A conversation yet to come

2011 -

In association with

Full conversation continues…

Ayo and Oni Oshodi: Tamar, thank you for joining us. We’d like to playfully begin by continuing the Star Trek reference to this edition of Unless you’re a hardcore fan you’re unlikely to know its main character, James T. Kirk, is to be born on March 22nd in the year 2228, in Riverside, Iowa, USA. In 1985 Riverside City Council proclaimed itself the future birthplace of Kirk. A plaque is in place marking this site. Effectively we have a memorial to an event yet to happen. . . Can you think of other objects that occupy this ambiguous temporal territory?

Tamar Kasriel: hello

Marialaura Ghidini: morning

Lily Hall: morning everyone

Ayo: Isn’t it strange that we’re even having this conversation? It’s meant to be ‘A conversation yet to come’ and here it is. We’re moving through the future now.

Oni: How have you been Lily? Reading anything interesting at the moment?

Lily: I’ve been good thanks my dear, yes, I’ve been reading a bit about Henri Bergson…

Oni: Now that we’re here shall we return to our opening question referring to Star Trek?!

Tamar: Well I was thinking about that, and I guess there might be some more fictional examples… but what I think is especially interesting is the fact that we have the courage to make this kind of memorial. Because it’s fictional – if we are predicting something we think will really happen, we lose our nerve… Or stick our neck out too far like the rapture guy.

Ayo: Is it like believing in a dream?

Tamar: Um, not quite sure -more that we are happy to collude in a story telling.

Lily: or taking a leap of faith?

Tamar: well it’s not very far too leap just an imaginary hop

Oni: I guess we’re bringing an element of prophecy to the notion of future studies with references to dreams and faith – but it seems as equally rooted in maths, probability and statistics

Tamar: Yes – I guess if we want to bring people with us, we need to think how we persuade. . .and maths/stats can be very persuasive.

Ayo: Tamar, can we ask in a simple way what you offer as a futurist? What do companies want from you?

Tamar: They want to understand how things change, and what that might mean for their business, therefore how they might build a strategy to create the best possible outcome for the future

Ayo: You mentioned something interesting about a company asking you “What would normal look like in 10 years time?”. This seems like an extraordinary enquiry into the future.

Tamar: Yes – I think it’s a reflection of how fast they feel the world is changing…that normal can also change very fast. . .

it’s also relevant that this question was asked by one of the world’s biggest brands, which can have an impact on ‘normal’

Marialaura: Do you think our ‘accelerated time’ is affecting the way the future is projected into the present?

Tamar: Yes, absolutely. It seems to me that when people are projecting the future now they feel they have to make assumptions of fundamental change.

Ayo: Are small changes not exciting enough to predict?

Tamar: If it goes too far then it can almost disempower people from considering the future – it will just be too different to even get our heads around. Disruption excites far more! But is also more scary, and much more nebulous.

Marialaura: I read you said that ‘the future is already here but unevenly distributed’. I find this very interesting in relation to what you are saying about people trying to predict big changes..

Tamar: Ah, not me! It’s a quote by William Gibson, who futurists love. It suggests that we can find the clues to the future in the present. You can almost use it in a systematic way, e.g. what would a future ageing population look like by looking at Japan.

Ayo: So you use the present to consider the future!

Tamar: Yes, what else is there?! Oh, the past too!

Marialaura: Indeed.

Oni: shouldn’t we always say ‘futures’ – it seems there are these pockets with different levels of transparency – some things very clear others less so

Tamar: Well I guess when we are considering them it is ‘futures’ in the plural, but ultimately there will be one future which plays out, albeit perceived infinitely?

Lily: I like that idea, of so-many different possible pockets of time in the future..

Ayo: I guess we’re moving towards Bergson’s personalised view of time.

Tamar: What is that? Can you explain more?

Oni: such a brain-box Ayo!

Lily: Maybe his idea of “the emotional relativity of time”?

Ayo: Bergson became aware that the moment one attempted to measure a moment, it would be gone: one measures an immobile, complete line, whereas time is mobile and incomplete. For the individual time may speed up or slow down whereas for science it would remain the same. Hence Bergson decided to explore the inner life of man, which is a kind of duration, neither a unity nor a quantitative multiplicity… P.s I’ve stolen this from Wikipedia!

Tamar: But would that measurement have meaning for anyone other than the measurer?

Marialaura: Not really I think… It becomes a personal perception of time. Although..

Ayo: Is the measurer the individual or the scientist with an atomic clock?

Tamar: Because I guess there is also an interesting element of future perception having to be shared at least to be useful

Oni: I think it is important to stress futures as it contains a plurality that is against the narrative of a grand ideology that guides us towards a single end – so this is less about Bergson – than insisting on the potential of futures – a basis for thinking alternatively about our surroundings, political structures and so on.

Tamar: Yes, but there is also another dynamic at work which is that if you can take the idea of ‘narrative of grand ideology’ equalling a strong point of view of what the future should be, it does seem that this can drive the direction of the future to some extent. Driven people driving outcomes

Ayo: Here lies dictatorship.

Oni: I guess the driven become a factor in the future itself.

Tamar: Oh, not necessarily. . .re dictatorship I mean

Marialaura: I wonder who are the people who are driving outcomes now…

Lily: And I guess it’s the extent or the reach of those outcomes, and their capacity to affect other individuals’ futures?

Ayo: This is a scary thing.

