An Aura of Familiarity
One of the fundamental laws of futures studies is that there are no facts about the future. Only fictions. Our work at the Institute for the Future is about exploring tomorrow’s fictions, informed by today’s facts, to make better decisions in the present. We do that by seeking out what we call signals that when observed as a complex ecology can reveal directions of major change. Recognizing the patterns and synthesizing the signals of change into a plausible, internally consistent story about the future is a strange brew of science, art, and magic.
Art and science conjure up ideas through vision, intuition, and study, and use myriad techniques to manifest those ideas in the physical world. But while science is constrained by the laws of nature, art is limited only to the imagination. It is a rich source of signals when developing future scenarios, and studying the myths and realities that will shape tomorrow.
In 2013, our Technology Horizons Program commissioned six leading science fiction writers—Cory Doctorow (@doctorow), Rudy Rucker (@rudytheelder), Warren Ellis (@warrenellis), Madeline Ashby (@MadelineAshby), Ramez Naam (@ramez), and Bruce Sterling (@bruces)—and artist Daniel Martin Diaz to create short stories tied to our research on the coming Age of Networked Matter (#networkedmatter). We asked our collaborators to envision a world where humans have unprecedented control of matter at all scales, and to share with us a glimpse of daily life in that world. It was a process meant to make the future tangible.
We released each story over a period of six weeks, including a video featuring the artwork and narrated by each author. Six participants of our #FanFutures contest will win a limited edition hard copy and t-shirt.
We want to hear how and where you would use the networked matter depicted in the stories. See this week’s challenge and then tweet your remix ideas to #FanFutures. We’ll select one awesome remix idea for each story to receive a limited edition hard copy of An Aura of Familiarity and a t-shirt!
Read all six short stories
Download the entire book (pdf) or read the stories online:
- By His Things Will You Know Him, by Cory Doctorow
- Apricot Lane, by Rudy Rucker
- Social Services, by Madeline Ashby
- Water, by Ramez Naam
- From Beyond the Coming Age of Networked Matter, by Bruce Sterling
- Lich House, by Warren Ellis
We hope you enjoy these visions from the coming Age of Networked Matter!
Text © the authors and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Artwork © Daniel Martin Diaz and used with permission.