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In the future food will be 3D-printed, or there won’t be any food. In the future there will be no borders, or your passport will be embedded in your iris. In the future gender will be flexible, or nonexistent, or just like it is now but better. In the future there will be no cops, or cops will stop killing black people, or cops will be tiny drones the size of flies. In the future you will be happy, or you will be unhappy, or you will be dead. But the future never comes, because it’s not habitable by any part of the human body apart from language, and so the future is only ever a way to talk about the present and the past.
In the past, the future was over. The punks and artists in industrialized countries who first sloganeered no future in the late 70s were resisting reactionary free-market narratives of so-called progress. But perhaps all along it was capitalists who wanted to abolish the future. Now we’re in the seventh year of global economic crisis, and ecological disaster is becoming ever more generalized. Governments careen from one crisis to the next, while work and life are more intertwined and enmeshed in technological orders of control and surveillance at the same time that reproduction has become increasingly precarious and unreliable. The future of the no-future seems as apt as it is convenient.
For the European Futurists of the early 20th century, the future was the expansion and acceleration of the technological present. Subjectivity would be wiped out in the increasing speed and violence of motorbikes and warfare until everything was one great mass of energy. This fascist dream seems mirrored in the Silicon Valley fantasies of the Internet of Things, the Quantified Self and the Singularity. But technological innovation turns out not to secure social transformation, at least not in its own right: many of us live in an actualized sci-fi of globalized communication and multiple interfaces, but we are still also living in the long time of colonialism, slavery, and patriarchy.
Fascists and eco-liberals alike use the first person plural when they talk about time to come: “tomorrow belongs to us” or “we are killing the planet.” They assume that we are moving through the same present together, as a unified population, a mass. But our futures are as fragmented as our presents, and just as fissured by race, gender, class, and ability. Who has no future, and whose future is guaranteed by the present? Who even has access to the present by virtue of their past? In rejecting dominant temporalities, we can also trace the shattered thought of the now. Tentatively, we want to believe in a proliferation of futures: black, brown, queer, femme… Rather than evangelizing a singular vision of the future, as liberals have always demanded of revolutionaries, might we instead be able to say: