Intermediate Catastrophic Thinking™

Brought to you by iFear, a design consultancy for today’s world.

Catastrophic Thinking is a process for fear-based problem solving. It’s a practice, a mindset, and a way of being in the world.

When you wake up each morning, your first question should be: What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? Catastrophic Thinking encourages individuals and organizations to focus on the scenarios they fear most. 

In employing Catastrophic Thinking, you’re formulating worst-case scenarios ranging from technological failures to financial crises, socio-political violence, disease outbreaks, and climate collapse—or all of them at once! It’s about nurturing your feelings of nagging uncertainty until they grow into an empowering state of blind panic. Before you know it, you’ll find your whole mindset has shifted, and you’ll be able to understand your situation from a fresh new perspective.

Catastrophic Thinking can help you and your organization:

  • Better understand the threats posed by the people in your network (customers, clients, relatives, spouse, children, etc…).
  • Envision disaster scenarios that are world-changing, not just incremental.
  • Inform, validate and reinforce your sense of impending doom.
  • Develop the compelling verbal and visual language you need to share your dystopian vision.

The Three Phases of Catastrophic Thinking

We present the practice of Catastrophic Thinking as a sequence of phases, but in real life you’ll find that the process is non-linear. Fear not: However you move through them, the Three Phases of Catastrophic Thinking will take you from a blank slate to a new, innovative, and entirely plausible calamity.

  1. Frame a Question: What if the thing I fear most actually comes to pass? When you identify an anxiety that stirs dread within the deepest part of your soul, you’ll inspire others to build on your ideas and contribute their own dark terrors.
  2. Maximize Impact: Push past your scenario’s initial consequences and play them out all the way to civilization’s breaking point.
  3. Make Ideas Tangible: Create diagrams, timelines, graphic novels, and screenplays to make your ideas more vivid for yourself and others.

When done correctly, Catastrophic Thinking will also help you recognize the unspoken doubts of the people you’re closest to, and lead you to innovative apocalyptic visions you’ll express with ever greater urgency to anyone who will listen.

Sign up to receive our 5-part introduction to Catastrophic Thinking email series.

Ben Rubin is a media artist who lives in Brooklyn.


2 Responses

  1. This is extremely helpful to anyone–not that I know anyone like this–who is all but consumed by free-floating anxiety. Catastrophic Thinking [tm] guides our inchoate anxiety into a fully-formed rock of terror to accompany us on our way.

  2. What if the worst catastrophe already happened in 2016? Can we still improve on this? There seem to be a lot of apocalyptic visions on the drawing board for November 2020! Thanks for the alert.

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