Future Tense

Contest: Help Us Imagine and Build a Better Future—No Politics Required

How can we get people talking about the future? Not some vague, distant utopia (or dystopia) but real visions we might achieve within our lifetimes? It seems like more and more people are beginning to ask that question, and that’s a very good thing.

I direct a new program at Arizona State University called the Center for Science and the Imagination. (Disclosure: Arizona State University is a partner with Slate and the New America Foundation in Future Tense.) Our goal is to get people everywhere thinking creatively and ambitiously about the future and we’ve got a number projects in the pipeline that bring together scientists, futurists, writers, artists, and many others to collaborate on bold new visions: better dreams for better futures. At our launch yesterday, we announced a new collaboration with Intel and Society for Science & the Public, Tomorrow Project USA.  As Intel’s resident futurist Brian David Johnson likes to put it, “the way that you change the future is you change the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in.”

There’s a zeitgeist, a certain breath of ambition, at work here—from  the X Prize competitions to the White House Grand Challenges and the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering. While much popular science fiction portrays the future as a scary, dangerous, inhuman place, projects like ours are focused on making the future livable and exciting.  

The trailer below offers a glimpse of the kinds of conversations, and the range of questions, that we aim to provoke over the coming year. In addition to being a creative engine for better thinking about the future, Project USA is also a writing competition open to college students everywhere. We’re asking for submissions on the theme of green dreams and sustainable futures.

The contest runs from now to Dec. 1, 2012. So fire up your difference engines and tell us about the world you want to live in.