Join 3,374 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Collection of possible future events that are all somehow related?
December 27, 2010 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Is there a word for a "collection of possible future events that are all somehow related?" I want something that captures the idea of a "collection of scenarios." Or, pick an forecasted event, fear, or desire: What is "the spectrum of possible outcomes" relevant to this thing that has my attention, plausible or otherwise, expected or unexpected, the good, the bad, and the ugly? Probability cloud? Scenario collection?

Book recommendations, however tangential, are always welcome.
posted by zeek321 to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Potentialities.
posted by astrochimp at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2010


I think you're trying to capture a few concepts with one word. Maybe there's something good for what you want, but I would suggest 'branch' as a metaphor, if you imagine the a sequence of events and possibilities branching off into smaller and smaller twigs.

Also, it reminds me, loosely, of a light cone, and probably physics will give you the best term for what you're looking for.
posted by miniape at 10:40 AM on December 27, 2010


Spectrum? Constellation?
posted by Balna Watya at 10:44 AM on December 27, 2010


The Garden of Forking Paths
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 10:50 AM on December 27, 2010


We frequently do consulting studies for clients, and call things like these the Alternative Futures
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:51 AM on December 27, 2010


I believe the term that fits what you are looking for is "the possibility space".

e.g. see the RAND Corporation think tank's 2007 report on "Enhancing Strategic Planning with Massive Scenario Generation: Theory and Experiments". Do a search for "possibility" throughout the document, but see perhaps especially page 3.

Don't take that as canon though - there isn't one re: scenarios/alt. futures.
posted by Bwithh at 10:58 AM on December 27, 2010


You may also be interested in the scenario axes/matrix approach, though that doesn't quite fit exactly what you're looking for. But see e.g. scenario consultancy GBN's What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Non-Profits. Again, not canonical, though an influential benchmark method.
posted by Bwithh at 11:02 AM on December 27, 2010


I think I'm trying to find a mass count noun to get away from the sense of discrete, mutually exclusive alternative futures. Potential or potentiality is the perfect flip-side:

potential: the inherent capacity for coming into being

What is a word for those non-yet-beings? Potential actualities is so clunky.

Possibility space is pretty good. Scenario tree and all the branchy stuff captures another sense of it all.
posted by zeek321 at 11:05 AM on December 27, 2010


Er, mass/non-count noun.
posted by zeek321 at 11:06 AM on December 27, 2010


Potential outcomes?
posted by reren at 11:07 AM on December 27, 2010


I think you're really talking about Futurology (a contentious subject here on MeFi), and whether or not it deserves its own dedicated field of study, the point is that it can be applied practically to most businesses/lives/etc. It's separated from mere 'thinking ahead' by a wide focus using strict methodologies (statistics, game theory, history, etc.), and attempts to lay out possible, probably and preferable future scenarios. Lots of information at the University of Hawaii.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:07 AM on December 27, 2010


potential: the inherent capacity for coming into being

What is a word for those non-yet-beings? Potential actualities is so clunky.


Modalities, often, though that may be limited somewhat to philosophy.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:08 AM on December 27, 2010


(or perhaps Modal Worlds is better and less ambiguous than modalities)
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2010


the term Futurology was certainly in vogue in the 1970s but is not really popular now.
Try also searching around Futures, Futures Studies, Critical Futures Studies, Alternate Futures, Foresight, Scenario Planning, Scenario Thinking... and well, Forecasting.
posted by Bwithh at 11:10 AM on December 27, 2010


Re: modalities, Lutoslawski is right to bring that up. It is a philosophical term but check out
e.g. Scenarios and Counterfactuals as Modal Narratives (Booth et al. 2009)
posted by Bwithh at 11:14 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that I've encountered sheaf used to mean "collection of possible outcomes," but I am the farthest thing from a topologist, and calling it a sheaf may imply that you believe a few other debatable things about the nature of spacetime.
posted by mumkin at 11:15 AM on December 27, 2010


Everyone, thanks. I've opened up a million tabs that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Still watching this thread.
posted by zeek321 at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2010


Your collection of scenarios is a scenario itself, just one with multiple dependencies.
posted by rhizome at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Consider an "outcome envelope." In the practice of bridge design, structural engineers consider a variety of vehicle loads placed in variety of locations. The worst-case effects of all the load combinations on the structure (stresses, deflections, etc.) are called the "response envelope."
posted by Itinakak at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2010


I've heard the term "ensemble" (pronounced in the French way) used to describe what I think you're referring to, although I'll be damned if I can remember where.
posted by mhum at 9:24 PM on December 27, 2010


« Older Round-face haircut suggestions...   |  Please help me design my new k... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.