Lexicon for the Provisional Future(s)

Rerunning the Future

Talking about the future may be something we think about every day, because, after all, you have to decide tomorrow when you want to pick up the kids, you have to go to the supermarket or if you want to plan a trip to Cancoon, so one could think that we are all in a business of thinking about a future. But, there is this other issue, that if you don’t have any free time than you really don’t have any time to think about the future, and so there are a lot of people who just don’t have the time, between trying to feed themselves, trying to live, trying to get by the day who don’t have that luxury of planning the future.

With that in mind, I thought I would to start these little “lessons” tonight before we move in to the rest of the city, discussing what are the ingredients that are involved in making the present, the future and the past. I will start by doing the couple of diagrams, and maybe laying down the roadmap, I think that we all know how well the roadmap is working as a peace process so I thought that the good way to start thinking about the future is to come up with some sort of a roadmap.


1-map-of-the-future-asThe first thing I will talk about is human settlements. Essentially there was a lot of migration involved, first we were very nomadic, as we know, populations were moving and then we began settling down, thus we created settlements, cities, city-states, just to bring up that there are other ingredients to this word: imperial state, nation-state. Nation state can be, for example, France, then there are a city-states like Siena or Florence, and imperial state like Great Britain. This thing is sort of expanding situation and if we think about the future, we could also thing about other concepts of imperial states. Imperial states that might cover the large areas like the cold war, or now we might be thinking about the possibility of global states which might actually cover the entire situation. In a way we could think that we’ve moved from a nomadic system to this accretions of power which envelope the world, eventually possibly enveloping the whole world. Or, eventually, completely going to hell and that would mean the anti-state, or maybe a balkanized globe and I think that’s a possibility. Right now, it’s hard to predict if we go back to the little villages or if we go back to the big empires.

Next aspect is about life and death, not a small subject. In a life and death issue, what we are talking about is life expectancy, so we know that people 2000 years ago lived 20-25 years, and life increases, so we are now we have a life expectancy of about 70 years, predicting that we would be living 110 years. But is worth it and how is it done still remains a question. Do we have mutations? Are we going robotic? Are we going half cybernetic? What exactly is going to entail for the development of life cycle and also where does this go in terms of fertility, cyrogenics, prosthetics, assisted suicide, genocide, sterility, mutation and a few other issues like cloning, nano-technologies, all the things that affect that human body. So another ingredient is the human life cycle itself and whether we evolve or devolve.

Another system that I would like then to talk about is a kind of network systems. Network systems could be language and knowledge, world transmission, hieroglyphics, semiotics, some numbers, letters, a logo-graphics, tele-graphics, telephonics, satellite, internet, skype, telepathics and world transmission again. It might come back to world transmission when we implant telephones in our brains. Also, there has been a progressive extinction in languages, we used to have millions of languages, local dialects and the whole coverage of regional differences in communications and we know from the last 100 years that we have been losing language families. It is possible that we might reduce down to just a very few number of languages, so that is another issue to consider in this possible future world. If languages organize though and if we look at the way knowledge is organized, we used to organize knowledge either in the tree pattern or labyrinthical. How does information becomes organized, how the network is put together? Today we are working in open systems so if you are having different networks connecting today one imagines systems that are not related, floating systems, chaotic systems and everything else. Basically our methods of communications are various from a tree format, labyrinth, network. We don’t know where exactly things will go from now, but if you think about today’s systems or information you would say that we are in a very open network with the world wide web. Internet is the most democratic of communication systems until it becomes controlled like in several areas of the world. So I am going to conclude with a formula that takes us to the next thing on our topic and what we would be looking at in the first chapter of our city tour and that is the idea of what does all these leave as relics of our society, what we leave and what we leave as traces and that other thing would be a monument.



