Making sense of the future

Image from the London Transport Museum

Over the weekend, I visited the London Transport Museum. They have a fascinating exhibition on called Sense and the City, in collaboration with the Royal College of Art.

It really takes you back to the future – revisiting what authors and artists wrote and depicted the future as being, decades ago. Alvin Toffler and Future Shock, Alexander Korda and Things to Come which was adapted from H.G. Wells and the Shape of Things to Come, Mack Reynolds and Looking Backward from the Year 2000 which was adapted from Edward Bellamy and Looking Backward 1887-2000, and so on.

There were some thought-provoking sentences interspersed with images and exhibits. Things like

Technology proves endlessly fascinating for some and furnishes a million ways to conjure up possible futures. Imagining the high-tech city of the future helps us come to terms with the pace of technological change today.

All this talk about whether making is the new thinking came to mind. Is it being lauded as the thing to do because somewhere it unconsciously helps us rationalise the increase in technology around us, in our lives, however surface-like our interaction with that technology may be?

And

The future gives us the freedom to laugh at ourselves today. We feel safer making pointed comments about our own society in the thinly-veiled guise of tomorrow.

I wasn’t quite comfortable with that. Do we need the crutches of tomorrow to make sense of our present?

Then

The future promises us many things, and sometimes we even believe in them. But when we get there, the future is not always quite what it has been cracked up to be.

This made sense. Maybe because people who know me very well have told me that I’m like that: apparently I often seem as if I’m waiting for the next big thing. That the present isn’t good enough for me. I don’t know if that’s true. I’m happy with how our world today is evolving, but somewhere at the back of mind, something does bother me. I can’t quite place my finger on it.

And then I think I saw the answer as well:

The future is nearly now.

We are promised lifetimes worth of entertainment, information, shopping and socialising, instantly available through phones, computers and smart gadgets. This saturated digital connectivity fulfils many futurist dreams, transcending the clunky architectures and technologies of the past to define the future for our age.

You should read Toby Barnes’ post from not too long ago on a similar theme, if you haven’t.

Some of the projects were interesting, like Youvenirs (which made me think of Chromaroma) and Discover Your Borough. The exhibition is on till March 2012.

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