For our Digital Futures exhibition throughout January 2022, we've asked artists to imagine the year 2121 through art and to share their unique perspectives on the future. We chatted with some of the participating artists to learn more about their thoughts on the future of humanity, technology, and the metaverse. As evidenced by the wide range of perspectives, it's clear there are many paths forward for our digital futures. Check out their thoughts below and don't forget to check out the full Digital Futures NFT collection on Portion!
Where do you think humanity will be in 100 years? What shape does the world take in 2121?
Ennis Treppo: Terribly difficult question, the future can reserve us different scenarios, which are based on how we act now. The biggest collective problem in the history of the humanity will likely be the climate change; in order to try to avoid the disaster, the global economic system has to adapt to the problem and probably become a green economy (lower co2 emissions) or even a blue economy (zero co2 emissions, from Gunter Paoli's theory). If we assume that humanity will take this problem seriously in order to solve it in a systematic way, our lifestyles will drastically change and we will have to adapt ourselves to new routines. This vision could be pretty scary from today's perspective because we don't want to lose our benefits and commodities but it doesn't necessarily have to be like that; here's where technology and science come into play!
Luca Connellii: I think that humanity, as our generation and next, could live off the earth and find new rules in 100 years. I'm very curious to know the correct answer, I can only imagine it.
Gustavo Fajardo: It will be a mixture of today's way of living and high technology, more decadent in some places and more advanced in others; space travel, other planet living, new economies. There will be an invasion of AR Advertising and functional features for everyday living.
EllaSuper: By 2021, we can expect include new cities built underground to adapt to climate change, humans will have found a way to extend their longevity, and genetic enhancement will be an acceptable practice that will create different castes in our society. Space travel will be normalized and there will be settlements on the Moon and Mars.
Maurice Murdock (Moebocop): In 100 years, I can see a world where technology and biology are more closely intersected. AI will be integrated into everything and will be everywhere. The concepts of money and social connection will manifest in ways that will connect and divide us at the same time... My piece “2121 Future Sh!t” is a meditation of all these possibilities. The robot figures represent humanity and technology as one. While the digital artifacts and elements represent technology making its way into the very nature of our existence - hopefully for the better.
María Guðjohnsen: If we manage to take care of a few big problems: The exponential growth of technological advances will take us to an exciting future! I think it will be exciting to see not only technology that we use, but technology that uses us. I am particularly interested in looking at how our human minds will change and adapt and the symbiosis between humans and computers.
Carl Beery: Blockchain and localized clean-energy production has solved many 21st-century struggles. We no longer fight over wealth or resources. Our ecosystem is thriving. The more adventurous will explore other worlds, sharing the technologies we have discovered with other civilizations, encouraging universal peace and community. I guess that I am more Star Trek than Star Wars in my outlook.
Tabitha Swanson: I think it's so hard to predict. I believe that finding ways to decentralize systems, such as the blockchain and NFTs is something we should focus on. It's way too easy to imagine a future where large tech corporations have even more power. I think the potential for medical advancements will continue to grow, my only wish is that this information as well is decentralized so that more people can access them.
JHPBA: In 2121 people will live forever, either physically or through virtual copies. Distance will become less important. Through AR/VR, people will be able to visit loved ones, work and travel without leaving the comfort of their homes.
What major problems exist today that will be solved by the technologies of tomorrow, and what new complications might they bring once we’re fully submerged in virtual realities?
Ennis Treppo: Nowadays the biggest problems are the climatic change and the ocean's pollution. Technology and science are the best tools in our hands right now: bio-based materials, synthetic food, renewable energy and digitization of the processes could drastically lower the carbon emissions.
Today we are able to have digital friends and interact with them by messages and video calls; the future could lead us to demand more digital contact and virtual reality is the answer to this need. The abuse of virtual reality could lead our society in a dystopian digital-centric relationship with the people and well, all the cyberpunk novels narrate also about that.
Luca Connellii: I think a lot about medicine and there are a lot of people that could be healed by new approaches and innovative techniques. The experience of virtual reality has to evolve following our own time created by our real life, so both are connected in the way of what we like and what we need I think.
Jesu Moratiel: People will be spending more time at home, and also we will be traveling less because of virtual reality. Global warming will be reduced by the implementation of these new technologies. Most of the jobs will be for scripters and creatives. Everything about economics and data will depend on blockchain. We will be much more connected, like a great hive while our human behavior and physical/social skills worsen.
Gustavo Fajardo: Economy will lift digital art to new levels, thus bringing in new jobs, companies and work models. Health complications may arise due to long days connected to the metaverse without walking or having healthy body exercise. Traditional art can become something that people do for a hobby but not for a living. It may be at risk of extinction and replaced by digital art techniques. There could be an alien intervention and the possibility of a mixture between what we know as art and Alien "Artistic" collaborations.
EllaSuper: I actually do not think future technologies can solve big problems, but for more minor "problems," I think there will be less suffering for the process of aging with the help of robotic technology and virtual reality. When we are fully submerged in virtual realities, a lot of businesses will no longer have a physical office but only exist in the metaverse. Many office towers built today may become redundant, which we already see in these Covid times with many urban people working from home. The computer and internet have moved us from paper to digital storage, and I think VR and the metaverse will do the same in moving us away from real world commercial real estate. Eventually, society will become decentralised and urban centres empty, unless we can transform these environments and, for example, convert offices into apartments or other uses.
Phreqoenxi: We'll have full cities imported into the Metaverse where you'd be able to do everything these cities provided throughout their third dimensional existence but in the digital world. Many things will be adapted into this new era and we can only hope that we'll still be able to live in both the physical world at the same time as the Metaverse.
