ireland was hit with a hurricane, we are still debating the cause of climate change. Verizon, Equifax and Cloudflare were hacked, and yet consumers are now using their faces to unlock their phones. We hear new stories of racism, anti-semitism, sexual harassment, and homophobia daily — and the fallout continues to disrupt nearly every community and industry.

The news cycle is unrelenting, making it difficult to think critically about the present —o r to remember, with accuracy, events of the past. Now more than ever, we must contextualize current events along the long continuum human existence, but that’s proven difficult. As information has become ubiquitous and unfettered, we’re finding it more and more difficult to gauge what we can trust.

Our collective anxiety stems from our fear about the future and the vast amount of change we’re confronting. It’s the sort of disorientation and stress that futurist and journalist Alvin Toffler called “future shock” in the 1970s—and yet here we find ourselves again. Real, fundamental change is taking place within a single generation. Breakthrough technologies, a relentless news cycle, and ubiquitous information are now driving the forces of economic inequality, racial and ethnic divides, shifting geopolitics and environmental change.

UNCERTAINTY — and how we can act knowing that there is no way to predict the future — is the focus of our upcoming Spark Camp. We are again partnering with the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, June 7 – 9, for a weekend of vital conversations.

Our unique convening framework will include conversations, debates and activities that help us gain a better understanding of how we confront uncertainty. We’ll investigate questions like:

* In a culture of uncertainty, what is the real nexus of power? Is it information gatekeepers, or the information itself? Or a cult of personality? Or algorithmic decision-making systems?

* Is it pointless to plan for the farther-future given all the uncertainty today? If not, then how can any organization or community think longer-term?

* Is technology fundamentally augmenting our established patterns and behaviors? If that’s true, then should we intervene?

* What can the leaders of media organizations learn from game theorists? What can Congress learn from neurologists? What can venture capitalists teach Buddhist monks? What can military leaders learn from behavioral economists?

* If culture is a factor in confronting uncertainty, how can people from different countries find common ground?

* Is there a way to focus our uncertainty within organizations and communities into a more positive, productive direction?

* What are the frameworks, models and methods that can help us understand uncertainty better?

* Which techniques are most effective at helping leaders and decision-makers manage under uncertainty? What about techniques that can be scaled across organizations?

*What techniques are most effective at helping everyday people cope with uncertainty?

Our curated group of campers will include a mix of Spark Camp alum and new participants—experts who think about uncertainty, as well as professionals who must work through it. These include: neurologists, behavioral economists, religious leaders, game theorists, sociologists, political scientists and philosophers—as well as journalists, startup founders, doctors, politicians, military leaders, technologists, venture capitalists, lawyers, CEOs, risk managers, and seasoned decisionmakers. As always, our group will span a diverse range of age, experience and worldview.

Spark Camp is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) organization, and our weekends are made possible through the generous contributions of our sponsors. If you would like to support our upcoming weekend, please be in touch with either Amy Webb or Andrew Pergam.

As always, we ask for camper suggestions from our alumni network and from others. If you are interested in attending Spark Camp :: Uncertainty, or if you know someone who would be a vital part of our conversation, please nominate them here. Deadline is February 22nd.