The Disruptive Futures: Nuclear Weapons Summit, December 4-7, 2016, engaged our community in a new type of discussion about nuclear security. A public event at the Lensic featured former Secretary of Defense William Perry with journalist, author and filmmaker Eric Schlosser in a conversation about reducing the risks of nuclear weapons. Over three days, 47 interdisciplinary leaders from across the country were immersed in the history of nuclear weapons, discussed present day nuclear threats and – most importantly – used art, creative writing and design exercises to explore ‘what if’ scenarios about the future of global security.


Santa Fe is a city distinctively abundant in creative, cultural, and intellectual assets. In 2014, our team began exploring ways to use these assets in a fundamentally new way, with two key goals. One was to shine an international spotlight on Santa Fe as a destination to address some of our world’s most challenging issues. The second was to reframe the way people interact, communicate, and problem-solve by bringing new voices to the table and leveraging the remarkable power of art, culture, innovation, and creativity so embedded in the very fabric of our city.  

We decided to focus on Nuclear Weapons as our inaugural issue. We were facing the 70th anniversary of the Trinity test and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Manhattan project is our legacy. The labs are still deeply tied to nuclear weapons, and we have the scientists, artists, and cultural memory to begin to pave the way for new ways to tackle this vexing issue. We invited N Square, as one of our core collaborative partners. N Square is a major global initiative that focuses on building new forms of cross-sector collaboration with the belief that new voices, in combination with the sheer ingenuity of an engaged public, will help innovate our world into one free from the risks associated with nuclear weapons.

The new voices we brought to the Nuclear Weapons discussion were Rhode Island School of Design industrial designers, authors, screenwriters, actors, producers, artists, storytellers, musicians, and futurists. We showed art installations like Lynette Wallworth’s extraordinarily searing VR piece Collisions. We had discussions, storytelling workshops, design thinking training, and even did Chi Gong around a bonfire at our local wellness hot spring retreat Sunrise Springs. It was not your typical Nuclear Weapons Summit.

The result was that barriers and silos dissolved. People stopped thinking in terms of black or white, right or wrong, disarmament or deterrence. People from all walks of life, all different fields, ages 22-86, came together to contemplate a world without Nuclear Weapons. We won the ‘Most Significant Futures Works’ Award from the Association of Professional Futurists for this work, and our cohort in large part has remained together and continues to work on this issue, together.