Maurice Murdock (Moebocop): I see a mix of the positive and negative. Financial inequality may still play a role in the age of the future. Those who have access will be able to reap the rewards and benefit. Those who don't have access to the latest and newest technologies will constantly be playing catch-up. However the blockchain (will be something totally different by then) will allow for the walls of access to be further easily broken down. At least that is my hope.
... On the flip side, and at the same time medical technology will continue to advance and thrive and accomplish feats such as the further sustaining of life. I also foresee the eradication of systemic dependence on finance and money in exchange for something closer tied to your identity both real and virtual (terms like "Biocurrency" come to mind - which I just made up but I can see it being a thing).
María Guðjohnsen: I am just waiting for the days when your kid brings home a new partner and it is a robot. Our generation might not understand but the next might. Humanity is extremely good at adapting, and I have a lot of trust in it to take care of problems that will arise. Take the problem of deep fakes and fake news. I think our grandchildren will be much better than us at spotting what is fake and what is not. I think it is just really important for us to trust the processes and let younger and more diverse voices be heard.
Carl Beery: Through great effort, we will have achieved trustless transactions which permeate all aspects of society. Theft is impossible. We all enjoy a more fair and sane society, where everyone's basic needs are met and we have renewed trust in governance, since all of our institutions are fully transparent. Due to our fully-public societal structure, it will be difficult for entities to behave in corrupt ways. We have a deepened understanding of how our behavior affects others. Many of our current ecological challenges will be mitigated thanks to our clean energy communities. Psychologically, deep questions persist about autonomy, right-to-privacy, and the meaning of an individual in such a deeply-interconnected universe.
Tabitha Swanson: I think it’ll eventually be harder to tell what entities are bots and which are real people, maybe people will care less when the bots get good enough. What could be concerning about that, however, is who is programming the bots, and for which purposes – we’re worried about social eco chambers or corporations/larger powers persuading us with influence unbeknownst to us now, but just wait until we can’t tell the difference. I hope that when this happens, governing authorities will require that a difference be made.
JHPBA: Diseases will be eradicated. Lifespans will be extended greatly, if not indefinitely. Food scarcity will be a thing of the past. As virtual realities become more important, they become more and more a target to be attacked presenting new major problems.
Does the digital still co-exist with the physical, or do we only live in the metaverse?
Ennis Treppo: In order to avoid a dystopian future, physical contact must be kept and the governments have to introduce concepts in schools such as digital education. I don't think that the cyberpunk novels are a prediction of the future, I rather consider them like an instruction manual for facing the future with more awareness.
Luca Connellii: I think that we have to learn to enjoy real life. I see the Metaverse as a tool of expression based on what technology can do today, so I can't live in the metaverse. I appreciate the sense of innovation for what our lives need for life.
Jesu Moratiel: Reality is already a metaverse that implements sensations not only for visual and hearing senses but also for the other three senses: smell, touch and taste.
Rodney Hazard: In 100 years, humanity will be living in a Utopia, working alongside innovative technology as solarpunks to create a sustainable life for generations to come. The digital and physical worlds have to co-exist. The metaverse replicates the human experience not the other way around.
EllaSuper: The digital will coexist with the physical world, until we no longer need our bodies! At our current level of science and technology, it is impossible to separate body and consciousness. So the metaverse is just another reality that we can experience, supported by our physical body. I think it is great that we have more than one reality to maneuver between, it makes the world a bigger place.
Maurice Murdock (Moebocop): I don't think humans will fully live in the metaverse. Digital will co-exist and be dominant. Things like love and human physical connection will still need to be a part of everyday life for people to thrive.
Big Comic Art: The metaverse would not exist without our physical world. I believe that virtual environments are testing grounds for shaping our reality. You can see it today, with new architecture, new ways of seeing things. "Our cell phones (The metaverse) is an extension of our cyborg(digital) self." -Elon Musk
María Guðjohnsen: I hope we can do both! I see a future where we have AI avatars in the metaverse taking over our vast jobs that are not necessarily natural to humans. Take social media for instance. It can quickly be overpowering and alot for a human to handle. Its algorithms and automations are no match for a human brain. If we could embrace AI, award someone with an automated avatar for instance, that could take on automated algorithms, humans are free to return to more natural jobs like being creative or tending to natural things like plants. I trust us and the computers to find a good balance! We just need to trust each other to do the jobs we were each meant to do.
BANGERBOYZZ: The metaverse and real life will merge together as one.
Carl Beery: The digital and the physical co-exist. We discovered that living only in the Metaverse can barely be called "living," it is so predictable and sterile. People living only in virtual worlds quickly ran out of ideas. We need the bookends of life and death for us to have ambition and creativity. Metaspace gives our lives meaning and context, where the Metaverse gives us frictionless efficiency in self-expression and social improvement.
Individuals have the choice to pursue occupations within the Metaverse or Meatspace. Our work-lives are focused on maintaining and improving society, and everything we do for "work" is public and transparent. Part of the social contract is that we are required to unplug and experience full human lives. In the Metaverse, there is no privacy, and existence is sterile and predictable. In Meatspace we enjoy autonomy and more privacy, along with the joys and sorrows of life.
Tabitha Swanson: We definitely don’t yet completely live in the metaverse. The unexpected events in life can still happen, and they do every second. While the requirement for the average person to see others IRL has decreased with technological advancements, especially so post-covid, we still need to get haircuts, go to the doctor, walk to get household-items in a pinch, etc. AI absolutely has the ability to yield unexpected results, but it’s still within a trained dataset; real life has no trained dataset, no rules, it’s chaos, but that’s the beautiful part of the IRL experience. I hope there’s always a balance.