I attended a talk the other week about the future of spaceflight. One guy gave a long presentation about how Gerard O’Neill’s plans for orbiting space colonies from 1972 are now ripe to be actioned. A guy in the audience – the “I don’t really have a question” type who realises he has a captive audience for his own statement — explained that sixty-four of the spent engine tanks floating between here and the moon could be recovered, linked up into a torus and spun at 2 rpm. My friend Rachel Armstrong, floating genuinely new ideas about synthetic biology engineering and microbiome management in space, cut something of a lonely figure amongst the retrofutures.
I grew up with the O’Neil “Island One” stuff. Those are lovely stories, and there was fun art made of them. But I am again reminded – I mentioned this somewhere the other day, too — of Bill Gibson’s recent observation that in the 20th Century we could talk of nothing but “life in the 21st Century” and here in the 21C we seem to have trouble of conceiving of anything past the end of next week, let alone the 22nd Century. 22C.
Sometimes I think there’s a mass conclusion that we shouldn’t be thinking about 22C because We’re Living In The Future and it should All Be Happening Now. I think the future needs to be constantly invented and drawn down to us. (Which phrase has just made me think of “Drawing Down The Moon.”)
22C should be a badge of honour for futures speculation, perhaps.