As civilized-time continues to compress via a warming world [a 12 year window according to recent U.N climate reporting] and the shape of our long collapse shifts, more and more we will look back at those momentary openings of positive possibility spaces where another future seemed available.
There were moments when the best and the brightest among us sought to cross disciplines and genres and expectations to urge us toward emergent outcomes where humans suffered less and flourished more. These radically sane edgeworkers offered hybrid futures that attempted to marshal our best intelligences in the service of design and innovation rather than profit and competition.
Designer and architect Neri Oxman continues to push that envelope, seeking to offer us tools we can use to construct such moments. Oxman’s designs are grounded in a seriously awareness and respect for the movement of matter and energy, in complex ecologies. This 2015 TED talk is one of my all-time favorites, and demonstrates what might have been possible if we embraced a new kind of radical empiricism and model for societal change:
Oxman is leading the search for ways in which digital fabrication technologies can interact with the biological world. Working at the intersection of computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, her lab is pioneering a new age of symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, our products and even our buildings.
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Why do you speak in the past tense?
Because we are fucked – royally and deeply fucked. If we spent billions of ideas like this in, say, the 1990s then sure, maybe we could have made the transition. But now? No chance. Tonight I was at an intimate climate change conference full of the leading innovators, scientists and educators in my region, and none of the proposals I heard were as extensive or scaleable or urgent as they need to be. The new U.N special report released October 8, 2018 urges “radical and unprecedented societal change” within a 12 year window, yet nothing on the political and scientific horizon suggests that we can transform globalized capitalism fast enough to prevent a minimum of 2 degrees warming – which will end human civilization. That’s why I speak in past tense. Ruination is the future.