Our time is tainted by a sense of a series of global crises piling up on the ruins they ignite. It seems wherever you look, the period of normal is ending. While we tend to perceive these crises as parallel developments, they cannot be meaningfully understood separately; instead, we should think of them as one. Seeing them as one changes our approach from predicting what is next and from solving problems as they come to that of imagination. This is why the future is untitled. We, however, can name it by refusing to go back to normal, imagining the unimagined, and experimenting together.
The early 2020s are characterized by an abundance of interpretations of a transformation: the transformations we talk about include such phenomena as’ the crisis of capitalism ‘,’ post-capitalism ‘, and’ surveillance capitalism ‘as well as’ digital transformation’, ‘ exponential technologies’, and ‘ the 4th industrial revolution ‘ along with ‘the decline of democracy’, ‘the crisis of liberalism’, ‘ post-truth politics ‘,’ meritocratic autocracy ‘,’ self-organization ‘,’ inner transformations’, and ‘awakening to holistic consciousness’.
Parallel to these phenomena, we are witnessing a ‘climate crisis’, an ‘ecosystems collapse’, ‘ the sixth wave of mass extinction ‘, and the emergence of ‘ anthropocene ‘ that require us to move towards ‘decarbonisation’, ‘ecological rebuilding’ , a ‘ post-fossil era ‘, or even ‘ deep adaptation ‘ and ‘posthumanism’ .
These well-known theories, visions, or ideologies each explain the dynamics, logic, risks, and opportunities within one parallel transformation: after capitalism (and post-capitalism) comes a data-driven planning economy (or even a fully automated luxury communism) ; after liberalism comes a meritocratic autocracy, and so forth. But these perspectives are fundamentally flawed ways of looking at the future.
The theories on transformations get their meanings from the structures of this passing era, as if everything around the issue undergoing transformation would remain largely intact. We are often prisoners of what we aim to leave behind. Therefore, theories lose their ability to predict the future of society as their fundamental premises on society, behavior, economics, and institutions change.
Instead, if we start looking at all these transformations as one, we are faced with a phenomenon of a different magnitude altogether.
As a result, two things follow:
- Many old categories are disappearing and new ones are emerging. This development has taken place before: we tend to use concepts such as ‘a nation’, ‘a worker’, ‘science’, and ‘money’ as if these categories had always existed. In reality, they were all once conceptual innovations, the results of previous historical transformations. It is safe to assume that what we are experiencing right now changes the fundamentals of how we see ourselves as human beings. In some sense, the material, social, economic, and technological transformations are piling up to an ontological transformation.
- We lack the images, names, and ways to think about a world that has been thoroughly transformed. Instead of depicting the mechanics of each transformation, we should focus on imagination and on the unimaginable . Transformation hints at something that already exists taking a new form. However, that is not the case in ontological transformations where many entirely new things emerge.
UNTITLED refers to our inability to name and explain what the world and humanity are beyond this one great transformation. We don’t have a clear image of the world that we wish to reach nor of now of the essential steps needed to get there. Thus, we must first abandon many prevailing assumptions that limit the possibilities of what we can be as humans, what kind of institutions we can form, what types of practices to adopt, and how we can interact.
To value the depth of change we are in, we need to stop pretending that we have the answers and know the future. Instead of answers, we need a place, a space, and a process for unfolding what is not here yet. There are numerous, wonderful examples of imagination on Futures that we wish to happen, and a lot of people are imagining such futures. Now, we have to bring them together.
UNTITLED is a space for different imaginations: a place for people who have seen a glimpse of a transformation – that is, who have understood that there is no return to normal – to come together and to build on each other’s imaginations. It is also a place to expand their view on the Untitled future together with the help of experiments.
Art and the avant-garde play a key role in all societal transformations. At Untitled, art’s role is not to raise awareness of the crisis we are in, nor to provide solutions or to criticize, but to enable us to imagine and empower us to experiment. In short, art’s role is to help us see the difference between what is, and what can be.
UNTITLED is a ten-year-long process of unfolding the new world – an experiment in creating an alternative narrative of the metamorphosis we are in. It is driven by an eagerness to go deeper than to the change at hand; to start exploring new ways of living, producing, and caring; and to do it at a scale unforeseen to our generation. We believe that a genuinely new story can emerge through an unlikely alliance coming together to imagine new concepts, to make them tangible, and to learn from them through real world experiments.
UNTITLED proposes a very specific process. In our view:
- We need to refuse the normal. The world we inhabit is far from desirable. There is no steady and safe normal to go back to but a very unsustainable way of life instead. Any attempt to go back will fail as we’ll fall again soon. Besides, none of the individual solutions currently on the table (in politics, in technology, in business, in personal development) work as a magic bullet; hence, we have to refuse seeking a way forward in the framework of these incumbent discourses.
- We need to imagine the unimaginable in two senses: we have to imagine things that have not been imagined yet, and we will have to reimagine things that we thought cannot be reimagined. Yet, imagination has to be taken seriously and it has to start from the physical limits that constrain our future – now importantly the planetary boundaries and the existential threats caused by overstepping them. Having limits does not mean that there would be less room for imagination: in reality, limits and boundaries are viable tools for creativity.
- Yet, we wouldn’t just fantasize and fall for a utopia. Humans are notoriously bad at seeing things in the long-term, and even worse at shaping their actions accordingly. Therefore, instead of betting on the future and competing in guessing what the future is like, we need to try the unimagined, to expand our imagination with experiments that produce new information about the world, and thus liberate us from the need to pretend to know and to be right about what will work and what will not. Experiments create artefacts, learnings, and shared experiences that lay the foundations to a meaningful dialogue and a collaboration for the future.
The first Untitled festival, held on September 17th-18th, brought together over 400 people from 30 countries to collectively reimagine the society and set the agenda for the most important experiments. This was done with the help of conversations, co-creation, art, embodied and social exercises, and the celebration of the possibility of the next era. This eclectic selection of practices highlights the fact that there is no supreme method for imagining Untitled Futures: facts, reasoning, and clever arguments have a limited scope: they cannot help us in reaching for things that lack concepts and previous examples.
Untitled festival also increased the gravity of a number of real-life experiments. We find both the diversity of the experimentalists as well the experiments are promising. Here are a few examples:
- An activist investor aiming to explore the “flip” of the entire property industry, through the creation of the world’s most sustainable buildings
- A think tank and do tank is going to reimagine the democratic process by breaking out of the traditional governmental pattern of “decide, do, defend”.
- The housing (first) company is experimenting with redefining housing as a part of basic income and sustainable living in a city.
- A research and development community is launching four experiments on the public sector transformation through distributed technology.
- A group of activists is developing the “Transcultural Republic of Nodes” to reimagine the nation-state.
- A social enterprise is setting out to deliver a 12-month experiment to pilot a completely reimagined accelerator program allowing entrepreneurs to change capitalism from within.
- A climate innovation community is set to experiment with a model for nurturing urban nature as public infrastructure.
Usually, at similar events, there are the questions: “What next? What should we do? What happens when you go home? ”
For Untitled, the festival was the starting point for the next ten years.
In this way, Untitled is like a collision in a particle accelerator: the unlikely event in which immense amounts of energy are released and new worlds can unfold.
We are that collision.
The power of this congregation has released increased gravity. This gravity is pulling new coalitions and building unlikely alliances around the real-life experiments launched at the inaugural Untitled festival, accelerating these first glimpses through the ten-year process of Untitled.