With each new international event, with each scientific discovery or, more simple, with each day that passes, the future begs new question. Where will the next wars occur? Will we be able to feed 12 billion people? What purpose will school serve by 2050? Will artificial intelligence enable robots to grab power from humans?
If there are answers, no one can articulate them. For the future hasn't yet been written, and it is up to us to explore possible futures not to predict but to decide on the future. This is what 2038, the New Atlas of the World's Futures proposes, a new forward-looking work by Virginie Raisson (to be published in November, 2016).
To do so, no crystal ball or tea leaves, rather a book that scans our habits, our needs and our hopes, one that projects them into the future on the basis of present knowledge, then thinks them through again with analysis and experience. By the use of totally new illustrations and research carried out by Lépac's team – where the Dessous des Cartes TV program is prepared – this new atlas will undertake to identify what structures the future of our societies and engages the future way of life of the young generations, i.e. aging, the middle classes, growth, mobility, resources, networks, energy, education, technology, progress, religion and so forth.
This second volume of the Atlas of the World's Futures follows on from the first edition published in 2010, 2033, Atlas of the World's Futures. At the time it was an attempt to write a book on the future, a book accessible to the general public that was esthetically pleasing and of scientific rigor. To meet the challenge and pass on complicated understanding to as many as possible, Virginie Raisson decided to break with academic and graphic conventions. Five years on and judging by the success of the first volume, it can be said that the challenge of creating an accessible atlas on specific tops, from reduced farming yields in Africa to the demographic evolution in Quebec, has been met. Beyond the 40,000 copies sold in France, the book has been translated into three languages. It has by now become a reference work both because of its graphics and in the field of prospection.
The desire to develop a second Atlas of the World's Futures began to bloom in 2013 with three distinct intentions, i.e. 1) help in gauging the impact of our ways of life on the future; 2) provide a vision of the challenges in the global transition that is just beginning; and 3) remind ourselves that it is up to us to choose the future. We will touch upon, among other things, the consumerist bulimia of the middle classes, the effects of our energy choices on the planet and the biotechnological choices on our species, the social and societal risks we are running by losing the sanctity of our private lives, the new scarcities leading to eventual conflicts and the promises of economic collaboration.
Just as cross-cutting but more ambitious, no less esthetic but more iconoclastic than its predecessor, the New Atlas of the World's Futures will also maintain the first volume's foremost requirement, i.e. making research and analysis available for a better understanding of the world, its humanity and its shared future.
Virginie, what are the main themes tackled in your new atlas?
"Were I to try and develop all the topics I'd like to, even 500 pages wouldn't be enough. As we're limited by time, costs and the book's layout, we'll be making choices as we go along. What we do already know is that the book will be divided into four parts.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A BILLION MAKES
Demographic issues remain at the heart of our concerns about the future, fueled by the recurrent fear of over-population and by the contrast that opposes regions where population growth is not slowing down while other regions are experiencing accelerated aging. What might a planet with 9, 10 or 12 billions people look like, where the middle classes that will have become the majority in the world's population, will live together in cities under pressure and mutating and faced with inequalities, aging populations, the needs of mobility and the demand for security?
DO BETTER WITH LESS
If there is one promise that the future will fulfill, it is the growing scarcity of certain resources because of consumption, urbanization and climate change. So what paths exist to meet the demands of prosperity and comfort for a growing proportion of the world's population without running the risk of disrupting the economic and ecological balances that are vital for meeting our essential needs and maintaining our ways of life? Without exposing populations to more conflicts and violence? In short, how are we to adjust our behavior, our aspirations and our economies to this new era of scarcity without impeding our well-being?
These are the kinds of questions we will turn to in the second part of the book where we will particularly explore the sharing economy, the redeployment of production, food regimens and the productive cycles.
CHANGE THE PARADIGM
While fatalism still all too often puts its stamp on discussions within western societies, numerous leverages exist offering us choices for the future without our waiting for the future to impose itself on us. Among them are the composition of our energy mixes, our methods of transportation, our educational models, our redistribution systems and our choices of governance. They are critical determinants from which it is possible to rethink the natural and social contracts so as to reconcile them. Without trying to be all inclusive, the Atlas will set out the terms of the economic, political and social debate imposed by the future without having to wait.
