What will the near future look like? Chances are, it will be somewhere between the techno-utopia that Silicon Valley startup founders like to talk about and all-out disaster. Unless there is a hugely disruptive global event, it will look much like the present — with the addition of subtle innovations (both good and bad) that are already in the works.
This is the future imagined by the Near Future Laboratory, a team of designers and researchers that create design fiction — that is, fictional scenarios that elucidate possible futures for humanity.
In the TBD Catalogue, a “catalogue of the near future’s normal everyday,” the Near Future Laboratory has put together 107 pages of design fiction in a sort of SkyMall catalogue of the 2020s (SkyMall is plotting its comeback, so who knows, it might still be around).
Check out excerpts below.
To come up with its scenarios, the Near Future Laboratory thinks about the logical endpoint of scenarios that are already emerging. In this case, they might have asked, 'What does a world look like where genetic testing has become commonplace?'
'People are investing tens of millions in order to change the world. It's the perfect time to introduce the idea of the near future,' says Julian Bleecker, a cofounder of the Near Future Laboratory.
The near future in the TBD Catalogue is a reflection of the consciousness only of its 19 creators, but still manages to capture a diverse array of trends that are already playing out.
Some of the items advertised in the TBD Catalogue already exist on a small scale. In parts of Oakland, California, for example, residents have banded together to pay for private neighbourhood security in lieu of a slow-to-respond regular police force.
By putting all of these items in a catalogue, it makes them seem blasé and realistic -- even things that indicate a slightly menacing future, like the surveillance-mitigating umbrella pictured here.
According to its creators, the catalogue isn't intended to be a fully accurate representation of the near future.
In the TBD Catalogue future, people are the same as they are today, with slightly more advanced tools.
They're still trying to avoid boredom, stay healthy and safe, experience luxury, and get from place to place in comfort.
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