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Imagine a world devoid of animal life except for humans. Or a future where medical advances enable people to live for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Would life be as sweet if there was no end in sight, or without our pets to greet us at the door at the end of a long day?
These are just a few of the quandaries explored in “Living Tomorrow,” a new anthology of creative, thought-provoking visions of the future crafted by young people ages 13-25 from across the United States and worldwide. The science fiction stories featured in the volume, published by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, Intel’s Tomorrow Project and the Society for Science & the Public, examine futures shaped by environmental and biological science and technology.
“Living Tomorrow” also features an essay from technology theorist Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of the book “The Distraction Addiction” (2013), along with interviews with Brenda Cooper, a science fiction and fantasy author, futurist and chief technology officer for the city of Kirkland, Washington, and Vandana Singh, a speculative fiction author, professor of physics and climate change researcher at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.
The anthology is the third in a series of books drawn from “The Future: Powered by Fiction,” a global competition that challenged young people to create science-based narrative visions of the future. The competition attracted hundreds of entries from 15 countries and 36 states in the U.S., plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
“The Tomorrow Project anthologies are an invitation for people to share diverse perspectives on the future we’re building together. The stories in ‘Living Tomorrow’ demonstrate the power of storytelling as a method for assessing the broad array of impacts that advancing science and technology might have on human societies,” said Ruth Wylie, assistant director of the Center for Science and the Imagination.
All three books are co-edited by Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination, and G. Pascal Zachary, a professor of practice at the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.
“Thinking about the future is challenging, confusing and sometimes fraught with a mixture of hope and fear,” said Zachary. “Our series emphasizes living – acts of existence – because our challenge is not only to imagine a desirable and meaningful future. We must also try to imagine how we can be in these futures. Stories are often the best way to think about lived experiences that are not yet available to us.”
The first book in the series, titled “The Future: Powered by Fiction,” features stories from the ten winners of the competition, who each received a $1,000 award. They are accompanied by an essay from Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, an interview with Bryan Walsh, foreign editor at Time magazine, and an original piece of art from ASU master of fine arts student AJ Nafziger.
The second book, titled “Dark Futures,” features stories exploring dystopian futures where technology and society have run amok. The volume features an essay from author and technologist Ramez Naam, and an interview with legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. It also includes visual art from ASU master of fine arts students and graduates Haylee Bolinger, Bobby Zokaites, Eli McGlothern and Nafziger, from the Herberger Insititute for Design and the Arts.
"These anthologies are tangible artifacts of the Tomorrow Project’s mission: to encourage imaginative and critical thinking about the future, and how emerging science and technology are shaping the way we live, work, learn and relate to other people,” said co-editor Ed Finn.
“We believe everyone should be an active participant in the future,” said Brian David Johnson, who directs the Tomorrow Project at Intel. “These stories give us a language to talk about our possible tomorrows. But they have even more impact because they have been dreamed up by the young minds who will actually construct and build these futures.”
A fourth volume drawn from the “Powered by Fiction” competition, titled “Journeys through Time and Space,” is slated for publication in summer 2015.
The books are available to download and share for free at tomorrow-projects.com.