Vision of the Future

What is your vision of the future?


There are a lot of visions of the future out there in popular culture that we’re exposed to, mostly in movies, graphic novels, and books. The vast majority of these visions are dark, dystopic, melancholy, depressive, oppressive, hopeless. They depict worlds completely broken and trashed.

TheRoad [The Road]

BookofEli[Book of Eli]

It’s not surprising that these depictions of the future are common. It’s not exactly an act of extraordinary mental gymnastics to look at present conditions and trends in the real world and extrapolate out a few years. A lot of our built environments are starting to look like the scenes you’d see in Running Man, say, or The Walking Dead.

[via Flickr by Bob Jagendorf]

Some of the landscapes we’ve created are downright hellish.

[Asbestos dump – Superfund site]

We’re bombarded with negativity.

We talk a lot about how screwed up everything is. Yes, it’s important, we need to know what’s wrong with something before we can fix it.

But for the love of god, fashion has gone post-apocalyptic.

Everyone has a crystal clear idea (several ideas, actually: a whole slew of tailored options) of what the post-apocalyptic future is going to look like. Lots of leather and fingerless gloves and sawed-off shotguns and all that.

What about a future we actually want to live in?

But when we talk about how we need to fix things, I feel like we only have a sort of vague, hand-wavy idea of what the future we want actually looks like. I realize that the future will be emergent and in many ways is not designable, but if we don’t have any sort of clear image of what we want, how can we build it? How can we get others to help us? How can we get large masses of people behind our ideas and see them to fruition?

It’s not a vacuum. We have some architectural visualizations here and there, some conceptual art of “green” developments. A good number of them look a bit like this:

Green City

[Concept design for green city in Korea by MVRDV]

Honestly I don’t even want to get into what’s wrong with this because I’m trying to keep this post short. It looks nice and all, but building brand-new giant green dildos in the middle of what looks like wetlands strikes me vaguely as a Pruitt-Igoe redux – except with green stuff attached! I’m not an expert but color me skeptical. How many top-down, hierarchically organized, starchitect-branded intentional metropolis projects have turned out to be great communities for real people?

I’m getting off the point here.

The point is that we don’t have enough focused, critical visions of what a sustainable future looks like. We maybe think that we’d drive an electric car, have lots of sun in our office, and wear hemp or something. There’s a disconnect between how our lives work now, how we think they might work in the future, and the realities of a post-peak oil civilization in the throes of climate destabilization working through the implications of its advanced state of infrastructural complexity, interconnectedness, and interdependence.

I want to see more speculation and vision about how a non-doomsday future might look. In any and all media. Some stuff is out there but it’s scattered and it’s not enough in our collective consciousness. If all we focus on are these dystopian nightmares, that’s where we’ll end up. It’s like mountain biking… if you look over the cliff at the side of the trail, you’ll fall off it for sure. Keep your eyes on the trail, on the goal, and you’ll make it through.

In one of my next posts I’m going to start exploring how to critically engage with a personal vision of the future, and how that can inform day-to-day work in the real world. Stay tuned!


[Update: This article by Julien Smith is related to the above, and excellent: ]

5 Responses to Vision of the Future

  1. Very nice post. I agree that we all need to set a goal of how we WANT the future to be, and work our hardest – together – to achieve that goal. Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to reading more of your blog! 🙂

  2. […] is a series of posts focused on visions of a hopeful, intentional future. See this post for why developing compelling visions of the future we want is […]

  3. […] been preaching for a couple posts now that if we want to build a future we actually want, we need to go through […]

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