How will we move, Bruce?


We met futurologist and writer Bruce Sterling (here his blog)  back in 2008, when he came to Treviso to chat with us about generative arts. The reason why we are enchanted by sea waves, he explained, is because the pattern they follow in coming and going is almost the same but always different. Also human beings come and go all the time. But which patterns do they follow? When the time came to find an answer to this question for Colors 81, we decided to send an email to Bruce and record what he had to say on the matter. Here are his answers.

Do you think that in 50 years time we will be moving as much and as far as we are today? Will we stay at home and in our hometown more?

*I personally have three "home towns."  Fifty years is a long time.  A term like "home" or "home town" might seem archaic in fifty years. Have a look at

Which role will technology and the Internet play in defining a new balance between moving around and staying where we are?

*I'd predict that we don't get one "new balance" but a series of transitions, and in some places those changes will be jolting.  We're going to see a lot of refugee flows in years to come; sometimes you don't get a choice about staying.

Imagine yourself in 50 years time (yes, you will be alive and if not, it will be someone else). Describe the way you will live, focusing on how much you will move for work and fun compared to today. You can indulge in the details.

*I never use terms like "actual," "virtual," "home," or "travel" even though I live that way. I spend a lot of time dealing with interfaces of daily life rather than what we would today call "daily life."  The twenty-teens feel as remote, primitive and distant as the 1960s do today.  I'm surrounded by hordes of old people. Cities are huge and intensely automated, and large parts of them are abandoned or being dismantled. I'm multiracial and polyethnic and I know four or five cities well enough to have close friends there.  The weather is awful and I am afraid of the sky.

*Things are normal.  I'm used to it, it's not dramatic and it doesn't feel amazing.

Tell me 5 solutions to the problem of moving around in the post-petroleum era.

1. Kill off half the population.  Oil availability magically doubles.

2. Enslave a lot of people as immobilized peons; join the global elite.
3. Obliterate traffic jams with road automation; fuel gets more available.  Increase efficiency of mobility with handheld mobile apps.
4. Crack biofuels and make cellulosic ethanol from straw rather than foodstuffs.
5. Move constantly, but move slowly.  Ocean liners, canal barges, hitchhiking, buses and trains.