All these grown-up monsters for my grown-up mind, they are there in the nights I wake up terrified and taunted by death. When I feel so small and broken, when despair and terror take me, I have a secret tool, a talisman against the night. I don’t use it too often so that it doesn’t lose its power.[more inside]
Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.Margaret Atwood's next novel won't be published until 2114. (Katie Paterson, the Future Library, Katie Paterson previously))
Humans Need Not Apply. Video essayist CGP Grey explains why we need to start preparing for a post-human economy.
In 1929, Italian artist (author of The Futurist manifesto) Filippo Tommaso Marinetti opened a restaurant, La Taverna del Santo Palato [Tavern of the Holy Palate] in Turin. In 1930/31, Marinetti went on a polemical crusade against pasta, decrying it as holding the Italian people back. In 1932, he wrote La Cuicina Futurista [The Futurist Cookbook]. Part manifesto, part cookbook, all promotional, it contained a host of sensational delights, like "Chicken Fiat": chicken roasted with steel ball bearings, on a bed of whipped cream, as well as desciptions of banquets, and a recounting of his success against pasta. [more inside]
"Last week I saw two visions for the future. The first is Her...and the other was this Infinity Augmented Reality concept video which had me in fits of laughter because it was so… well, just watch it for yourself. I liked seeing both. However accurate or ridiculous (and how can we truly know until the future is here?), the act of inventing is what sparks the realities of tomorrow." - Julie Zhuo imagines The Future.
Take a stroll through French artist Vincent Fournier‘s [previously] gallery of animal photographs, and you’re likely to come across some creatures you’ve never seen before. Like, for instance, a jellyfish that is capable of electronically transmitting data across the Abyssal depths of the ocean. Or, perhaps, a scorpion that can perform semi-automated surgery on humans. “These creatures come from the future—an imagined future, based loosely on current research on synthetic biology and genetic engineering,” says Fournier, of his project Post-Natural History, a series of digitally-altered photos of animals that do not yet exist. “The idea is that these are living species, reprogrammed by mankind to better fit our environment as well as to adapt to new human desires.”
"It was as if, while Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school, Bowie was bracing for the 21st Century, the demand for everyone to “share” accessible versions of themselves. The self as a business card, to be distributed to anyone who asked for it. He also saw opportunity: on 1 September 1998, he launched BowieNet." Pushing Ahead Of The Dame (previously, previously) takes a look at David Bowie's late-90s, technophile projects and the future they foreshadowed - Omikron: The Nomad Soul (& BowieBanc & BowieNet)
The awkwardly titled  book, "FutureConsumer.com: The webolution of shopping to 2010," touches on everything from music downloads to grocery delivery, with a big emphasis on lists. And it's Feather's list for the 50 largest online retailers of 2010 which now stands as a fascinating time capsule of the first dot-com bubble. Naturally, Webvan makes the Top 5.
Notable transhumanist and futurist FM-2030 (née Fereidoun M. Esfandiary) was really, really into the future.
Why not visit to the World's Fair of 2014, as envisioned by science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1964? By 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony. (Via) [more inside]
Tekhnika Molodezhi was the Popular Mechanics of the Soviet Union. The magazine, whose name means Technology for the Youth, had illustrations of everything from space stations, computerized farming, transport of the future, friendly robots, to more abstract images. If you don't want to hunt through the archive, Mythbuster's Tested website has a gallery of 201 great images from the magazine.
Nobel laureate's campaign calls for pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons. As our technology advances, it becomes more and more feasible to give more and more autonomy to our drones. A new campaign led by 1997 Nobel laureate Jody Williams calls for an international ban on the design of autonomous weaponized drones. [more inside]
For WIRED magazine's 20th anniversary, they've "gathered stories for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet's past 20 years—and will continue driving the next."
seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
Dougal Dixon is a scientist, author, and illustrator. While he is most famous for his work on dinosaurs, his books After Man: A Zoology of the Future and Man After Man: An Anthropology Of The Future attempt to explore what might happen in the far future. The Posthuman Art Of Dougal Dixon. [more inside]
This past August, producer Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) launched a new digital series: H+. The premise: in the near future, 33% of humanity has retired their smartphones, tablets and computers in favor of an implanted computer system, H+, which connects them directly to the internet 24/7. The story begins as a computer virus attacks the implants, killing billions. In intersecting storylines across four continents (told in part through flashbacks,) the series then unravels what happened, who caused it and why. [more inside]
Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World." [more inside]
"If you’re not getting it wrong really a lot when you’re creating imaginary futures, then you’re just not doing it enough."
