Stories from the Future

Outdoor dancefloor
Image by Ben Chun from Flickr with thanks

[Editor’s note – Speculative Optimism is a Ludogogy project – open to all. The idea is to use techniques of futures thinking, particularly foresight, and creativity to, first, deliver a book of optimistic speculative fiction, then a co-creation platform for innovation and activism projects to move closer to the optimistic futures identified. Other aspects of the project include the creation of an organisational learning programme, and potentially, of course, a game, to explore and spread the Speculative Optimism process

Benefits of participating include: learning some transferable skills in foresight and writing, engaging with some really interesting folk about equally interesting topics, to work on some wicked problems and visualise how the future could be better, and, of course, to see your creative work in print. The ‘messages from the future’ below were posted in the project by Sylvia Gallusser and Cody Clark, both of whom are very active on the project platform.

To find out more about Speculative Optimism or join up as a participant (all welcome, regardless of previous experience of futurism or writing) go to]

Neighbors have a monthly “dance party” in the street in front of an elderly neighbor’s small house that generates enough electricity to cool the house for a month. A local church brings the piezoelectric dance floor, which they purchased with grant money, and supplies the DJ. Local police help shut down the street but they don’t dance.

Cody Clark

Running shoes
Image by Timothy Takemoto from Flickr with thanks

I am turning 100 in a month. I just took part in the Centenarian Olympics and won a gold medal. My body is hurting from everywhere, I feel sore but alive. I have been running all my life, but since I retired, my well-aging coach helped me take exercizing even more seriously in hope to prolong my life expectancy and quality of (end of) life. It looks like it worked so far. This afternoon we are celebrating with my team mates. Some of us have prosthesis. One of us has an exoskeleton controlled by mind since Lou Gehrig’s disease paralyzed him. We live in a senior village where the younger generation (the 70-80 year-old) helps us deal with some daily errants and technology issues. I can’t wait for the celebration. Village volunteers set up a new piezoelectric dance floor, so we will be able to produce and store energy for the upcoming winterstorm season…

Sylvia Galluser

I just downloaded a new module for my gustatory neural prosthesis. For about a year my prosthetic 2-way brain interface has been intercepting the gustatory, olfactory, and retro-nasal perceptions of the food I eat and altering the affective and cognitive processes that shape my taste preferences. So now cruciferous vegetables high in sulforaphane are my favorite snack food by far and my doctor is happy. This latest module attenuates my taste preference for less sustainable foods like red meat and increases my preference for plant-based, sustainable foods that are better for the environment. My friends and I volunteered to beta test this module after hearing a guest speaker talk about it in our environmental stewardship group at church.

Cody Clark

I donate my paid sick leave, which I have not needed much of this year, to a foster mother who often needs to take off for her foster kids’ appointments. We don’t work for the same company. Or live in the same state.

Cody Clark

Male CGI avatar
Image by Ivoceno Rossini from Flickr with thanks


I had to terminate myself the other day.

no, there’s no body,
no smoking gun,
just some empty disk space
where I used to be.

Versions of me, that is.

my friend works for this startup,
he recruited me as a beta tester:
you’ll get a kick out of this he said
he had me sign some waivers
I should have read more carefully
and then he gave me the box.

don’t i get a demonstration? i said
you shouldn’t need one, that’s part of the test — usability.
it should be easy to make working copies of your mind.
send them out to do work, watch TV, take classes.
And upload the new experiences later, at your leisure.

The scans could be configured with your choice of three interfaces:
DiskMe — a living version of you on with a GUI front-end
WebMe — an intelligent web bot with your mind as a driver
EmbedMe — a version of you that could be loaded into any machine with a CPU and enough memory

i put my first scan — me 2.0 — to work as a WebMe
do that quarterly report, i said
and gather the trends research.
he knew just what I meant because he was, well, me
i’d go to the office, he’d surf the net doing research. that was the plan.
i came home from work that day. report was done. research looked good.
just like i’d have done it.
this was cool.
so we’d separate every day and have
— literally —
a meeting of the minds each evening
and catch each other up.
i was a good team. my productivity doubled.

