6 Things from 2017 That will Still be Around in 2120

Dear 2120,

Make yourself a nice bowl of synthetic ramen and cosy up in the sentient furniture of your floating, permutational dwelling, because this week’s post is of the lighter variety. After last week’s negativity-fest, I think it’s time to buck up, trust in human ingenuity, and have a bit of faith that we’ll get through this unfortunate moment in history relatively unscathed. Besides, carrying the weight of the interconnected world on your shoulders at all times gets pretty exhausting, if not anxiety-inducing to the point of all-out mental paralysis.

Let’s say, for the moment at least, that we turn the ship around in time by reducing carbon emissions dramatically, leveling inequality, rendering Trump and his cronies harmless and accomplishing all that other stuff, which would get us back on a sustainable track. What kind of world would that produce? And what things from our time will still remain relevant in your time?

As a means of answering that question in a colorful, roundabout way, I’d like to introduce you to the character Eugene Lindsay from Douglas Coupland’s late 90s novel, ‘Miss Wyoming.’

eugene

Still from Thelma & Louise (1991). This is how I picture Eugene. 

The scene: Eugene Lindsay, Ford dealer extraordinaire, is alone in bed making a list in small notepad. Trying to persuade himself that he’s living in a miraculous world in a miraculous time, the former child beauty pageant judge is writing down a range of things, which would astound someone living a hundred years before him:

No. 63. You can get almost any food you want any time of the year.

No. 64. Women do everything men do and it’s not that big a deal.

No. 65. Anybody on the planet can have a crystal-clear conversation with anyone else on the planet pretty well anytime they want to.

No. 66. You can comfortably and easily wake up in Sidney, Australia, and go to bed in New York.

No. 67. The Universe is a trillion billion million times larger than you ever dreamed it would be.

No. 68. You hardly ever see or smell shit.

Now, seeing as this is a futurist blog, I’m going to focus on the future (surprise) and create an inversion of Eugene’s ingenious idea by writing a list of things from 2017, which I think will still be relevant in 2120. In other words, instead of making a list for someone living a hundred years ago, we’re going full 180 on Eugene’s concept by making one for you, the people of the future.

Based on various plausible and implausible sci-fi scenarios, random shit I read on the internet and my own assailable flights of fancy, in no particular order, here are:

6 Things from 2017 That will Still be Around in 2120

1. Quantum Computing.

quantum4Technically, the inclusion of quantum computing could be considered cheating since we haven’t really managed to nail it just yet. However, the good people over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem convinced that the game-changing advance within computing will be available within the next 4-5 years, so I’ll make the case that’s this is contemporary technology. A technology with the far-reaching potential to make it to your time. After all, according to MIT:

‘Quantum computers could be exponentially faster at running artificial-intelligence programs and handling complex simulations and scheduling problems. They could even create uncrackable encryption.’

2. 3D-printing, Virtual Reality, bio-engineering and the Internet. But mixed up and merged to create tangible, holographic simulations.

Once again, I will evoke the effortless genius of my man, William Gibson, whose visionary contention that the capital F ‘Future’ becomes the lower case ‘now’ is particularly pertinent to the second point on our list. What it means is basically that some of the scenarios that we consider highly improbable if not impossible, borderline magic from the future, inevitably becomes real only to turn into hum-drum reality over time. If technology’s current rate of innovation keeps a steady trajectory, our irrepressible thirst for entertainment and connectivity, will see to it that today’s cutting-edge of wonder becomes tomorrow’s boring, old technological clusterfuck of the mundane.

3. Physical Sex.

This may contradict the second point on the list slightly, but considering how much of civilization in based on sex and procreation, I refuse to believe you guys won’t be going at it like the horny mammals you that you presumably still are. The real thing can’t be beat. (Unless you’re living in The Matrix, of course). On many different levels, sex is what keeps us away from death as the terminally ill Sarah from the movie My Life Without Me concludes in a moment of weathered clarity. Unless you’ve found a way to extend life indefinitely – and I personally don’t think that’s on the cards anytime soon – I bet you’ll all be fucking your blues away just like your ancient relatives here in 2017. (In spite of the curious wave of celibacy, which was all the rage in Japan a few years ago.)

renhang

Photo: Ren Hang 

4. Fictional Narratives.

The inescapable truth about the human condition is that it gets pretty boring. Everyone needs distraction from time to time. Escapism that makes us feel like we could be idealized, unrealistic versions of ourselves. Or maybe we just want entertainment. In any event, whatever technological shape or form the consumption of narrative will take, my bet is that you guys will be reading, listening and binge-watching just as much as us. Maybe binge-immersing?

