Alternative scenariosMaya Zuckerman, Ulrich Gehmann
In the end, some alternative scenarios for future possible developments shall be portrayed. Of course, there can be many alternative futures, subject of diverse dystopias and eutopias alike. And if we take the latter, we know that most probably (if judged from the course of history so far), that such utopian hopes will never be fulfilled. But this is not the point.
As Oscar Wilde said, a map that has no utopia in it is not worth to be drawn at all. Utopia can serve as a guiding star to orient our actions, to direct our longings, to give us hope. Guiding stars are essential for every navigation; without them, we would be lost in the ocean. The same holds true for dystopian scenarios: we have to know the reefs and other dangers to avoid getting shipwrecked.
Out of the many possibilities, the selection following is not merely arbitrary. It is oriented towards the topic of human community, and its relation to its natural environment. And motivated by quite recent developments, it too is oriented towards possible outcomes that are not unlikely – there is climatic change, for instance, and there is the danger of encompassing dictatorships; as well as hope for the better.
If we recur to the beginning of our exhibition’s topic, Community and Place, all these scenarios affect the human community as a whole, with earth as its place, and every single community on it, located on their single places as they are. We can also recur to the image of the Gobelin tapestry, and to the novel of the Illustrated Man: imagine this tapestry would come alive, presenting us different futures as stories In themselves, alternatives shining up in its tissue, coming to live for a short while and then disappear, becoming again a part of the tissue, silent and waiting. Here they are, presented by Maya Zuckerman.
Topia – 2.800 A.D.
A place with specified characteristics. [Greek topos, place.] The key term here is utopia (Greek ou, not), an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect; dystopia (Greek dus-, bad) was later invented as its opposite. In recent decades, more words in this ending have appeared, such as ecotopia, a community whose environment is organized on ecological and environmentally sensitive principles; subtopia (from suburb), a British term for an unsightly, sprawling suburban development; and technotopia (from technology), a vision of a utopia brought about by science and technology.
Topia is where we long to be. It’s the Goldilocks zone – not utopia, not dystopia – the golden path. It’s not perfect, it has issues, but those are manageable and we can coexist there. It’s the concept of a place that feels like home to all of us. It’s the place we all belong to – we all long to belong to. It’s the place we nostalgically evoke in our dreams. Not only humans, but all the earthlings on this planet.
Is there a place we can really agree on that works for all of us? What is we figure it out: Climate Change, Income inequality, overpopulation, biodiversity, purpose and meaning for humanity? What would a world that works look like? What is that place that we can all — humans, animals and plants co-exist in a better way? A speculative place is Topia – a place we can all feel at home.
How did we get there
Humanity has reached beyond its own galaxy. It has become galactic, and a Starfleet of earth spaceships traveling the galaxy is a reality. Advances in culture and technology have created a regenerative and thriving planet for the 4 billion humans that live in alignment with nature, and exponential technology. Citizens of the city and the world are now called Earthicans and have been a part of a planetary alliance for over 600 years. There is no property or materialism. All the citizens are fashioned with a bio-nanotech suit that morphs and changes as needed to form clothes.
Transportation, tools and more arise. People travel in mini pods, or can share nano-pods with each other using the nano-tech suit. Transportation is either individual and small groups using the suit enabled pods – or through hyperloop trains dug under the city. This has negated the need for straight streets and pathways surrounding buildings and parks and nature have come back to the city allowing some of the wildlife to take refuge back inside the city.
The buildings are built from porous and organic building materials, highly energy efficient and which do not exume toxins. They are more organic than contemporary buildings and are fashioned as biomimetic architecture – mimicking living organisms and are covered with scale like materials that are solar arrays and large openings from where to harness the wing – both supplying the buildings with 100% renewable and green energy.
Some of the smaller houses and buildings can actually change forms as needed as they are made from the biological nano-tech.
On the nearby marine bay vertical farms float, covered in glass-geodesic domes. These supply the city with the majority of its food, including what was once considered tropic crops such as coffee and cacao. Solar water desalination farms also float adding more spaces for coral reefs to regenerate.
