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Backcasting, a method for imagining the future creatively and strategically

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Over the years, algorithms have revolutionized many aspects of our lives. Just consider search algorithms, like Google, which have radically changed the way we obtain information; or Artificial Intelligence, navigation, and recommendation algorithms, the latter being present on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify. The list extends when we consider that in every sector, there are algorithms that have brought significant changes to our daily lives, becoming an integral part of our society and proving their effectiveness in providing innovative solutions to complex problems. One such algorithm is backcasting, and if you haven't heard of it yet, get ready to discover an approach that allows us to envision the future in a creative and strategic way.


When discussing backcasting, we refer to it as a planning method that works in reverse, identifying necessary actions to reach a desired future goal. It's important to distinguish this methodology from forecasting, which anticipates future trends based on predominantly past data. Conversely, backcasting begins with a future vision and attempts to chart a course towards it.

If these definitions seem confusing, consider the following example: let's say we aim to build a low-emission car. Backcasting can guide us in creating a desirable future framework, such as a highly efficient, electric motor, the ability to recharge on the go, and minimal reliance on the power grid. From this vision, backcasting works backward to identify the steps needed to fulfill that goal.

The first step involves imagining the conditions that must be met. The algorithm then explores various options and their interactions to identify the key actions to be undertaken. It also factors in various elements like technical feasibility, economic efficiency, and environmental impact to guide decision-making


Certainly, this method offers numerous benefits compared to other planning approaches. It allows us to overcome the limitations of past data analysis, fostering creativity and imagination. Furthermore, backcasting helps us identify and tackle the challenges we might encounter along the way. This readiness better equips us to manage uncertainties, providing us with increased confidence in accomplishing our objectives. Notably, backcasting promotes a long-term perspective, encouraging us to think holistically and consider the enduring implications of our actions. This approach ultimately aids in making more informed decisions and discourages short-term solutions that could have negative long-term consequences.

In conclusion, backcasting is a powerful planning tool that assists us in envisioning and shaping the future we aspire to. Employing creative and strategic thinking, we can pinpoint the crucial actions necessary to fulfill our long-term objectives. This method offers us the chance to consciously mold our future.

Shaping the future through strategic backwards planning

Massimo Dell'Erba

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