Future of Leisure: Investing in the Rich and Compensating the Poor
We have more free time. New technologies speed up work: the workweek in developed countries approaches 21 hours. Women give birth to fewer children; 1 child per family is the predicted norm of the near future. People tend to stay single a longer time, unencumbered by family: the number of singletons in Western countries will exceed 60% by the mid-2030’s.
The labor market is polarizing: robots and computer programs are forcing out the middle class, replacing secretaries, bank tellers and accountants. Eventually, the development of artificial intelligence may lead to unemployment of 90% of the world population. High income and status will require serious sacrifices from the other 10%: multi-talented and highly motivated people will compete with each other for work that cannot be performed by AI. An austere life and responsible leisure behavior will allow them to gain new competitive advantages by cultivating essential skills after work.
The leisure economy in Russia is growing too, but mostly in the direction of mass entertainment. Falling demand for higher education, the collapse of the competitive environment, and low social mobility lead to the degradation of human capital. Russia’s small percentage of high-skilled professionals, unappreciated by the economy, is insufficient incentive for the development of smart leisure in the coming decade.
In our fragment of the Big Future mural we show the polarization of leisure and its effects in a more distant future. We believe that in 2060 (an estimate time of the next political and economic thaw) resort areas such as Crimea – if the peninsula follows the “Russian scenario” – will attract both types of leisure consumers: hedonists and ascetics. Those who escape from desperate hopes of wealth and irresistible fears of unemployment will choose Crimea as the cheapest option. Pop-up camps based on the decaying tourism infrastructure of the first decades of our century will offer a variety of earthly delights – there one can take a new name, try a new role, enjoy young wine, gamble, sunbathe nude, party the night away, or have a holiday romance. High-skilled professionals seeking transformational experiences will visit Crimea to explore its tech-free zones, sustainable forest colonies, leisure immunity and information diet labs, therapy and meditation cells in abandoned cave cities, single-seat observation spots and work camps in the mountains. At mid-summer, dressed up as mermaids, sea devils and water spirits, many will join a masked celebration of Neptune’s Day to explore leisure habits of the masses. Perhaps this celebration will help once to bridge the gap between the different practices of leisure.
Forms of Governance
The Dictatorship of Media: Information Society with Russian Characteristics
At first glance, the toolkit that the Internet gives us should simplify and make more transparent the relationships between citizens and the state. E-voting and systems of electronic government services promise a more direct line of communication with authority and simplified means of organization against it. In part this is already happening: if people are ready, even a coup can now be started with one short message. However, the same tools we use to express our opinion and find like-minded people are used to control and suppress dissent. Twitter, to take one example, is simultaneously a weapon of struggle against the powerful and a surveillance device, through which a single offensive tweet can get you arrested or fired from work.
Apparently, technology makes life more convenient, but our gadgets and services only reflect the inner structure of a society’s traditions and values. Russia’s values emphasize power inequality, as seen through the hierarchical estate society into which it's organized. For centuries, Russia has structured its society according to a rigid pyramid, dominated by a tiny elite. Despite the upheavals of the past hundred years, this structure has managed to reassemble itself to fit feudal, socialist, and capitalist priorities. What happens when this power pyramid encounters an informational revolution? As the government's takeover of the formerly private social network Vkontakte illustrates, information society tools do not change Russia's political picture. On the contrary, they are deftly used by the authorities for their own purposes.
We predict that Russia's estate structure will adapt to the emergence of an Information Society by redistributing power. The first estate of the future will be populated by representatives of Russia's media, strategists dealing with ideation and the identification of key messages. The second estate will consist of media designers: media managers, writers, data scientists, and storytellers who develop the messages of the media elite into content by and for a population of active prosumers. The third estate is the domain of 'ordinary citizens' who feed the first estate's media machine, providing socio-cultural content that is continuously represented in the urban space of Moscow. This symbiosis creates a sense of participation among the citizens while, in fact, all political activities are scrupulously controlled. This approach of governance can be described as managed media-democracy, in which all participants are seemingly satisfied: the ruling media elites, the media designers and the patriotic citizens.
