Warren Ellis has posted a transcript of "How To See The Future," they keynote he gave at the Improving Reality conference in Brighton, England this week. Ellis works his way through McLuhan's statement that "We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future." He's onto something -- our world is a strange admixture of the mundane and the fantastic, and as usual, Ellis's acerbic wit and vision is a bracing tonic that wakes us from our perambulatory slumber:
Imagine living in a Martian culture for a moment, where this thing is a presence in the existence of an entire sentient species. A mountain that you cannot see the top of, because it’s a small world and the summit wraps behind the horizon. Imagine settlements creeping up the side of Olympus Mons. Imagine battles fought over sections of slope. Generations upon generations of explorers dying further and further up its height, technologies iterated and expended upon being able to walk to within leaping distance of orbital space. Manufactured normalcy would suggest that, if we were the Martians, we would find this completely dull within ten years and bitch about not being able to simply fart our way into space.
Now imagine a world where space travel to other worlds is an antique curiosity. Imagine reading the words “vintage space.” Can you even consider being part of a culture that could go to space and then stopped?
If the future is dead, then today we must summon it and learn how to see it properly.