Glimpsing Future Possibility in my Present Reality

It seems to me that distinguishing between fact and fiction is common not only in the conscious decisions we make as humans, but in default choices we pursue without thought or reason. Decisions, then, depend on the way that circumstances are framed in an individual’s mind. It is this idea of “framed circumstance” that I am interested in discussing here.

Futures are often (by mistake in my opinion) framed by imagined or hoped-for realities with little concern or attention to present, emergent realities. As Fredric Jameson said, “It is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternative to capitalism…” yet alternatives are the only futures that take the present into account. They are difficult for us to imagine because to think about alternative futures, is to change one’s individual perspectives, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. To put it plainly, instead of changing the factors that make up a circumstance, we must change ourselves.

Narrative can help significantly with this difficult yet necessary distinction. A narrative is essentially a collection of events (factual or actual) that unfold in a coherent way. Narratives allow us to imagine alternative scenarios based on a mixture of current realities (or imagined realities) we experience. These scenarios as Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby reflect, “are by necessity provocative, intentionally simplified, and fictional.” Introducing fiction into everyday circumstance begins to alter the course of our decisions from primitive and expected to surprising and imagined.

Over the last couple of days I decided to pursue such alternative, imagined scenarios by investigating emergent futures captured by present circumstances. Simply, I reflected on aspects of my present in search of signs for the future (using narrative and fiction as guides).

Sound Effects that Relate to Everyone

Over summer holiday, my little brother introduced a song to me that was fully made up by Apple phone sounds. It was surprising and entertaining to hear my ringtone and alarm buzz transformed into an upbeat, engaging song. This piece of music utilized sounds that were never meant for melody and took advantage of the audience’s intense familiarity with the notes and jingles heard throughout. To me, this could be a glimpse of a future that uses mass-familiar sounds (made possible by widely used digital devices) to communicate.

Augmented GPS

Already predicted by many, I witnessed an imagined future erupt with Pokemon-GO. While living in NYC I saw, first-hand, physical landmarks begin to be identified by an augmented, digital reality. This has huge future implications and we can begin to build alternative scenarios based on this behavior coming to light.

Buy even your plants online!

The breadth of available online purchases exceeds my expectations on a regular bases. Living in Shanghai, you can buy almost anything online- from fruit picked day-of, to cellphones, to houseplant- and the items will be delivered to your door only hours later. I consider this present reality one that will only multiply in its reach and potential as personalized data grows more accessible.