Friday, October 26, 2007

Outdoor installation takes cover

Photo: Jake Dunagan

Elements of our ambient foresight "exstallation", FoundFutures:Chinatown, described in these three previous posts, have been moved off the streets and into temporary residence at The Arts at Mark's Garage, Nuuanu Avenue, Honolulu. They form part of an exhibition on Alternative Urban Futures which opened on Tuesday, and runs until 17 November. There is some other very cool stuff in the show which we haven't had a chance to look at closely, so far, but anyone in the area is encouraged to check it out.

The introductory matter to our contribution in the gallery reads as follows:

FoundFutures injects futures into the present. It is a multimedia, collaborative project based on the idea that a wider range of possible futures should be made visible and thinkable to people in their everyday lives. The project was created and is led by two doctoral candidates in political science at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, who are also futures researchers at the Hawai'i Research Center for Futures Studies (HRCFS). We aim to provoke thought, conversation, and action by creating and distributing art, artifacts, images, performances and other media that embody possible worlds to come.

Making alternative futures tangible is an antidote to the singular, colonized future we are given by mass media, consumer culture, and an intrinsically shortsighted political system. We want participants to be directly confronted with long-range choices, to feel just how different their various futures could be from the present, and from each other. We call this future-shock therapy. Our aim is not to push people towards particular conclusions, but simply to invite deeper engagement with the field of possibilities.

Photo: Jake Dunagan

This side of the display shows elements from an earlier foray into experiential scenarios, for "Hawaii 2050", a statewide discussion which launched in August 02006. These pieces suggest aspects of a high-tech future Hawai'i (artwork by Sky Kiyabu and Steve Kiyabu). Next, in May 02007, we sent to leaders across the community four postcards from alternative versions of Hawai'i in 02036, on consecutive days and with no return address (designed by Yumi Vong).

On the other side of this panel are elements from four immersive futures designed for our first foray into community and street art – FoundFutures:Chinatown. The first future (McChinatown) was staged for the First Friday art event on October 5. Two others have been displayed since (Green Dragon and The Bird Cage). One will continue beyond this show (Dig Deeper). If you are interested in exploring the futures of Chinatown and Hawaii beyond the urgent, immediate concerns of today, please consider attending our Chinatown Futures Workshop on 17 November (RSVP to info at foundfutures dot com). To discuss futures thinking, or specific issues raised by this distributed installation, don't hesitate to contact us.

Stuart Candy & Jake Dunagan
Directors, FoundFutures:Chinatown
22 October 02007


Photo: Jake Dunagan

Our contribution to the Arts at Marks exhibition has been quite an effort, involving many people. Below is a list of acknowledgements from Jake and me, as it appears at the show:

McCHINATOWN

Designers:
Jesse Arneson
Mark Guillermo
Ryan Yamamoto

Installation assistance:
Duk Bu
Brady Fern
JoDee and Ernie Hunt
Pegge Hopper
Rich Richardson
Roy Venters
Melanie Yang

Protesters:
Guen Montgomery (lead)
Jason Adams
Christina Hoe
Bianca Isaki
Rohan Kalyan
John Maus
Josh Pryor
Lorenzo Rinelli
Matthew Stits


GREEN DRAGON

Designer:
Yumi Vong
[for more of Yumi's outstanding work, check out her website]

Additional scenario
development:
Aaron Rosa

Cultural advisors:
Roger Ames
Matthew McDonald

Translations:
Chien-Yuan Chen
Tianyuan Huang

Installation assistance:
Brady Fern
Charles Wong


THE BIRD CAGE

Designer:
Matthew Jensen
[development of many of the beautiful artifacts for this scenario, designed or overseen by Matt, can be found at the Ritual Lab website, dating back about a month]

Additional artwork:
The Great Bendango
Kristin Dennis
Nathan Verrill

Installation assistance:
Oren Schlieman & Fran Butera
Tim Braden
Richard Lum, Worldwide Travel
Maya van Leemput
& Bram Goots
Matthew Jensen

Production assistance:
Seong Won Park

Special thanks to
M.P. Lei Shop (at Maunakea & Pauahi), providers of leis for "Hang Ten flu" memorial plaque


This project would not have been possible without
the support of the following individuals:

Wiwik Bunjamin-Mau, Rich Richardson, and Erik Takeshita at The Arts at Mark's Garage

Matthew Jensen

Yumi Vong

Carolyn Borges at Tom Terrific's Printshop, Manoa

Prof Jim Dator, Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies


The contribution of the following is also much appreciated:

Steve Kiyabu
Sky Kiyabu
Ed Korybski
Chetan Mangat
Bernard Uy


Photography by:

Stuart Candy
Jake Dunagan
Bram Goots
Matthew Stits
Yumi Vong

The Bird Cage

Photo: Stuart Candy

On Tuesday, 16 October 02007, this bronze plaque appeared on the corner of Maunakea and Pauahi Streets in Chinatown, Honolulu -- testimony to the resilient response of the community to a hypothetical tragedy that would not occur for another ten years.