Wired talks to William Gibson: on Why Sci-Fi Writers Are (Thankfully) Almost Always Wrong, on Twitter, Antique Watches and Internet Obsessions, and and on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’.
TED Fellow Evgeny Morozov (previously, previously) calls bullshit on the "increasingly" "simplistic" "anxiety-peddling futurology" surrounding the TED conference in generally and especially the new TED book Hybrid Reality by Ayesha & Parag Khanna. [more inside]
Driving down the street in LA, you may notice coffee shops, gas stations or motels with bright primary colors, sweeping lines, bold angles and a retrofuture feel: Googie - Architecture of the Space Age [more inside]
In Praise of Leisure - "Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called 'Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.' Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all... He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years — that is, by 2030." (via) [more inside]
In the wake of their grunge-y breakout hit "Creep" and the success of sophomore record The Bends, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead were under pressure to deliver once more. So they shut themselves away inside the echoing halls of a secluded 16th century manor and got to work. What emerged from that crumbling Elizabethan castle fifteen years ago today was a shockingly ambitious masterpiece of progressive rock, a visionary concept album that explored the "fridge buzz" of modernity -- alienation, social disconnection, existential dread, the impersonal hum of technology -- through a mosaic of challenging, innovative, eerily beautiful music unlike anything else at the time. Tentatively called Ones and Zeroes, then Your Home May Be at Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the band finally settled on OK Computer, an appropriately enigmatic title for this acclaimed harbinger of millennial angst. For more, you can watch the retrospective OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review for a track-by-track rundown, or the unsettling documentary Meeting People is Easy for a look at how the album's whirlwind tour nearly gave Yorke a nervous breakdown. Or look inside for more details and cool interpretations of all the tracks -- including an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge! [more inside]
"Fairly predictive tests for Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, depression, some malignancies, heart disease, and most of the rest of the major killers and disablers will probably be in place by 2000 to 2010. Many if not most of these ailments will be assessable in terms of a very sophisticated genetic risk profile which it will be possible to generate in infancy or childhood (or in utero)." In 1987, cryonics advocate Mike Darwin wrote about the next twenty years of medicine.
SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks about the future of "big idea" Science Fiction: If SF's core message (to the extent that it ever had one) is obsolete, what do we do next?
io9 asks the question: When and Why did Science Fiction drop the ubiquitous "Dinner in a pill" device?
Ernest Callenbach, author of the classic environmental novel Ecotopia among other works, died of cancer at 83 on April 16th, leaving behind this document on his computer.
In 1976, American students put their Tricentennial imaginings to paper. Some larger versions of the drawings are available over at Buzzfeed.
"Historians have long debated what could have been done differently to prevent that tragedy, and what still could be done to keep such a tragedy from repeating on future expeditions. In 1913, a Swiss inventor proposed a solution to the problem. Naturally, it involved giant mechanical mosquitoes." [more inside]
One thing we can be certain of is that capitalism will end. Maybe not soon, but probably before too long; humanity has never before managed to craft an eternal social system, after all, and capitalism is a notably more precarious and volatile order than most of those that preceded it. The question, then, is what will come next.
"everything is good that / has a good beginning / and doesn't have an end / the world will die but for us there is no / end!" Thus ends Victory over the Sun (part 1, part 2), the "first Futurist opera". [more inside]
A spherical flying robot has been developed at the Japanese Ministry of Self-Defense; it can zoom along indoors and outdoors at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, or just hover. Menacingly. Science Fiction In The News is a subsection of science-fiction site Technovelgy, which tracks both the predictions of future tech made in science fiction past and present and its manifestations in real life. What tech, you ask? Well, if it’s appeared in your nightmares, it’s probably been on this page: [more inside]
“We try and illustrate a “universe-next-door” where the new product is the only novelty. Where there is still tea, and the traffic is still miserable.”
Future Drama is a tumblr devoted to that particular kind of futurism - corporate prediction demos of how their products will change the world - See The Mother Of All Demos from 1968 introducing the mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing - Apple in 1987 - Philco-Ford The Future Now!
