Staying up at night can induce all kinds of philosophical thoughts into our brains and we all tend to have existential crises by the time we’re halfway into our teens. The “big questions” that transcend rational thought and sanity pop up constantly, eking our metaphysical anxieties, and ultimately shape the way we envisage our future. I caught up with a friend of the past several years, Awantika, to ask about her take on what the future holds for many of the questions we ask ourselves during the early hours of the morning.
I started off the interview with a seemingly simple question of whether Awantika had a more utopian or dystopian view of the future. She opened up on a strong philosophical note of how she believes, “With the progression of science and technology we’re going to find other avenues through that to have a better world in terms of health and discovering how we function (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” as opposed to blindly following ancient religions and teachings. Her belief is that, “The more we get to know how things are working inside ourselves, it’ll be easier to make decisions… that are ethical and also… positive for ourselves (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”
When asked about what scares her most about the future, she immediately voiced her concerns about the environment. She feels that a lot of things are going to become more artificial, and deems, “there’s already… a lack of investment in agriculture. There’s not much of value given in that… natural life (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” and about how people seem to be migrating to more urban settings.
We continued over to the topic of technology and how it would exist in our future since a majority of futuristic scenarios involve the rapid evolution and expansion of technology in most areas of life. Awantika believes, “it would be a significant aspect of our lives… People who work a lot need more machines to… do things for them that they wouldn’t want to do… From folding the clothes, to washing the dishes (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”
Further, I asked her to hypothesise one main technological change or invention that could occur in the future. She contemplated on the multitude of possible theories she had, eventually replying, “It would probably be a housemaid (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).” Slavery and servanthood are two issues she believes should be abolished. “Humans shouldn’t have to [do chores] for other humans… It’s just unfair (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” she continued. Robots and artificial intelligence used to create housemaids as a replacement for slavery is what she envisages as a possible proposal for our future.
Finally, I wanted to hear her view on the struggles of moving forward as a collective world, so I referred her to performance artist Tehching Hsieh’s ‘Time Clock Piece.’ This work, “recalls the labours of Sisyphus, who, in Greek mythology, was forced to roll a rock repeatedly up a mountain, only to watch it fall down again (Marks 2014),” and works as a metaphor for the concern that every step forward in our society seems to come at a cost of taking a step back somewhere else. She opened up her view, explaining, “Humankind can’t expect to have the answer for everything… Does humankind really know what progress is? What is the right direction?” As a continuation of this, she mentioned that progress can be made, “at the right time in the right circumstance,” and that, “What is in our control is recognising opportunities, and those circumstances where your labour is going to be wasted (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”
We therefore ended the interview with a very realist yet utopian view of how the future would operate and realised that, sometimes, addressing these “big questions” we formulate late in the night can help us figure out what it is we can start doing to initiate change and progress in society.
Marks, K. 2014, ‘Tehching Hsieh: the man who didn’t go to bed for a year’, Australia culture blog, weblog, The Guardian, Sydney, viewed 5 October 2016, <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/australia-culture-blog/2014/apr/30/tehching-hsieh-the-man-who-didnt-go-to-bed-for-a-year>.