Since the city produces 100 of its energy by itself and has restored its surroundings to a more green and wild – the environment is flourishing and the weather is not extreme.
The Topian city supplies its inhabitants all their basic needs, and commerce has changed to resource based systems – this allows people to pursue their deeper works of life, in areas of science and technology. The city is governed by Liquid Democracy using distributed tech and access to true one person – one vote.
After the Flood – 2.800 Alternative:
With current trajectories and warnings by climate scientists ignored, humanity continued to consume and ignore the warnings of an oncoming natural disaster – until it was too late.
Since the human species didn’t heed the warnings a century of disasters ensued and left a very small percentage of the Earth inhabited by now smaller tribes.
In the year 2800 humanity is fragmented and small, relegated to small villages scattered across the planet. They have retreated back to working the land in traditional ways.
Areas where indigenous people have been ruling for over Millenia are flourishing again, ones that were part of great megalopolises are now laid in ruins, ruled by violent tribes who are fighting over food and other survival supplies.
The people of the region use canoes and boats and tie them to the once flourishing city’s tops of buildings – since most of them are submerged. The dwellers are agrarians and have cultivated the hills that once were dotted with houses and building, into terraced vegetable gardens and fruit orchards.
The village is made of circular yurt-like huts made from smoothed and dries driftwood found in abundance on the shores of the post-flood village. In the center of every village a large fire is built in the cold season under a rotunda made of scrap metal where the elders sit in council every evening, telling stories of the old days and planning the sowing and harvest, as well as fishing for salmon and other small fish that are abundant in the region. The council is made of 5 elder women and 4 elder men that sit with the children of the village whenever important decisions need to be made. Every decision is made with 8 generations forward in mind. This is to ensure that the mistakes that were made that brought on the big flood will not be made again.
The villagers use appropriate technologies, built and developed from scraps they have found floating or when diving to the large city ruins. They use wood to burn their fires and craftspeople creating their tools, clothing and transportation.
Nature worshiping accompanied with instilling deep values of collective care to all members of village is practice, as well as warm hospitality to any stranger that might wander to their village.
Since the village’s population is only numbered by 20.000, their carbon footprint is quite small and the nature surrounding them is abundant.
Ministry of Mind
This is the opposite conception to the ones outlined before, and it is a one not so unlikely when one looks at recent developments in states like China where it already became reality. At the same time, it embodies a utopian hope inherent to all classical “archistic”, plan- and rule-based utopias: to install a fixed state of Being where nothing else can happen than the plan.
Herewith, the utopian hope to surrender all history so far gets fulfilled, and the human kind has entered a new, and final era: that of the controlled utopia. The ideal state of Being is that where nothing else than the ideal can happen any longer. It is a utopian image from Plato’s ideal state onwards, from Lenin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung and the Red Khmer to recent China. It has been the necessary state of a Socialist Regime before the Topia–like era of Communism in the Marxist conception, and the prevalent type of a utopian conception in the Occident: liberation of all through an iron order for all (Ulrich Gehmann).
Maya Zuckerman: A global Cabal of elite families controls the future where everyone’s thoughts and ideas are captured by the Ministry of Mind and projected on all media all around. One cannot have a conscious thought without it being seen by the masses and the government. The media and messaging are injected into people’s minds, giving the Cabal complete and utter control over all thoughts.
Humanity is enslaved, and there are now only 8 major cities on earth, only the elite can enjoy the paradise they created on earth while the rest of humanity is serving them, their minds being infused by propaganda and their thoughts always under surveillance.
In every city there are two dome systems. The larger dome, which is the side of megapolis and reaches almost to the stratosphere where most of the workers live and work. It has full environmental control and the city inside it is made of rigid and brutalist architecture all covered with mega screens on which a cacophony of video images accompanied by blurring sounds come from each street and every wall of every building. The workers work over 10 hour shifts then drag themselves through the noisy streets back to their place of dwelling.
