Let's imagine it's 2100...
What are the 100 objects that future historians will use to sum up our century? 'Smart drugs' that change the way we think? A fragment from suitcase nuke detonated in Shanghai? A wedding ring between a human and an AI? The world's most expensive glass of water, returned from a private mission to an asteroid?
I want to write a weblog that will explore all of these ideas, with 100 posts for 100 objects. Along the way I'll produce a newspaper and a podcast, and when it's finished, I'll publish it as a book. And while it'll be fun and accessible, you can be sure it'll all be rooted in science fact.
But it's not just going to be about technology - I'm going to focus on the deeply human effects of our fascinating future, from religion to advertising to wars. I want to tell the story of individuals, families, countries, and the human race, as we venture from 2011 to 2100.
First and foremost, A History of the World in 100 Objects, a fantastic BBC Radio 4 series where Neil MacGregor from the British Museum picked 100 objects to describe the epic sweep of human history. Across a hundred 15-minute shows, it covered everything from a two million year-old Olduvai stone chopping tool, to the Rosetta Stone from 196 BC, to a credit card from 2009 AD.
I'm deeply influenced by sci-fi authors like Neal Stephenson, Iain Banks, and Kim Stanley Robinson - but most of all, Vernor Vinge, the inventor of the Singularity. Frankly, I'll count this as a success if I can just come close to imagining the future as vividly - and unnervingly accurately - as Vinge does.
What makes you qualified to write this?!
To be honest, I'm not sure that anyone is qualified to do this, but:
I designed and produced Perplex City, an award-winning alternate reality game that imagined a futuristic parallel world (complete with cognitive enhancers!); I was a neuroscientist at Cambridge, Oxford, and UCSD; I've blogged about games, technology, and culture for the past decade; I write about technology for The Telegraph; I wrote a NASA award-winning website about astrobiology; and I spoke at TED about Mars exploration.
So hopefully that means I won't screw it up!
What's the Podcast?
Since the inspiration for A History of the Future comes from a radio show, I think it's fitting (and very fun) to make at least a few podcasts about the objects. I'm teaming up with Alex Macmillan, a veteran sound producer, to create the podcasts and get proper voice actors involved.
A podcast about objects that you can't see might seem a bit odd, but the atmosphere you can get from a good interview - or hearing the launch of the first mission to Mars - can add a huge amount.
Why I Need You
It's not to pay for my time - I'm doing this because I love thinking and writing about the future! But it is for:
1) Recording and producing a high-quality podcast with real actors 2) Hosting the website, which will always be free for everyone to read 3) Drawing illustrations of the objects 4) Printing the newspapers and books 5) Converting the book into a range of open and non-DRM eBook formats
If I raise more than the target then I'd hope to create more content, and smartphone and tablet apps. I'd also love to hold an event at the British Museum with guest speakers (and of course, donors would get reduced or free entry!).
"Crescent Earth" image courtesy ESA.
- (40 days)