Micro-Fictions of Speculative Futures
Although capitalist economies have brought about great technological innovations and helped solve many issues plaguing humankind, the social and political organizations they entail entangle humans within the planetary ecology across spatial and temporal scales that escape human sensibility. Society is therefore incapable of adapting to the unpredictable consequences of this technological advancement and feels increasingly helpless in the face of rampant technological accidents and ecological devastation. In order to fully embrace the capabilities of technologies like A.I. as tools of innovation, many aspects of everyday existence will require defamiliarization and reinvention at both systemic and individual levels. Rapid large-scale technological transitions will continue to profoundly alter our relationship with the built environment both architecturally and ecologically, for humans and machines.
The problem, however, is what many philosophers and thinkers have termed “the atrophy of cultural imagination.” Contemporary individuals are so enmeshed within capitalist structures that they can’t see any viable way out of it, besides through fantasy or science fiction. And so, the famous dictum goes “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” Yet while “fantasy” and “sci-fi” speculations are often not taken seriously, their labels are merely pending phrases, immediately traded for terms “progress,” “advancement,” and “technology” once the possibility of realization occurs.
It seems that vilifying the speculative as mythical or fictional while glorifying its material product highlights a distinct ideological closure that accepts the constructs of capitalist production (deemed as progress) but rejects its origin, the imagination. The architectural discipline is directly implicated in this prejudice, since it is architecture that is deployed to make certain realities feel inevitable, and which therefore denigrates any products of the cultural imagination which might contest it. In so doing, the realm of possibility is reduced to the limits of corporate ideology—causing market systems to dictate which stories materialize, and therefore also which other stories (and individuals) are excluded from the cultural construct called “reality.”
In contrast to these prevailing tendencies that uncritically affirm and extend the hegemony of capitalist technological imperialism and its resulting degradation of human lives and planetary ecosystems, this thesis will offer a series of alternative speculations designed to stimulate and diversify the cultural imaginary. These various spatial scenarios will represent the degrees of inseparability and the inevitable transformative relationships between society and the built environment, scoped through the lens of diverse and unfamiliar technocratic futures. These projections of utopian or dystopian visions, or science fiction vignettes, will offer glimpses of an alternative architecture, one that will help stimulate a diverse and imaginative discourse, and will give form to a plurality of possible futures.