So how can Urban 3.0 thinking, the Deeper City pathways, or the Synergistic toolkit help, in the worst health crisis for 100 years?? How to turn the crisis of Covid-19 into an opportunity for transformation??

A Pandemic-3.0 is one where we build the collective pandemic intelligence – which can minimize the damage and maximize the opportunities… see the briefing on Pandemic 3.0

And to explore ideas which are deeper and wider than normal limits, welcome to the CORONA MIND-GAMES – an ongoing experiment with visual foresight – very useful for thinking the unthinkables, for challenges of deeper complexity

mind game sample

The basic idea is simple. We track the different players in a situation (from beggars to billionaires), if possible around a table with flipcharts (or online equivalent)….

  • – visualize a ‘game’ which best represents what they do (anything from chess to chequers, from poker to pokemon)
  • – follow the game-play
  • – track the results and the winners / losers
  • – experiment with ‘game-changer’ ideas for new rules or pieces
  • – see how these work in practice for goals such as equality, sustainability, safety etc
  • – then explore the likely pathways towards the game-changers.

This cartoon format can help to explore deeper kinds of knowledge. Game theorists and sports scientists study games in a detailed technical sense. But many real-life games have some deeper complexity  –  where social, technical, economic, ecological, political, cultural, urban and other layers are all mixed and entangled.  To explore such deeper problems, and envision deeper pathways, we have to think out of the box, to play the games, to design new ones and unlock the art of the possible…

12 months later

the world stumbles on… …. What have we seen done or learned??  And with anti-vax movements, Covid variations, medical uncertainties, emerging hotspots and new viruses, it looks like we have to learn to live with this for a long time to come. 

So here are some forking paths – (1) ‘Health versus wealth’ – here in UK we open the economy until cases rise then shut it down again: (2a) ‘believe no-one & everything’ – post-truth fragmentation in all directions:  (2b) ‘Segments of safety & value’ -new social divisions into zones by apps & passports:  and (3) ‘Collective pandemonic intelligence’ – a new eco-urban symbiosis…

Seems the future is still all there to be invented…


In a world split apart by the pandemic, the solstice-xmas-new-year menu is turned upside down. Whether you are seeking spiritual renewal, material gratification or family bonding, it’s a multi-dimensional challenge to navigate the labyrinth of virtual links & missed connections.

And this is just a hint of the prospects for 2021 – as new Covid-variants grow, trust in vaccines shrinks, governments run out of money, walls go up and paranoia spreads…


in the last quarter of this extraordinary 2020, it seems that Wild Cards are coming faster than we can play them…

In this game the stakes can only get higher…. the city / citadel / civilization is crumbling within… perhaps the centre cannot hold… the MADDER doctrine rules (‘Mutually Assured Destruction & Disruption of Ecosystems & Resources’), and SADDER (‘Socio-cultural Alienation & Disruption of Emotional Resilience’)


This is a counterpart to the Deeper Threat Multipliers… and it seems we have a lot to learn from the biological self-organization of such a simple thing as a tree…

Here are different games going on in parallel – a metabolism game with sunlight, water, carbon and nutrients: and a reproduction game of seeds which germinate, grow, fruit and fertilize. There’s a supporting infrastructure games of branches and leaves, and a synergy / symbiosis game of mutual exchange….

(Next step is to map out some human games in such terms as these)


We start with the personal and political – and the unfolding mystery of risk, hazard, exposure, vulnerability – in navigating the everyday everywhere…

Risk game #1


Now we’re getting into some fundamentals of the Pandemic-3.0 – exploring the Deeper Threat Multipliers – where the Covid starts to undo all kinds of human systems, with tipping points about to tip any moment.  The first domino of the set could be in the USA, Middle East, or somewhere not yet on our radar – it could be racial tension, climate chaos, political conflict, economic collapse, or more likely the effect of the pandemic on the whole combination.  The ancient strategy game of Go shows how apparently random signals over a wide terrain suddenly take shape as a force of ultimate destruction. And so if we are serious players we need a strategy, for even more powerful forces of creation, the agenda of a Pandemic-3.0….

deeper threat multipliers


Meanwhile – we need new forms of knowledge – to turn the crisis of Covid-19 towards the opportunities of a Pandemic-3.0.  Old style divisions of subjects and fields and sectors are probably not enough. In this  knowledge game #1, each player looks for chains & threads which connect the pieces of a bigger picture –
– ‘EXPERTS’ look for robust scientific evidence….
– ‘KNOWLEDGE BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT’ looks for sense-making from all angles…
(similar visual thinking came up in the 2004 ESRC project – Social science in FP7

The game format here looks like Chinese Chequers, where success comes by forming dynamic chains of pieces as they leap forwards across the board….

knowledge game #1



Meanwhile life goes on… in cities of many shapes and sizes…. not only in the grey areas on the map, but as the many layered matrix for lifestyles and livelihoods. The pandemic and the immediate responses, have sucked vital life-blood from our cities. If and when the pandemic is contained, will the cities bounce back to the old, or bounce forward to a ‘new normal’? what would that be, and who are the winners and losers?

