The futures of futures studies
Pushing the boundaries of futures thinking
26 October 2023 (Thursday), 10:00-11:00, cowork

Digital Twins and Futures Studies: Exploring Applications and Possible Developments

The development of Digital Twins, i.e., virtual reality simulations of products, processes, and physical environments, is one of the most relevant technological trends today, thanks to the exponential growth of GPU capacity and the market entry of the new family of VR and AR visors. By their nature, Digital Twins are tools for anticipating possible futures: their uses in predictive industrial maintenance, or in anticipatory urban policy through the integration of data analysis, show their enormous value in forecasting. But how can Digital Twins also be used in the broader field of Futures Studies, with the aim of enhancing citizenship's “capacity of future”, alternative scenarios building, and the pursuit of preferable futures, rather than the usual forecasting of the probable future? The Italian Institute for the Future project Napoli Foresight Center, funded by the City of Naples (Italy) in 2022, sought to use Digital Twins in participatory and anticipatory urban design. A first phase involved an analysis of the megatrends that will impact the city with a 2050 horizon; in the second phase, citizens and stakeholders were involved in a Three Horizons workshop to define the city's preferable futures by identifying areas for transformative intervention on the ground; in the third phase, the Digital Twin Lab involved 10 young Neapolitans for a period of three months in the design and development of a futuristic Digital Twin of an area of 26. 000 square meters in the eastern outskirts of Naples, where a former water purification plant serving the old industrial area is located, to offer citizens an immersive taste of a preferable future to be used as a basis for public discussion in view of the upcoming regeneration of the area. Lessons learned and further developments will be discussed in the last part.

Italian Institute for the Future
Italian Institute for the Future