THE WORLD AFTERWARDS
The internet of things, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, algorithms, biotechnologies, social networks, etc. The accelerating technological changes in our societies are changing the world from one era to the next without anyone's having imagined or consented to it. At the pace of discoveries and their implementation it even leads us to think that for the millennials we are still only living in the Middle Ages of the coming civilization. How can we respond to the multitude of unnerving questions that this metamorphosis raises for humanity's destiny and the human condition? To open the discussion we will return to, among other things, the notion of privacy, the role of religion, the meaning of living longer and the role of ethics."
This is the second atlas you are writing about the future. Can you tell us what is driving your project?
"The primary engine is probably my young children. For me the youngest are THE way to arrange the future. And rather than to recommend giving up having children because of the bleak future they have in store, I'd rather bet on collective understanding and intelligence. With that as the starter, I wanted to contribute – even modestly – to free young people's vision from all that might cloud it, things like fear, determinism, conformity, ignorance, fatalism, the unconscious, dogma or conservatism.
Then the truth, there is nothing more exciting or has more meaning than to spot the best of possible futures for the young generations by breaking free from the prevailing habits and thinking, ideologies, conventions and biased reasoning, dogma and conservatism. There is nothing more promising than to combine rigor, innovation, boldness, desire and change.
I would add that sharing this challenge with a team of young researchers concerned about the world's future is vital for me. Knowing that the old guard can and will give place to the new, that the next generation is inventive and willing to get to grips with the world (and that the world belongs to it) is a genuine source of motivation."
How is your atlas different from the others?
"Maybe in that it isn't really in truth an atlas. As it is interested in international affairs, and reasons in terms of countries and relies on many visuals, it's true that we continue to talk about it as an atlas. This also makes it easier to find in book stores. In reality though, it contains only very few geographic and geopolitical maps. That's because since the world's events are adhering more to rationales of networks than geographic limitations, we are seeing that traditional cartography is having a hard time transcribing the world's changes. Whether we think of the financial flows, cyber threats, financial crimes on the internet, the social networks, biotechnologies, the emerging middle classes or the new forms of governance, geographic maps don't tell us very much in themselves. Which is why I have decided to explore new graphic fields even if it may disturb the reader.
To combine data and concepts of a different nature, I've wanted to use the collage technique. For it enables me to reposition the men and women that we are on each page and remind ourselves that our future is not an abstract concept but one that commits us all. And I also want to bring animals back into the book for a bit of fun and distance, also to remind everyone that we share the planet with other species and that our future depends on them. What I have observed with the very first galleys of the atlas is that this esthetic and graphic choice makes it possible to have several levels of reading, including as a picture-book for children. In short, a warning to readers: this second atlas bears no resemblance to the first nor to any other of its kind."
Jean-Christophe Victor, you yourself publish geopolitical atlases. Can you tell us why you are supporting this project?
"The first reason is that I sincerely think that this book can make a difference. On the conceptual level first of all, since the World's Futures is an intellectually innovative work and original graphically. It brings off the triple feat of being serious without being boring, rigorous yet esthetic and academically and intellectually free. It is not very common for a book to call on the reader's intelligence, their curiosity, their point of view and their feelings. Yet that is how we reflect and make decisions.
Then the closer we get to the climate crunch, the greater become the complexities of the challenges faced by humanity that demand answers. So it's essential for us to be informed in order to decide on what kind of society we are going to leave to our children. When I think of my own four, not a day goes by without my wondering in what kind of society they are going to live. And since I can't provide an answer, the only tools I have at my command to arrange the future are knowledge, confidence, thought and action. That is exactly the spirit that inspires this work, with sincerity and creativity.
And finally the third reason why I am all for this work is that part of the Lépac team working on it also contributes to Le Dessous des Cartes. Which means that I trust them because I know the quality of their work."
Excluding the fact of being the book’s author and directing Lépac's team of researchers, there are three things that make me revise my thinking almost every day, my analyses and my way of planning the future, i.e. my three little children, nursery and primary schools where they draw their creative inspiration (with a few others) and a highly developed aversion to conservative thinking and preconceived ideas. I am also a glutton for travel, chocolate, design, good TV series and cheese. I am infected with a kind of acute humanistic utopianism and a pathological admiration for people able to think freely. #ImpossibleIsNotFuture
An economist despite myself and a secret passionario of geopolitics, I am the typical Parisian street guy, who jogs along the Canal Saint-Martin at dawn and wanders in the evening along the banks of the Seine, an e-reader in hand. As the co-ordinator of The World's Futures, I take a sly pleasure in pushing some colleagues, encouraging others, hunting up a mistake here or repairing an error there, but always with a smile, and never far from a macaroon or a cookie or a sponge cake. Moi, excessive? That's what I'm told, but what I am most excessive about are Chinese opera, kabuki and a good rugby match! #SwissArmyKnife
After finishing my degree in international relations, I sought shelter in India to slake my thirst for lassis and my love of curry. But caught out by my passion for bike-riding, I returned to France (in a plane, I admit) to join Lépac and make my daily bike commute from Paris to Versailles. As part of my kit, I have brought back the millennia-old wisdom of the Hindu holy men to study geopolitical issues in South Asia and the world over. I joined the World's Futures team with this perspective in mind after various experiences in urban transport, web-journalism and governmental institutions and think tanks. #HindustanZindabad.
