Imagining the Future.


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Imagining the future of human life on earth - what are our options? What do we know, and what do we need to know? How can we find out? This is just a conversation starter - there are lots of projects and proposals out there, lets work together to create something compelling, that can guide the trajectory of things to come for the best possible outcome for all life forms.

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Imagining the Future.

  1. 1. Imagining the future of human life on earth. Let’s take a look at this topic through a wide angled lens, even wider than the view from the space station. The history of imagining the future of life on earth is an interesting one, and includes the scientific and technological manifestation of what once were purely fictional concepts.
  2. 2. Futuristic fiction has been a collective brainstorm on the possibilities for the future. The roots of this exploration into “what comes next” can be traced back through arts and philosophy to earliest civilisations. These stories are expressions of human imagination about our future. Gunn, J. (2010)
  3. 3. Zooming right out, through the solar system, the galaxy, and all the way out to the scale of the known universe, and putting our planet into perspective, we can see that, relative to "all that is“ we are actually quite tiny! Our collective knowledge of the position we are in however, is still in its infancy.
  4. 4. Humans practice learning, and sharing knowledge, developing cultures and creating artefacts. We have been evolving hand in hand with our technologies from earliest times. We are an intelligent and adaptable species, who are capable of looking at things in many different ways. MacEachern, S. (2013)
  5. 5. Using our highly evolved senses, and our powerful minds, we have come to see an ever increasingly complex set of details about life on earth. Using our imaginative capacity, can we begin to ask some relevant and interesting questions? Such as “why are all of earth's resources being focussed on the development of human civilisation?” Latour, B. (2009)
  6. 6. The massive scale of resource extraction happening across the planet provides the raw materials for an ever complexifying techno-industrial civilisation. It seems that humans are recombining the elements of earth to create something which was not here before.
  7. 7. The way we look at our planet in terms of where its resource assets are, and our unswerving focus on extracting and refining these elements into myriad products is currently focussed on consumption and profits. We can see that our relationship with our fellow beings is causing suffering, death and extinction on a scale not seen since pre-historic times. Shah, A. (2013)
  8. 8. Futurists, visionaries and artists are offering us potentially greater depth and breadth in our perspectives. Works of imaginative fiction and artist’s statements are often the first place that the collective human I magination can access a global scale overview of planetary affairs.
  9. 9. A survey of the memes currently circulating through our culture, even among the scientific community, show that there is a tendency toward either catastrophic thinking, or trivialisation, in our dramatization of current affairs through various mainstream media. Leskovec et al. (2009)
  10. 10. Our prevailing “either/or” cultural assumptions are actually manifesting an extremist discourse that is erring in favour of imagining dystopian rather than utopian outcomes. The entertainment industry seems heavily invested in producing 'doomsday' narratives, as well as creating a culture of ridicule for hopeful ideologies.
  11. 11. What if our apparent collective myopia stems from a limitation of imagination, inherited from the culture in which we embedded? While this would make it difficult to imagine alternative scenarios, with a subtle shift in perspective, we could come to see ourselves and our future in a whole new light. Russell, J. (2013)
  12. 12. Is it possible that all our rampant consumption of resources could be seen as preparation to become something completely new? It is a stretch for the imagination to figure out “what else” we might become, and how this transformation-in-progress could lead to anything but the end of “life as we know it”.
  13. 13. It is at this point that we turn to the writers and artists, the creative imaginers of possible futures, to offer us some hopeful and inspiring ideas. We can use our collective imagination to engage with these ideas and begin developing the “real science” and manifestation of them, as we have done throughout history.
  14. 14. We humans have done an incredible job of imagining, and building upon inspired ideas. We have created both cultures and structures to serve our purposes. It helps to be reminded that much of what we take for granted today, was not so long ago, a figment of someone's inspired imagination.
