Note — Jun 14, 2020

Pandemic Futures

Devon Power considers the kinds of futures sold by futurists (see my intro) before and after the pandemic and explains that “when significant conversations about the future do happen, it’s usually out of public view and seldom brings those impacted by innovations—consumers, citizens—to the table.” It’s something that’s been covered in a few articles I shared over the last couple of months but she goes into quite a bit more detail and gives examples of how promoted futures often forget various populations, and that the new futures adjusted for pandemics make the same mistakes. It’s time to stop repeating them.

In this post-pandemic landscape, the tangled priorities of “get back to normal” and “accelerate the future” are conspiring to foreclose possibility, erase struggle, and ensure a future that has failed to address the problems of the past. […]

Yet at a moment when a global pandemic is disproportionately killing black and immigrant communities, focusing on the fantastical futures enabled by opulence extends systemic inequality rather than addresses it. Besides, the “healthful” technologies being touted are often not widespread, not scalable, not practical, and not as useful as simpler, cheaper, and more democratic technologies, like masks or vaccinations. […]

Every new day we question each system we have known since birth and are obliged to consider their possible demise. […]

Futurist methods work for a simple reason: we have to be able to imagine how something might be before we can do it. Futures and trends can also use this moment to examine its own practices—the futures that are seen as moneymaking and the ones that aren’t—and diversify both its thinking and its ranks.