Chinatown has in its history been ravaged by the plague, quarantined, and burned to the ground. In April 02016, the future rhymes with bygone times as bird flu rears its beady-eyed little head. Our distributed installation played out the scenario in reverse, from the installation of the memorial 18 months after the outbreak...

Photo: Bram Goots

Photo: Stuart Candy

To the revival of entrepreneurial activity shortly after the epidemic...

"Dust to Dust" flyer: Matthew Jensen

Photo: Bram Goots

Photo: Stuart Candy

"Jake Stuart" poster: Matthew Jensen / Photo: Bram Goots

Photo: Bram Goots

Photo: Stuart Candy

"Still Paradise" poster: Matthew Jensen

To official notices posted by the National Agency for Investigative Epidemiology (N.A.I.E.) as the crisis was brought under control...

"Evacuation" poster: Matthew Jensen / Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Bram Goots

Photo: Stuart Candy

"All Clear" poster: Matthew Jensen / Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

To impromptu messages placed in the streets by ordinary people when the outbreak first occurred...

"Missing" installation design: Matthew Jensen / Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy


Below, the outline scenario that Jake Dunagan and I wrote for this third phase of FoundFutures : Chinatown...

THE BIRD CAGE ~02016
What if Chinatown were ground zero of a new influenza epidemic?

Chinatown has long been haunted by tragedy. In 01886 and again in 01900, it was burned to the ground. When a deadly strain of influenza called H8N2 broke out in April 02016, this tragedy in paradise was global news; but local authorities acted quickly. Aircraft were grounded and as Honolulu's "Hang Ten Flu" took hold, the National Guard immediately quarantined Chinatown and systematically raided all residences and businesses in search of individuals exhibiting symptoms.

The rapid response of authorities, and establishment of military/medical checkpoints along all highways across the island, meant that the crisis could be confined to O'ahu. Residents and visitors at risk of infection were relocated to mobile quarantine facilities in Honolulu or on the North Shore (several cruise liners were requisitioned for this purpose by the National Agency for Investigative Epidemiology, the newly established, disease-oriented tactical response branch of FEMA). The ill were then shipped to more secure facilities on Moloka'i for treatment -- and, in one out of every three cases, burial.

The "Weeping Spring" of 02016 brought tourism and most other aspects of everyday life on O'ahu to a standstill. The origins of the virus remain controversial -- at first thought to due to low-quality imported poultry, the outbreak has reportedly been traced to a security lapse at a university research facility on the island. Investigations are still underway.

During the tragedy, the community of Chinatown was frozen. A high proportion of residents lost family members, and the cessation of construction which had occurred at first from necessity was extended while residents debated next steps. However, eighteen months later the citizenry has regrouped and, led by a newly elected, youthful Mayor C. Ballesteros, a renewed sense of shared purpose and identity is discernible. The temporary interruption in shipments and motorized traffic had the effect of heightening awareness of Hawaii's isolation, and increased calls for self-reliance. Many residents have begun cultivating their own food sources, and plans are afoot to turn a number of Chinatown streets into public gardens.

[Update 30 October 02007: See also previous scenario... Green Dragon / Next post... Outdoor installation takes cover]

Green Dragon

Art: Yumi Vong


The second phase of FoundFutures : Chinatown imagines an Earth-friendly China, two decades hence. Those campaigning Hawai'i to become independent of the U.S. look to the other side of the Pacific for support, and evidence of their new allegiance begins to appear in the streets...

Art: Yumi Vong / Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Bram Goots


A powerful citizens' coalition behind the renewed Hawaiian sovereignty movement rallies its supporters around ecological commitments...

Art: Yumi Vong / Text: Jake Dunagan


The "Sovereign Green Manifesto" reads as follows:

In Hawai'i, sovereignty without sustainability is meaningless,
yet sustainability without sovereignty is impossible.

Sovereign Green fights against the corrupt and
irresponsible governance of the islands and all its peoples.