5. Transhumanism.

art_transfinite

‘the transfinite’ by Ryoji Ikeda.

This is kind of a big deal in 2017. As a generation, we are still very much caught up in the notion harking back to Romanticism that humans and technology are mutually exclusive, oppositional entities. Despite that fact we live in a closed system with no external input, technology being an extension of ourselves that we created. Certain forward-thinking futurists and daring technology fetishists are thinking up extreme ways (by our standards) to blur the nature/technology divide by operating technology into their bodies. It’s all very primitive and proto at this point. You probably don’t call it transhumanism and it’s likely a harmless, run-of-the-mill procedure to you, but I can’t help thinking that this kind of thing will still be around in your time, albeit in a vastly improved, less messy form.

6. Electronic music.

Admittedly, this more of a hope than a rational proposition. The thing that always attracted me to electro, techno, disco and house, its many offshoots and bastardizations, is its timeless futurist sensibility. Its innate, yearning, melancholy understanding that technology is a double-edged sword with the binary potential to set us free or cause our downfall. I realize that this is a long shot. When I listen to most music from a hundred years ago, it takes a lot of effort not to zone out. Still, how can any human being not be instantly mesmerized when confronted with the reverberating sounds of the 808, the squelchiness of the 303 or the undisputed might of the 909?

No Future by Moiré

Dear 2120,

Starting off a post on a futurist blog with the words No Future might seem counterintuitive, but It’s getting prettty intense here in 2017. Unless history has been rewritten and/or altered by some totalitarian overlord in your time, you’ll know that we currently find ourselves teetering on the brink of global upheaval.

erf

The environment that sustains us is being pimped out by crypto-oligarchs in the name of short-sighted greed; our civil liberties are eroded through omnipresent digital surveillance; the wealth and dwindling resources are concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, creating widespread instability; populist xenophobia and poisonous ideology are sweeping a sizable chunk of civilization; and in the midst of this deeply unsettling slippery slope of counterproductive irrationality, Donald Trump, the reality TV star turned President of the USA, the spray-tanned Commander-in-chief with the world’s most powerful military at his disposal, is getting increasingly irate and unpredictable, declaring war on the free press while orchestrating  boneheaded tweets that reveal his thin-skinned egomania and alarming lack of statesmanship.

Usually, I’d find some way to make light of a messed-up situation, but the state of the world is so goddamn depressing that my optimism has taken a dystopian beating. The future – Your future – is looking pretty murky from where I’m standing.

The good news is that people are starting to wake up from their apathetic, apolitical slumber. Activists from across the spectrum are making their voices heard  and art, creativity and popular culture are finally stepping up to acknowledge their influence and responsibility. Take Moiré, a gifted London-based producer, making experimental techno.

moire-1

His latest album ‘No Future’ (Ghostly International), resonates the creeping fear and disorienting  paranoia, enveloping the 21st century metropolis, following the unsightly side-effects brought on by the neoliberal dream of market-driven globalization and the steady descent into economic and political turmoil.

Armed with a potent arsenal of production skills and a refreshingly warped take on house and techno, the former architect effortlessly immerses you in a bleak, yet strangely uplifting wasteland of urban decay and gritty melancholia. It’s somehow always raining on tinted, opague windows in Moiré’s dense, beat-saturated dystopia. While it is in no way a call to arms or a manifest urging us to fight the power, it does in certain ways feel like a first, tentative step towards a kind of redemption. A way of overcoming our fears by naming them. Of solving the problem by shouting it from the rooftops, the shouting packaged in dark, compelling machine-funk.

moiresI’m under no illusion that a techno album will solve the world’s problems. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that we have to start somewhere? To me at least, this feels like some kind of beginning.  If nothing else, ‘No Future’ makes one hell of a soundtrack for dancing into the fire – to paraphrase (the distinctly apolitical) Duran Duran.

