Olaf Stapledon Timeline for Last and First Men

‘Speculating the Future’ Series

This page is dedicated to a series of short reads (5-10 minutes, generally approx. 1,000-1,500 words long) about the future. They are commissioned provocations about how we imagine futures, and about the relationship between science fiction (broadly conceived) and ‘the future’. Some pieces are written by professional futurists, some by fiction writers, and some by academics who work in the field (and some authors cross all three of these areas).

Members of the Centre are occasionally asked, ‘Aren’t all futures speculative?’, but speculation is more than just another word for ‘imagined’. Rather, it refers to an older sense of ‘speculation’ that emerges from the Latin, ‘to observe or watch’, such as specula [a watchtower], and which can also refer to a type of mirror, used in telescopes. That is, what you see in the future depends on your position: who, when, and where you are; much of what you see into the future is what you have projected into it yourself. So these pieces are intended to demonstrate that there is not one correct way of exploring the future from the present, and that a variety of voices and approaches is important.

As such, any view or opinions expressed within the pieces are the author’s or authors’ own, and do not represent those of people, institutions, or organisations that the writer(s) may or may not be associated with, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Nor do they represent the views of the University of Liverpool or the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures. They are illustrations of ways of thinking about the future, encouraging you to reflect on your own sense of the future, and how we might all begin to think about it.

Issue 1 (September 2021)

Ken Liu, 'The Technology of Collective Decision-Making'

Justina Robson, 'Reflections on Fiction and the Future'

Paul Graham Raven 'Against Author(ity) as Deity'

Will Slocombe, 'Stapledon Timelines'

Tricia Sullivan, 'But Some Are Useful'

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