Earlier in 2015, I have entered some pictures into a sci-fi contest organised by the Center for Histories of the Future (CHIFT). The assignment was to take and/or modify a picture of some place in Rotterdam, with the purpose to imagine the city in 2115, one hundred years from now. The contest is currently being reorganised. I'm not sure when all the entries will be made visible on their site, so I thought I would share my pictures here. Each entry has a picture accompanied by one short description of a scenario. I have made 3 of these.
An'Gels, creatures made of light, have descended from the sky to share with us the Arcane Secret of the Universe (ASU). They ask for nothing in return, but will share the information under one condition:
The An'Gels detest the ground, and will only allow this information to be transferred from at least 150 meters away from the Earth's surface.
In an arrangement between An'Gels and the Dutch government, it was decided that the ASU will be broadcasted from the tallest buildings in the Netherlands, in Rotterdam's Noordeeiland. The information will be broadcasted in light-based wireless telecommunication (Li-fi). During broadcasting, all lights in the city must be turned off.
In 2115, Rotterdam, like many other urban areas in the world, had adopted a mechanism of perfect-traffic. Every type of traffic is connected to the internet and regulated to prevent accidents. Not only are cars and public-transport automated, walking and cycling had also been completely replaced by the Segway. Pedestrians and cyclists were unruly, unpredictable and uncontrollable, and they presented a high level of threat to other road users. The Smart Segway systems, on the other hand, can detect and prevent any dangerous traffic situation. Users will be unable to drive their wifi-connected Segways into danger, as the perfect-traffic mechanism stops them from doing so.
In 2115, the number of traffic accidents in Rotterdam is 0.
- E-B Chronogate-
In the year 2115, one-way time travelling had been invented. Scientists developed advanced Chronogate technology that allows any matter (including human beings) passing through the gate to be reliably launched into the year 3115. There's no way of knowing whether these matter will ever make their way back. There's no way of knowing whether inhabitants of the 32nd century are happy to receive anything or anyone from 2115.
As it stands, many people are willing to find out. There are many reasons to leave the year 2115. Even though there is no way of knowing what 3115 is like, many are willing to take their chances, believing that things can only get better in the future. This popular demand for time travelling grew so intense, that cities around the world began to construct public-access Chronogates. In Rotterdam, the derelict Erasmusbrug had been readjusted to fulfil this new purpose.
After paying an operational fee, Rotterdamers can drive their modified vehicles into the E-B Chronogate and leave everything else of 2115 behind. It is not unlike the ancient folklore of Elves leaving Middle Earth. As this is not an easy decision, however, there are also many who take a U-turn right before the gate and drive straight back into Rotterdam city. It must be noted that those who change their mind at the final moment are not entitled to a refund.
If the best science fiction asks questions rather than provide answers, then I'm probably pretty talented at making sci-fi. I'm way better at posing questions than finding answers. Anyways if we're talking about the future, many answers are not found but rather are made. I like the phrasing of CHIFT founder Etienne Augé: Science fiction doesn't predict the future, the future doesn't exist yet. Sci-fi does, however, prevent and invent many versions of the future. The Rotterdam-based CHIFT aims to cultivate sci-fi in the Netherlands. If successful, it would be truly empowering for the Dutch society to be able to prevent and invent versions of the future to its own liking.
On my end, this notion is relevant to one specific GIR project. On the very first GIR blogpost I wrote about using the Rotterdam metros as a system for fortune-telling. I have been meditating and developing this system since, I will elaborate on this in another blogpost (hopefully soon). The teaser thought, so to speak, is this: Wouldn't it be personally empowering, for you to be able to prevent and invent different interpretations of your own future?
While CHIFT advocates the societal relevance of sci-fi, I have been meaning to advocate the personal relevance of magic practices. As it turns out, we could both design processes to advance our respective fascinations while incorporating the Rotterdam urban environment. I'm pretty excited to see the other sci-fi contest entries when CHIFT eventually makes them viewable. It's usually great fun to experience the city through any kind of genre-specific fascination. In addition to the Sci-Fi City and the Magic City, we can also live in the Romantic-Thriller City, the Noir City, the Horror-Comedy City and so on and so forth.