In my youth I would grab my Raleigh Grifter and cycle down to the Royal Victoria Country Park and sit on the shingle, smoke a cigarette and think about the future. I would gaze over a dirty old bit of the Solent and marvel at the Fawley Oil Refinery a huge complex of towers and chimney stacks. There’s a story about that place, but I can’t tell you it without getting my dad into trouble. We’re talking early 1980’s here, there was all of that Cold War stuff going on, I had just discovered Pink Floyd, my mum and dad didn’t know about my nicotine habit and I was just figuring out that I wanted to go to art college (even though I didn’t really know what that meant).
I wasn’t really a science fiction kind of kid, although I did love stuff like Star Wars and 2000 A.D. , so my idea of the future may have been a little different to say, Toby’s or David’s but at least I did have one. I did have some kind of fantasy of the future and even though there weren’t any flying cars in it, it featured space travel and some other goofy things. But I did have some idea of the future. It never happened.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, ever since a tiny incident I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago whilst watching the DLD livestream. There was a podium discussion about the “this and that” of the internet which was, on the whole, a tiny bit rubbish but perked up a little when the discussion turned to the future. It was quite odd watching the panel struggle with the very concept of the future and it occurred to me that maybe the future, in a science fiction kind of way, doesn’t really exist anymore; it seems that we’ve gradually, over the course of the last 15 years, equated future and science fiction with gadgets and as quick as you can come up with a nutty futuristic gadget someone will have already invented it. The panel discussion continued and then someone from the audience pointed out that the panel weren’t qualified to comment on “the future” because they/we are only really concerned with planning for our future. That’s a middle aged future. The gentleman suggestion that we should be thinking about what a 3 year would want to do in 10, 15 years and I suddenly remembered seeing a small child, about that age, effortless using his father’s iPhone on the tram.
When I look at all the things that are going on around me; things that do to some extent excite me, I find ideas, products, films, books that describe an almost immediate future made by the people of now for the people of now. It’s a middle aged future that is only as distant as the next update, feature, patch or product version. It’s a future in 5 minutes time on twitter. I think we need to imagine a future for the people of tomorrow.
I think we should be giving the children of today the prospect of The Mekon in their living rooms and I’d like to think we could do this with a huge dollop of imagination and resist the urge to fall back on electronic sheep. Maybe we need to drop the whole “science fiction” thing and focus on future fiction. May be.