Last night some of Denver's creative-minded people attempted to tackle the future at the first Forcasters event, a monthly presentation series that will take place every third Thursday at Paris on the Platte. As it turns out, that's not quite as easy as one would suppose, and while there were plenty of comments about the lack of flying cars, the crew on hand decided to take the advice of high-school history teachers everywhere and look at the past in order to look to forward.
For the most part it worked. The event was hosted by comedian Andrew Orvedahl, who mostly kept his predictions to who the next presenter would be, but managed to toss in a few of his own ideas, or at least, the ideas he had as a child into the mix. First up on the roster was artist Ravi Zupa, who seemed to struggle with the idea bit, leaning on two movies, Avatar and Wall-E as catalysts for his discussion on the nature of the robot soul. It was mildly absurd, but beneath all that were ideas about the mind, the soul and, although he didn't actually say it, what it means to be human.
This would turn out to the be the crux of most of the discussions for the evening. Perhaps it was the open-ended nature of the series, but the majority of the presenters decided to tackle very big ideas. Instead of addressing what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, they tended to speak more about what it means to be human now and how we'll still be humans in the future.
Denver Open Media's Tony Shawcross came to the table fully loaded with ideas. Using Ray Kurzweil's theory of the singularity (or the Nerd Rapture, as we like to call it), he too attempted to answer the question of what humans role would be in the future. While Kurzweil's theories are very open to interpretation to a variety of ends, Shawcross took a more regulated approach to the idea that perhaps, if we let computers think for us, it might not end up being as bad as everyone assumes. After all, where is the logic in war and famine?
Just like in the Jetsons, a robot passed out cookies.
Sam Tallent followed with a comedian's take on the whole thing, which, considering the crowd, didn't go over as well as it might have in a club. He kept things light and humorous, reading a list of predictions ranging from hover horses to his theory bed bugs would soon come to be known as pillow pals. His strongest point, and one that could have certainly used a little more attention, was his list of people who would be the first to die after the robot uprising, which included "people who say 'cheers' in America," "ferret owners," and "humans with suntan Playboy fake-tattoos," among others.
Musician Tim Holland (Sole) followed, with something like a ramble about so many different things it was impossible to keep track. He jumped from space to the collapse in less than three steps, and stopped off to talk about singularity, meat, and fertilizer. His points were all valid, but they were also so all over the place it was difficult to track where he was heading or why we might end up there.
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Last up was Watercourse owner Dan Landes, who, somewhat unsurprisingly, talked about the importance of food. He too spent his time talking about the human condition and how that's going to be the most important of the future -- the dependence we have on food and water being the very thing that defines who we are.
In the end, the first Forecasters was a bit of a mess, but it wasn't for lack of ambition. The ideas were there, some of the presentations were there and people seemed interested in hearing what they had to say. The main problem was focus on the part of the individual presenters. While some had a very specific vision, some took the idea of "future" and ran with the whole thing instead of narrowing it down to smaller, micro-futures. For short presentations like this, it seems like a smaller focus might work better. Each of the presenters seemed a little hesitant to really commit to their own vision, and perhaps that's what makes this so difficult -- it's impossible to know what's going to happen, and people are a little wary of getting it wrong. Still, it would have been nice to hear a bit more about the future, even if it turns out to be wrong in the end.