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One hundred objects from 2011 to 2100, from 'smart drugs' to the fate of the Arctic, in a blog, book and podcast Read more

London, UK Journalism
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This project was successfully funded on March 19, 2011.

One hundred objects from 2011 to 2100, from 'smart drugs' to the fate of the Arctic, in a blog, book and podcast

London, UK Journalism
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About this project

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.

My Inspiration

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.

I'm also inspired by In Our Time, The Long Now Foundation, Civilization (the game), Marginal Revolution, The New Yorker, Arts & Letters Daily, MetaFilter, and more or less everything I can read.

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.


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  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    4 backers

    Your name in the acknowledgements, an exclusive email newsletter, and my undying thanks!

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    27 backers

    THE CLARKE: An eBook featuring every Object! Comes in an open and non-DRM format for the Kindle, iPad, etc. (& the above)

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    18 backers

    THE WELLS: A printed newspaper from the future! Read about selected Objects, together with an exclusive editorial (& all the above)

  • You selected
    Pledge $45 or more

    46 backers

    THE VERNE: A handsome autographed book, including an exclusive introduction and extensive commentary! (& all the above)

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    6 backers Limited (4 left of 10)

    THE STEPHENSON: Be famous in the future! Give your name to a visionary scientist, an Olympic gamer, or even a President (& all the above)

  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    2 backers Limited (5 left of 7)

    THE BANKS: Star in the podcast! Have your voice immortalised as a Mars mission controller, a news anchor, or a revolutionary leader (& all the above)

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    THE K. S. ROBINSON: Create your own Object from the Future - we'll design and write it together! (& all the above, except the podcast voice)

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    THE VINGE: Get a 3D sculpted Object* from the Future and a walk around the British Museum with me/or chat over the phone (& all the above, except the podcast voice and creating your own object). *Non-functional - my time machine does that to things I bring back

Funding period

- (40 days)