Preservation beyond monuments: collective memory as intangible heritage
To predict the future by describing a new philosophy for preserving the past may seem perverse. Yet our relationships with the past and present define who we are today and shape our future. Traditional ideas of ‘heritage preservation’ prioritise physical monuments, but now almost anything - from dance performances to digital art – can be the subject of a preservation debate. This shift to a more complex practice of preservation means that, apart from historians and archaeologists, economists, urban planners, managers, scientists, activists and even politicians should be actively engaged in discussions about what to preserve.
Preservation of the tangible qualities of a monument is extending to the preservation of its intangible qualities. Recent years have seen the growth of sustainable project management programs for heritage sites, such as events programs: the new profession is on the rise – heritage site management. This new theory and practice bears witness to the importance of the intangible: not only the physical structure, but also the life within it must be preserved.
UNESCO’s convention on intangible heritage is not ratified in Russia. Recently, however, certain steps have been taken towards recognition of the category. Official documents label folk traditions, crafts and religious rituals as intangible heritage, and the list is growing. At the same time, there are ever more bottom-up initiatives, such as ‘Last Address’ or ‘The Immortal Regiment,’ whose understandings of heritage do not fit with the official definition but show strategies for preservation in the next decade. All these projects share a common trait: they work with collective memory.
In our project, a central region of Moscow – Arbat – becomes a stage for future strategies of heritage preservation. Collective memory takes aim at the past but also at the future. Memories of the Great Victory in the Second World War are replaced by a “memory” of the future: Russian dominance in outer space. As propaganda takes a grip of the area of the New and Old Arbat, initiatives to preserve individual perceptions of history play out in the courtyards and streets between them. In social networks, users encourage the sharing of personal memories and versions of historical events. Arbat becomes a battleground between different approaches to preservation, between projects of different temporal and spatial scales, between state and grass-roots initiatives, and between official and unofficial versions of the past.
Post-Panopticon: Exposure and Privacy in the City of Total Surveillance
The city of today is dependent on the mechanisms of every action being seen and recorded. Society approaches the ultimate level of data precision: an era of nearly perfect knowledge. In 2015, the depth of human understanding of the world covers the spectrum from a map of the universe to individual genetics. Soon everything that exists will be registered and stored forever.
The panopticon concept by Jeremy Bentham was a prison design. It proposed a tool that could be applied to any institution where people need to be kept under supervision, whether hospital, school or workplace. Few know that the panopticon was based upon the idea of Jeremy's younger brother, Samuel, who built the first panopticon in Russia for Prince Potemkin. Since then surveillance has spread beyond the walls of the penitentiary and has slowly infiltrated our daily routine. Today, your sleep cycle, timetable and spending habits are all subject to monitoring, with the aim of optimizing your behavior. We witness a shift from imposed to voluntary surveillance, in exchange for the promise of an easy and better life.
Desire to make life more structured and efficient makes us reconsider the notion of privacy. The last stage of surveillance society development is the society of exposure, the post-panopticon as we propose to call it. It is a society where voluntary disclosure of personal information in exchange for benefits is a social norm. Surveillance allows people to trade privacy for comfort.
Historically, the public and private blurred when communal living was imposed in the USSR. In a “kommunalka,” privacy was an unattainable value; the neighbors knew even what one was eating by the smell in the kitchen. Constant surveillance became part of the everyday life and dramatically enhanced the standardization of social behaviors. Over decades the majority of Soviet people got accustomed to “life on stage” – at home, at work, at leisure.
In the future, the main conflict of personal values will be that between privacy and convenience. It will be the most dramatic in Russia, with the majority of people choosing comfort and the benefits of exposure. We predict that people who refuse privacy will inhabit most of Moscow’s city space. While exposure of personal data contributes to convenience of life and ability to proceed with little effort, it makes citizens easy targets for control and manipulation. Loss of privacy stimulates loss of authenticity. There will be only several districts that oppose the major trend: gated, restricted and inefficient. They will be home to the people that choose to be left alone away from the spotlight of surveillance.
Immortality: The New Means of Power Distribution in Russia
We have arrived at the border to immortality through the merging of biology and technology. Molecules can now be treated as programmable elements. New drugs have been designed to block certain proteins and help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Nanobots are now being engineered to hack cells and reverse aging. Scientists predict the coming of fleets of nano-scale bots floating in your body, cleaning it out and fixing broken cells to make them stay young.
