Palaeo-Futures: Futures that never were

Posted by Ian on May 7, 2009 in blog | No Comments

Blade Runner, the 1982 sci-fi drama, depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in the year 2019 kitted out with flying cars and a race of disenchanted Androids bent on homicidal reprisal. The film is a classic; however, when I watch it, I find it hard not to find it amusing how dated the fashion, design and technology is. We’re 10 years away from 2019, and neither flying cars nor androids are anywhere near realisation as mass produced or consumed goods.
Much of the dated quality of science fiction is due to the history of design and the intense fluctuation and change in fashion. The multiple iterations of Star Trek uniforms are a good example of the changing fashion/design of future fashions which will never be.
The vision of the future in Blade Runner (and other Sci Fi trojan narratives such as Battlestar Galactica) say something more deep and universal about human life and creativity than about any specific temporality. Blade Runner’s future is an antiquated future. It’s a future that was dreamt up in 1982, and it’s unlikely that it will come to pass in 2019. Much like the future painted by Orwell’s 1984 (written in 1949) which did not come to pass in the year 1984, Blade Runner and other palaeo-futures are evidence of the ways previous generations envisaged, hoped or feared their futures (or legacies) to be. They are insights into the minds and dreams of times gone by which provide both humorous anecdotes and chilling lessons.
Artist Bruce McCall (see video below) has been skillfully playing with our palaeo-futures for years. Producing many wonderful paintings, illustrations and and covers for the New Yorker and other publications, McCall explores humanity’s wonders and ambitions for its futures, playfully evoking insight through humour, irony and enjoyment of our heritage of faux nostalgia.

So what do you wonder about and hope for the future? Why not write down or document some of your personal futures for posterity? If you need inspiration, our friends at Paleo-Future have an ongoing project to drag up and reshare some of our collective future-thinking that perhaps we wish might have just slipped comfortably into oblivion.

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