Inside every one of these domed-cities a smaller dome sits with limited access. In it is a different atmospheric control. There the dome has a balanced day and night lights, with pleasant smells, sights and sounds. In the center of it is an enormous park with tall trees, some bearing fruits. Animals roam free, bees and hummingbirds buzzing all around. A stream bubbles in the park.
The structures are rounded white, looking something between an adobe structure and an igloo. Simple and clean. In this part of the city the rich live and they have a simple and decadent life, spent eating, resting and enjoying the beautiful enclosed nature scape they have created for themselves.
No one ventures out of the domes as the air is toxic and no life can survive outside. Humanity is caught in the inner of a completely controlled system.
The perfect world as prophesied by indigenous people and the love generation. Humanity is self-actualized, all is green and lush, humanity evolved from individual thinking to complete whole systems integration with regenerative and resilient ways of being with nature and the earth.
Permaculture being the permanent-culture. Diversity is celebrated, the war of the genders is over, everyone is fed, and taken care for. The rewilding and back to nature revolution have succeeded. Animals are respected, crops are diverse and seasonal. Technology is no longer rampant. Food is not scarce. Food is mostly local with some global crops such as some spices, chocolate, etc. All transportation is either run on solar, wind or alternative biodegradable fuels. Nothing is wasted.
Food production and agriculture follows Permaculture food production: everyone grows some of their own food – vegetables, fruits and herbs. Some people raise chickens and other animals in their own homes and yards, shared community gardens where people share their produce, share the load of working the land.
Fossil fuels and coal are illegal to extract and used – only biodegradable fuels and oils are allowed. All materials that have been dug out and created during the 20-21st centuries is only allowed to be repurposed and reused – never dug from the ground. Transportation is done on solar ships and train. On the streets there are simple old time street cars, bicycles and simple and small electric vehicles – no more cars. Streets are made from hard packed porous materials that let plants grow and water drain during the wet season.
The city has been transformed into a flourishing garden where every building had trees, plants and vegetable bushes growing throughout, topping the roofs with solar absorbing materials and wind turbines. Beyond renewable energy the rest of the tech is appropriate tech; machines, transportation and tools built to last.
Guilds of different focus manage the city life: builders, farmers, water, transportation, governance, education and more. People share in the work and all work is equally regarded.
The central belief system of the city is that the whole planet is a living organism and each being in it is important and should be free to thrive. All global religions have a place and people play with enjoying holidays and traditions from ancient cultures as long as they do not interfere with the global belief.
All global, regional and local governance happens in councils. The land is shared, not owned. The Governance system is a council system: each region sends its elders and some younger delegates to participate and rotational decisions on different councils.
What happens when a virus escapes a lab and wipes out the whole of humanity?
There are no humans in this world. Nature has taken back the planet and is thriving. The planet has very few monuments intact showing the now extinct human civilization. The cities are overgrown with forests, bridges have collapsed and nature and animals have taken over.
All that is left of the Mega-cities are skeletons of buildings, covered in vines and trees, while beasts, birds and other animals are walking through the deserted streets, broken down by time and weeds breaking through the asphalt.
Trees are growing through cracks in the streets, animals are wandering in and around broken-down cars and buses. Packs of wild dogs roam the streets and feral cats keep the rat and mouse population at bay.
Year by year the city surrenders it’s buildings back to the water, back to the land, as skyscrapers collapse slowly, electricity poles angle to the ground. There is no large sounds of vehicles, but the eerie quiet of a city with no people. Instead of sounds of humans and machines, the buzzing bees, the wind in the trees and an occasional sound of coyotes howling or crow cawing is heard in the distance.
 Museum of the New World, La Rochelle, France: Tapestry-detail, 19th century (photo U. Gehmann)
 Images provided by Maya Zuckerman
 To the concept of the archistic utopia see Seng, Eva-Maria/Saage, Richard: Utopie und Architektur. In: Nerdinger, W./Eisen, M./Strobl, H., eds.. (2012): L’Architecture Engagée. Manifeste zur Veränderung der Gesellschaft. Munich; Edition Detail: 10-37. Cited from p.11
 Image provided by Dominik Rinnhofer