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Photograph: Supplied / Future Crunch

Future Shapers: Future Crunch want us to be optimistic about the future

The think tank is all about championing human progress across science and tech and want to share the good news with you

Nicola Dowse
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Nicola Dowse
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Time Out is profiling the incredible people who are shaping the future of Melbourne in this Future Shaper series. We have asked a panel of esteemed judges comprising Senator Lidia Thorpe (Greens Senator for Victoria), Claire Ferres Miles (CEO of Sustainability VictoriaPat Nourse (artistic director, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival), Simon Abrahams (creative director and CEO of Melbourne Fringe), Peter Tullin (co-founder and CEO of Remix Summits) and Kate Vinot (chair of Zoos Victoriato help us identify the people and organisations changing the future of Melbourne in the areas of food and drink; arts; community and culture; civics; and sustainability.

In civics, one such organisation is Future Crunch, its CEO Rebecca Tapp and its co-founders Dr Angus (Gus) Hervey and Tané Hunter, who champion good news stories about human progress across science and tech.

What is Future Crunch? What does Future Crunch do and how did you start?

We’re a think tank with a simple mission: to discover what’s happening on the cutting edge of science and technology and to seek out and tell stories of human progress. It’s about giving people the knowledge and power they need to stay ahead as we move into a new era.

Gus and Tané met at Rainbow Serpent Festival in 2013. Many philosophical conversations later, with Gus as the social scientist, and Tane as a real scientist, the duo had compared notes on all of the incredible stories of human progress, and advancements in science and technology, and wondered why those stories weren’t being shared in mainstream media. In response, rather than fight the system they decided to provide the antidote in the form of a newsletter that showcased good news based on the gold-plated facts from the world of science and technology. The rest is history.

You’ve said that Future Crunch’s mission is “to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and to empower people to contribute to it.” How do you achieve this?

We specialise in the creation and delivery of dynamic, uplifting, visually spectacular presentations that combine world-class research with inspiring stories of human progress. We are also a media brand and each week we send more than 47,000 subscribers good news stories from around the world, to counteract the non-stop, 24-hour bombardment of death and destruction from traditional and social media.

Often the future is painted as quite bleak. Do you agree with this or should we be more optimistic?

Our presentations and our newsletter exist because of a simple belief: if we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we have to start changing the stories we tell ourselves. That doesn't mean ignoring bad news - rather, it means finding as many opportunities as possible to celebrate progress when we find it. 

At Future Crunch we like to think of information as being like food. It's up to us to choose how we consume information. It isn't practical to ignore all of the bad news, but we do need to balance our consumption.

What do you think is visionary about the work you do at Future Crunch?

Most of what we do is remix other people’s ideas, and then translate them into more accessible formats. In that sense, we’re very much a product of our generation – all art is a remix, right? So perhaps a better word for what we do is a "celebration" of the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of thousands of people from around the world whose stories hardly ever get told. As Tahir Shah says: "Stories are a communal currency of humanity." We try to make sure that those stories are rich, and lined with hope. 

What kind of future would you like to see for Melbourne?

Melbourne has an opportunity here, as one of the world’s most admired cities, to really take the lead in dragging humanity kicking and screaming into a 21st century that works for both people and the planet. There are three key fronts on which this needs to happen. The first is a revamped city agenda that’s attuned not just to the importance of the digital realm, but that is also committed to restoring some of the evaporating faith in the power of public institutions and democracy.

The second key front is, of course, climate change. Thanks to decades of effort by activists, scientists and engineers, it’s now cheaper to save the world than it is to ruin it. How good is that? Clean energy is now not only the right thing to do, it’s also the most cost-effective. This is about more than just switching over to renewables though. It’s a fundamental rearrangement of the way energy is harvested, distributed and used. If Melbourne understands this, and stops setting hydrocarbons on fire, and instead focuses on how it’s going to move more electrons around, then it’s going to be right at the forefront of one of the biggest economic opportunities in human history. 

The third crucial area for the future of Melbourne is biology, which is currently undergoing a shift from empirical science to an engineering discipline. Melbourne is incredibly well placed once again, to take advantage of this opportunity, because it’s a city that already punches above its weight internationally when it comes to biology and medicine. What needs to happen now is to see the city really lean into that advantage, and dedicate even more resources to building out a powerful ecosystem of research, funding, and regulatory support for the biotechnology industry. 

Do you have any advice for those also looking to affect change?

Regardless of how we feel about some of the world’s largest question marks right now – global pandemics, artificial intelligence, climate change, social change – reactions that come from fear are rarely ever the solution. Something that’s really worked for us is to look for what we call “mini-utopias” – small bubbles of progress, examples of individuals, organisations or communities really getting it right. 

Read about more of our Future Shapers

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