I remember the future well. Jetpacks, Mars and food capsules. It used to be so much fun. The promise of plastics just over the horizon and a helpful robot in every home. Say what you will about those times, but at least the future meant something in those days: Progress. You knew where you stood and our enlightened little selves could never do any wrong.
But then some of us started venturing off into the night like moths to a neon green flame. It was getting dark and we didn't really have a choice. Besides, Mars was getting boring and we needed something grittier than what our streamlined lives could give us. The first time you jacked into cyberspace with it's glowing grids of unfolding information you forgot how painful getting those damn chips inserted into your brain was. And oh the parties; throbbing music, lasers and reflective fluoro clothes were such a distracting novelty at the time. But we'd all become fragmented cynical beings and whimpering moral relativists. So much so that we didn't realise the robots had started turning against us until it was nearly too late. I mean, who were we to judge their value system? Thank god for the millennium bug is all I can say. Who knew that little bit of errant code would shut them down?
But where to now? It's been nine years since we've been really living in the future and everyone seems to be taking it for granted. We've been sampling the past for so long that everyone's forgotten how to look forward and come up with something new. I thought progress was supposed to be a linear function of time? People just don't seem to want to live in the future anymore. Sure, we have personal communication devices but how boring is that? Speaking of boring, have you been to the suburbs lately? There's not a cantilevered helipad in sight. And what's with all the cheap neo-Edwardian facades? That's not how I remember the future. They're pretty much raising their finger to any notion of futurity, aesthetic or otherwise. Hell, I'll even sheepishly admit to turning my back on the future. I've had a beard for the past few years and nothing says dismissal of the future like scruffy unshaven facial hair. Who saw that trend coming a few years back?
But as much as I miss my jetpack I don't really want it to be part of my future today. I don't have a nostalgia for the absolute and I'm certainly not sentimental about the impotent haze of moral relativism. So where does that leave us? It seems people are just getting on with it and being pragmatic about the whole thing. It's not like we have a choice these days. Sure there's movement, but it just seems to be too informal at this point. Everyone seems to be so process orientated and participatory; but I'll happily accept that this seems to be the point.
But If you want a taste of what it's going to look like, trawl through some architectural renderings. Big shiny impossible ones. The crazy stuff seems to be coming from students and the big studios. You can't start with the future until we have a general consensus of what the city should look like. If any of those urban concepts intertwine with a global mega-slum as their backdrop then you know you've found something.
When your done glossing your eyeballs with pretty pictures go read some good old fashioned Science. The mind bending stuff. Anything that does a good job of melding complexity theory, relational generative networks and biotech is a good place to start. As long as you're running far away from Reductionist and Post Structuralist theory. And if you don't understand it yet, just keep on going until your nose bleeds. Those scientists never give up on progress, whatever the political climate. It's in their blood to keep on pushing the boundaries of what's appropriate. We'll worry about navigating microtopian ideologies later on, if at all.
Were not there yet, but we'll know when we move back into the future. We'll know because it will be weird, achingly weird. If it's both familiar and unrecognisable but it smacks you in the face with progress then you'll know you've found it. Even if it happens to have a damn jetpack.