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Imagining Tomorrow
Jamais Cascio, 2 Jul 05

ffwd.jpgBack when I was doing business consulting, one of the regular treats for me -- and, as far as I could tell, for the clients -- were the projects that gave me a chance to create artifacts from the future, such as advertisements, magazine articles, video news segments, and illustrations. When done right, they would elicit in the viewer a kind of cognitive displacement, a mild confusion as to whether what they were seeing was real. When a client would casually refer to one of the artifacts in the course of a conversation as if it was, in fact, an ad they had just seen or an news article they had just read, I knew I had succeeded.

Image manipulation applications like Photoshop are great enablers of this sort of visualization of tomorrow. A tweak here, a cut & paste there, and suddenly you have an image that is simultaneously not quite right and entirely plausible. What's particularly enjoyable about this method is that anyone can do it. And now, Antwerp-based design group Pantopicon is providing an audience. Their "FFWD>>" competition presents a series of themes, and asks for images set in 2005 and 2025 as illustration. Five themes have been presented so far (the image above is from "Transport"); the next is "Safety," and images must be submitted by July 15 for consideration. Rules can be found here.

If you decide to submit photos, do let us know.

A bit more tongue-in-cheek -- but no less delightful -- is the 2056 issue of humor website The Onion -- billed this time around as "'s Finest News Source." The headlines range from the sublime to the silly (and at least one is probably not safe for most workplaces), but many have just the right balance of surreality and plausibility I so admire.

Remainder of Ross Ice Shelf Now in Smithsonian Freezer
DC—The 25-meter-long remains of the Ross Ice Shelf, the floating Antarctic ice sheet that was once the size of France, will be displayed in the Smithsonian Institution's basement freezer through August. "We thank the generous citizens of Philadelphia, who donated this polar-cap remnant when it washed up on their shores earlier this year," curator Tim Riley said. "The ice sheet is a valuable artifact of the earth's geological past." Guests at an upcoming fundraising dinner will be served cocktails made with chunks of the shelf.

It's the little details that make this issue stand out: the alert notifying you that your browser doesn't support "ambient alpha-wave memestreams;" the offer to customize the site with a "less accurate but more reassuring version;" even the languages listed in the drop-down menu at the top.

This may not be the future we want, but if it's the one we get, at least we'll be laughing through the tears.

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You post reminded me of why I so enjoyed/was somewhat terrified of George Saunders' two books of shorts stories, "Civil Warland in Bad Decline" and "Pastoralia". His stories depict a future or near present that is just beyond the plausible, while stimulating the reader to consider the aspects of our current lives that could potentially create those futures. Plus the stories are damn funny.

Posted by: Paul Fleming on 5 Jul 05

I generaly have a dark sense of humor and while dreaming came up with a lolo of a future image.

The time is 2112 In the news the last environmentalist has just been served in a wonderous meal along with the last of the old growth forest.

Overlord G'htzz of the hive laments that now all the tasty humans are gone and all thats left is bland boring people.

As the Hive leaves to find more tasty peoples to eat the republicans and many others come out and the camera zooms in on one..

Joe bland guy... I guess the librals and french were right We didnt have taste and were bland and boring.... THANK GOD FOR LIBRALS AND THE FRENCH !!!

A sick mind is a pleasure forever.

Posted by: wintermane on 5 Jul 05

I liked the FFWD>> pictures, but couldn't help but notice that 4 of the 5 were horribly pessimistic (5 of 5 if you don't like the idea of Asian economic superpowers).

No bright futures?

Posted by: Bolo on 6 Jul 05

Wheres the fun in that?

Posted by: wintermane on 6 Jul 05



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