As envisioned in today’s sci-fi, the future can look rather bleak for those grandchildren. I thought of it especially this weekend as I both saw “The Hunger Games” film and read “The Tomorrow Project” anthology.
The good news is, heroes of sci-fi carry the gamification DNA of their grandparents, today’s Millenials, in tackling the challenges of tomorrow.
Millenials (you know who you are) are leveling up. Three months ago, MTV senior vice president Nick Shore generated buzz over his company’s research in a Harvard Business Review blog . For Millenials, as with the young people depicted in “The Hunger Games,” life is a multi-player game. The notion that no matter how bleak the future might be, you can game your way into a better one, resonates with Millenials (the young adult book trilogy has 26MM copies in print, the film had the third biggest opening weekend of all time).
The heroine of the “Hunger Games” book and film, Katniss Everdeen, [MILD SPOILER ALERT] finds a way to beat the system designed by the Gamemakers of the Capitol. In one of the final lines of the book, having survived the physical, mental, emotional challenges of the arena, Katniss finds in real life, “The most dangerous part of The Hunger Games is about to begin.”
The worlds depicted by professional and amateur sci-fi writers in “The Tomorrow Project” Seattle (free digital copy here from Intel Labs) aren’t in any way like “The Hunger Games,” but the gamification theme is likewise dominant.
“If you want a message call Western Union,” a Hollywood studio head once famously said. Sci-fi is entertainment, but context is king. “If we can envision a future we want to avoid, we can actively try to prevent it. And this is where you come in …” With that introduction Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson kicked off “The Tomorrow Project Anthology” and drew us into the conversation. Most of the hard-science stories by professional and amateur sci-fi writers involve gamification, the rejection of “use as directed” for DIY.
In “Knights of the Rainbow Table,” author Corey Doctorow envisions a global hack: Using distributed computing, a few geeks create a “rainbow table” and crack virtually any device password in the world. In “Mirror Test,” a professor learns how to manipulate a computerized mind-reading program in order to pass a job interview. In “Mapping People,” a couple play a permission-based game of digital dressup with passersby. “The Lights Are On” mashes robot hacks with classic Greek drama. In “High Cotton,” a scientist turns the tables on his employer for control of a fast prototyper.
Gamification is also touched on in the book’s final two contributions. In the essay, “The Future of Education, Are We Ready?” will.i.am and Brian David Johnson map out a future that “regular folks” benefit from. Followed by author Douglas Rushkoff and Johnson discussing how “The Future Can Be Programmed.”
BTW, I’d read the book so expected to like “The Hunger Games” film (I did, very much). And I enjoyed experiencing a variety of futurist perspectives in “The Tomorrow Project Anthology.”
Being optimistic about the future doesn’t mean ignoring what we don’t want from our technology. We can jump right into the conversation. Do it for the grandkids.
As always, what do you think?