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A tropical future imagines the climate of our destiny


is the future On? For some, it’s been a while. Ten years ago, the late critic Mark Fisher wrote in his book The Slow Abolition of the Future, ghosts of my life, attributing cultural stagnation to our collective inability to “absorb and express the present.” For Fisher, the future is already lost, not only because of the fragmentation and acceleration we now accept as part of the life shaped by the Internet, but because of a “general condition: life goes on, but time has stopped somehow.” This stagnation went against the way the Fisher generation understood the future as the destination at the end of the curved arrow, heralded by the pursuit of knowledge, freedom, and technological innovation. The future was a myth whose certainty owed as much to Marxist dialectics as to Henry Ford’s assembly line: we once rubbed sticks together to light a fire and lived in a monstrous disarray; Soon, we will travel in multidimensional spacecraft and eradicate mass suffering. This myth has all but disappeared, as we witness the eruption of the past, present, and future into one synchronous, repetitive, uneven level.

But wait – we haven’t seen big leaps in innovation since then ghosts of my life? Have we not since hooked up with our VR headsets, watched esports tournaments in crowded stadiums, and sunk our wages into shadowy block chains? How could the future have ended, if it had come to us now? Nearly a decade before Fisher, queer theorist Lee Edelman had something to say about it no future. In it, Edelman advocates a more specific abolition: the “reproductive future,” or the organization of society and politics around intergenerational succession.

Edelman writes, that the reproductive future and what we might think of as the “company future” of traditional innovation favor superficial progress and narrative sequences, “not toward the end of enabling change, but … turning back time to ensure redundancy.” In the future of procreation, we are collectively biased toward non-disruptive and incremental change, and against truly radical, anomalous, or revolutionary threats to the so-called “natural order” of biological sex, family values, and economic growth. So-called realism has trapped us in an endless present, where even the most daring innovation fails to envision a better and fairer world—and in fact depends on the failure of our imaginations for its successes, if you think about how Amazon communicates—demand only set a precedent for further deterioration of working conditions. ; Or that Elon Musk’s Hyperloop will only make sense in the future without public access to transportation; Or how Meta can visualize alternate dimensions as a mall that hasn’t even corrected for landlords.

There are a lot of things we like about Edelman’s perspective, and the way we urge us to embrace our “strange death motive” and stay away from the horizon of the future altogether. He concludes a chapter with the slogan: “The future stops here.” If the reproductive future focuses on meaning-making, as in, extracting existential power from the illusion of progress and succession, Edelman’s proposal encourages a rejection of meaning and determinism itself in the pursuit of ideological emancipation. Yet it is not this libertarian orientation toward the present, but the conspiracy of forces—demands for survival, pessimism of political will, a systematically undermined working class and a racial underclass, etc.—that lock many of us into the trap. The present, and the preservation of the future in the management of globalized companies whose domestication remains a top priority. You are no doubt familiar with the kind of consultants who called themselves futurists without a hitch of self-awareness, and promised to outsmart the risks and opportunities of tomorrow like tour guides. Even financial futures contracts – that is, derivatives – rely on predictability, even if volatility is part of the mechanism.

Which brings us back to the point, by Rebecca Sheldon, Lee Edelman’s successor, who wrote: “In the name of the future, we must be shielded from the future.” As we grapple with the prevailing uncertainties of climate chaos and narrative breakdown, and reach new heights of capitalism—cynicism, we will see an increased interest in the future beyond the plight of the normative future; Futures contracts that break the status quo rather than perpetuate it. If normative futurists value difference only in order to exploit or overcome it, constantly reduce social relations to the unity of the individual, and force us to think planetary problems—such as hunger, extinction, and climate catastrophe—practically unsolvable, how can we then build a future out of difference and community? In the words of artist Sen Wai Ken (Vka Victoria Sen), “How do we envision a future that is not a path forward, but a path down?”

In modern and cinematic art, ideas about a divergent future have crystallized in the form of an ethnic future, such as Sinofuturism, the Aboriginal future, and the contemporary horizontal future. It offers several alternative scenarios for Western progress based on a revision of history or a re-imagining of geopolitics. Indigenous and African futurism, for example, raises the question, what would science, technology and industry look like if they did not depend – as they do now – on ecological extraction and human oppression? Yet others, such as Sinofuturism and Gulf Futurism, simply ask, How would we see the future if the basic concepts of “progress” originated from a place where the West was not?

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