Choose Your Own Future
What kind of future do you want to live in? Here we present some of the most prevalent future visions; pick your favourite to see what’s in store
You’ve chosen a future of hackers, cybernetic augmentation and, in a bizarrely recurring trope, neon-lit noodle bars. A world that blends the peak of technological advancement with the grit and grime of a society in some form of collapse, your future of choice is equally populated by those looking to hide from mass surveillance and those modded to the gills with bionic eyes and cyborg limbs. So keep your BlackPhone close and your VPN running; you’re in a future where information is king.
No cyberpunk future would be complete without the neon-drenched skyline and bustling streets of a mega-city. From Blade Runner to Shadowrun, the equal parts grime and future-tech metropolises of the genre show the shape of the future to be hulking skyscrapers and a design aesthetic that owes as much to rave culture as it does any technological advance.
Surveillance is ever increasing; especially as it develops to garner ever more information about people. It is undeniable that there are those who’d prefer to remain unseen and in a cyberpunk future dominated by information, those who want to go off grid are going to need to dress the part with clothes that block prying digital eyes.
Image courtesy of Adam Harvey
The roads are clogged with hovercars; the wheel-less Audis of I, Robot fill the city with congestion. You’ll need something a little more nimble to get around and you need look no further than your trusty motorbike. Sure it may look half-scrap but it’s also got that reassuring sleek, Tron touch that lets you know its inner workings will have you zooming across tarmac.
Image courtesy of Honda
Those same clogged roads are going to cause another problem, adding to the smog that fills the urban sprawl. With millions crammed into ever growing cities that seem to consume any green to replace it with ever more concrete, you’ll need something to filter out all the nastiness that permeates the air. Time to style it up with some anti-pollution fashion.
One of the definitive aspects of the cyberpunk genre is the idea of a hackerverse, an underground of script kiddies and hacktivists that spend their time attempting to crack firewalls and get out with whatever data their hard drives can handle. All information is for sale and your privacy may be far more compromised than you realise. In a cyberpunk future, you best get code smart quickly.
Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Perhaps best popularised in the Deus Ex series, cybernetic augmentations are a big part of the cyberpunk future. Whether trading your eyes out for robotic versions able to display your email across your actual retina or replacing a lost limb with a bionic prosthetic capable of lifting cars, transhumanism is likely to be the aesthetic of the future.
Image courtesy of Eidos Montreal
There are a number of ways in which the world could be wracked by apocalypse. Perhaps our most popular view of the wasteland that characterises the typical post-apocalyptic world is that of a future purged in nuclear fire. Fallout shelters, strange mutants and Mad Max-like gangs roaming through the ruins of society all populate a future that, while hardly an ideal living situation, has captured the popular imagination for years. It is the notion the question of how we’d deal with of society in collapse that fascinates, as the possibility seems to inch closer to reality.
Not just any vehicle will do when you’re trying to make your way through cities that have had all infrastructure collapse, along with several buildings. You’ll require something with wheels the size of a pony and armour plating fit to withstand any attack by the raiders and strange creatures you’re likely to find as you traverse the wasteland
Image courtesy of Warner Bros
The apocalypse can do funny things to people. Whether it’s the radiation, the shock of seeing the world you know collapse around you or just a good old fashioned need to ride eternal, shiny and chrome, it wouldn’t be a post-apocalyptic wasteland without a few psychotic raiders. They might want your food, whatever currency still exists or just the sheer pleasure of wearing your face as a mask.
Image courtesy of Gearbox Software
Humans won’t be the only ones going through all kinds of interesting changes while subject to immense doses of radiation. Prepare to meet all kinds of critters that have undergone all sorts of interesting transformations while drinking from glow-in-the-dark watering holes. If you thought rats were fun before, wait till they’re four foot long and have a taste for flesh.
Image courtesy of Chucao
The world is in ruins, society as we know it has collapsed. In order to escape the apocalypse, you may well find yourself forced underground. Whether it’s the Fallout series’ Vaults or the tunnels of the Metro franchise, survival from the apocalypse may well come from the remaining human population hiding away from the dangers of the overworld.
How can you truly appreciate the post-apocalypse without having the ruins of a collapsed world to look over? Buildings ravaged by nuclear fire and subsequent looting, roads that have cracked with disuse and a healthy layer of shattered glass everywhere. Vehicle graveyards stretch for miles and the air is hard to breathe. Isn’t the future exciting?
Image courtesy of 4A Games
Perhaps not quite so much a true future as an alternative timeline, steampunk imagines a world that never surpassed the Victorian era and instead continued to simply refine and develop the technologies and styles of those times to their most fanciful ends. A clockwork obsession defines much of the style, and be prepared for a lot of steam power. Your future of choice resembles the Bioshock or Dishonored franchises, replete with devices that seem far too advanced for their base technology, and a population adorned in the fashion of an era long past.
