Arquivo da tag: Ficção científica

Why Solarpunk, Not Cyberpunk, Is the Future We Need Right Now (Medium)

Original article

Pat Riley, April 16, 2020

It should be no surprise that I’m obsessed with science fiction. Considering that I’m both a graphic designer and work in cryptocurrency, it’s practically required that I pay homage to the neon-soaked aesthetics of Blade Runner 2049, have a secret crush on Ava from Ex Machina, and geek out over pretty much anything Neal Stephenson puts out.

However, with a once theoretical dystopia now apparently on our doorstep, we should be considering the trajectory of our civilization now more than ever. Suddenly, the megacorps, oppressive regimes, and looming global crises don’t seem so distant anymore.

What were once just tropes in our favorite works of science fiction are now becoming realities that are impacting our daily lives.

And here we are, wrestling with the implications of our new reality while trapped in our living rooms staring into glowing rectangles straight out of Ready Player One.

Still from “The Music Scene” by Blockhead

Recent events surrounding COVID-19 have put us at a bit of a crossroad. We have an opportunity in front of us now to continue down this path, or use this crisis as a wake up call to pivot our future toward a world that is more equitable, safe, and empowering for all. We are the heroes of our own journey right now.

Our worldview and idea of what is possible is largely shaped by the media we consume. You are what you eat after all. And while the news might inform us, it’s our fiction that inspires us to imagine what is possible.

Science fiction has always asked the big questions, while simultaneously preparing us for what may be around the corner.

Where are we heading?

What problems might we create for ourselves?

And waitweren’t we promised flying cars?

Through captivating characters, suspenseful plots, and philosophical musings woven throughout, we use fiction above all else to tell great stories and entertain. But there is another purpose, which is to inspire the next generation about what the human mind is capable of and to shape our future for generations to come.

How many engineers got their start after seeing Star Wars? How many interface designers were inspired by Minority Report? Famously, Steve Jobs was inspired to create the iPad after first seeing a concept in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The world needs this vision more than ever. And while I love the dystopian vibes of cyberpunk aesthetics as much as anyone, is there another world we can create that inspires us (and the next generation) to manifest a more sustainable, equitable, and free future for all?

I’ve recently come across a lesser known genre of science fiction called “solarpunk.” Like cyberpunk, it is a genre of speculative fiction wrapped in a signature aesthetic that paints a vision of the future we could create. The following definition from this reference guide summarizes it well:

Solarpunk is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian. As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings. Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share. At once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, and an achievable lifestyle.

Apart from the clear aesthetic differences, a key difference here between solarpunk and cyberpunk is the emphasis on solutions, not warnings.

It appears that solarpunk is not interested in exploring potential paths that may go wrong. Rather, it assumes that the problems are already here and focuses most of its energy on solutions and a path forward. The warnings of cyberpunk tap into the fear of what might happen, and uses that as a premise for creating plot tension. Solarpunk encourages us to accept the reality of the present and move forward by focusing on solutions to the problems at hand.

There are also some clear differentiators on how society is structured and depicted in the two genres.


  • Economy dominated by large corporations
  • Environment is usually wrecked, oppressive
  • Powerful technology has created wealth gap
  • Drugs used as escape from reality
  • Man merging with machine
  • Always raining


  • Decentralized symbiotic economic structures
  • Living in balance with environment
  • Technology empowers the individual
  • Drugs used to expand consciousness and augment reality
  • Man working alongside machine
  • Sunny with a chance of showers

A big difference here is how humanity chooses to harness the technology we create. Do we use it to evolve ourselves past our current biological form and catapult us toward merging with machines or do we show thoughtful restraint and use technology to bring us more in balance with our own biology and ecosystem?

This is the question for the ages, and yet I don’t think the answer has to be so black and white. In many ways, creating and using technology is the most natural thing that we can do as a species. A beaver gathering sticks to build a dam is no different than a person using an ax to build a roof over their head. The clean lines of an iPhone seem to contrast the squiggly lines of the raw materials it’s made of, but at the end of the day it’s all a byproduct of an exploding supernova.

“We are made of star stuff” — Carl Sagan

Technology does not need to be viewed as an alien phenomenon separating us from nature, but rather as an emergent phenomenon and inevitable byproduct of all natural systems.

Solarpunk ideas remind us that there is a path forward in which we can have our cake and eat it too. We can embrace the exponential rise of our understanding and control over the universe while using that knowledge to ensure that we do not destroy our environment, society and ourselves in the process.