We assume that, like any other breakthroughs in high-tech, life extension will become more affordable over time. Moore’s Law suggests that the price of a technology will halve every two years. If the elite 0.1% of the population has access to radical life extension by 2045, we predict that by 2060, the technology will be widely available. But what will occur in the 15 years between the emergence of immortality tech and its widespread adoption? In Russia, with its cultural and historical tendency toward unequal resource distribution, it seems certain that life extension will raise social tensions.
Although Russia has a tradition of interest in immortality in its literature and science, the development of an effective healthcare system has never been a top government priority or focus of entrepreneurship in modern Russia. These internal conditions make it unlikely that immortality will be achieved here first, but globalization will inevitably bring radical life extension to Russia to meet market demand. How this process plays out will reveal insights into Russia and immortality itself.
The future settlement we constructed reveals some of the complexities of our immortal future by visualizing the moment of maximum conflict, when immortality is unevenly distributed. Advertisements display the latest life extension technologies while angry citizens protest them in the streets. Model workers are rewarded with immortality in exchange for seemingly endless careers. Increasing populations and longer working lives allow for a repopulation and development of the countryside. In the distance an endless project of space exploration and colonization carries on its eternal development.
Community ecosystem: Sharing knowledge to change the nature of power
Scientific knowledge has enabled man to conquer nature and transform it into a resource for the development of civilization. Natural resources are controlled mostly by government and corporations, which strive for continuous growth. The use of nature for unlimited development leads to environmental disasters. To ensure the sustainability of the global ecosystem, we need co-management arrangements. These regulate the growth of the development system in accordance with the conditions of the resources used. Due to extraordinary complexity of any ecosystem, it is impossible to manage it centrally. Joint management and the production of knowledge solves this problem, allowing to organize the collection and dissemination of information by the community.
In Russia, the majority of information resources are owned and protected by the state. For instance, data on deforestation in Russia is suppressed (while from 2000 to 2012 about 36 million hectares of forest were lost and Russia earned itself status of the world deforestation leader). Nature was damaged during its uncontrolled use for commercial interests. So in Moscow remains only one of several “green wedges”, buffer zones producing clean air for the city. This territory, the so-called “Elk Island” reserve, is under threat of destruction. It will be one of the places where the people might and should use a Knowledge Commons as a political resource to achieve their environmentalist goals.
We imagine that in the very near future, worried about the environmental situation in "Elk Island", activists will organize numerous elements that implement the joint management of knowledge and information. After unsuccessful protests in defense of the protected forest against new road construction, they will use a special device to collect data about the environment. In the year 2030, they will find ways to involve animals (for instance, rodents and birds) in this monitoring process. By 2040, an open outdoor laboratory for ecosystem management and a public gene bank will be organised by the Knowledge Commons committee. After another decade, there will be devices for direct interaction with the ecosystem – biocomputers that read the signals from mycelium or other living organisms. By 2055, the usual elements of an urban environment, such as buildings, communications, and transport, will enter the ecosystem and maintain active interaction with nature. In 2065, devices for communication with animals will make understanding nature simpler. Later, thanks to the collective management of knowledge, the inhabitants of this settlement will be able to embed their activities in ecosystem processes and engage in hunting and gathering, without breaking the fragile balance. Eco-thinking managed by Knowledge Commons will shape the lives of entire communities in cities and countryside.
Agrarian Evolution: Reviving Russia's Food System in the Age of Climate Change
Industrial agricultural practices, such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides, monocropping and intensive animal husbandry, are driving greenhouse gas emissions and fuelling climate change. These practices make industrial agriculture highly capital intensive and give large agro-businesses an enormous advantage over small and medium-sized farms.
In order to secure global food production, the world has to shift to a more sustainable farming model. Agro-ecological approaches that treat the land as an ecosystem provide an alternative to industrial farming. Through the use of more sustainable techniques like intercropping and natural fertilizer production, as well as new tools including sensor systems and meteorological analysis, agro-ecology holds the promise for a more precise, optimized approach to farming.
Russia follows a global trend towards fewer and larger farms, but faces a paradoxical situation. The large agricultural organizations that emerged from Soviet collective farms control 79% of agricultural land, but produce only 48.7 % of national food output. This is less than the food produced on private farms and subsidiary household plots that occupy around 20% of Russia’s land, but account for 51.3 % of its agricultural output.