The United States' illegal occupation, and destructive
military and environmental policies must be stopped.

Sovereign Green advocates independence for Hawai'i
so that current and future generations may live peacefully and happily.

Only with the ability to craft laws and policies
in accordance with the values and conditions of these islands
can we shape a nation that is righteous and responsible.

In reclaiming our sovereignty, we embrace our role as
caretakers of the land and stewards of our own evolution.

We welcome all races, ethnicities, and beliefs.

Stand with us!


In a gesture recalling the French gift in 01886 of the Statue of Liberty to the United States, in 02026 the Chinese donate a giant "Statue of Harmony" to the people of Hawai'i. This monument to international friendship (towering over vessels arriving in Honolulu Harbor, with Chinatown in the background) features Queen Lili'uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, holding aloft a torch with Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, who attended school in Hawai'i. They stand upon a huge granite platform bearing the word "harmony" in Chinese, Hawaiian, and (on the side hidden from view) English.

"The Statue of Harmony" by Yumi Vong


From 13-15 October, a large framed drawing of this exciting gift was on display at various locations in and near Chinatown...

Photo: Stuart Candy


Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Stuart Candy


Already, souvenirs of the Statue of Harmony can be found in tourist shops...

Photo: Stuart Candy



Here's the scenario (co-written by Jake Dunagan) which inspired this part of the FoundFutures installation:

GREEN DRAGON ~02026
What might become of Chinatown in a world where China is the predominant superpower?

The strange dance of U.S-China relations has taken many turns in recent years. Seeking strategic advantage in renewable energy, for more than a decade the People's Republic of China has lent its prodigious industrial and diplomatic weight to the international movement to control carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. This has brought it increasing into conflict with the U.S, which, leveraging military power to protect its economic interests, has also become more vocal in supporting independence for Taiwan and Tibet.

But a whole new level of tension between the U.S. and China is rising over the leak of a top-secret memo from the office of the Chinese Vice Premier. The memo outlines negotiations between China and several Hawaiian agitators, notably the radical "Sovereign Green" coalition -- a rising independence movement which rests its support base on ecological rather than ethnic affiliation. It also refers to a long-term strategy for China's role in Hawaiian affairs, including a potentially explosive proposal to back Hawaiian independence from the U.S. Essentially, according to unnamed sources, the sovereignty of the Hawaiian islands could be recognized internationally by China and its allies, in exchange for their becoming a temporary protectorate of the PRC.

Whether an olive branch or a further provocation, China's proposal for an iconic "Statue of Harmony" in Honolulu Harbor is causing great excitement, especially in Chinatown -- which has for some time been a highly fashionable outpost for Chinese cultural products (from cooking competitions to immersive games). Chinatown has not only retained its status as a perennially interesting, changing neighbourhood, but it is also an important local node of global power in a geopolitical climate tilted decisively in favor of the so-called "Green Dragon".

[Update 30 October 02007: Next scenario... The Bird Cage / Previous... McChinatown]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

McChinatown

Honolulu's Chinatown is among the city's oldest and most iconic districts. It's a bastion of small family-owned businesses, where so far no franchise stores or national restaurant chains have opened.

On Friday 5 October, the following suddenly appeared there:

Large posters announcing a new Starbucks moving into a large corner building that has been vacant for three years...

Artwork: Jesse Arneson

Photo: Jake Dunagan

Signs for TGI Friday's (a US bar and restaurant franchise) opening soon on a property at the southeast corner of Chinatown...

Artwork: Ryan Yamamoto

Photo: Matthew Stits

A banner inviting bids for luxury loft apartments, starting at $2.1 million, in one of the district's most recognisable buildings...

Sign design: Mark Guillermo / Photo: Stuart Candy

Photo: Matthew Stits

That evening, members of a grassroots activist group gathered outside the supposed future Starbucks, calling on patrons of the area's monthly First Friday art walk to "Save Chinatown" from what appeared to be a stealthy corporate takeover by investment consortium Aloha™ Land and Water (investaloha.com). They distributed paraphernalia including flyers ("Honolulu's Chinatown: The Next Waikiki?"), postcards, buttons -- and even fortune cookies (e.g. "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without"), and they directed concerned parties to savechinatown.org. [Note, 18 October 02010: these in-scenario sites are unfortunately no longer live.]