Oni: Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Head of Shell, BP. . .

Tamar: Yes, it can be. But there can still be a big gap between thoughtful awareness of future possibility and tyranny.

Ayo: Are we involved in the future in any meaningful way since we are not part of these systems and institutions?

Oni: Tamar, what would you say is the smallest ‘change factor’ that can make the biggest impact – is that individual behaviour for example?

Marialaura: we have lost Tamar

Ayo: Do you think she’s accelerated into the future like Captain Kirk?

[Tamar Kasriel has joined.]

Tamar: Wouldn’t that be great. I’m back now

Never left, in fact… but gtalk said Lily Hall was typing so I was waiting.

Oni: or so you think? perhaps you’re in another time zone

Marialaura: you disappeared from my list…

Tamar: oh

Ayo: repeating Oni’s question, what would you say is the smallest ‘change factor’ that can make the biggest impact?

Lily: yes, and I was wondering about what Ayo was asking to, and about the extent we can be in- or out-side of these systems and institutions we were talking about?

Tamar: What is so tricky is that whenever you look at an event, the closer you get the more you see the detail, a bit like fractals, and it becomes almost impossible to isolate a single trigger for change… does that make sense?

Ayo: Yep

Oni: It does – but if we could identify one of the smaller factors with high impact, could we strategically engage with it – i.e. factors that someone without the resources of the state or an institution could alter?

Tamar: well certainly now the recent riots and political events in middle east and North Africa illustrate how much resources of state/institution can be circumvented.

Marialaura: I think web communication is impacting this a great deal..what do you think Tamar?

Tamar: For sure. It changes the whole dynamic of individual impact, crowd power etc… A Copernican revolution. Or should that be evolution?

Ayo: How do you feel about the fact that someone can be given 4 years of their future in jail for inciting a riot (on twitter / facebook last week) that never happened?

Tamar: I think it’s shocking really. But it kind of resonates with the question at the beginning about the future memorial for Kirk’s birthplace.

Ayo: Is it about intention and belief again?

Marialaura: In what sense?

Oni: We’re constantly acting pre-meditatively at some stage – what strikes me is how we think about this when that activity is scaled up.

Tamar: Well intention vs outcome, and the extent to which we can get people to collude (in the case of the rioters in a literal sense) in creating the outcome. And it raises very interesting questions about what incitement looks like where planning fits into it.

Marialaura: The memorial of T Kirk has become real and no more a projection than when Star Trek producers decided to introduce Iowa in their latest episodes…

Ayo: So we collectively allow ourselves to believe in a fictional character and then enact a real life memorial.. We collude to create an outcome as desired..

Tamar: Is it their fault that the riots needed nothing more than people and BBM, but a terrorist attack would have required weapons/chemicals etc as well as just the planning?

Oni: Could we begin to draw together a list of strategies for the individual not aligned to the authority of the state to meaningfully alter the future. Or can this only happen at a micro-personal scale?

Ayo: Micro-philanthropy?

Tamar: A Twitter manifesto for change?

Oni: if we thought of the future(s) as an acupuncture body diagram – what would the pressure points be – which nerves in what order need to be triggered?

Tamar: But wouldn’t the very drawing up of it take the individuality out of it?

Oni: then it could be for us four to begin with – one point each that we all agree with?

Tamar: Are we back to Bergson?

Marialaura: Ha!

Oni: where’s Lily? xx

Ayo: Why do we need to trigger the nerves? why are we so obsessed with affecting things?

Oni: those who don’t act become driftwood in the streams of life

Lily: Hi! I was listening I’m here!

Marialaura:[btw, I like the idea of a Twitter manifesto]

Tamar: Would be short, at least

Ayo: Isn’t a misnomer that we can control the future?

Lily: I like that idea of a Twitter manifesto too-

Marialaura: and very much spreadable.

Tamar: Indeed

Marialaura: but people would need to be allowed to modify it. Oni, I think we want to feel the reality of our existence…

Tamar: Not sure if you are typing on this one, but I think ‘controlling’ the future is delusional

Oni: well i emphasize acting – not controlling – being an engaged participant

Tamar: Considering, analysing, directing (or trying)

Ayo: Bruce Sterling talks about a fashion for ‘lost futures’, re-energising futures and modes of productions and communication that have died out. Which lost future would we collectively re-energise?

Oni: are you talking about the underpinning of a manifesto?

Ayo: what are lost future, seriously? things that have not become part of the present and past grand narratives?

Tamar: Well I guess we all have something special to look back on, nostalgia is a powerful thing…

Ayo: They are imagined worlds that didn’t manifest and perhaps became irrelevant or defunct…

Lily: …can we have nostalgia for the future?

Tamar: but personally I think trying to re-energise lost futures is backwards in every sense

Ayo: What about a collective time that mixes past, present and future? Are we there now?

Marialaura: Lily, I think this is often happening right now.. retro-futures..

Tamar: Well I guess in our heads we are.

Lily: or is this conversation always in that state of becoming, just as we were thinking before Tamar our futurist arrived?

Tamar: Ah, yes, I can go quietly into the good night of gtalk silence

Ayo: We are never in the future really, because it becomes the present as we act it?

Tamar: So shall say thank you to all for this – most enjoyable. And goodbye?

Lily: Thank you Tamar!

Ayo: Many thanks to all!

Oni: Thank you!

Tamar: Thank you. See you/speak soon.