What will financial markets look like in the future? This game finds out

Imagine this: up to 100 financial investors gathered together at a conference. Yes, they’re in their usual suits and ties, but they’re actually here to play a game — an experiential simulation that is aptly titled The Game of Tomorrow, and is set in the future.

This is the scene at the St Regis in Mumbai last month, at the Future Bets Conference organised by Ashika Group, a financial services company. “We wanted to give our investors access to the future,” explains Chirag Jain, CEO of Ashika Capital, a subsidiary outfit. “And help them understand that changes happening around the world will come to India sooner than expected.”

To bring this vision to life, Jain reached out to 64/1, the Bengaluru-based art and experience collective helmed by artist Raghava KK and his brother, Karthik Kalyanaraman. Watching their months-long effort come to life was a magical feeling, says Raghava (38), on a phone call from New York, where he is attending an artist residency. “I could see one of the biggest traders in the country getting very nervous during the game, jumping from counter to counter and talking to people,” he remembers. “Someone making big decisions for the country being so engaged in this — it was like watching a movie.”

Keeping up with change

In the game, traders are required to do their everyday jobs, but in a fast-changing environment. It opens in the present day, jumping every five minutes to the following year. There are constant updates in the form of news announcements, social media posts and even performance art. Climactic calamities are introduced, artificial intelligence makes jobs obsolete, new wars are being won, and understandably, stock prices are reacting. Who will manage to maintain the most valuable portfolio in a world like this one?

Kalyanaraman (40), who has taught econometrics at the University College London, among other places, reveals that the game was born out of a desire to make sense of these transitions. “I don’t think any generation before ours — including the pre-Industrial Revolution era — saw this much rapid change,” he says, citing examples like higher mobile penetration and the advent of cryptocurrency and AI. “During such times, we passively leave our future to technologists.”

Thinking about these macro-level transitions was spurred in part by his personal life, he admits. “Raghava and I went through the failures of our own marriages a few years ago, and moved back to Bengaluru. We started thinking about change and the future we were creating.”

Waiting for tomorrow

This is where longtime collaborator and futurist Nihal Ahmed (28) comes in. His background as a game designer and creator of experiential futures was driven by his motivation to help people gear up for what might lie ahead. “You shock them with these experiences, and that registers in their mind a lot more, helping them prepare better, asking themselves, ‘how do we steer clear of a dystopian future?’”

And that’s really what the creators of the game — including experience designers Alrex Romer (also a policy expert) and Janet Orlene — want: for key decision makers to think about tomorrow. “Will we even have banks in the future, without governments propping them up?” asks Kalyanaraman, who built data sets drawn from existing research to create these futuristic scenarios.

As for the future, Chirag Jain wants to take the game to more of the company’s investors, perhaps in Singapore and Dubai, and set up mini salons across the country with thought leaders and public market investors who are thinking about “the stock market of the future”.


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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 4:55:37 PM |

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