The future is not a time. It’s a tool to deal with time, making it the most open and democratic method to examine the present. Every future we imagine and describe is anchored in our present. It connects our individual and collective experiences of the past with eachother's and society's expectations of what's to come. Thus, a story about the future is always also a story for the future.
Despite the prevailing pessimism about the time ahead of us, about everything from society to nature, from the interplanetary to the interstellar, 2038 set out to tell a decisively inconsistent story of a somewhat better future, 17-18 years from now.
2038 uses hope as a principle, proposing positive scenarios to reverse-engineer the present, repositioning the contemporary as a laboratory – a laboratory that already contains the tools and ideas necessary to overcome the dystopia ahead.
Sure, given the current situation it's difficult to continue functioning as before. The general conditions have changed drastically; the public discourse and public attention have shifted. Yet, the problems are still the same. Answers to “How can we live together?” have become both more elusive and more necessary than they already were. Time has accelerated, again.
The story 2038 initially created became outdated before it even had the chance to be told. With the pandemic it turned out that not only was 2038 set against the backdrop of three recent global crises (financial markets, migration, climate) but now also our fourth current health crisis. 2020’s crisis is also a crisis in visionary thought.
Planning for different futures has become obsolete because we already live in a different scenario. Even the planning of the present has become impossible. This uncertainty toward even the near future renders the most recent speculations irrelevant and rejuvenates past futures.
Wouldn’t it be nice to find the answers to today by looking back at visions of the past? Beware, to look back in time and revive what has not happened, might seem the easy way out. It is no way out, after all. The most future-oriented thing you can do right now is to celebrate the moment, be in the now. We love our time.
Speculative fiction is a space of relief. A story, set in the future offers a space far from naivety and utopian positivism. 2038’s research does not look for one coherent system to pass all findings through; rather it takes on the task of dealing with all the strange little artifacts that could possibly trigger systemic change, and tells the story as contingent, complex and paradoxical – as it is. The past was messy. The present is messy. The future will be messy, too.
Part of 2038’s concept was to ask a variety of experts to tell their stories as if they were living in this very near future – a future in which the system has changed for the better. The only rule was to be serious about it: committed and transparent in argumentation and humble in their approach, as to say: I’ll let you be in my future if I can be in yours. This is really important. When one talks about the future, never shrink the responsibility. You need to have skin in the game.
When one describes and articulates things seriously, it should not be an escape from the present but should sharpen the points one wants to discuss, the questions one wants to raise, or even the answers one wants to speculate. 2038 is now, here to pose alternatives, hopes, and diversions to challenge our thinking about the present, and to develop a fresh baseline from which to think anew.
A text based on The Future is Present by Ludwig Engel and Olaf Grawert.
An Audio based on Sorry, 2038! read by Jeanne Tremsal.
Both published in 2038 - The New Serenity, Sorry Press, Munich, 2021
2038 is a non-profit company with the goal to promote architectural discourse across disciplinary boundaries. 2038 talks to experts from various fields and shares their views and opinions, in partly edited form. 2038 does not claim the approaches, contents and theses of the experts and does everything to quote and name them correctly and in detail. Should this exceptionally not be the case, just write us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will immediately update the information accordingly.
Text / Concept / Realisation: Olaf Grawert, Angelika Hinterbrandner and Jonas Janke
Editing: Michaela Friedberg