Postcard design: Mark Guillermo

Photo: Matthew Stits

Honolulu Weekly Back Page, Wednesday 3 October / Photo: Stuart Candy

This intervention, which manifests or simulates one possible near-term future for the area, generated some attention, including a front-page story in the Honolulu Advertiser (the state's largest newspaper), and shorter (but slightly more accurate) coverage in the other major daily, the Star-Bulletin [links fixed 18 October 02010, the latter courtesy of Internet Archive's marvellous Wayback Machine; scroll to the article amusingly titled article, "Futurists set up fake scenario"].

Here's the scenario, written by Jake Dunagan and me, which served as the basis for this exercise in ambient foresight:

McCHINATOWN ~02010
What if Chinatown were taken over by corporate interests?

A Starbucks on a prime corner of Honolulu's most eclectic, gritty, and original neighborhood proved to be a tipping point -- and a litmus test of allegiances -- in the ongoing development of Chinatown. Some saw it as a hopeful symbol of the district finally catching up with a globally connected, 21st century city; others feared the beginning of the end for independent business and local character. Against the short-lived protests of the grassroots Save Chinatown! coalition, international entrepreneurs Aloha™ Land and Water led a new wave of investment in the district.

Week by week, new ventures and ubiquitous chain stores could be found opening their doors to a throng of customers. Free shuttles for shoppers from Waikiki became a common sight, and luxury lofts became the rage for a crop of young, urban professionals. Old time landowners and traditional Chinatown residents leapt at the opportunities this presented, and vacant lots filled immediately.

Some in the arts community became concerned at the loss of character and uniqueness that had been a powerful attractor for artists and other "creatives" on the island. Meanwhile, new zero-tolerance policies against prostitution, drug users, and homeless persons had their effect -- complaints about these problems are now seldom heard, streets are clean, and a recycling program has been instituted, receiving high praise among environmentalists well beyond the neighborhood.

There is talk of re-naming the district, in pursuit of a fresh image, also to reflect the fact that now less than 5% of residents or business owners are of Chinese background (and less than 25% of Asian descent generally). This proposal remains controversial though, and its prospects are uncertain. What is certain is that the Chinatown of today would be hardly recognizable to someone who knew it a decade ago.

[Update 30 October 02007: Next scenario... Green Dragon]

[Update 18 October 02010: Links fixed. Also, the year in which this scenario was set is now almost gone and Chinatown has not yet fallen prey to international developers, as far as we know.]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rewriting physics

From time to time I have referred in these pages to thought experiments (or, more encompassingly, thought-emotion experiments) as being central to the enterprise of futures thinking (see here, here, and here). The elaboration of "images of the future", the core subject-matter of the field, clearly invokes the hypothesis-making process: the exercise of imagination in general, and scenario thinking in particular.

Now, a current post by Wired writer and blogger Clive Thompson helps illustrate the role of (video) gaming in developing this cognitive faculty. I'm reminded of Steven Johnson's highly readable manifesto in defence of video games, and other unjustly maligned -- as he argues -- pop culture products (Everything Bad is Good for You).

Thompson reviews a video game whose breakthrough innovation is a basic, profound, rewrite of the laws of physics. To me the key is not whether this is physically plausible or not, something the future could realistically bring, but simply the mental gymnastics necessary to wrap your mind around the adjustment. My sense is that this is somehow exactly the kind of mental elastic that we ought to stretch on a regular basis to stay in shape for changing times.

The game is Portal, and the premise is simply this: "[Y]ou control a gun that can blast two connected oval portals on different surfaces -- floors, ceilings and walls. If you step through the first portal, you emerge immediately from the other, teleported instantaneously through space, as if you walked through a magic mirror."

Thompson continues:

The game designers produce their coolest tricks by ruthlessly adhering to most of Newtonian physics but then cleverly violate one key rule -- thus allowing you, the gamer, to explore what happens in such a world.

This is precisely the sort of mental thought-experiment that really well-designed games can provide.
[...]
Why not use this game mechanic to shake up other well-worn genres? Imagine a first-person shooter where you can trigger portals on the fly, popping through them to snipe an enemy. Or think how weird a Mario racing game would be if you could shoot portals that wreak havoc on the racetrack?
[...]
It's ... an object lesson in breakthrough game design. Tweak one part of a well-worn game mechanic, and presto -- you can open a door to something really new.

The game review is insightful and very well written, but the demo video posted at YouTube really says it all ... this is a game I need to play. Maybe you do too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Parables and horseshit

Today I was teaching Dator's introductory futures class (he's in France for ISU), and the theme for this week is the influential thesis of the 01972 Club of Rome report, The Limits to Growth. Seeking an intuitively clear instance of the hazards of simple linear extrapolation ad infinitum -- perhaps the cardinal sin of poor futures thinking, alluded to here in the previous post -- what sprang to mind was an example that many futurists would recognise as classic: London's 19th-century horse manure problem.

