New Futures


I never cease to wonder about the vast amount of futures we have in store. While there is only one past, albeit an eternally contested and subjective one, the future is manifold and unfuckwithable. Recent pulpy science fiction binges and forays into blockbuster cinematic media have proven this indubitably; After all, maybe the main reason Science Fiction works as a storytelling medium is because no one can prove it wrong. Who’s to say that the Pre-Cogs, soaked in some primordial slime, will not be able to see crimes before they occur or that Rama, hollow and the size of a moon, is not floating through space on the way to some deliberately unknowable destination? Certainly one real future must be bobbing around in all the millions of lucid, delusional, sweaty, pedantic, post-apocalyptic, and utopian ideas that have been proposed by the authors of the past.

What if we had a choice? What if everyone decided that the future of Total Recall, with its boxy cars and three-breasted Martian women flouncing around anesthetic dance clubs with laser guns strapped to their loins, was the best direction for us? Could we rally together, lay out a 100-year plan, and make it happen? We could create a future, in a way, more firmly rooted in the past than anything that might have happened naturally.

In the light of this possibility, I’ve been considering the best futures, the ones I’d most likely rally behind in the case of a universal temporal survey of the human race. Of course, no one is interested in waking up one morning only to realize that they’re actually brainwashed secret agents from Mars with some serious revenge on their plates, so I’m not considering the narrative arcs of these literary and filmic futures, only the world in which they ostensibly take place.

Before my official “Best Futures” list hits the Internet, I’d like to enlist you, my readership, to provide your personal votes. Do you dream of immortality within a crystal prism? Would you happily spend the rest of your life mining “the Spice”? I want to know! This should be the people’s choice, and no one is safe from the conceptual flagella of future-leaning media, least of all in this day and age.


In the interim, some suggested reading to get you going:

Geoff Manaugh (of BLDG BLOG) ruminates on the architecture of Science Fiction.

Excerpt from Mark Von Schlegell’s new novel, Mercury Station

Where Science Fiction Films Take Place

Excerpt from Minority Report: A Report, a new collaboration between myself and Aaron Flint Jamison:

I loved it uncritically, without hesitation. Usually I am not this forgiving to movies, this completely open to whatever brand of reality they wish to impart; I am trying to figure out why exactly I feel this way. I think it is largely, although not entirely, due to a kind of nostalgia about Tom Cruise. He is excellent in this, and excellent in the way that only Tom Cruise in this particular kind of movie can be: incredibly angular, vaguely troubled by some long-passed trauma, prone to jogging at night in some gothically hooded sweatshirt, capable of making complex hand gestures. I found myself euphoric while he was running around wearing black, so fast, so Olympian, escaping not just his particular pursuers but the whole corroded logic of his future-history. I think that he runs with his hands flat, unclenched. More areo-dynamic, is the idea behind that.

Fingertips cutting through the air.


  1. #1 Laura
    June 8, 2007

    So, I literally just finished two articles that you should check out. The first is, “A New Theory of the Universe,” by Robert Lanza in the spring ’07 American Scholar, (I am still recovering from the mind inversion). The second is about a solution to the central paradox of quantum mechanics, you may have already read it, last months The Believer article by Rivka Ricky Galchen.

    My vote is still percolating. But for now I will say that I do think we can and do “make it happen.”

  2. #2 richjensen
    June 8, 2007

    One of my favorite recent glimpses of a future (and specifically, of an attitude toward the future) comes through Al Larsen’s song, “Futuristic Way” from The Hardline According to Danny and the Dinosaur. Have you heard it? It’s important.

  3. #3 flint
    June 9, 2007

    Rich, you are important.

  4. #4 evan
    June 9, 2007

    ooh! ooh! I just thought of another one. Neil Young’s “Trans!” That is ideal.

  5. #5 Paul Hughes
    June 10, 2007

    As once founder of FutureHi and lifelong fan of the space program, Bucky Fuller, immortalist philosophy, and all things transhumanism, I’ve give the future open-scape a lot of thought, and certainly all the dystopian futures on screen and off are something I try very hard to not entertain other than as warnings of what not to do.

    Lets hope that humanity finally figures out that technology along will not bring us the utopias in our hearts, for it is in our hearts transformed that the future we long for most will spring forth through the tools and technology already at hand.

    Otherwise we are left with the most banal of our traits dictating the systemic lowest common denominator that we all must submit to with increasing fury from those most in control.

    But for some wonderfully optimistic yet believable science fiction may I suggest the works of Ian Banks’ Culture novels, as well perhaps ‘Child of Fortune’ by Norman Spinrad.