The importance of these smaller producers is overlooked by the Russian government. Privately-run farms lack financial support as well as market access and are not able to compete with agribusinesses. However, with state support the small farming sector could form the basis for Russian food sovereignty.
The future settlement shows a countryside and city changed by the government’s “Reclaiming the Countryside Campaign” in 2018, as well as climate change impacts intensifying around 2030. The countryside is dominated by small individual farms that use agro-ecological approaches that are optimized through the use of sensor systems in fields, drones and meteorological data. Family farmers unite in cooperatives that help them increase their market reach and reduce operational costs. Each district has a Dom Agrikultury that functions as a center for farmer-to-farmer exchanges on best practices in agricultural production.
Changes in the countryside drive a transformation of Moscow and the lifestyles of its inhabitants. Information technologies allow farmers to contact consumers directly and sell their products through online platforms. The development of online shopping platforms and a growing number of farmer’s markets in the city has led to the decline of supermarkets. Food distribution has been decentralized and automated. The city is dotted with small, fully automated distribution hubs from where electrical driverless trucks swarm out to deliver food.
Shrinking of Industrial Cities
Life in Dying Cities: Last stop Kineshma
The decline of certain types of industry caused by globalization and advance in technology has reversed urban growth in some places. For instance, in Russia one out of four industrial cities is shrinking. In these cities the birth rate is low and the population is aging. The cities themselves are aging: infrastructure built to serve industrial installations are now underutilized relics. Globally, the countermeasures to shrinkage are based on the attraction of new inhabitants. In this project we propose a strategy that is tailored to adapting the old city to its natural demographic dynamics.
In the former Soviet Union, the state-driven economy caused the blooming of many single-industry cities – monocities. After Perestroika, the rushed privatization of enterprises together with the rapidly growing obsolescence of factories’ equipment led to decay and shrinkage. Places that once attracted many workers from all over Russia are now facing economic and demographic decline as well as diminished city budgets, low social welfare, and deteriorating health conditions.
As a case-study we have chosen Kineshma, one of the former industrial cities on the Volga, that reveals all the consequences of deindustrialization: one third of its inhabitants are pensioners, and in the next two decades more than a half of the inhabitants will be over 60.
We imagine that very soon due to the low income and lack of the health infrastructure, the local population will have no other choice but to collect in the forests nutritious and therapeutic plants (such as Asparagus officinalis, Arctostaphylos alpina and Angelica palustris), which will be used to treat the most common elderly diseases. At the same time, industrial ruins, colonized by plants and animals, will be harvested by the locals for repairing their homes and will become the perfect set for adventure and war games.
Perhaps, things will start changing in Kineshma when a Muscovite private care service (already providing assistance to elderly in exchange for their houses), will see potential in converting a former factory of Kineshma into an elderly resort given the overcrowding of elderly homes in Moscow. It will provide a self-sustainable healthcare programme for elderly Muscovites, inspired by the local lifestyle, which will enhance social involvement and personal responsibility. Later on, Forest Adventure, an educational exchange program, will create a network of pensioners throughout Russia – Kineshma will be organizing hiking tours in the lush woods around the city. The inflow of taxes provided by the new elderly resort will push the city to adapt its services and infrastructures to support the local pensioners, who still suffer from a lack of medical care and assistance.
Unlike in typical revitalization attempts, the citizens of Kineshma will not have to compete for services with the hastily imported population. Instead, the city will adapt to the needs of its aging community. Could Kineshma become a model for other shrinking cities, in Russia and beyond?
Augmented Biology: a New Mode for Healthcare and Human Enhancement
As chronic disease pressures healthcare systems worldwide, AB's (AB - 'Augmented Biology’ describes the range of sciences taking humanity into a brave new era of life design) biggest influence is in the life sciences: customised drugs are forecast to reach 50% of pharmaceuticals by 2020; the new market for wearable devices is set to reach $12 billion within 5 years, likely aiding early diagnoses; prosthesis design is also improving rapidly. We are headed for a healthcare of data, customisation and early diagnosis, and for a society where stigmatisation of disability is replaced by inclusion and celebration of the enhanced body.
