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What future do we want – and deserve? Questions for the places, politics and pleasures of the hereafter
Where are we headed – and what will the journey be like? How do we deal with rapid change, how can we make more deliberate decisions – and how do we ensure we’re even included in that process?
In this session, Cory Doctorow, Adam Liaw, Kristin Alford and Maggie Ryan Sandford explore the changing technologies, social dynamics and global circumstances behind what’s coming next.
As children, what did the panellists picture the future would look like? 'The Jetsons,' says Adam Liaw. 'It was technologically-based, but the characters and their motivations were all the same. Technology facilitated things, but it didn't change the people that we were. I don't think people anticipate themselves changing when they think about the future. They always think that surroundings change but people stay the same – and that's what The Jetsons showed, I think.'
Kristin Alford anticipated the future (now, the present) would be an overwhelmingly solar-powered one, while Maggie Ryan Sandford envisioned human-animal telepathy, 'especially with whales'.
Cory Doctorow, meanwhile, notes that the first taste he had of the concept of 'The Future' occurred when his father returned from watching video footage of Doug Engelbart's 'Mother of All Demos' back in the 1970s (in which Engelbart demonstrated a proof-of-concept of hypertext, video conferencing, the computer mouse and word processing). 'The thing that engelbart’s vision didn’t have, and the thing that surprised me, and the lesson I’ve taken with me since then is the notion that all complex ecosystems have parasite,' says Doctorow. The Doug Engelbart future was the Epcot Centre future, it was the Jetsons future, it was very clean. It didn’t have 419 Nigerian scammers, and it didn’t have griefers who take over your webcam exploiting a zero day, capture incidental nude footage and then threaten to expose it on your MySpace account unless you perform live sex acts on your webcam for them. All that stuff that turned out to actually be in the future was missing from the Doug Engelbart – the people were missing around the edges. That, I think, was the collision of the future we anticipated and the future we got.'
Listen to the full discussion, featuring digressions on the future of food, trend forecasting, and the uneasy balance to be found between optimism and pessimism when it comes to predicting what comes next.