The BBC broadcasted the science and technology showcase show Tomorrow's World (titles on piano) on 7 July 1965 on BBC1, it ran for 38 years until it was cancelled at the beginning of 2003. Unlike the boosterism of US science programs, Tomorrow's World was more famous for it's live stunts and wry outlook ( James Burke experiences the "convenient" office of the future and the future of home gardening and crushing ennui). The BBC has an archive of episodes and clips for UK visitors, everyone else will have to be content with clips concerning Home Computers, New Banking, Nellie The School Computer, The Elliot Light Pen, Mobile Phones, and Moog Synthesizers.
When the machines take over, how will people make a living? Paul Allen: Futurists like Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil have argued that the world is rapidly approaching a tipping point, where the accelerating pace of smarter and smarter machines will soon outrun all human capabilities. They call this tipping point the singularity, because they believe it is impossible to predict how the human future might unfold after this point. Once these machines exist, Kurzweil and Vinge claim, they'll possess a superhuman intelligence that is so incomprehensible to us that we cannot even rationally guess how our life experiences would be altered. Vinge asks us to ponder the role of humans in a world where machines are as much smarter than us as we are smarter than our pet dogs and cats. Kurzweil, who is a bit more optimistic, envisions a future in which developments in medical nanotechnology will allow us to download a copy of our individual brains into these superhuman machines, leave our bodies behind, and, in a sense, live forever. It's heady stuff. [more inside]
Megatrends That Weren't "From "the rise of the rest" to the resource wars, pontificating on the big trends that will shape the future of global politics and economics has become a big business. But history can be awfully unkind to pundits wielding crystal balls." Many people, events, organisations and Guardian political pundits have erred in the past, but perhaps their record will be better in the future.
Five minutes into the future - a blog where Astro Zombie posts things he finds that appear to come from the not-so-distant future. Check out New Tombstones Adorable Cars Modular Toasters Augmented Reality Shopping and Smart Lamposts [via mefi projects]
In After Earth Ben Austen looks at "Why, Where, How, and When We Might Leave Our Home Planet" while Jared Daniel asks, if given a chance to found the first human colony on Mars, would you go? Maybe we could turn it into a home away from home or perhaps we should terraform Earth first.
Memory Implants Have Now Been Successfully Applied to Rats: Is an artificial enhancement arms race among humans visible on the horizon? Culturally-favored appearance and intelligence have often been associated with social mobility; a future in which the rich can readily purchase dramatic enhancements to both sex appeal and cognitive ability at least raises the possibility of deeper and more permanent social stratification.
Lula's Brazil - "Compared with his predecessors, he had the imagination, born of social identification, to see that the Brazilian state could afford to be more generous to the least well-off, in ways that have made a substantial difference to their lives. But these concessions have come at no cost to the rich or comfortably-off, who in any absolute reckoning have done even better – far better – during these years. Does that really matter, it can be asked: isn't this just the definition of the most desirable of all economic outcomes, a Pareto optimum?" (via via)
John Baez (mathematical physicist and master popularizer, former operator of This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics, current promoter of the idea that physicists should start pitching in on saving the world) interviews Eliezer Yudkowsky (singularitarian, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," promoter of the idea that human life faces a near-term existential threat from unfriendly artificial intelligence, and that people can live better lives by evading their cognitive biases) about the future, academia, rationality, altruism, expected utility, self-improvement by humans and machines, and the relative merit of battling climate change and developing friendly AIs that will forstall our otherwise inevitable doom. Part I. Part II. Part III. [more inside]
A History of the Future in 100 Objects is a Kickstarter project from Six to Start co-founder (and Mefi's own) Adrian Hon inspired by the Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects.
Watch your computer design a 2 dimensional car. What happens when you give a computer, instead of a predefined function to run, a set of parameters, a goal, and the ability to mutate those parameters? You get a genetic algorithm. At its core, genetic algorithms can best be described as Darwinian evolution of computer functions. Is it better to use a streamlined, wide-wheel-base motorcycle to cross terrain, or something that looks like a cross between a fish and a tank? This simplistic simulation shows just what's going to cause the rise of Skynet.
Sherry Turkle of MIT once fell in love with a robot. And was promptly repulsed by her own reaction. Via the always great Arts and Letters.
The First Decade of the Future is Behind Us: Blackberries, WikiLeaks, airport scanners, 3D televisions, robot vaccum cleaners, Microsoft Kinnect, private spaceflight and Facebook all look like sci-fi novel elements to Kyle Munkittrick. [more inside]