When I was finishing off my postgraduate degree in city planning in 1973-74, I was fascinated by the future of oceans – including as a future human habitat. I devoured books like Arthur C. Clarke’s Deep Range. And explored avenues into the aquaculture industry, although sensible advice I got at the time persuaded me to head in different directions.
Then when I did a short report for Herman Kahn’s Hudson Institute in the late 1970s, while I was still with John Robert’s TEST, I forecast four big environmental issues in the early 21st century. The first, now largely under control, we are told, was stratospheric ozone depletion. The second climate change. The third new forms of genetic toxicity. And the fourth revolved around the health of the World Ocean.
Talking with the CEO of a major environmental NGO a week or two back, I focused on the fourth of these again – arguing that the oceans are make or break for the rest of the planet. Then The Economist ran its ‘Ocean Warning’ front cover, plus other coverage, a few days later.
Then today I came across the Radical Ocean Futures #ArtScience project developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Am hoovering bring it up. Have long found sci-fi fascinating – and particularly when accompanies with powerful visualisations. That’s exactly what we get here.
I love the Lovelace idea in the first of the four scenarios, in which the oceans are hauled back from the brink. And here’s some the text explaining how that future plays out:
It all started with Lovelace – an outstanding innovation in artificial intelligence. Lovelace was based on a neural network created by a wily collective of hackers and whistle-blowers but very soon supported by tech companies, progressive governments, and ordinary citizens from 100 countries. Lovelace ripped through corporate empires and their shell companies within shell companies within shell companies exposing their rotting cores, one by one. For the first time the world had fulfilled the promise of big data in support of citizenship. Lovelace achieved the improbable, near total transparency of information.
Unsurprisingly, there are dark scenarios, too. One, The Rime of the Last Fisherman, is accompanied by the image below. We really don’t want to go there.