Russia’s is unprepared for chronic disease, and has the world’s worst mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases. Accessibility to state healthcare is deteriorating as the government cuts staff and budgets rather than addressing bad management. Queues and poor diagnosis result in distrust of doctors and an aversion to visiting clinics. “It'll pass!” is a favourite reaction to falling ill.
In Russia, as the state system creaks, private health spending swells. Those who can neither pay nor access state help must take an active approach to health. We predict a shift from health provision to health consumerism. Being more value-sensitive, the new health decision-makers (individuals, private health insurers) will embrace more cost-effective AB. Shopping malls, important social spaces in Russia, will become health malls. A centralised format of healthcare distribution will suit the state’s desire to marshal the health internet and private sector; it will also be logistically expedient in Russia for many sides of the AB industry to work under one roof, including Russia’s world-class bioinformatics segment.
In our project, we envision Yekaterinburg in 2065 when health retail centres become the cornerstone of Russia’s new medical system. Here we see the city flagship, Babylon Mall, packed with health products created through 'life design'. In the foreground is Victoria, an old lady living with cancer, but not suffering from it. Thanks to her personal treatment plan, medicines and medical foods, the condition barely impacts her life. Victoria has a health-tracking tattoo on her arm. She pays it little attention, since it glows when medical actions are advised. Her shopping list is compiled by the tracker, and in the supermarket she buys the medical vegetables suggested, authorising purchases with a genome scanner at check-out. A vast data centre makes all this possible, located in the Mall and run by a public-private partnership. The mall is an important social space, too: Victoria loves to visit Babylon to show off her prosthetic leg to her friends.
Push-pull Strategy: The Realities of the Russia–China Friendship
In the past 30 years, China went from a developing country to the world’s leading manufacturer and investor. China is a superpower not due to ambition but rather for survival. In order to respond to the demands of its growing population and to keep stability within the country, the Chinese Party needs continuous economic growth. The world’s greatest resource consumer, China must diversify and expand its channels of import to avoid shortages.
Chinese domination shapes Russia in different ways. Chinese strategic needs of food and energy match the land and resources that Russia has. Today, officially established cooperation between China and Russia is a consequence of geopolitical events. Low oil prices, the Ukraine crisis and NATO movements in Europe have pushed Russia towards China. The United States’ rebalance with China over control of the Pacific region pushes China towards Russia. The two countries have nowhere else to go to defend their interests. Yet both economies are oriented towards the West and not attractive to each other from a business point of view. Besides geopolitical support, Chinese interests include natural resources, raw materials, weaponry and arable land for agriculture. Russia seeks significant investments from China into infrastructure, business, industry, and technology.
We envision the Russia/China border of the future. According to experts, current Russian-Chinese contracts for the delivery of resources and weapons will not last long as China begins to look for these resources elsewhere. However, some cooperation will endure. We predict that the most significant contact between Russian and Chinese people will be in the city of Tsiolkovsky and at the spaceport ‘Vostochny’. In a neutral zone of government cooperation, a science-city will be constructed for the joint-development of agriculture, military, and cosmic projects. By 2050 it will look like a typical science settlement where Chinese and Russian scientists work and live together in similar conditions. On the outskirts, service-sector immigrants will build a Chinatown; they will live separately from locals, but will do business with Russians in informal markets. Chinese companies rent Russian forests and turn them into automated farms for food. Russian firms, eager to cash in, will also invest in Far-Eastern land, although, in a reversal, they’ll be forced to purchase technology from the Chinese. We believe that both Russians and Chinese will remain rooted to their nations and will interact little. Only the Statue of Great Friendship of the Nations will suggest that these countries share strategic interests.
Liquid capital: Global Thirst & Kamchatka as the source of Russia’s new prosperity
Global warming leads to desertification of the lands around the equator and flooding of the circumpolar territories. In addition, the growing world population pushes the growth of agriculture, which constitutes 70% of the total consumption of fresh water. The growth of the middle class and urbanization also drive increased water consumption. Meanwhile, one out of every nine people does not have access to safe water. The decrease of water availability causes its value to rise. This led to the creation of the global water market in the second half of the 20th century. Water became a commodity. In countries with large-scale industrial production and agriculture, such as India, China, and the United States, importing water has become commonplace.