I don't know where I first encountered it, but this story is a beauty. And, searching online this afternoon I found (via this blog post) an elegant retelling by a PhD candidate at UCLA, Eric Morris, in the Spring 02007 edition of Access [pdf download], the official magazine of the University of California Transportation Center. I'll quote it here at length:

In 1898, delegates from across the globe gathered in New York City for the world’s first international urban planning conference. One topic dominated the discussion. It was not housing, land use, economic development, or infrastructure. The delegates were driven to desperation by horse manure.
[...]
The situation seemed dire. In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. One New York prognosticator of the 1890s concluded that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan’s third-story windows. A public health and sanitation crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions loomed.

And no possible solution could be devised. After all, the horse had been the dominant mode of transportation for thousands of years. Horses were absolutely essential for the functioning of the nineteenth-century city -- for personal transportation, freight haulage, and even mechanical power. Without horses, cities would quite literally starve.

All efforts to mitigate the problem were proving woefully inadequate. Stumped by the crisis, the urban planning conference declared its work fruitless and broke up in three days instead of the scheduled ten.


There are two points I want to draw out here about this anecdote.

The first point is, the very idea of nine feet or more of horse manure covering a city street exemplifies pretty vividly the concept of limits to growth. Any systemic process increasing overall instability is bound to end sooner or later. In the "four images of the future" framework we use at Manoa to stretch thinking beyond superficial business-as-usual extrapolation, a continued growth pattern in a social situation will face a corrective in the form of one (or more) of the other three -- collapse, self-discipline, or transformation. The grotesque absurdity of a city drowning in horse waste illustrates not just the limit of growth processes, but the limits of blinkered, continued-growth thinking itself. (One student today astutely observed that, as things turn out, we're probably buried at least that deep -- but just in other kinds of shit. Touché.)


The second point, going meta on the first, and to some degree at odds with it, is that however well the story illustrates the pedagogical point I had in mind, it may well be apocryphal rather than factual. I hadn't heard this version about the 01898 planners' shindig before, which adds a neat, plausible context for the factoid in question -- specifically, whether these retrospectively amusing predictions about fantastically high manure-piles were ever really made. (We're not doubting here the well-documented historical context which supposedly prompted them -- massive reliance on horses for transportation, unsound sanitation practices, etc.) Now, in principle, one could delve into the archives -- Mr Morris's "further reading" list at the end of the article looks like a recipe for hours of harmless amusement -- but thankfully others have given some thought to the factual basis of this irresistibly catchy story before. One myth-busting website argues as follows:

The details vary with almost every telling: the doom-merchant is a politician, scientist, city planner, or journalist; the doomed town is London, or various cities in the USA, or a particular famous street such as the Strand; the predicted date of the catastrophe ranges from the turn of the century to 1950; and the depth of the dung goes from knee-level upwards. The underlying message, though, is consistent: forecasting through extrapolation is risky, because it can't take account of technological revolutions. By implication, all predictions of disaster should be treated as mere alarmism; American conservatives, sceptical about the dangers of global warming and pollution, are especially fond of the dung parable. One detail is invariably missing from this story: the name of the failed seer. If the prophecy had ever really been made, someone would surely have uncovered its author by now.


The importance of attributing predictions is close to my heart, because reputation is really the currency of LongBets, which I have been working on at The Long Now Foundation. The project's aim is to improve the quality of forward-looking discourse by encouraging accountability in prediction-making.

But what's really going on here, with the persistence of this (quite possibly) cock-and-bull horse tale? Whether or not the prediction was actually made by a real 19th-century pundit and documented as such seems almost not to matter; because it doesn't stop the account from capturing our imagination -- in John Ford's phrase, we "print the legend". There are some stories which are so useful, interesting or crystal-clear in confirming what we think or believe about The Way Things Go that they persist, they have a memetic pull all their own. Whether or not they're literally true, it seems we sense they ought to be, and the truth of them resides at some other level. Another example, I think, is a story told by Long Now cofounder Danny Hillis, which illustrates beautifully the Foundation's animating idea of fostering long-term responsibility:

I think of the oak beams in the ceiling of College Hall at New College, Oxford. Last century, when the beams needed replacing, carpenters used oak trees that had been planted in 1386 when the dining hall was first built. The 14th-century builder had planted the trees in anticipation of the time, hundreds of years in the future, when the beams would need replacing. Did the carpenters plant new trees to replace the beams again a few hundred years from now?


