Drone Dispatch: Trouble in Mechanical Paradise

Emerge 2014 is all about who we are in relation to technology and our environment. It’s a glance deeply inward, as well as an analysis of our changing human and social zeitgeist.

Accordingly, sound artist David Rothenberg will perform a musical piece alongside flying drone quadcopters, transforming them into living, breathing creatures. The plan was to have these drones piloted by the ASU Air Devils – skilled  young pilots who brag of having the precision of Blue Angels for the Drone generation.

But their cutting-edge skill may already be on the chopping block. The Air Devils could bumped by a few hundred lines of code.  Professor Srikanth Saripalli of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, drone and robotics guru extraordinaire, is working on a program to synchronize four drones mid-flight and have them fly, for the most part, on their own which, after all, is part of his normal research.

By connecting to their individual radios from a central computer – think air traffic control taking over autopilot – the drones can engage in autonomous flight.  Human directed choreography is replaced by programmed and recorded flight plans.  Collisions and crashes are avoided automatically.

The dilemma? For this year’s Emerge, the Air Devils could be sitting on the sidelines watching their own drones fly overhead.

Whether stalking bad guys in exotic places or delivering that DVD from Amazon, it’s getting harder to deny that this, as the cliché goes, changes everything. The fresh question we must now ask is whether the Future of Me is a celebration of a utopian, trans-humanist enhancement via technology, a new partnership between human and drone, or aprediction that we will all someday be replaced by small shell scripts.

Welcome to the future of you.


Image courtesy of Ars Electronica, used under a Creative Commons license

Progress Report: Bruce Sterling’s My Future Frontier / Mi Futura Frontera

Science fiction legend and Emerge spiritual leader Bruce Sterling is hard at work with collaborators from the Turin Maker Lab on his project, “My Future Frontier/Mi Futura Frontera,” which explores how geographic place, national borders, culture and technology shape how we define our identities.

Bruce’s most recent progress report is a spectacular set of images documenting the process of creating “My Future Frontier,” which he says will be all about welding, jack-rabbits, lasers, Pancho Villa and huge plywood bicycle wheels.

To see the entire set of photos, visit

Mi Futura Frontera 2


Mi Futura Frontera 3

Scoring on Facebook: How To Play the Social Networking Game


Last week, Future Tense took part in Emerge, a conference at Arizona State University that is dedicated to designing the kind of future we want to live in. (ASU is a partner with Slate and the New America Foundation in Future Tense.) As part of Emerge, participants in assorted workshops created videos, journals, plays, and more to imagine different parts of our future. Continue reading

Corner Convenience, Julian Bleecker & Nick Foster are Back!

“If you were stuck in an apocalyptic shell of a world, would you rather have an iPad 3 or a BiC lighter?”

This was one of the questions Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Laboratory asked in the Design Fiction workshop at ASU Emerge2012. Working with Nick Foster and Emerge2012 participants, Bleecker created Corner Convenience — a short movie portraying (imagining) the corner store of the tomorrow.

Corner Convenience from hellofosta on Vimeo.

This year Bleecker and Foster are back to ASU! They will lead “Green Pages: A Design Fiction Workshop”.

Green Pages is a quarterly trade journal for the film and television entertainment industry. Each issue provides some of the top creative and production talent in Hollywood with a large, expertly curated selection of scientific and technological concepts, principles, devices, designs and idioms suitable for bolstering the believability and tangibility of any storyline. Need a new device for your next computer “hacker” character? We’ll provide you with the last principles, practices — and dialog — to make that character and his tech believable and based on real, actual black hat hacker concepts. A post-apocalyptic world needs a backstory: Green Pages provide you with all the latest doom-and-gloom scenarios, and not just the usual climate change and routine global pandemic. Participants in this workshop will bring Green Pages to life, developing short narrative concepts, potential props, MacGuffins, production design and sample dialog — ready for publishing in the next issue of Green Pages.

Interested to participate in their workshop? Click here to learn more about all workshops and apply to receive your invitation!