see the piece for the Urban Institute –  From Crisis to Transformation
or full report on Pandemic-3.0 –  Cities Game

This first episode is a head-to-head – Covid-19 versus Humans / city-zens. The city is up for grabs, as a place of paranoid contagion – or a place which adapts and finds new ways to have fun…

cities game #1


no surprise the Cities#1 raises more questions – like, how to build this smart segmented city, a carefully organized structure of safety and value??  Here is a different kind of contest, between city designers / owners – and city dwellers / workers. The result is a new dimension of safety / contagion, overlaid on previous structures of wealth and power…. and the lucky winners get to design the city of their dreams…

cities game #2


The Power Game is the first sign of a crisis, and the biggest challenge to forward pathways.

For the winning players it’s the oldest game in the book – let the crisis break everything & then ‘channel’ the wreckage… we should learn from the masters of these arts…

power game#1



The corona games are a way of exploring how we might try to turn crisis into opportunity, with the disruption of the virus – and how a pandemic-3.0 might emerge, with collective learning, thinking and collaboration. But first we have to explore how the different forces of power, wealth, knowledge, and ideology might each seek to run the game…

corona game intro



Much of this thinking takes inspiration from the scenario way of thinking.  Here the  Great Transitions Initiative  is a reference point.  On the principle that ‘seeing is believing’, see the visualizations in the GTI response – Pandemic 3.0



Meanwhile here are the original first thoughts – for more see the full paper on Pandemic 3.0 – from crisis to transformation….  (this also provides a Postscript which links Deeper City to the current situation.)

alternative futures

At terrifying speed the Covid-19 global pandemic has brought a multitude of deaths, the lock-down of half the world’s population, and the decimation of its economy. The material facts of this disaster bring hard lessons in disaster management, public services and social inequality, which will keep experts and analysts busy for a generation to come.

But here I would like to open up a forward look on the massive transformations now in motion, negative and positive – and explore questions on what kind of pathways could help steer from one kind of outcome to another.

In such global crisis, challenges such climate change or rampant inequality are not going to disappear overnight. In reality they seem more likely to magnify up, as new forms of power and wealth and hierarchy emerge. If this pandemic can be contained or resolved, then we can get back to work on these challenges and others: but if it continues (as seems likely) to be messy and divisive, or indeed as the next pandemic arrives, then we face new challenges alongside the old.

The sketches below shows three angles on this global crisis of critical danger and opportunity. They start with the saying ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’ – and then ask, if new systems of Mode-III social-political-economic cooperation can emerge from this crisis, how to let these grow and flourish? And how to counter or bypass the forces of ‘winner takes all’ populism, of exclusion and intolerance, hijack of truth and expropriation of livelihoods?

This is a brief sketch for a planet-sized challenge, which draws on current thinking on ‘collective intelligence and the pathways from smart to wise’. This is hopefully enough to start a line of thinking which connects the current crisis with potential pathways – and if this crisis can be resolved, then to better prepare for the next….
Scenarios – unknowns or unknowables?

At this moment it’s an unknown whether the Covid-19 virus epidemiology can be contained, or continues to multiply or re-emerge: but it’s a deeper kind of unknown as to how social and economic and political systems interact with this epidemiology. It’s also a deeper unknown (perhaps ‘unknowable’), whether or not social-economic-political systems could return to the old normal, or transform towards some kind of ‘new normal’.

So we need to map out the combinations, as possible ‘what-if’ scenarios, each with a mix of danger and opportunity. Here in Figure 1 is a basic map of alternative futures: –
– ‘new panarchy’: we ask, what-if progress is resumed and the pandemic solved, while staying vigilant for the next one? Meanwhile there is deeper and wider learning from the 2020 episode, and a serious agenda to look beyond old-style hierarchies and extractive systems.
– ‘business as usual’: as the general direction of most official prospectives (OECD, MGI etc) this simply looks to the other side of the pandemic, and aims to reconstruct the familiar game of techno-capitalist-materialist production and consumption.
– ‘real virtuality’: here everything has changed, with technology as the enabler for hyper-networked- isolationists, a new normal of video-holograms, decontamination suits and sterile pods. While humans are endlessly adaptable, this future brings huge challenges for individuals and communities, and maybe opportunities.
– ‘lock-down’: a familiar techno-dystopia of ‘Blade-runner’ surveillance / disaster capitalism. Here the ongoing pandemic and its effects of disruption and trauma, is an open door for power-mongers and warlords who merge with the tech corporates. The graphic shows how ‘safe zones’ can easily turn into exclusion and oppression.
It gets interesting, as it emerges these scenarios are not only neutral visions of a possible distant future – they are more like active and contested grabbing of the present and near future (about a week at the time of writing). It also gets more interesting to explore the scenarios not as distinct and separate, more like different angles on a chaotic bundle of deeper realities.
(for more see the full paper… Post-script – Pandemic-III