Voicemails from the Futures

February 28 2014

On storytelling, climate change, and playfully exploring our futures.

There’s a glitch in the software system in the near future – what sort? How should I know, it’s in the future. The important part is that this glitch sends voicemails back to our time.

And what do we hear? We hear voices from the cloud of many possible futures. We are eavesdropping on the many parallel paths our world could take. We get to listen to the messages that people leave for each other – by turns banal, mysterious, tender, and terrifying.

—— Ready for a CHALLENGE? ——

Take a moment to think about what one of those voicemails might sound like.

PEOPLE: Who is calling? Who are they playing phone tag with? What’s their relationship?

THE AUTHENTIC FUTURE: What clues you in that this is taking place in the future? What’s different?

So why did I ask you to do that? Well, I think fiction can be a powerful tool to think about the future. Great technologists can tell us that when we network computers together it’ll be a powerful tool – but it takes writers of fiction like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson to help us imagine what that might mean on a personal level. Biologists can tell us that we can handcraft genetic code – but it takes an author like Margaret Atwood to help us envision what it could be like to live in that future.

This makes fiction an ideal place to explore an issue like climate change. We hear all sorts of predictions about what climate change will mean in twenty, fourty, sixty years from now – they represent the cloud of possible futures. Most of those take a 10,000 mile, global perspective. Hearing those figures, it’s tough for me to take it in – to really understand what they could mean to me, or to my friends, or children.

Let’s try something. Take a moment to revisit your voicemail. Has the climate changed in this future? How has your caller adapted? How does this show up in the voicemail?

—— Ready to be BRAVE? ——

Take the voicemail that you’ve come up with and call the FutureCoast hotline. Record your voicemail from the future.

+1 (321) 7-FCOAST // +1 (321) 732-6278

International callers – if the long distance is a problem, just record the audio and send it to: [email protected]

Full Disclosure
FutureCoast – the hotline and the website where the voicemails are published – are part of a collaborative storytelling project created by Ken Eklund and me (Sara Thacher) with a National Science Foundation grant.

Thank you Listervians! We look forward to listening to your futures.

Sara Thacher, @thacher
[email protected]
Los Angeles, California

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