  15. 15. We could begin a new story by realising and accepting that we are part of the natural order here on this planet. We belong here, and we are here for a reason. With each other's help, we can find out what that reason is. We don't need to assume the worst! Latour, B. (1993)
  16. 16. Not so long ago, it was very popular to imagine ways that humanity might travel through space discover new worlds and make new friends throughout the galaxy. In recent times, we seem to be afflicted by a sense of limitation, a fear of failure, a lack of confidence in our capacity to imagine new futures and create them.
  17. 17. If we have given up on imagining the possibility of becoming like seeds on the winds of space and time, travelling and reproducing ourselves across the cosmos, what are we imagining? What are we doing with all the resources that we are harvesting and reconfiguring and why are we increasing our population, and interconnectivity so fast? Roesling, H. (2010)
  18. 18. Do we really want to believe that we are parasites, trashing a perfectly good planet for no other reason than quick fix self-gratification? Do we really want to believe that some super elite is milking evolutionary potential of this planet and its inhabitants for some selfish evil purpose?
  19. 19. What if, more of us gave our energy to creating viable alternative scenarios, which could be persuasive enough to engage the flow of resources? What if enough of us were earnestly dedicated to developing a “plan B” option for the future of this planet? What might that collective effort produce?
  20. 20. The only limit to the future possibilities is our collective imagination and applied willpower. The quality of future life on earth depends upon engaged, co-operative, inspired minds committed to working together to create it. What comes next? It's up to us....
  21. 21. References: Gunn, J. 2010, in course syllabus, Center for the Study of Science Fiction. <> Latour, Bruno. 1993, We have never been modern, Harvard University Press. Latour, Bruno. 2009, Politics of nature, Harvard University Press. Leskovec, Jure, et al, 2009, Meme tracking and the dynamics of the news cycle, <> MacEachern, Scott. 2013, The Origin of Civilisation, The Great Courses, <> Roesling, Hans. 2010, 200 countries, 200 years, BBC documentary, <> Russell, Jean, 2013, Thrivability, Triarchy press <> Shah, Anup. 2013, Environmental Issues, Global Issues, <>
  22. 22. List of figures: Figures list corresponds to slide order in powerpoint presentation. fig 1. planet_earth_by-commanderz; <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 2. histscifi; <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 3 Earth's location in the universe, Andrew Z. Colvin, 2011, <'s_Location_in_the_Universe_SMALLER_(JPEG).jpg> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 4. seeing-eye; <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 5.Artist unknown, date unknown, medium and dimensions unknown, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 6-1.Digital image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 6-2. Digital image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 6-3.Digital image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 6-4. Digital image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 7-1.Artist unknown, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 7-2. Artist unknown, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 8. Alex Grey, Gaia, 1989, Oil on Linen, 96 x 144 in. <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 9. Artist unknown, 'Life on Earth will be wiped out ... because things are going to get too damn hot to live.' Date unknown, size unknown, medium unknown, Photograph: Ruslan Olinchuk/Alamy <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 10.Glynn, Dylan. Utopia/Dystopia, 2010, < > viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 11. Deepwater, Glistening. 2013, Epistemisphere, Digital image, <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 12. Alex grey, Metamorphosis, 2005, acrylic on wood, 16 x 12 in. <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 13.Artist unknown, transhumanism , 2012, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 14. Ali Ries, whatif...robots, Digital image, <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 15. Artist unknown, digital image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 16. fractzxirus, spaceship-organic, Digital Image, <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 17.Artist unknown, Digital Image, <> viewed 1st October, 2013. fig 18.Artist unknown, spacejunk, A computer simulation of the distribution and movement of space debris at present and in future. Photo: TU Braunschweig/ESA/AP <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 19.Artist unknown, <> viewed 22nd September, 2013. fig 20-1.Gormley, Anthony. Horizon Field, 2010, cast iron, <> viewed 13th October, 2013. fig 20-2. Artist unknown, cyborg, digital image, <> viewed 13th October, 2013. fig 20-3 Artist unknown, question mark , digital image, <> viewed 13th October, 2013. fig 20-4. Artist unknown, mutant, digital image, <> viewed 13th October, 2013.