Now I know what you might be thinking, because I am right there with you.

Is this too good to be true? Maybe.

Is reality likely to play out this peacefully? Unlikely.

Should that stop us from trying? No.

It’s called speculative fiction for a reason. It’s not productive to pretend that things will magically fall into place if we put out the right vibes into the universe. We need calculated progress, backing from the hard sciences, and an understanding that compromises and tradeoffs will always have to be made.

The goal of solarpunk is not to wish for a better future, but rather to propagate a series of values, approaches, and awarenesses into our collective psychology that allow us to continue pushing forward with our progress, without sacrificing our own humanity and connection to the natural world in that pursuit.

It is a well known concept that our expectations for the future are guided largely by our predictions of what it will look like. You don’t have to be stoned in a dorm room to think “Dude… the future only looks like the future because that’s what we say the future looks like.”

And yet our visions aren’t always correct. We constantly overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in 10 years. It is clear in drawings from the Victorian era that our predictions for the future are often misguided by our present moment.

Will our vision of tomorrow look this outdated in 10 years?

When we say something looks futuristic, we are largely comparing that to other artifacts of our present, concept art, and this year’s latest blockbuster. It therefore puts a lot of pressure on the creators shaping our fictional worlds, for they are the first to the front lines in a war of ideas competing to define what the future of our world could and should look like.

Most of our stories about the future are largely dystopian. I understand how important the backdrop of an oppressive regime can be in creating an antagonist you love to hate, or how an experiment gone wrong can set up a hero’s redemption and a captivating plot arc, but I still find myself yearning for a different take on what our future could look like. Are we so sure that our path leads to dystopia that we can’t even explore alternative options, even in our imaginations?

I’m not trying to tell people what they should or should not create. In fact, I believe that our freedom to do so is a liberty that should be fought for at all cost. What I am asking, however, is why we as humans have a tendency to explore only the darkest visions of our future in the stories we tell ourselves? As fun as it is to dream up a techno dystopian future, I’d bet that most of us probably prefer not to live in a world that is oppressed, dangerous, and for some reason always raining.

I believe that, if we can manifest more visions of the future based not in what we are afraid of, but in what we are hopeful for, we’ll be surprised with what we accomplish and who we can inspire.

An Astrobiologist Asks a Sci-fi Novelist How to Survive the Anthropocene (Nautilus)


Humans will have a chance to prove their adaptability as the Earth undergoes unprecedented challenges in the Anthropocene, an era named after our impact on the biosphere. To learn what it takes to survive far into the future, astrobiologist David Grinspoon interviewed Kim Stanley Robinson, a writer regarded as one of the most important science fiction and political novelists alive today. Robinson’s recent book, 2312, permits humans to survive near-extinction and populate the solar system over the course of 300 years.

We decided to kick off the conversation with a 2312 excerpt from the chapter, “Earth, The Planet of Sadness:”

“Clean tech came too late to save Earth from the catastrophes of the early Anthropocene. It was one of the ironies of their time that they could radically change the surfaces of the other planets, but not Earth. The methods they employed in space were almost all too crude and violent. Only with the utmost caution could they tinker with anything on Earth, because everything there was so tightly balanced and interwoven.”


David Grinspoon: Humans in 2312 can transverse the universe, but they could not save the Earth from environmental devastation. Do you think our intelligence just isn’t adaptive enough to learn how to live sustainably?

Kim Stanley Robinson: Human intelligence is adaptive. It’s given us enormous powers in the physical world thus far. With it, we’ve augmented our senses by way of technologies like microscopes, telescopes, and sensors, such that we have seen things many magnitudes smaller and larger than we could see with unaided senses, as well as things outside of our natural sensory ranges.

But our intelligence has also led to unprecedented problems as our planet reaches its carrying capacity. Is intelligence adaptive enough to adjust to the calamities of its own success? This situation is a completely new thing in history—which means that no one can answer the question now.

DG: What do you think it would take for us to persist?

KSR: I think we can make it through this current, calamitous time period. I envision a two-part process. First, we need to learn what to do in ecological terms. That sounds tricky, but the biosphere is robust and we know a lot about it, so really it’s a matter of refining our parameters; i.e. deciding how many of us constitutes a carrying capacity given our consumption, and then figuring out the technologies and lifestyles that would allow for that carrying capacity while also allowing ecosystems to thrive. We have a rough sense of these parameters now.

