So each day this week I’m looking at works of science fiction and fantasy which I think might be useful for organisations, institutions, companies and communities who are trying to get ready for the shape of things to come.
First up is Matthew de Abaitua’s If Then, a neat example of how sci-fi can speak to our present moment. It’s one you ought to read if you’re interested in the social implications of AI or the value of keeping our heritage alive in the digital age.
De Abaitua convincingly imagines a world which has survived the crash of our current, digitally-accelerating world order without quite devolving into Mad Max territory.
In the wake of a global collapse, the historic English town of Lewes has been given over to the Process, an algorithmic technology which seeks to maximise wellbeing for the community, monitoring its members via an implant. Life is not pleasant and many of today’s modern conveniences have been lost to the future folk living in the ruins of our time, but society has adapted to make the best of the situation.
This grim riff on the Smart Cities agenda is troubling enough, but things get weirder when the Process starts making automata resembling soldiers from the First World War. What is going on? What data has it obtained from the community to suggest that what they really need is a rerun of the War to End All Wars?
De Abaitua deliciously smashes together today’s worst middle-class fears of economic catastrophe with the empire-fracturing legacy of the First World War. He equates our surrender to a digitised society with the soldiers’ incorporation into the imperial war machine – and, through some clever attention to historical detail, he suggests that our past might yet hold the key to a weird and hopeful future.
Stay tuned for some more scifi and fantasy tomorrow.