I have the sense that there are two competing visions of the future:

1. Techno future — “Technology is just going to keep getting more and more refined, more smart, more immersive.” Smart Homes, Augmented Reality, Robots. Video Games, Second Life, Virtual Reality.

2. Nature future — “The planet can’t sustain the way that we’re living, the amount of energy we’re using, how much we’re polluting. We need to live more simply, take less, give back more.” Climate Change, Sustainability, Resilience. Voluntary Simplicity, Permaculture, De-Growth.

Sometimes we try to reconcile the two futures. For example: “We can use technology to help us be more sustainable!” But of course technology itself makes or helps to facilitate all kinds of negative environmental impacts.

The 3D film Avatar embodies these two futures in an archetypical way. In the film humans have traveled to a far away, pristine planet with a nature-based culture to mine the place of its natural resources. The hero is caught between falling in love with the planet’s creatures and their way of life and his duty to the corporation that has brought him there. This story is of course playing out here on earth too.

It strikes me that here in Sweden the government is investing in both these futures. For instance, two of Stockholm University’s prominent research institutes, the Mobile Life Centre and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, sit at opposite poles — techno future and nature future.

Most likely the actual future won’t look like either one of these extremes — and aspects of both exist now in the present. But, perhaps it’s important to look at how the two relate to one another. Are these two futures, these two understandings of how the world works, incompatible?  How does the future we believe in, or believe we should help bring about, shape the choices we make? Can a technology researcher believe in a nature future? Can a permaculturist believe in a techno future?

I feel like these (really big) questions relate in some way to this project, but I’m not yet quite sure how they connect.


*****An update, September 8, 2012: Here’s an amazing video from 1995. A PSA for the internet & its role in the future made by school children.