Nothing but the most practical of transports for the steampunk future. Disregard what you’ve heard of the Hindenburg and hop aboard a zeppelin to carry you across the sky in the lap of luxury.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Cyberpunk is not the only future to present robotic revolution; steampunk has plenty of automatons of its own to cause problems. While they may not be powered by miniaturised cold fusion cells or anything quite so fancy, these robots are one of the prime examples of a central rule of steampunk: inventions that seem to go far beyond the practical capabilities of the technology they are grounded in.
Image courtesy of Bethesda
In order to get to the aforementioned mechanical menaces, you have to have a certain indulgence for the stranger side of science. Given that steampunk has a certain obsession with time periods of nascent science and now lionised inventors, the emergence of science allowed to wander freely, particularly from the bounds of possibility, is central to your future of choice.
Image courtesy of 2K Games
Few things are more required for a steampunk world than a certain frippery when it comes to aesthetics. Building on the styles of the Victorian era, expect plenty of waistcoats, petticoats and top hats. More importantly, you’ll need to make sure all these items have some sort of clockwork theme or overt mechanical functionality.
Marvels of Machinery
The combination of aesthetic excess and mechanical obsession extends far beyond fashion into all realms of invention. If you’re going to fit in, you’ll need to make sure that every appliance is dastardly in its over-complication and able to perform about five more functions than are required.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros
Perhaps the staple vision of the future, space opera imagines alien worlds, faster-than-light-travel and technology beyond our wildest dreams to be the norm. Strange new species abound, and the galaxy is just waiting to be explored aboard a spaceship of improbable shininess. Preferably soundtracked by John Williams, it’s time to step into a future with a few more lasers.
There are all sorts of weird and wonderful species just waiting to be encountered in the big bad universe. No space opera is complete without a bountiful menagerie of strange alien creatures, many of whom, oddly, seem to be nothing more than different coloured humans.
Image courtesy of Disney / Marvel
Of all the promises of the future, one of the more common is that all the grunt work will be done for us by robotic companions. Astromech or otherwise, you’ll want a mechanical sidekick to assist with all those tasks that require quantum mathematics or just conquering plain old laziness.
Image courtesy of EuropaCorp / STX Entertainment / Lionsgate
You’re not getting anywhere in this exciting new world without some wheels. Well, wings. Or a warp drive maybe. The science of the ships aside, the point is that you’re going to want a spaceship if you’re going to take full advantage of the future.
Image courtesy of Wookiepedia / Disney
Regardless of whether they emerge from a blaster, a ship’s cannon or a distinctly lunar space station, one staple of the space opera is an obsession with lasers. It doesn’t really matter where yours come from or if they obey any laws of physics, just be sure to stock up.
Image courtesy of Wookiepedia / Disney
A broad category for sure, but the beauty of the future is that it’s full of all sorts of technology that we’ve only just begun to imagine. And now it’s in space! Enjoy a replicated Earl Grey, the easy commute provided by teleportation or just savour the future of entertainment with a holodeck.
Image courtesy of Paramount
If we’ve learnt anything from climate change, it’s perhaps that nature doesn’t care all that much for the whims of humanity. So while solar panels are a good start, the future could well involve taking a more progressive approach to design. It may well involve things getting a whole lot more green, as civilisation gives itself over to nature.
In order to adapt to a more natural world, it may be best to mimic it. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Singapore’s supertrees are a strong start to construction that’s convincingly natural.
Image courtesy of A Photo Diary / Shutterstock.com
One of the more invested in developments, and yet still outlandishly far off, seasteading is all about getting away from the collapsing efforts on the land and taking to the ocean. Building floating cities that are not only better suited to rising sea levels but also focus on a scientific approach that guarantees you a place in a certain elite as the ocean swallows continents.
Image courtesy of the Seasteading Institute
Not the most exciting part of the future but rehabilitating land back to nature may be a prominent part of the years to come, handing back land in a slightly better state than when we maybe ruined it just a bit.
Seasteadings offer an escape to the sea; eco-cities offer a chance to make a better shot of it on the land. With urbanisation likely to continue and cities ever expanding along with the global population, horizons of solar panelled skyscrapers could soon dominate as you walk down streets lit entirely emission-free.
Image courtesy of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Development and Investment
There is of, course, another side to how cities could up in an ecologically changed future. As has already occurred in some areas of the world, it may be that rather than us rehabilitating land to nature, you’re going to get to watch as nature instead takes the initiative.