Salon 18 Informed Future

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 7, 2016.


Reading Resources

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)