Theorizing on the transformative nature of globalization, the recently deceased sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, once claimed that ‘one cannot stay put in moving sands.’ I’d argue that this particular musician has grabbed hold of a bold, illuminating torch to shine a flickering light on the darkened quicksand that we’re all, stunned and robot-like, sinking ourselves into. Whether or not the LP is emblematic of movement, change or mobility remains to be seen.

moirea

Actually, If I’m honest with myself, it feels as if you’re gradually sliding out of view. Like that time in Back to the Future when Marty sees the McFlys fading from the family photo. I don’t mean to sound impotent or feckless, but if you have a time machine, now might be a good time to drop by for a discreet little intervention.

Arabian Nights on Mars?

Dear 2120,

I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming. The United Arab Emirates are now self-appointed contenders in the interplanetary space race, aiming to establish a UAE settlement on Mars by 2117:

The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.

With little to no space-faring capabilities (to the best of my knowledge), the UAE could be biting off more than they can chew.

Then again, maybe this is very literally old news to you? Maybe you’re actually on Mars speaking Arabic in a UAE settlement as you’re reading this? I can tell you that this seems an exotic if not unlikely turn of events here in 2017. Still, stranger things have happened, I guess.

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-12-22-19-pm

In 1955, it was pretty much unthinkable that Japan would overtake the rest of the world in technology and become what sci-fi author, William Gibson, calls: ‘the default setting for the future.’ Back to the Future, a corny but enjoyable sci-fi movie, illustrates the surprise of the power-shift perfectly when time-travelling Marty McFly tells an incredulous Doc Brown that, in the future, Japan is ‘where all the best stuff is made.’

Who knows, maybe it’s time for Elon Musk to eat some Arabian space dust. In which case: peace be upon the United Arab Emirates Mars settlement of 2120.

Hope you’re enjoying the view. Trying hard to contain my jealousy here.

The Lobster

Dear 2120,

I’ve always been obsessed with the future. Obsessed with you, in other words. One of my biggest concerns is how you’ll perceive us. Will you think we’re as stuffy, naïve and unaware as we tend to think the ladies and gentlemen with funny hats and whimsically timid demeanours in Youtube clips from a 100 years ago can be? That we’re as snared by unseen reins and caught up in outmoded conventions as our fuddy-duddy ancestry?

I’m asking for a very specific reason. You see, I think I might just have been offered a  distorted glimpse of the future by way of an absurdist, dystopian comedy called The Lobster. In any event, it’s managed to mess with my 21st century head.

cannes2

Featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux, it turns ingrained, contemporary assumptions about marriage and coupledom on its head through exaggeration, transposition and surrealist distortion of reality; people unable to find a partner will be turned into animals, those unable to stop fighting will be assigned children (‘it usually helps’) and the poor saps incapable of functioning within this love-tyrannical paradigm are left to the woods with the other ‘loners’ where they are hunted and turned into animals if caught by a fateful tranquilizer dart. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also ruled by a totalitarian leader with a proclivity for mutilation if people step out of line.

the-lobsterAs a comment on the institution of coupledom, I think it works extremely well by laying bare deep-seated norms and convictions via its absurdist, alternate universe where social dynamics are inverted, uncanny and farcical. It’s the old holding up a mirror to society-trick made new and done overwhelmingly well. Critics tell me that the movie has traces of Luis Bunuel. Having never seen any Bunuel, I’ll have to take their word for it. For my own part, I think there’s a definite Orwellian influence as well as a certain expressionist bent with some contemporary comedy followed by dark, visceral intensity.

lea

It’s serious, yet funny, stupid but smart, conceptually radical, yes visually conservative, constantly surprising and satisfyingly difficult to pin down. There are lucid themes, but no clear-cut message. With the just the right balance between message and ambiguity, we’re left to figure things out for ourselves.

Although it does lose a bit of steam towards the end by disappearing up its own zaaaaany backside (the shock of the new invariably becomes its own kind of permanence), on the whole, its dissection and questioning of our obsession with finding a partner becomes an intriguing, eye-opening experiment that takes a good long while to process. It’s certainly got me scratching my own early 21st century beard in bewilderment.

colin

The question I’m getting to is if this is any indication as to how we might organize ourselves socially in the future. If marriage and pairing up are oppressive institutions, what does the emancipation from said institutions look like in your time? Massive orgies? Relationship clusters consisting of up 20 people? Fucking and loving the entire world in your beefed-up version of virtual reality? Will you view our constant coupling as backwards and oppressive – a socio-cultural status quo you couldn’t possibly see yourself living in?

Obviously, I don’t know. Quite frankly. I’m jealous that you get to experience it. Whatever ‘it’ is.