Russia has huge reserves of fresh water, second only to Brazil. While the rest of the world tends to increase its water consumption, Russia, with its decreasing population, and shrinking industrial and agricultural sectors, has an opposite process. The country has already started to take advantage of that situation. China is importing water from Lake Baikal and is planning to increase the volume of its purchase in the future. A water-port is being constructed near Sochi to deliver water to India, China, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle-Eastern nations.
However, the level of water pollution in Russia remains high, and by the end of the decade a huge collapse of the municipal water supply system is projected. Moreover, by the middle of the 21st century, climate change will dry the southwest of the country, which today is the most densely populated agricultural area of Russia. The Russian north and northeast have the largest water potential. Kamchatka is one of the most water promising regions for water extraction, having the biggest amount of available freshwater in clean rivers and lakes, as well as an advantageous location for global water trade and exports.
We believe that in 2065, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky could become a major trade and transport hub, involved in the production of water-intensive goods and agricultural products, as well as the supply of water technologies and transportation of drinking water. The population of this new internationally connected mono-city will consist mainly of young and middle-aged people, most of whom will work in the corporation which controls the entire water industry in the region. Water will be delivered by trains to the western and southern regions of Russia, via water pipes to China, by tankers and water bags to the Middle East and India and to dehydrated Europe via the Northern Sea Route.
In the age of global water scarcity, Russia has potential to become the world’s greatest supplier of fresh water. Water will become a driver for country's economy and will strengthen Russia's position in the geopolitical arena.
Students of Strelka Institute spent three months exploring global trends that will impact our life in the next century. One of the results of this work is the mural which represents landscape of imaginary Russia in the future.
Big Future shows Russia as it may become. Imagining decades of change, the panorama depicts and explains a future in which global trends have transformed daily life in Russia. The exhibition is the culmination of the Strelka Academic Program, as well as a celebration of Strelka’s fifth anniversary. For the first time, the program has shifted its focus from explaining the current situation to projecting the future.
Everywhere, the future is now described with flat, familiar, or stereotypical platitudes; movies, images, books around the world retell the same well-trodden tales. Seeking to reinvigorate traditions of Russian Futurism, we hunted the contemporary world for evidence of tomorrow. Having captured that evidence, we used it as foundations on which to build visions for Russia’s future, visions injected with new imagery, new themes, new speculations.
We began with the forecasts of economists, geographers, military strategists, and demographers, using their work as a starting-point for our own exploration of significant patterns around the world. To define a trend requires simplification; exploring trends in relation to each other, we began to imagine the complexity and richness of the future world. The Strelka team put together a list of 30 interconnected trends according to the following criteria: trends should allow for strong spatial projects; they should be felt on the human scale; they should be relevant to the Russian context; and they should be recognized globally.
After choosing a single one, student teams researched, understood, and, in some cases, redefined their trends. Desk research, conversations with experts, and urban explorations built fundamental knowledge related to each trend and allowed teams to understand the global significance of problems that may stem from future developments. In particular, we sought to consider Russia’s place in the Big Future we envision.
Exploring each trend led to an understanding of contemporary global dynamics, and allowed us to imagine future inventions, alliances, conflicts. We followed winding paths from simple trends to a complex future vision, searched for clues to the future embedded in the present. We projected key dates for each trend, and imagined the physical and cultural elements of life in those future moments. The elements combine details from daily life mingled with research-based fantasy. Using collage to assemble ideas and elements, and to imagine layers of time accumulating, we fought a battle against banality, hoping to avoid the tired futures that are so familiar. We tried to risk, to be bold but also careful, and to build from fragments a holistic picture: the Big Future of Russia.
The mural shows a speculative Russia, a landscape of real and imaginary locations – from Moscow to the Russian-Chinese border, from Crimea to Kamchatka, from mono-city to metropolis. Each of the 11 projects offers its own aspect of the Big Future. The battle to construct coherent, credible futures beyond stereotypes is hard to win, and our results are vulnerable targets for critique. In spite of this, we present our version here, in anticipation of events to come. Live on and see if the Strelka class of 2014-2015 got it all right.
Forms of Governance
Shrinking of Industrial Cities