How are we humans living in the year 2124?
The future 100 years from now, as narrated by art, science, and technology
The word “art” originates from the Latin “ars,” which in turn derives from the Greek “techne.” In ancient Greece, techne was revered as the knowledge and skills associated with creative activities, and it also led to the modern-day term “technique.” In ancient Greece, techne signified skills in general, including art, and referred to everything created by humans.
People have always dreamed of the future, inspired by the thoughts and scientific technologies reflective of their times, from the creation of ancient stone tools and wheels to medieval alchemy, the industrialization brought by the Industrial Revolution, and today’s widespread use of computers. Technology and the future have resonated in various forms, significantly transforming society. Artistic activities carried out within these historical contexts have always been a driving force for people to envision and actualize the future through the creation of an array of expressive works.
With the advent and subsequent spread of technologies such as radios, televisions, and computers since the 20th century, the landscapes of information transmission and communication have significantly changed. Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher and civilization critic, argued that “the medium is the message” (i.e., the content of any message lies in its medium), defining media as extensions of man. Around these new media materialized by technological advancements, there have always been individuals continually striving to merge art with technology in order to expand the realm of art. Even today, artists, engineers, and scientists resonate with each other and continue to boldly challenge themselves toward an increasingly unpredictable future while occasionally transcending their own fields.
Diversity in society, art, science, and technology
Advances in science and technology made through people’s unrelenting efforts have spurred consideration of what constitutes a better, more positive future. Visionaries of the times have vocally advocated their ideals of the future, but at the same time potential dystopian consequences of technological advancements have served as a warning about the future of society. Narratives envisioning the near future with elements such as cyborgs, robots, artificial intelligence, and space exploration may be a source of joy for some, yet a cause of distress for others. Likewise, technology is never solely beneficial or detrimental; it invariably serves as a double-edged sword.
In 1965, Gordon Moore, who would later co-found Intel Corporation, proposed what became known as Moore’s Law: the prediction that the number of transistors on a chip, and consequently computing power, would double every year. In today’s world of increasing societal instability, however, the once-promising vision that Moore’s Law suggested—where rapid technological progress leads to a better world—has become untenable. The concept of a technological utopia or the vision of technological determinists has faded into the past, losing its relevance amidst the shifting tides of societal challenges.
In his 1979 book The Postmodern Condition, French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard referred to the philosophical frameworks and narratives legitimizing science as metanarratives or grand narratives. He identified the postmodern era as one marked by a mistrust of these metanarratives. In the 20th century, mass media, such as radios and televisions, permeated society, where people lived within the metanarratives. By 2024, however, the 20th century has become a distant memory, and the times have significantly shifted towards a society marked by division and fragmentation.
With the diversification of media environments, individuals have become increasingly compelled to embrace diversity and express their individuality and personalities. This trend essentially represents the ultimate stage of a mass consumption society, serving as propaganda to extend its existence. The media are no longer under the control of their creators; instead, they are governed by algorithms that enforce consumption. These algorithms have become entrenched in the world as a benign evil, even obscuring the underlying societal division and fragmentation.
In a world where the cliché of value diversification is used to manipulate individuals, leading to actual societal division, what roles can art, science, and technology play? Many people believe we need narratives with distinctive individuality, not submerged in a sea of diverse values, but is this truly the case? Could it be that art, science, and technology, along with society and individuals, have been overly confined by Western, homogenous concepts and methodologies of modern art, science, and technology?
In 2017, Hong Kong philosopher Yuk Hui proposed the concept of “technodiversity,” drawing from an Asian perspective on science and technology. The notion of technology in modern times was a colonialist idea imposed on Asian nations by Western countries as they expanded globally. Against this backdrop, he emphasized the importance of technodiversity, which recognizes the diverse technologies that have been developed to adapt to regional environments and lifestyles, just as there are technologies unique to snowy lands and to tropical regions. Without technodiversity, neither mental diversity (noodiversity) nor biological diversity (biodiversity) can be preserved.