The second step is the political question: It’s a matter of self-governance. We’d need to act globally, and that’s obviously problematic. But the challenge is not really one of intellect. It’s the ability to enforce a set of laws that the majority would have to agree on and live by, and those who don’t agree would have to follow.

So this isn’t a question of reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics, or perceiving the strings of string theory. Instead it involves other aspects of intelligence, like sociability, long-range planning, law, and politics. Maybe these kinds of intelligence are even more difficult to develop, but in any case, they are well within our adaptive powers.

DG: Do you think the spread of Internet access can help us forge a multi-generational global identity that might drive change? It wouldn’t be the first time that technological advancements massively transformed humankind’s history.

KSR: The Internet may be helpful but we’ll need more than global awareness. We need a global economic system that is designed specifically for sustainability. We already have a global economic system in the form of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Together, their agreements make up a comprehensive system. But right now, this system cheats future generations by systematically underpricing the true costs of our exploitation of the biosphere. It sets the prices of the Earth’s natural resources by establishing what is basically the aggregation of supplies and demands. But this process is biased toward pricing things lower and lower, because of pressure from buyers and the need for sellers to stay in business. As a result, sellers sell their products for less than they cost to make, which should lead to bankruptcy for the seller, but it doesn’t because parts of the costs have been shifted onto future generations to pay. When practiced systematically it becomes a kind of multi-generational Ponzi scheme, and leads to the mass extinction event of the early Anthropocene, which we have already started.

What we want is to remember that our system is constructed for a purpose, and so in need of constant fixing and new tries.

Measurements used by the Global Footprint Network and a famous study led by Robert Costanza have shown that the “natural services” we use can be assigned a dollar amount that is much greater than the entire human economy, and that we overdraw these resources and destroy their function. So in effect, we are eating our future.

And I think it’s going to be hard to change the global economic system quickly. There’s a term for that among economists called path dependence. For example, we have a path dependency on carbon that we could shift over to a cleaner and cheaper—cheaper, if you take into account the true costs to the planet—power and transport system. But the pace of technological change for something that big might be up to a century because we’re constrained by path dependence. And I don’t think we have that much time.

DG: So, are we talking evolution or revolution? Do we need to escape from path dependence and start anew? 

KSR: No, we have to alter the system we already have, because like an animal with evolutionary constraints, we can’t change everything and start from scratch. But what we could do is reconstruct regulations on the existing global economic system. For this, we would need to wrench capitalism so that the global rules of the World Bank, etc., required ecological sustainability as their main criterion. That way, prices would shift to match their true costs. Burning carbon would cost more than it does now, and clean energy would become cheaper than burning carbon. This would address the most pressing part of our crisis, but finding a replacement for the market to allocate goods and price them is not easy.

As we enter this new mass extinction event, at some point there is going to be a global civilization response that will try to deal with it: try to cope, survive, and repair landscapes and ecosystems. The scientific method and democratic politics are going to be the crucial tools, I’d say. For them to work, we need universal justice and education because we need active and well-educated citizens who are empowered and live at adequacy.

From where we are now, this looks pretty hard, but I think that’s because capitalism as we know it is represented as natural, entrenched, and immutable. None of that is true. It’s a political order and political orders change. What we want is to remember that our system is constructed for a purpose, and so in need of constant fixing and new tries.

DG: I often wonder if civilizations elsewhere in the universe have made it through times like the ones we’re facing now. Astrobiologists think the likelihood of there being extraterrestrial intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is high. Our next question is if they’re out there, why haven’t they made themselves obvious to us? One recently suggested answer to this puzzle, known as the Fermi Paradox, is that unsustainable growth is an unavoidable property of civilizations, so they self-destruct. 

KSR: The Fermi Paradox poses a really interesting question, but I think it’s unanswerable. My feeling is, the universe is too big, and life too planet-specific for intelligent life forms to communicate with each other, except for by accident and very rarely. So perhaps they’re out there, and perhaps they’ve made it through something like our current era, but we wouldn’t know. I am just making assumptions based on the data, and telling a science fiction story. But so is everyone else talking about this issue.

DG: If you don’t want to speculate on outer space, do you think civilizations in science fiction offer any examples of long-lived societies?