In the second roadmap for the future I’d like to discuss nature and by that I mean nature and human nature. I would like to begin by discussing the planet. In this planet equation, which could change with all elements and ingredients subject to different balances, we can consider what could be and what was. We have water mass and the land mass and we have a bio mass, plant mass, human mass, atmosphere and then we have the subterranean, the aqua-sphere, then we are going to that other level which is the stratosphere and space, deep space, planets, moons and everything else we got and then we get to the galaxy which is part of this big thing, and then the universe, comets, the sun. And we can reverse it, we can go down to atomic, subatomic, etc. And of course, how all this is shifting is something we are becoming much more aware of today. Obviously, as the polar ice caps are beginning to break into the Atlantic and Pacific and the glaciers melting, we are going to have have different ratios of water mass and land mass and probably nobody knows this better than right here in the Netherlands. The first thing we consider in our future is what are the balances, where are we coming and where are we going with this.

Then, I would like to consider, plant and animal life itself as we did previously about human life. There has been this constant evolution and devolution of plants and animals and we can discuss, for example, everything from new appearances of animals and plants to the extinction of animals and plants, both of which are happening simultaneously. We have entropy, we have mutations (Island of Doctor Moreau), we have devolution and evolution again. So, we don’t really know if everything is going really bad, or if new animals and plants might appear.

It could be that we just have to keep on watching.
Another issue which I think it’s part of this metamorphosis is how does human nature interact with nature, and that I think is very also telling. When there were no humans of course there was nothingness, if we believe in the Decartian philosophy of not seeing not hearing, then we had wilderness, but now we have nature parks and industrial parks, water parks, wildlife parks, Disney parks, land mine fields, cemeteries, mass graves, more wilderness and nothingness.
That might be, more or less, the order of things as they are going on present today. And I would like to present the next concept/formula, for this nature/human nature chapter, that is what I would call “The Cosmic Nature”, that is approach to our understanding of how all this works. So I come up with the formula to help us out, that would be:



3-roadmap1705sThis third section it is about the roadmap for future society designing perhaps the future society and I would like to look into 2 aspects or ingredients that need to be considered if we want to do such a thing. One would be treating aspects of our home and the second would be aspects of a society. First, the home. Home has changed over the time, and probably things will still going to change, so I would like to compose that we see our home much different than the one that we had in a past. There were times when we were nomadic, and there were times when we were sedentary. There are times when we are migratory, there are times when we are refugees. We could be refugees of war, we could be refuges of politics, we could be economic refuges, or we could be, now, global warming refuges. We could be persecuted, we may have to make our home as captives or as tourists, in exile or as an intellectual persecuted characters (intellectuals), high-rise dwellers, low rise dwellers, slum dwellers, suburban dwellers, and some people live off the grid. You could be a runner, a fugitive, an escapee, or you can be a member of an extended clan, which would be different than the nuclear family, you are a single person. You could consider yourself part of a neighborhood, or a commune, or even you could be in that kind of a neighborhood that we can call prison. So I would suggest that the home is not just simply this one thing but it can be many different kinds of situations where you can enter it or not, or you are near it, or you have no need for it or you can be nomadic and in the global (caravan), our very notion of home can be quite different.

Secondly, I would like to bring the idea of a society. What kind of society we are planning to make, what kind of society we come from. That, in consideration, could be anything from utopia, we can imagine a place we could never occupy, to Orwellian, depictions of a society from a various aspects of a totalitarian or populist political control. We could live in a society where we conquered nature, besides, we could live in a society in which we are time travelers where we go back and forth in time, we could live in a society which is prophylactic, in other words we can stop things from happening, or we can wait for Armageddon, apocalypse, the global disaster, we can be human disasters, we can be part of a society that is overcrowded, or under populated, where you have an extinction, or we can recycle, the idea that society can go from one extreme to the other. Now we are talking about democracy, about freedom, shopping society, slow food societies, slow life societies, low cost societies, no logo, or just simply, war societies. I thought a good symbol for that, could be a nice rocket ship, which looks also like a missile. Anyway, we need to contemplate both our home and our society, and what that could mean in a future. The formula for this one would be:


Again I want to come back to this idea, that the future is something that you can think about when you have the time to think about it. When you are under subjection, segregation, when you are in a tremendous depression, in flight, in migration perhaps, one doesn’t even think about future. I would leave this notion that it’s one of the reasons that, as we thought about this voyage into the future, we thought about it, trying to understand it from a different perspective and that is something much more, I would say, low key than may have been in historical times.

Note: transcript of the talk made for Night of Provisional Futures at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, 19 April 2008

PETER LANG, www.petertlang.net


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