Design fiction, speculative design, and "creepiness"

In "design fiction" and "speculative design," designers and science fiction writers create fictional products and services, which go on to inform real engineering and product design processes. Read the rest

New hi-res scans of NASA's 1970s dreams of space colonies

NASA's groovy imagining of space settlements were put in the public domain in 2007, and now space antropologist Michael Oman-Reagan has shared these remarkable hi-res scans created by David Brandt-Erichsen. Read the rest

Santa Fe: Come see Neal Stephenson, NASA's Pete Worden, Los Alamos's Nina Lanza, JPL's Sasha Samochina (and me!) at the Interplanetary Festival!

I'm one of several guests appearing at the first-ever Interplanetary Festival, coming up Jun 7/8 in Santa Fe, New Mexico; it's a science festival that's part of the larger Futurition|Santa Fe festival, which includes live music, open air events, gaming, art installations, performances, and all-ages events. Read the rest

Artists pay tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey at the half-century mark

It's Nice That surveyed an eclectic group of artists, designers, and thinkers on the outsize impact of 2001 since its premiere 50 years ago this month. Read the rest

Science fiction, predicting the present, the adjacent possible, and trumpian comic dystopias

In 2010, Steve Almond started work on a Tea Party-inspired novel called Bucky Dunn Is Running, about a racist demagogue businessman who comes within a whisker of the Republican nomination for their presidential candidate; he'd aimed to have it done for the 2016 election season, but then Trump happened, and his satire seemingly caught up with him. Read the rest

The Polak Game: an exercise to help reveal your theories of the future

Dutch sociologist and Holocaust survivor Frederik Lodewijk Polak's massive future studies text The Image of the Future makes a bold statement about optimism and pessimism, creating four categories of belief about the future, divided on two axes: things are improving/worsening; and people can/can't do something about the future. Read the rest

Charlie Stross's CCC talk: the future of psychotic AIs can be read in today's sociopathic corporations

Charlie Stross's keynote at the 34th Chaos Communications Congress Leipzig is entitled "Dude, you broke the Future!" and it's an excellent, Strossian look at the future we're barelling towards, best understood by a critical examination of the past we've just gone through. Read the rest

Erik Davis's Expanding Mind podcast: the Voyager Record, Institute for the Future, and optimism

I was honored to be yesterday's guest on my favorite interview podcast, Erik Davis's Expanding Mind. Erik and I have been friends since the cyberdelic early 1990s. He is a brilliant head and prolific writer who explores the cultures of consciousness with rigor, wit, and genuine curiosity. On the podcast, Erik and I had a freewheeling conversation about the Voyager Golden Record vinyl release that I co-produced with Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, my work at the Institute for the Future, and the intersection of science, art, and magic to spark the imagination. Have a listen:

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Exhibit of the futuristic New York City that never was

Buckminster Fuller created this striking 1960 overlay photograph "Dome Over Manhattan" in 1960. It's one of many prints, drawings, models, and artworks in the "Never Built New York" exhibition now on view at the Queens Museum. Co-curated by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, and designed by Christian Wassmann, the exhibition "explores a city where you could catch a football game in Manhattan, travel via a floating airport, and live in an apartment also acting as a bridge support." Below, Frank Lloyd Wright's "Key Plan for Ellis Island" (1959), Eliot Noyes’s Westinghouse Pavilion proposal for the 1964 World’s Fair installed at the exhibit as a scaled-down "bouncy house" model, and Paul Rudolph’s "Galaxon Pavilion," designed for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows and recreated in virtual reality by Shimahara Illustration. The exhibition is based on the curator's book, Never Built New York. From an interview with Lubell and Golding in City Lab:

Lubell: The way you experience the show in Queens connects you to the site, makes it real, and then you’re in the salon space before finally walking up to the panorama, looking above the projects with a sense of how it all would have affected the city. The combination of galleries makes for a really powerful experience.

Seeing these projects through our show doesn’t just create a ‘wow’ factor: it can inspire people to learn more about how cities do or don’t work. It clues people into the planning process. I think the emotions that come from looking back at these projects will make people think about what we can do now and in the future to improve New York.

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Here's a great rundown of major moments to come between now and 2050

What might humans alive today be reasonably expected to witness in their lifetimes? RealLifeLore has compiled a list of near-future predictions ranging from the sublime to the terrifying. Read the rest

William Gibson: what we talk about, when we talk about dystopia

With pre-orders open for the graphic novel collecting William Gibson's amazing comic book Archangel, and a linked novel on the way that ties the 2016 election to the world of The Peripheral, William Gibson has conducted a fascinating interview with Vulture on the surge in popularity in dystopian literature. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling: science fiction won't make the future better

Bruce Sterling is one of the foremost advocates of design fiction and the use of science fiction as a tool for understanding and influencing the world, but despite yesterday's long, positive article praising many of the projects he's involved with, he's skeptical of the idea that science fiction makes the future better. Read the rest

A great look back at Soviet futurism

This summer, the Barbican is mounting Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction. As part of that, they will be displaying some rare Soviet-era sci-fi collectibles from the seminal Tekhikia – Molodezhi magazine, according to a great overview by It's Nice That. Read the rest

Animated interviews with "futurists" Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut, and Aldous Huxley

The first law of futurism is that there are no facts about the future, only fictions.

(Blank on Blank)

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein shows us how science fiction predicts the present and shapes the future

Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds is a new MIT Press book commemorating the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley's seminal novel "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus." Read the rest

New podcast about the future from Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz

Mark Frauenfelder and I are researchers at the non-profit Institute for the Future. During the course of our work, we frequently meet fascinating scientists, engineers, and big thinkers who are shaping the future through their groundbreaking work in the present. For Future Reference is IFTF's new podcast where we share those conversations about the expanding horizons of science, technology, and culture over the next decade. Listen below and please subscribe now: iTunes, RSS, Soundcloud

We hope you enjoy it!

Episode 1: Teaching Robots Teamwork

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with University of Southern California roboticist Nora Ayanian about what robots can learn from humans working together, and vice versa.

Episode 2: Alien Hunting

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Episode 3: Hacking Your Biology

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with rogue biophysicist Josiah Zayner about affordable tools for DIY genetic engineering and how to hack your biome.

Episode 4: Fueling Greener Fuels

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with chemist Kendra Kuhl, CEO of Opus 12, about her technology for recycling carbon dioxide into useful fuels and chemicals.

Episode 5: Mind Melding

Institute for the Future researchers Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz talk with neuroscientist and IFTF fellow Melina Uncapher, CEO and co-founder of the Institute for Applied Neuroscience that brings scientific research about our brains to critical social issues. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling's SXSW 2017 keynote: what should humans do?

Every year, Bruce Sterling closes the SXSW Interactive Festival with a wide-ranging, hour-long speech about the state of the nation: the format is 20 minutes' worth of riffing on current affairs, and then 40 minutes of main thesis, scorchingly delivered, with insights, rage, inspiration and calls to action. Read the rest

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