KSR: I like to think so. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, a planetary society runs as a kind of giant anarchist collective. Decisions are made in long, consensus-building sessions, and the economy appears to be a matter of voluntary contributions of work. It’s a culture of minimal need and use, such that everyone lives at adequacy and no one consumes very much, as this is regarded as gross behavior.

Iain Banks’s Culture series describes a far-future, post-scarcity society in which the technological power available to civilization is such that basic needs are always more than satisfied. However, they have other sorts of problems that have to do with the interactions between different societies.

In my novel, 2312, the economy is in some ways a funhouse mirror portrayal of our world. One of the civilizations—called the Mondragon after the Basque city in Spain that runs its economy as a set of nested co-ops—provides for everyone’s basic needs as a kind of public utility district service. Then there is a more free-market capitalist world of exchange of luxuries; these arrangements are loosely grouped as “above and beyonds.” That’s one image of a possible future, sustainable economy. However, if you include all the civilizations on Earth and in space in 2312, there remains a steep inequality gradient with most of the poor on Earth.

DG: So you’re saying that even if we learn to live sustainably, we may still have serious poverty?

KSR: Actually, 2312 is not so much a prediction of a future but rather a symbolic portrait of now. Poverty is mostly political in nature because the technological ability to create adequacy for all living humans exists in 2312 (as it does now) but it has never been made the “civilizational project.” In the symbolic sense, people have already begun a process of speciation, in that the most prosperous on Earth live on average decades longer than the poorest people, and can change gender to an extent. Instead, the main division between people is height. By dividing people into the “shorts” and the “talls,” I was alluding to the idea that we are becoming separate sub-species based on class. And by describing how the “shorts” have many advantages, I was trying to point out that the assumption that bigger is better is false in many situations.


DG: Another interesting detail in 2312 is that biomes can be made from scratch on asteroids, according to a set of directions that reads like a recipe. But you warn of a potential danger at an early stage in the process: “Once you get your marsh going, you may fall in love with it.” Why is that a risk?

KSR: It’s a bit of a joke. Some of the ecologists I spoke to when I was writing the book told me that marshes were their favorite biomes because of their fecundity. As someone who likes the high Sierra I was surprised by this, and learned to look at the landscape differently. It also made me consider how all biomes are beautiful, depending on how you look at them. So being urged to move on to drier biomes is then part of that idea, but it’s not a very serious one. I have to admit that a lot of what is in 2312 is me fooling around. I think this is one thing that has made the book attractive to people, the sense of play, and that our landscapes and cities as artworks with aesthetic pleasures.

DG: Even though the Earth is a mess in 2312, the heroine of the book falls in love with the sky as seen on Earth, and the wolves that have been re-introduced. Do you think that people will always retain a connection to this planet despite its flaws? 

KSR: Yes, this was a point I was trying to make. I have this intuition that because we evolved on Earth, and are, as individuals, part of a complex network of living and natural forces, that we are biomes in effect. The result is that we will never be able to stay healthy if away from Earth for long. We carry the Earth within us, and by the same measure, I think we’ll always need the Earth around us to replenish ourselves.

David Grinspoon is an astrobiologist working with several interplanetary spacecrafts. In 2013, he was named the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the Library of Congress. He tweets at @DrFunkySpoon.

This article was originally published in our “Turbulence” issue in July, 2014.

As previsões de Isaac Asimov para 2014, 50 anos atrás (Pragmatismo Político)

03/JAN/2014 ÀS 18:42

Escritor e professor Isaac Asimov fez, há 50 anos, surpreendentes previsões de como seria o mundo em 2014

isaac asimov previsões 2014

Professor Isaac Asimov fez impressionantes previsões para 2014… há 50 anos (Reprodução)

Em 1964, durante a Feira Mundial de Nova York, o New York Times convidou o escritor de ficção científica e professor de bioquímica Isaac Asimov a fazer previsões de como seria o mundo 50 anos depois, ou seja, este ano. Asimov escreveu mais de 500 trabalhos, entre romances, contos, teses e artigos e sempre se caracterizou por fazer projeções acuradas sobre o futuro. As previsões do escritor, que morreu em 1991, são surpreendentes.


Asimov prevê que os equipamentos de culinária pouparão a humanidade de fazer trabalhos tediosos. “As cozinhas estão equipadas para fazer “auto-refeições”. “Almoços e jantares serão feitos com comidas semi-preparadas, que poderão ser conservadas em freezer. Em 2014, as cozinhas terão equipamentos capazes de preparar uma refeição individual em alguns poucos segundos”. Só faltou mesmo ele usar a palavra “microondas”.