Just decades ago, everyone could dream the same dream, but this era produced many who did not fit into the uniformity, marginalizing and concealing them. For a society to truly embrace diversity, the world must undergo a significant transformation. We must question many of the assumptions previously taken for granted in society, and dynamically alter our values and behaviors. Diversity is not about unconditionally accepting the values of the majority or the powerful. We have entered an era of critical diversity where various individuals critically reflect on their own existence and values while showing empathy and consideration for others.
Possible futures, preferable futures
Designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, who both worked in Japan and later at the Royal College of Art in London before joining the faculty of Parsons School of Design in New York, introduced the concept of Speculative Design. This concept, which contrasts with commercial Affirmative Design, concretely presents possible futures that might be chosen rather than guiding people in a particular direction, sometimes in a direction that might be convenient for someone. By so doing, Speculative Design expands the gap between “having options” and “making choices,” inviting speculative discussions about what a preferable future might be and for whom it might be preferable.
Dunne and Raby describe Speculative Design as an approach aimed at challenging the status quo, rather than predicting the future. Believing in the potential of design, Speculative Design radically presents options for possible futures. This approach has significantly influenced the increasingly diverse fields of society, art, science, and technology while giving birth to numerous experiments involving multiple ideals, diverse dreams, and contradictory, implausible utopias.
In a world torn between diversification and division, the future grows increasingly muddled. Yet, this gray shadow or ambiguous, indistinguishable area is crucial. Thus, we find ourselves in an era where we can craft narratives about the future in a hypothetical, provisional manner and practice them in our everyday lives as we live in the present. It is about choosing an imperfect but not grim future by sparking various discussions, not propaganda aligned with grand narratives. There is no such thing as a future that is completely diverse and happy. Be it art, design, scientific research, or entrepreneurship, they are always prototypes filled with unseen possibilities. They are tentatively implemented in society and used as hypotheses that are open to corrections and changes. Visions and narratives of the future exist to help us navigate our way from the ambiguous and imperfect present to a more desirable future.
Storytellers of a Sapporo 100 years from now
In 2021, Sapporo’s population decreased by 907 from the previous year, its first decline since the end of World War II. Sapporo, having pursued growth since becoming a municipality over a century ago, now faces a critical crossroads. With the grand narrative of growth having spurred rapid environmental changes revolving around global warming, how should we, as residents of Sapporo, view the unsustainable world unfolding before us, and what should we do to change it?
Here are six groups of artists weaving narratives of a Sapporo 100 years from now. The futures presented here are several possible futures narrated along the themes set forth by Director Ogawa: “life and death,” “mobility and space exploration,” “communication,” “artificial intelligence and governance,” “food, clothing, and shelter,” and “trust and community.” The art, science, and technology involved, the fields in which the artists are engaged, and their individual social backgrounds all differ from one another. This, however, is precisely why you and your daily life may cross paths with these various futures, potentially creating unexpected synergistic effects. Such interactions might even lead to changes that could shape the future of Sapporo.
The narratives of artists across the world are connected to our lives. These narratives intertwine with those passed down from our ancestors, and the changes happening right here and now will be carried forward to our descendants. Beyond these narratives set for a hundred years into the future, assuming humanity survives, there will be a Sapporo a century from now, where the future begins with SIAF2024, themed “Last Snow,” is in store.
Written by Kazuya Sano, Supervised by Akihiro Kubota
『メディア論―人間の拡張の諸相』、マーシャル・マクルーハン（栗原 裕、河本 仲聖翻訳）、みすず書房, 1987
“Cramming more components onto integrated circuits”, Gordon E. Moore, Electronics, Volume 38, Number 8, April 19, 1965
『哲学者ユク・ホイ 特別寄稿：2050年、テクノロジーの多元論へ』、WIRED.jp、2023年9月23日、2023年12月12日閲覧 https://wired.jp/article/vol50-technological-pluralism-yuk-hui/
『Rethinking technodiversity』、The UNESCO Courier、2023年3月31日、2024年1月6日閲覧 https://courier.unesco.org/en/articles/rethinking-technodiversity
『スペキュラティヴ・デザイン 問題解決から、問題提起へ。—未来を思索するためにデザインができること』、アンソニー・ダン/フィオーナ・レイビー（久保田 晃弘監修、千葉 敏生訳）、ビー・エヌ・エヌ新社、2015