UnConference Debrief – Imagination (part 1)

Key insights from our panellists

At the UnConference this week, our hosts Canay, Rudy and Yuri were joined as usual by the CLT Team: Primavera and Michael. We were all lucky to three incredible panellists for our first discussion on Imagination:

  • Pinar Demirdag – Multi-disciplinary artist working a.o. for Google, IKEA, Nike and Airbnb
  • Paul Saffo – Futurist, Stanford University teacher and Board member at Long Now Foundation
  • Benjamin Butler – Top-level futurist/forecaster, strategist and philosopher working for WEF, Futur.io, Dyson and Merrill Lynch

Our lineup of great minds delved into the broad topic of Imagination, covering how it is innately difficult to define, what drives imagination and how we might imagine the Future of Work or the next industrial age.

Read on for a few snippets from this week’s two-hour discussion.


A few insights from our panellists


Paul spoke about the difficulty in defining imagination, how it is something that disappears in the act of definition. He also answered an interesting question on whether we can – or should – encourage imagination on a wider scale:

“Telling someone to be creative is like saying ‘whatever you do, don’t think of a pink elephant’. You can’t say ‘you have to be creative’. It doesn’t work that way.  In that sense, imagination is a subversive activity. We have to celebrate that subversiveness. The moment you try to make imagination or creativity official or put in a bottle, it’s not going to work.
Paul Saffo


Pinar differentiated between imagination driven by the logical mind and imagination driven by the heart and why it is essential to have both:

“I have seen two drives in my life. A heart drive and a mind drive. It applies to imagination. If you are a fearful and mind-driven person, your drives are “how am I going to pay the rent, how am I going to get appreciation” and all these calculations. Imagination, actions and drives that are led by the heart are a beautiful flow. I don’t deny the value of thinking, but the places I reached the most in my life with imagination is when I was driven by my heart.”
Pinar Demirdag


Benjamin addressed the struggle of our civilisation during this collective pause and how it is a time to look beyond technological advances to consider the epidemic of disconnection:

“We don’t just have a coronavirus epidemic, we have an epidemic of disconnection. You can see that in the pandemic of overdoses and drug abuse in the US and the rest of the world. Techno-optimists across the world focus on the fourth industrial revolution while we have forgotten that a significant portion of our populations are suffering.”
– Benjamin Butler


Benjamin later returned to issues with the fourth industrial revolution and how the language we use is an essential part of moving into a more conscious way of being:

“We need to throw away some of these industrial words and stop using engineering terms to talk about human beings. AI has arrived, robots are here. Are we going to tell our children to compete with robots? Or is it a unique opportunity to become human again. I feel we are moving from an industrial age to a more ecological age, where we feel we belong to nature, nature doesn’t belong to us.
– Benjamin Butler


Paul addressed a question on how he views the Future of Work by suggesting that it a better question is necessary at the moment:

“Asking about The Future of Work is the wrong question. The right question today is ‘What is the Future of the Economy’. Specifically, how we construct a moral economy that accommodates humans and machines in a way that benefits everybody.”
– Paul Saffo


At the end of each session, we invite the panellists to give their closing thoughts. All three were wonderful, but Pinar chose an invitation that could apply to any and all of us:

“I invite everybody to be curious, wondrous and imaginative about what it truly means and feels to live a life where you feel unconditional love for yourself, for others and for everything that has ever existed.”
Pinar Demirdag


Do you want to get involved in the next UnConference? To ask questions, tell your own stories or simply watch amazing minds discuss the most important subjects of our time?

Visit theunconference.com to see the upcoming program, read more about our events and register for the next UnConference.

See you next time!

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