O escritor previu um mundo repleto de computadores capazes de fazer as mais complexas tarefas. “Em 2014, haverá mini computadores instalados em robôs”, escreve ele, no que parece ser uma alusão aos chips. E garantiu que será possível fazer traduções com uma dessas máquinas, como se previsse a existência do Google Translator.


As ligações telefônicas terão imagem e voz, garantiu Asimov em seu texto. “As telas serão usadas não apenas para ver pessoas, mas também para estudar documentos e fotos e ler livros”. E prevê que satélites em órbita tornarão possível fazer conexões telefônicas para qualquer lugar da Terra e até mesmo “saber o clima na Antártica”. Mas em Terra haverá outras soluções. “A conexão terá que ser feita em tubos de plástico, para evitar a interferência atmosférica”, escreve ele, como se já conhecesse a fibra ótica.


Asimov previu que em 2014 o cinema seria apresentando em 3-D, mas garantiu que algumas coisas nunca mudariam: “Continuarão a existir filas de três horas para ver o filme”.


Ele previu que já existiriam algumas usinas experimentais produzindo energia com a fusão nuclear. Errou. Mas acertou quando vaticinou a existência de baterias recarregáveis para alimentar muitos aparelhos elétricos de nossa vida cotidiana. Mais ainda: “Uma vez usadas, as baterias só poderão ser recolhidas por agentes autorizados pelos fabricantes” — o que deveria acontecer, mas nem sempre acontece.


Asimov erra feio nas suas previsões relacionadas ao transporte.

Ele acreditou que carros e caminhões pudessem circular sem encostar no chão ou água, deslizando a uma altura de “um ou dois metros”. E que não haveria mais necessidade de construir pontes, “já que os carros seriam capazes de circular sobre as águas, mas serão desencorajados a fazer isso pelas autoridades”.


Para o escritor, em 2014 o homem já terá chegado a Marte com espaçonaves não tripuladas, embora “já estivesse sendo planejada uma expedição com pessoas e até a formação de uma colônia marciana”. O que nos faz lembrar da proposta pública de uma viagem a Marte só de ida, feita recentemente, para formar a primeira colônia no planeta.


Asimov cita a provável existência de “televisões de parede”, como se pudesse prever as telas planas, mas acredita que os aparelhos serão substituídos por cubos capazes de fazer transmissões em 3-D, visíveis de qualquer ângulo.


O escritor previu que a população mundial seria de 6,5 bilhões em 2014 (já passou dos 7 bilhões) e que áreas desérticas e geladas seriam ocupadas por cidades — o que não é exatamente errado. Mas preconizou, também, a má divisão de renda: “Uma grande parte da humanidade não terá acesso à tecnologia existente e, embora melhor do que hoje, estará muito defasada em relação às populações mais privilegiados do mundo. Nesse sentido, andaremos para trás”, escreve ele.


“Em 2014 será comum a ‘carne falsa’, feita com vegetais, e que não será exatamente ruim, mas haverá muita resistência a essa inovação”, escreve Asimov, referindo-se provavelmente aos hambúrgueres de soja.

Expectativa de vida

O escritor preconizou problemas devido à super população do planeta, atribuindo-a aos avanços da medicina: “O uso de aparelhos capazes de substituir o coração e outros órgãos vai elevar a expectativa de vida, em algumas partes do planeta, a 85 anos de idade”. A média mundial subiu de 52 anos em 1964 para 70 anos em 2012. Em alguns países, como Japão, Suíça e Austrália, já está em 82 anos.


“As escolas do futuro”, escreve Asimov, “apresentarão aulas em circuitos fechados de TV e todos os alunos aprenderão os fundamentos da tecnologia dos computadores”. O que ele não previu foi a possibilidade de os alunos ensinarem os professores quando se trata de uso de computadores — como, aliás, ocorre em algumas escolas públicas brasileiras.


Asimov previu uma população entediada, como sinal de uma doença que “se alastra a cada ano, aumentando de intensidade, o que terá consequência mentais, emocionais e sociais”. Depressão? “Ouso dizer”, prossegue ele, “que a psiquiatria será a especialidade médica mais importante em 2014. Aqueles poucos que puderem se envolver em trabalhos mais criativos formarão a elite da humanidade”.