1A | US, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ANTHROPOCENE | THE ANTHROPOCENE

The Anthropocene is described as the time that humans have been on Earth, categorised by our rapid industrial development through which the biosphere drastically changed. Motivated by self-interests, the declining state of our environment continues, generating a hope that the future will not be bleak as forecasted. We, as a whole, have fallen into the trap of hope. Dunne and Raby (2013, p. 1) argue that we hold so much hope for the future that fundamentally, “we are just hopeful.” It is now much easier to imagine a dystopic future than one of positive progression or utopia. In popular fiction, our planet faces a myriad of inevitable dooms that threaten the human race – potentially wiping it out altogether. Never is the box office short of a film that taps into this post-apocalyptic genre. It feeds public paranoia of artificially-intelligent technology gone awry, the depletion of resources, overpopulation and the continual entrenched reign of capitalism. Yet written as fiction, these apocalyptic ends seem more plausible than one of a Gaia and we continue to cling onto hope.

There is a disconnect between our current actions and the future. The future is problematically seen as a void (Fry 2009) when it is a reaction to the present. Latour points out that “as long as we rely on hope, we still expect to escape from the consequences of our actions.” (2013, p. 12) This expectation is flawed and as designers in the Anthropocene, it is beneficial to foster a future-oriented mindset. By being able to design in relation to the future, notions of techno-utopia could become feasible. The film, Her (2013), is rare in its kind – it does not demonise future machines. It proposes struggles of social alienation that comes in hand with technology, but technology is not depicted as a dark, faceless monster. Rather, it is a system that exists naturally in our lives, personalising and magnifying our experience of the world, a direction we are already moving in. If technology can do this for us, can it also be engineered to safeguard our biosphere (also for us)?

Her (2013) directed by Spike Jonze

Latour (2013) states that we cannot restart or rewind – we must work with the current state of the Earth. Our hope has created a void in interdisciplinary design and technological solutions. Innovations such as AirCarbon, thermoplastics materialised from greenhouse gases (Doody 2014), have a far way to go before becoming an effective and beneficial response to atmospheric pollutants. The emissions from constructing and powering these facilities currently outweigh the benefits that AirCarbon can bring, thus, it remains a stagnant resolution. The absence of efficient solutions implemented into the current capitalist system highlights how we fail to address the reality of environmental crises.

AirCarbon GHG-to-plastic process (2015) by Newlight Technologies

We need to reconsider the ramifications of our impressions as we are a pin dot in the timeline of Earth’s existence, and in order to conserve our species, we must consider where we and technology fit in the Anthropocene. As Cascio (2008) argues, the Earth has survived far worse than what we, as humans, have inflicted and will slowly recover – however, humanity will struggle to survive in an increasingly hostile climate. The consideration of our environment becomes a consideration for self and our interests to thrive.

References

Cascio, J. 2008, ‘The Earth will be just fine, thank you,’ Open the Future, 23 April, viewed 11 October 2015, <http://www.openthefuture.com/2008/04/the_earth_will_be_just_fine_th.html>.

Doody, D. 2014, ‘Can today’s technology save us?,’ Ensia, 24 February, viewed 11 October 2015, <http://ensia.com/features/can-todays-technology-save-us/>.

Dunne, A. & Raby, F. 2013, Speculative everything: design, fiction and social dreaming, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fry, T. 2009, Design futuring: sustainability, ethics and new practice, Berg, Oxford.

Her 2013, motion picture, Warner Bros. Pictures, United States.

Latour, B. 2013, ‘Telling friends from foes at the time of the Anthropocence,’ EHESS-Centre Koyré-Sciences symposium on Thinking the Anthropocene, 14-15 November, Paris, <http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/131-FRIENDS-FOES.pdf>.

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One comment

  1. It is refreshing to see a shift away from the common discontentment malaise of society towards an existence where ‘hope’ exists. You should take a read of ‘Abundance’ by Peter Diamandis as he talks about an optimistic future characterised by emergent forces in innovative technologies targeting humanity’s most pressing problems and his notions of establishing change.

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