Humans have forever longed to envision the future—as a means of ensuring continuity, exercising control, turning chaos into order, finding meaning, and avoiding the acceptance of change as the only permanent state of being. Imagining, forecasting, telling, reading, watching, data mining and visualization, and predicting the future are, as ever, in tension with “making” the future. Today, personal and grassroots agency is often overshadowed by novel technological advancements that lead people to rely on experts and pundits, and to treat data as if it were superstition or religion.
Artists, designers, and writers, often practicing in close collaboration with scientists, offer speculations and critical guidance. In this salon, we discussed intuition, speculation, and far-sightedness; the role of art, literature, and design in the construction of the future; the different depths of field provided by different future-investigation tools; and much more. Occurring almost a decade after MoMA first brought digital data visualization into its collection—and one day before a US general election that has flooded our lives with polls and diagrams reflecting our tribulations about the possible futures ahead—the salon is perfectly poised to probe our deepest hopes and fears.
The salon took place on November 7th, 2016.
Amy Webb is the founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, which advises Fortune 500 companies, major institutions and governments. Her future-forecasting work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and many others. Webb is an adjunct professor at the New York University Stern School of Business and a summer lecturer at Columbia University. She was a delegate on the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, focusing on the future of AI and diplomacy. Webb’s new book, The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream, explains the tools of a futurist and how everyone can forecast the future of technology, society, and business.
Ytasha L. Womack is an author, filmmaker, dancer, and futurist. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi and Fantasy - a 2014 Locus Award Finalist in the nonfiction category - explores black sci-fi culture, bleeks, black comix, and the legacy of futurism. Womack is also author of the critically acclaimed book Post Black: How a New Generation Is Redefining African American Identity, and is coeditor of the hip-hop anthology Beats Rhymes & Life: What We Love and Hate About Hip-Hop. Her films include Couples Night (as screenwriter), Love Shorts (as writer/producer), and The Engagement (as director). She’s also writer and director of the upcoming Afrofuturist film Bar Star City.
Giorgia Lupi is an award-winning information designer. She co-founded Accurat, a data-driven design firm with offices in Milan and New York, where she is the design director. She received her M-Arch at FAF in Ferrara, Italy, and earned a PhD in design at Politecnico di Milano. She relocated from Italy to New York City, where she now lives. She is co-author of Dear Data, an aspirational hand-drawn data-visualization book. The original collection of postcards from Dear Data was recently acquired by The Museum of Modern Art.
Ari Wallach is the founder and CEO of Synthesis Corp., a New York City–based strategic consultancy that lives at the intersection of innovation, technology, and purpose-driven culture. He is also the host of Fast Company Futures with Ari Wallach. Wallach is the co-founder of The Great Schlep, whose eponymous video had over 25 million views and 350 million global media impressions and started a national conversation about race, faith, and democracy during the 2008 presidential campaign. Wallach is the founder of INFORUM, one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan public affairs forums for young people. He currently sits on the boards of several nonprofits, as well as the Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley.
Avirgan, Jody Small Data Is the New Big Data Literary Hub (10.14.2016)
Bradley, Ryan Economists, Biologists, Skrillex on How to Predict the Future The New York Times (11.10.2015)
Buckup, Sebastian The surprising link between science fiction and economic history World Economic Forum (6.16.2016)
Candy, Stuart Designing Futures The Sceptical Futurist (4.5.2013)
Cohn, Nate Why the Surprise Over ‘Brexit’? Don’t Blame the Polls The New York Times (6.24.2016)
Dizikes, Peter When the Butterfly Effect Took Flight MIT Tech Review (2.22.2011)
Kunstler, James Howard Back to the Future Orion Magazine (2011)
Manjoo, Farhad, Why We Need to Pick Up Alvin Toffler’s Torch The New York Times (7.6.2016)
Menand, Louis Everybody’s an Expert: Putting Predictions to the Test The New Yorker (12.5.2005)
Mlodinow Leonard Mining Truth From Data Babel: Nate Silver’s ‘Signal and the Noise’ Examines Predictions The New York Times (10.23.2012)
Popova, Maria A Visual Timeline of the Future Based on Famous Fiction Brainpickings (11.21.2012)
Popper, Karl The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934, English printing 1959)
Quinn, Chase The Days of Future Past: Afrofuturism and Black Memory Hyperallergic (11.27.2013)
Sontag, Susan The Imagination of Disaster (1965)
Stevens, Jacqueline Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters The New York Times (6.23.2012)
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Prologue The New York Times (4.22.2007)
Taylor-Stone, Chardine Afrofuturism: where space, pyramids and politics collide The Guardian (1.7.2014)
Toffler, Alvin The Future as a Way of Life Horizon Magazine (1965)
Toffler, Alvin Future Shock (1970)
Wallach, Ari Forget short-termism: it’s time to think longpath Wired (4.4.2013)
Webb, Amy 8 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016 Harvard Business Review (12.8.2015)
Barack Obama, Neural Nets, Self-Driving Cars, and the Future of the World, a Conversation between the President, Scott Dadich, and Joi Ito Wired (10.2016)