As a culture, in fact, as a species, we have one clear obsession which we all share, the future. We’re absolutely obsessed with it, aesthetically, ideologically, politically, physically and – primarily – technologically. We can’t wait to see and use the latest car or latest phone, we’re enthralled with trailers for upcoming TV shows and movies, even the latest burger release warrants multiple prime-time advert slots, which is enough social proof to garner that we adore even the immediate future as opposed to any past or any present.
We like to think we’re no longer utopian, that we no longer lust after any of the – seemingly – archaic visions we did way back when, we believe we’ve gone beyond the World of Tomorrow ideals, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. The problem is the utopias we now subconsciously believe in are ones in which no change is enacted. There’s nothing different about new cars or new technologies, they’re simply previous technologies with aesthetic alterations. You could argue an electric car is something different, but ultimately it still runs on the same premise of an engine, fuel etc. It’s still reliant on a massive disruptive system of roads and networks which are ghastly to look at and dull to partake in.
We don’t want change, we just want the illusion of change. Aesthetic progression is apparently enough for us to not demand anything different, anything new. Except, even the aesthetic progressions of our ‘future’ aren’t anything new, if one is to look back at films made in the 60’s and 70’s which predict the future we have today, you’ll find that much of what is being built today is simply a creation of a past fantasy. Star Trek told us what phones and communication would be like, so that’s what we turned it into. Futuristic sci-fi films gave everything round edges and curved design styles, so that’s the way we’ve designed things. This is a shoddy example of hyperstition if there ever was one, those kitsch, lame ideas of what the past thought the future would be like, actually becoming the real future.
When you look at this from afar it becomes quite clear that we don’t really want change, the onboarding process for any drastic change is far too sharp. Everything is built and constructed from pre-defined parameters we’re all comfortable with. KFC have released a new burger which is a chicken burger between 2 donuts. It’s as if the whole thing has reached its end and no longer has anything left in the burner, we have a limited amount of options and our future is simply the reiteration of different mixtures of these items. Actual innovation, difference-in-itself…genius, is thrown out in favor of complacency and acceptability.
We’re focusing on the future to make sure it doesn’t stray too far from the present. Buddhists and Taoists have been telling us for years to be more present and to be mindful of the now, I don’t think they meant for us to stretch the general present as far as it will go until it breaks. In fact, this is the antithesis of ‘living in the present’. If your idea of living in the now is simply attempting to stretch the now on forever, you’ve missed the point. The ‘now’, the ‘present’, is ever-changing, it’s something you have to accept will change and alter whether you like it or not. Being mindful, being present is a way of being which is averse to ignorant ideas of control and authority. You can’t tame the river, but it seems like we’re trying really hard to.
Once again, the things of primary and secondary importance have switched places. We believe that regarding the future what’s going on physically is of the most importance, whether or not things appear new and progress continues in the stereotypical manner, these are what seem to be important and we’ve relegated our mental state to the sidelines. But we need to turn back to how we think about the future, how we feel about it, how we are going to act towards it. But also we need to revert to a more personable and local form of thinking, the way we think is global, hegemonic and downright authoritarian.
Our thoughts regarding the future are gargantuan; we’ve allowed the realm of abstraction to become so commonplace that the general public has an understanding of relatively niche subjects. We talk about global and national debt, dopamine fasts, min-maxed lifestyles and diets, foreign policy, meta-levels of society and behavioral psychology to name just a few, we’re mentally tied up with a bunch of abstract assessments, arrangements and arguments regarding the future that we have no say and no real feelings about. Whereas we should be targeting our energy and our analysis to that which can directly effect: ourselves and our immediate surroundings. (There are of course the Musks, Gates and Thiels of this world, but they’re rare, not everyone can be a genius or a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, that’s not how things work.)
Begin to ask yourself ‘Is this actually how I want my future to look?’ Well, is it? Did you ever agree to this consensus, that this is how the future has to be? The general consensus is that the future has to be futuristic, and yet, the word ‘futuristic’ already has inherent connotations relating to technology, social arrangements and speed. When you hear ‘futuristic’ you think of Neuromancer or Blade Runner, you think of the information and attention economy running wild and immanentizing themselves into a cyberpunk aesthetic. But is that even close to the future most people are going to get? I don’t think so, I think most people’s future is one of complacency and acceptance, complacent in the fact that nothing will change in its essence, and acceptant of the comfortableness of stagnancy.
Your ‘futuristic’, your future can mean whatever you want it to mean, it can feel how you want it to feel. Within the general consensus of the term ‘futuristic’ there’s no space for leisurely strolls through the woods, day-dreaming or taking-your-time, but there can be, if you simply alter your perception. Are you simply waiting for what is going to be given to you? Are you simply waiting for whatever happens to become your future, or are you actively creating the future you want, both personally and locally?
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