What will Philadelphia be like in 15 years?
For one thing, you can count on PowerPoint presentation becoming obsolete, if the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia is correct.
The league has created four possible futures of the region, ranging from “Tight Belts” (the recession never improves) to “America in the Driver’s Seat” (Marcellus Shale gas reserves provide an energy windfall).
To help the Philadelphia business community to prepare for the future–whatever it may be–the league hired actors to play out different scenarios.
For the scenario “Global Village,” Charlotte Ford and Benjamin Camp play Maggie and Jonathan, a married couple in the year 2026. Economic power has shifted away from the United States and toward China, Brazil, and India. To stay competitive, American workers have to travel extensively in other countries, so this two are rarely in the same place at the same time.
In this scene they talk via hologram phone–a new-fangled gadget with familiar reception problems.
Maggie: Wait! I can see you! Hello! Can you see me?
Jonathan: I can hear you. I cannot see you.
Maggie: Oh. Move, like, 10 degrees to the left.
Jonathan (shifts, looks in the wrong direction): I can imagine you.
Maggie: It’s almost like you’re looking at me. Like old times.
Jonathan: When we lived in the same country.
The actors illustrate real-world consequences of economic predictions, good or ill. The intention is to help people envision possibilities to better plan business strategies and relationships. By maximizing an unpredictable future, the league wants to ensure Philadelphia becomes a world-class city, come what may.
“It’s great to be visionary, but we have to realize there is reality to planning,” said audience member Joe Rively. “It was very honest to develop these different scenarios–some were hopeful, some were very realistic. I think it’s hard to be hopeful because of what we’re going through right now.”
Rively said that at first he was skeptical of the presentation, but eventually grew to appreciate the personal connection the actors brought to the four hypothetical futures.