When considering the future of humankind, many of us feel out of control. But our future doesn’t need to be ominous, remote or intangible. Ahead of FutureFest tomorrow, we asked some of this year’s speakers to share their greatest fears, and to directly counter them with their greatest hopes, for the future of humankind. Take a look at their responses below.
Michael Ignatieff, writer, academic, university professor and former politician
The power of ignorance.
Carlo Ratti, city architect
How biological evolution can catch up with a faster-paced technological evolution.
Vinay Gupta, blockchain business pioneer
Nanotechnology and biotechnology plagues, replicator engineering and genetically engineered weapons.
Kate Raworth, renegade economist and author of Doughnut Economics
That we'll stay locked into this divisive and degenerative economy, to the detriment of us all.
Douglas Rushkoff, Writer, journalist and documentarian
The possibility that our digital stimulation and simulation will be so intense and effective that we will continue to imitate technology’s abilities and position technology as a role model, continue to fail, and continue to disparage ourselves as inferior as we fail.
Ruby Wax, Writer, performer and mental health campaigner
That we just keep pumping at the intellectual side of our brains and making bigger and bigger weapons. This is what we do as we’re unconscious –thinking there’s an enemy out there and if we get rid of them, we’ll feel better.
We have to emotionally catch up and understand ourselves. When you understand yourself, you can understand human-kind.Ruby Wax
Imogen Heap, Music artist and founder, MyCelia and mi.mu gloves
Not giving fear the time of day to be discussed so much could go a long way to addressing fear. I find that the less I think and worry about what scares me, the stronger, more open and creative I am. I don’t fear much. I truly believe that the majority of people are good and care about the planet at large.
Joanna Walsh, Journalist and author
I lived my whole childhood under a heavy threat of nuclear war. And in the last year, with tensions rising between America and North Korea, nuclear conflict has become a real possibility again. I began to think about the ways my generation might have internalised this threat - as well as fears generated by AIDS, Chernobyl, and CJD. I wrote about this in my digital novella, Seed, which can be read at seed-story.com.
Aral Balkan, Cyborg rights activist, designer, and developer
That we might have crossed the tipping point where inequality is so great and the corruption inherent within the system so complete that we cannot halt our unsustainable trajectory towards habitat collapse and species extinction. George Orwell once said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.” That’s the future I’d like to avoid.
Kyle McDonald, Artist working with code
My greatest fear is that we’ll keep repeating the same mistakes that we’ve been making for thousands of years, keep treating each other poorly and fail to understand how similar we are. That we’ll keep focusing on all the differences.Kyle McDonald
This is a very fundamental problem, but I think it’s tied to wider issues like war, immigration, and even climate change. If it were possible for us to build greater understanding for each other, then we might start to care enough about the world as a whole. As an American, our last president made it easy to think that we were starting to comfortably head down this path towards deeper mutual understanding, developing a more global conscience. Now it’s clear the path was never comfortable, we’re going to have to fight pretty hard against a lot of backwards history if we want to see real change.
The power of knowledge.
The growing consciousness of being on “Spaceship Earth” together. Philosopher Peter Singer might talk about “expanding circles” of empathy.
Space travel. If we can get to Mars and set up relatively autonomous societies there, that will be the defining event of the history of all life.
That we embrace the incredible adventure of figuring out how to live with and within the cycles of the living world, in a way that can meet the needs of all.Kate Raworth
The most exciting thing is that all the vast capabilities of digital technologies and artificial intelligence will allow human beings to recognise and embrace what makes us truly special. We will finally be able to distinguish our utility values from our essential value. That would be beautiful.
Ruby Wax, Writer
The fact that kids are starting to learn how to understand their emotions at some schools. They’re still academic, but they’re teaching children how to self-regulate and understand their emotional side. That’s got to catch up, otherwise we’re destined to madness.
That we are creative beings and that the more time we have for each other and the more we embrace creativity and passion, the closer we will get to living in harmony.
I’m heartened by the evident resistance against extreme right-wing policies, though it’s terrible that the circumstances that produce solidarity have been so extreme. Helen Hester, in her recent book Xenofeminism, calls for a large-scale response to politics of scale. I see this happening effectively through small-scale networked groups who share a number of aims, as in the Irish movement to repeal the 8th (granting women abortion rights).
People who never would until recently have identified as ‘resisters’ are finding this self-identification legitimises political engagement.Joanna Walsh
Despite the lack of commons funding, we are seeing projects like Mastodon (federated Twitter), PeerTube (federated YouTube – they’re crowdfunding now so go support them), Purism (they make free and open computers and are now working on a phone) that are already being used by everyday people. There are great secure messaging tools like Wire and Signal. We have alternatives to many of the services of surveillance capitalists, like Fastmail for Gmail. We are also seeing pioneering work in the peer-to-peer arena with projects like Secure Scuttlebutt (and Patchwork) and DAT (and Beaker browser) paving the way for a fully de-centralized future.
To directly respond to fear. My hope is that people could learn more about each other and develop greater empathy. I’ve been part of this open source movement for the arts, and this community is very international. It’s built from people coming together to find a non-capitalist way of producing value (though it is sometimes embedded in or supported by big corporations). To me it feels like a hopeful alternative, an example of how we can all get along and work together and tackle issues that are typically historical blockers, such as resource scarcity. I’m hoping new ways of relating to each other and sharing with each other will help tear down the walls between us.