On Engineering the Future

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As I find my place in this world, dabbling as a creator of digital content, I sometimes stop to wonder about this abstract thing that will happen to us, and that we are responsible for: the future.

I’ve seen countless exhibitions, read articles about the future. And one of the most beautiful things about it is that it cannot be predicted or read, it ought to be written. Just about every representation of the future in popular fiction has predicted grand shifts in how we live and interact. Whether it be the Big Brother-ization of politics or the polarization of gender/race/ethnicity, artists and thinkers have romanticized/catastrophy-ized the future, and what we’ve developed has never been quite the same as these visions.

We have to care for the future.

We are moving toward a future of differences, a future of migrations. Some revolutions have taken place already, others may never happen.

Technology has the potential to create potentials. It is not an actual set of data, but a program, fundamentally binary in nature. How do we turn sequences of ones and zeros into responsive, emotional objects/beings?

Increasingly, we remember not information, but the path to it. The answer to a question becomes not its actual answer but rather how we get to it. Answers become less absolute, but relative to the availability and location of bits of data required for a given solution.

There is something positive about this however, in that in ‘frees up space’ that used to be occupied by memorization needs, allowing it to become applied.

But we become dependent on a shifting, (d)evolving, soft-structured library being re-written by everyone at once: the leaders, the fortunate, those in power, as well as the radicals, the pundits, and those who have just gained access to information. There is an inherent confusion in the ways that this collaboration takes place, a negotiation of absolute ‘power’ (to the masses? to the intellectuals? to the ‘owners’ of the web and its most prominent sites?).

As well, we seem to assume the eternal availability of the internet and its contents. But what is this internet? How transient is it? When I was born, it did not exist. I was among the first to join Facebook, right after American college kids found out about it, and way before ‘the rest’ of the world. And it changed the world. And it changed us.

Partly, the future will be determined by how we structure the universal bank of knowledge that the internet can be, how we manage and democratize the shift from pen and paper, bricks and mortar, to the cloud.

And a great shift in human consciousness will occur when we make sense of our relationship with technology; When kids cease to be consumers and become creators. At some point, people, young people at first – and perhaps seniors, who have risen as early adopters of many new technologies lately -, will cease to be the users of the system (that ‘network’ of computers and servers) and begin to realize that every time they upload, edit or comment on something, they are building. And become, sometimes unknowingly, the architects of the system.

To be continued, of course.


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