Another nice rendition of that story appears here, but includes the caveat that even the college's own website logs some doubt as to its veracity.

So, however much we might like to think of ourselves as relying on empirical evidence for our understanding of the world, in actual fact we flesh and blood types find ourselves depending to a great extent in everyday life on intuition, hearsay, factoids and anecdotes of varying degrees of trustworthiness. I don't mean to decry this situation, but simply to observe that, for various reasons which ought to be obvious, we are all to some extent pragmatists, and incessant fact-checking is by and large, and with good reason, reserved for the most ritualised corners of the laboratory, the courtroom, and the ivory tower.

It's not that truth is unimportant. But there are different types of truth. The horse manure story -- that once upon a time, a particular problem was set to swamp us, which, a short while later historically, seems barely imaginable -- is to me a parable that captures something true, and monitory, about the hazards of prediction, even if its historical credentials are doubtful. It's a micro-myth, a shortcut to a greater truth.

I take it as axiomatic that there are no future facts. Perhaps it's inevitable, then, that when it comes to futures, gaining insight sometimes involves using parables -- or even horseshit.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Waikiki, Waterworld

It is just over one year ago that the kickoff was held for the Hawaii state legislature's effort to engage people in an evaluation of its ecological, economic and social sustainability. Last weekend, on 22 September, the "Hawaii 2050" draft plan was unveiled -- in no less aupicious a setting than Hilton Hawaiian Village resort's opulent Coral Ballroom.


The image shown above comes not from that occasion (which consisted largely of a procession of well-meaning pep talks) but from a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article on climate change, titled "The drowning of Hawaii", which appeared -- whether by coincidence or design, I don't know -- the day after the "2050" show. It's a map of Hawaii's iconic tourist magnet, Waikiki beach, projected 100 years hence, with 39 inches (one metre for non-imperialists) of sea level rise added by researchers at UH-Manoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. I've added in the location of the "2050" venue on the map, which you can click to enlarge. Here, the Hilton's lavish conference centre becomes an island.

For comparison, Waikiki today looks like this (captured from Google Maps):


Now, I don't recommend taking simple extrapolations at face value. Doing so is assuredly one of the deadly sins of futures thinking; and the warmer, wetter Waikiki assumes no preventive or mitigatory measures (such as sandbagging, levee construction, or strategic retreat from an advancing coastline) which we might reasonably expect to crop up over a century of slowly rising seas. That is, supposing the scientists' projected sea level rise were to prove entirely accurate, even then, their visual forecast would not be correct. However, the correctness of the image is not its point here. Rather, it's a heuristic device for bringing attention to a risky situation, a changing circumstance, that needs to be thought about and managed. It could also have been a relevant topic to address before an audience of almost 1000 citizens (who were sufficiently concerned to spend $20.50 a head and a Saturday morning) attending a public meeting officially culminating an 18-month long consultation about the long-term challenges facing the Hawaiian islands.

This species of Inconvenient Truth-like climate change visualisation is an increasingly familiar -- yet, we may hope, no less sobering for that -- harbinger of the sort of major change which we may well face in the coming decades. But to the futures-minded observer, it is also the type of discomfiting possibility the discussion of which was conspicuously absent from the event.

/To be continued.../

More found futures

Inhale™ Health Enhancing Cigarettes

Garden of Eden™ Neurofoods ®

MemoGum™ Chewable memory sticks

Transgendrin™

FoundFutures codirector Jake Dunagan and I recently took a few snaps of some of the futures artifacts designed for us last year by Hawaii-based graphic artists Sky Kiyabu and Steve Kiyabu (who claim to be unrelated).

These hypothetical products are not photoshop confections, but rather tangible items that are intended to be encountered physically, on an unexpected and serendipitous basis, out in the world. So that's where we like to put them. But real space has its limitations, and while we wait impatiently for Internet and other technologies to enable sensory experience in four dimensions, these 2D shots will have to suffice.

Incidentally, the first nine images currently posted in the Gallery at Sky Kiyabu's website come from designs featured in the experiential scenario rooms at the Hawaii 2050 kickoff last August.

Artifacts from the future are very much on our minds again as gear up for the next project in the series of FoundFutures interventions. We're very excited but can't say too much more at this point, except watch this space for more. And Chinatown, Honolulu, if you're in the vicinity.

[Also posted at the HRCFS weblog.]