until i found out how naughty i’d been.
2.0 apparently didn’t have enough work to keep him busy
2.0 didn’t take lunch or bathroom breaks
2.0 didn’t engage in water cooler gossip
what 2.0 did was cruise the VR chatrooms
after a week or so i began having some
impressively realistic memories
of sex with virtual women i never even met
they were just avatars, but the sense memories were very real.
2.0 was a virtual reality casanova in his off hours.
apparently i’m quite the ladies man
when i’m not stuck with this body
who knew?

my wife was not amused.
i didn’t touch them, i pleaded
i didn’t even have cybersex
it was an electronic copy of me
having cybersex with animated women.

but those women are in your head now
and your copy scan thing wouldn’t have cheated
if the potential weren’t in you in the first place
get rid of that memory and i might forgive you

my wife was right.
i had to revert my mind to the backup copy of myself
i wisely made before I set 2.0 to work
i lost a week’s worth of memories
and a two-day training class my employer sent me to.
I had to shell out a thousand bucks and take two days vacation
to take the course again before my boss realized it was missing.

and at my wife’s insistence
2.0 was banned from the net.
i have him answering my email.
he talks to my kids while i’m still at work.
i turned him onto Halo so he wouldn’t get bored.
and now i’m apparently some kind of badass game guru.
without fingers his reaction time is instantaneous
my name is reknowned in gamers’ circles. i get fan mail.
so i have that going for me.

3.0 was born out of frustration.
i couldn’t find my car keys.
So i made a quick copy of myself
and loaded it into my cleanbot.
(he has the same OS as my computer so it was easy)
i asked him to skip his regular cleaning chores
and see if he could remember where i left my keys.
this was going to be a quick copy I’d delete
after i had my keys back.

but 3.0 had other plans.
i came home and he had my keys in one claw
and an injunction in the other.
the PETA people helped him get it.
apparently there’s this law against the indiscriminate termination of cyborgs.
but you aren’t a cyborg, i said. you’re just a robot,
you have no biological material.
well apparently there’s this legal precedent
— Cybercolonics vs. Fischer —
that classifies brainscans as biological material
for the purpose of cyborg termination cases.
seems i was stuck with 3.0.
so i put him to work too.
you know all those books you’ve always wanted to read
but never had the time?
well when he wasn’t cleaning i had him read for me.
War and Peace, Finnegan’s Wake, Harry Potter.
But he doesn’t clean very well anymore.
he only does the kind of lousy job i would do.

4.0 was my worst.
he almost bankrupted me.
he was a web bot with the, um, libido removed
i sent him out on the net to help me with research.
by the end of the first week he had filed
twenty-three separate lawsuits
against twelve large companies.
apparently some of the larger sites on the web
don’t allow bots to access their pages.
so he filed suits under the civil rights laws
alleging discrimination against the disembodied.
he also filed under the persons with disabilities act
alleging that not having a physical presence qualified as a disability
and so they had to allow access.
the companies counter sued alleging criminal violation of network security
it was gonna get ugly. my lawyer quit on me, overwhelmed.
i finally reached a settlement with them
4.0 had to go. delete. empty recycle bin. defrag.

i gave the scanner back to my friend
he asked how it went
horrible, i said
my first two scans rebelled
and i had to kill the other.
could be worse, he said,
you could be raising teenagers.

Cody Clark

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Futurist / Founder / CEO at Silicon Humanism
Sylvia Gallusser is a Global Futurist and Founder & CEO @Silicon Humanism.

Sylvia conducts foresight research on the future of health, well-aging, and social interaction, evolutions in retail and mobility, the future of work, life-long learning, artificial general intelligence, the future of our oceans and sustainability, as well as the future of the mind and transhumanism.

Sylvia has been advising 500+ tech companies for the past 15 years. She is a published author of Future Fiction with Fast Future Publishing and a Board Member at Grey Swan Guild.
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Cody Clark has degrees in Mathematics and Studies of the Future. As an unabashed generalist, he’s not only a futurist, but also a systems analyst, a software engineer, a business process expert, a Six Sigma Black Belt, and a marriage educator. He’s tracked trends for baby food makers and envisioned technologies with Taiwanese research scientists. He’s taught optometrists and priests how to do strategic planning and hundreds of married couples how to argue more effectively.
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