Author Neal Stephenson recently launched the Hieroglyph project, to rally writers to reintroduce optimism into science fiction. That is pretty ironic, considering some of the dystopian visions he has painted of our future. But, as he notes, while dark futures are fun to write about, and film, they don’t motivate people to change. He wants to launch a new generation of creatives to envision worlds we want to exist, and inspire a new generation to “get big stuff done.”
Sometimes the act of imagining something is enough to conjure it into being. Consider all the technologies envisioned by writers long before they actually existed. Arthur C Clarke invented the idea of geostationary satellites for telecommunications back in 1945. In Neuromancer, William Gibson described a worldwide communications network using the Internet, long before the World Wide Web came into being (and Gibson was startlingly prescient about how we would use this new technology, and how it would shape our world.) Star Trek Next Generation outfitted blind engineer Geordi LaForge with a VISOR (Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement)—now we’re experimenting with bionic eyes that do basically the same thing.
So this is what I pin to CFM’s “Glimpses of the Future” board in Pinterest—snapshots of the imaginings of scientists, artists, designers, architects, technologists, illustrating their ideas for our future world. Sometimes somewhat silly little things (like an iPhone app that generates smells), sometimes dark futures (like Alexis Rothman’s awesome Manifest Destiny, depicting the Brooklyn waterfront a couple hundred years into global warming), but also as many inspiring visions as I can find.
My latest pin falls in that last category:
Copyright pictures : Creations Jacques Rougerie / SeaOrbiter
It’s called the SeaOrbiter, and it’s the vision of architect Jacques Rougerie, who calls it the “Starship USS Enterprise of the Sea.” One hundred and ninety feet from top to bottom, 500 tons, the ship is a mobile underwater habitat designed to house 18 crew in 12 levels, as well as a diving drone capable of descending to 6000 meters to map the seafloor. It is intended for long term habitation and exploration of the ocean at all levels, the first of a planned fleet—one in each of the world’s oceans.
And Rougerie’s futuristic vision? “We must build a new social-economical model for the world, integrating in a responsible and sustainable way the ocean as a main source for innovations and solutions for the planet and therefore as a value of progress. A flagship for this Blue Society, SeaOrbiter also embodies the needs to explore those new resources to benefit humanity and respond to the main challenges of tomorrow.” Stephenson is right–it’s guys like Rougerie (or Jacques Cousteau, when I was growing up) who help people fall in love with the idea of saving the world.
I think it’s interesting that Rougerie invokes Enterprise (and in another place, compares SeaOrbiter to a space station). It seems like we are entering an age when large scale, ambitious exploration is driven and funded by idealistic individuals, rather than governments. Richard Branson and Elon Musk for manned space exploration, and now Rougerie for the ocean. Unlike Branson and Musk, who are bankrolling their visions with their personal wealth, Rougerie is turning to very modern fundraising technique to build SeaOrbiter—running a crowdfunding campaign to raise 325 000 euros to construct the “Eye” (or conning tower) of the ship. So if you feel inspired to help “get big stuff done,” you can support the creation of an Oceanic Enterprise.