    My personal choice of futures I see myself living out a large variety of quasi-humonoid futures on many endless and beautiful worlds with celebratory festivals of life, creativity, fun, and most importantly communal and family love and spiritual expansion, slowly but inexorably leading to vaster expanses, both in the physical universe, and beyondward into infinite dimensions beyond.

  6. #6 Brian
    June 10, 2007

    What if everyone decided that the future of Total Recall, with its boxy cars and three-breasted Martian women flouncing around anesthetic dance clubs with laser guns strapped to their loins, was the best direction for us?

    It could certainly have been a better movie. I felt .. let down at the end of the film. There was a pretty good film in there, but it got ridden down in favor of an action film.

    Could we rally together, lay out a 100-year plan, and make it happen? We could create a future, in a way, more firmly rooted in the past than anything that might have happened naturally.

    Interesting idea.

    I don’t want any big grand ideas for my future – just for humanity to expand forever, amen.

    We’ll be doing some really exotic things, from our point of view. Building star-ships crewed by uploaded personalities? Running energy stations on Mercury beaming power across the solar system.

  7. #7 Matthew
    June 10, 2007

    “Finally, I am also convinced, but cannot prove, that we humans have an instinct to collaborate, and that we have rational reasons for collaborating. I am convinced that ultimately this rationality and this instinct of collaboration will prevail over the shortsighted egoistic and aggressive instinct that produces exploitation and war. Rationality and instinct of collaboration have already given us large regions and long periods of peace and prosperity. Ultimately, they will lead us to a planet without countries, without wars, without patriotism, without religions, without poverty, where we will be able to share the world. Actually, maybe I am not sure I truly believe that I believe this; but I do want to believe that I believe this.”

  8. #8 Brian
    June 11, 2007

    Rovelli has it backwards.

    It is not rationality and collaboration that have produced times of peace and eliminated conflict, but rather that conflict and exploitation have produced regions and space that allow rationality and collaboration.

    The future will not be a utopia free of conflict and strife. There will be no grand answers.

    Is this a reason to despair? Naw. The future is alive with possibility and hope.

  9. #9 Little Deer
    June 11, 2007

    You know it seems like everyday some French astronomer is discovering new planets that would be habitable by humans, so why can’t we just concentrate all our resources on finding a way to get to these planets?

  10. #10 sam
    June 11, 2007

    i vote on looking to the past. specifically 1955, where we can get our hands on the sports almanac 1955-2000, because where we’re going we don’t need roads.

  11. #11 Tim Donovan
    June 11, 2007

    eco-primitivism or anything with a lightsaber

  12. #12 Logan Antill
    June 12, 2007

    I believe we’ve already chosen the future we will live in, indeed, predicted it quite accurately with novels and film well before the dawn of 2007.

    But we don’t seem to recognize the future we predicted without the flying cars or lightsabers. We’re living up the worst possible versions of the world we predicted in movies like Blade Runner. Vast information synergies that lead only to more ignorance; the more we’re bombarded with data the more we ignore the sun being blotted out by dark smoke.

  13. #13 richjensen
    June 12, 2007

    To us and all those who hate us,
    that the U.S.A. may become just another
    part of the world, no more, no less.

    – Dedication from A YEAR FROM MONDAY by John Cage.
    Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, CT 1969.

  14. #14 Rebecca
    June 13, 2007

    We’re in no position to inhabit other planets (which are not blank slates) when we can’t take care of our own. I don’t think we’re ready for that kind of space travel yet.

    I think that my desire for the future is so simple. No people dying of diseases we have cures for, or food that isn’t grown and wasted for nothing. Recycling everything.

    I am interested in how AI will challenge our sole claim to consciousness.

  15. #15 Rebecca
    June 13, 2007

    Oh yeah, and a dinosaur zoo.

  16. #16 evan
    June 14, 2007

    AI may challenge our sole claim to consciousness, but the dinosaur zoo will challenge our sole claim to total world domination. Bad Idea!

  17. #17 Claire Evans
    June 14, 2007

    Yeah, haven’t you seen Jurassic Park?

  18. #18 moih
    June 15, 2007

    My vote goes onto The Singularity or some AI symbiosis between it and the human species.

    Maybe a Jupiter Brain?

  19. #19 Brian
    June 17, 2007

    We’re living up the worst possible versions of the world we predicted in movies like Blade Runner.

    That is amusing; in the novel the movie is based on there has been a massive nuclear war that exterminated all life except for people; and not many of those.

  20. #20 Matthew
    June 17, 2007

    Jurassic Park!

    But, also, Logan’s Run. The sentiment of the end combined with the awesome domed city of the beginning.

  21. #21 Matthew
    June 20, 2007

    OH WORD! I just saw they are making a remix (if you will) of LOGAN’S RUN!. This could be the most helpful thing to our collective future.

  22. #22 tones
    July 22, 2007


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