Your Futurism Bores Me

Apparently there are only two visions of the future allowed in contemporary discourse, and they’re both dull as fuck.

On one hand we have the worlds of space fleets. Using navy ranks and command hierarchy as if the logistics of space don’t transform everything about strategy, let alone the wider mess of social relations that war is embed in. This is a world where we inevitably meet our down and out protagonist spending their last space credits on alien beer. How tiresome.

Where are fucked up drugs designed for a whole different biology. From a biome where anything like yeast is inconceivable. Where’s Captain Kirk demonstrating the macarena to pay for the next round because, in a world where you can build anything you like from a CHON asteroid and a fusion reactor, novelty is the only currency left.

The most omnipresent vision of the future is nothing more than an endless present, dressed up in chrome and lens flair. Boring.

Don’t worry. There’s an optimistic take on the future too, a world watched over by machines of love and grace. This is The Innovator's future where the inevitable forward march of technology has erased war and famine and want. Utopia, on this earth or the next — digital — one. It’s not a world without conflict per say. If you need that in life The Algorithm will provide it. In just the right dose, the safe dose. Boring.

These two visions are the centre of gravity around which contemporary representations of the future revolve, and they suck. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what’s wrong at first. It all just seems to be a bit lifeless, a bit empty.

Despite appearing as opposites these two visions present the same kind of future, one that’s static. Whether there’s simply nothing left to do that matters or you’re stuck on a treadmill, reliving the early 21st century in the late 34th, there is no space for human agency in these futures. Stories like these set up a chain of inevitability from past to future that renders the choices we make impotent against fate. Fuck that — history is not over.

Speculation about the future is at it’s best when it inspires self reflection and action now. Any vision of the future worth a damn needs to take human agency seriously and that means the futures gotta be weird and messy and imperfect — cause when has history been anything else.