I have been mostly uninvolved with future-related discourse in media and academia up until the commencement of this subject. Having been introduced to futures thinking and made to address my untouched critical thinking skills, I still consider my thoughts on the future to be quite rudimentary.
Regarding the acceleration of body-modification technology, my initial position perpetuated contemporary attitudes towards body image, human capability, and humanity. Society would remain essentially the same as the present day, with a trajectory of self-improvement via bodily enhancement, but with the benefit of more sophisticated technological conveniences. Drawing from the current state of society while being mindful of ‘the amplifying/magnifying power of technologies’ (Ihde 1993), I was focused on predictive accuracy.
The research that I undertook when scanning the horizon of ‘love’ as a futuring theme focused first on AI, before shifting to biotechnology. Despite this dramatic leap in the subject matter of my research and group scenario, I found that there was an element of caution and cynicism that pervaded both. Australian futurist Genevieve Bell highlighted this ‘irrational fear of a relationship with technology’ in her seminar Magical Thinking: Fear, Wonder & Technology (stanfordonline 2013). I saw reason in her suggestion that the ‘death of magic’ in the face of science and rationality is the source of unease that prompts dystopian stories about technology.
To draw a comparison between AI and biotechnology, the legacy of the Luddites as recounted by Bell expresses the ongoing concern that new technology replaces things naturally human. In the context of biotechnology, the concern is that technologically-enhanced humans will unfairly outclass ‘natural’ humans. My group’s dystopian scenario, A Cut Above the Rest, reflects society’s obsession with biotechnology and the abandonment of individuality and authenticity for success.
In the creation of my own prototype, I came to better understand the purpose of future thinking, particularly regarding the creation of speculative objects and the narratives they imply. The future can be many different things―in the case of dystopian stories like A Cut Above the Rest, a problem is being identified that requires a solution, if such a future is to be avoided. While cynical, these narratives are not fatalistic, instead challenging its audience to address undesirable variables and steer humanity towards a preferred future instead. This productive method of future thinking altered my first impression of the discipline, which simply sought the most accurate prediction of the future.
Rather than completely dismissing potentially unethical technologies as ‘a step too far’ and a cause for backtracking, which was my crude solution for dystopian scenarios, my primary research interview helped me address preferable futures realistically. Martin Lancaster recognised the probable and problematic trajectory of biotechnology, and instead of fighting against it, sought to direct it with notions of regulation and safety. While my position on the future of society and biotechnology is still based on a rudimentary understanding of the topic and futuring as a discipline, I believe through my research process my attitude has become more pragmatic and adaptable.
Ihde, D. 1993, Philosophy of technology: an introduction, Paragon House, New York.
stanfordonline 2013, Stanford seminar – magical thinking: fear, wonder & technology, video recording, Youtube, viewed 7 August 2018, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aKZwKFFDYw >.
Voros, J. 2017, Futures cone, The Voroscope, viewed 23 October 2018, <https://thevoroscope.com/2017/02/24/the-futures-cone-use-and-history/ >.