As a geographer with a specialty in cartography from the University of Namur, I am the team's token Belgian (nobody's perfect). Falling very quickly under the charm of maps with their colorful richness and the diversity of their curves, I am also passionately interested in Africa, farming and demography, topics on which I like to use my critical mind to get beyond preconceived ideas. And how many of them there are! In other worldly pursuits I love pastry, another of my talents highly appreciated by my colleagues with chocolate (Belgian, of course) as my preferred ingredient. To keep down the weight I also play badminton and run. #Afries
With a degree in European economics, my path has taken me to the capital of the Alps and Europe and further afield to Buenos Aires and Madrid. Before that I operated in the hallways of diplomatic and parliamentary bodies. Now, when I am not on my bike or on a badminton court, I like to tie my brain in knots and write papers for Lépac. Which is when I try to analyze what tomorrow's socio-economic models might look like. It is ambitious, but my ecological optimism, the cumbia, literature and hiking through the Vercors help me relativize and unwind. #GirlScout
Born at the seaside in the flat region of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, recently connected to Picardy, I love the world's highest mountains, the Himalayas. Obsessional about the conflict in Kashmir, I devoted several years to a thesis before the draw of the cards led me to Dessous des Cartes. An avid historian, I also have an archeology degree where I find keys to try and understand the present and future. In contrast to my dear colleagues, my passion tends more to liquid, malty refreshment, a remnant of my roots! #PakistanZindabad
Parisian by choice but Lyonnais in heart and stomach (#BriocheSausageRoll), I joined Lépac because I wanted to make geopolitics my profession. Thanks to the Dessous des Cartes program, I learned the secrets of cartography and discovered a genuine love of maps, all kinds of maps, e.g. ancient, contemporary, originals, eye-opening or misleading. People see me as curious and somewhat excessive. I do love to learn new things about all kinds of topics as long as there is some chocolate within reach. #ForeverAStudent
Born in Marseilles, I spent most of my childhood in Brazil (warmth!). Four years ago, to satisfy my appetite for geopolitics and cartography, I began to migrate towards lands bathed in the sun and light of… Paris. Known throughout Versailles for my strange culinary combinations, I concoct short summaries like spring onions for The World's Futures and slow-cook all sorts of data with a certain stubbornness. And when I am not, I try to survive my training in Thai boxing. Believe me, it isn't what I'm best at! #carthaigraphy
A graduate in urban geography with a focus on transport and mobility, it was bicycles that pushed me to find my way, which lead me eventually to Lépac. As a Mexican-Japanese, I'm the one they have a hard time locating on a map. I've been living in France for six years now, first in Toulouse, then in Paris. It is with this understanding of the world that I joined the atlas project and adopted the prospection exercise. In love with cities and fairly reasonable about sweets, what I expect of the future is a refinement of things produced today. #KissKissBikeBike
As a graphical designer and land-surveyor of the forest of signs, a gleaner of maps and other representations of the world, whether geopolitical or imaginary, I love sharing the road of explorers who are curious about the world's futures. Together we are looking tirelessly in the labyrinth of interpretations for a way to transcribe the vague background of human activities and interactions in order to make them accessible in a coherent form that is both simple and forward-looking. This teamwork is certainly the most exciting of voyages! Often found walking at dawn through the tall grass to the east of Paris, running sometimes, my favourite down-time is hovering over an expresso in my local. #TaiChi
From Saint Etienne and a geographer, my green roots took root in the heart of the Forez region and very quickly threw me onto the winding roads of environmental and planning studies. After a lot of adventures in urban planning and ecology in Nice, Barcelona, Dublin and Paris, I finally understood the common denominator that was driving me, i.e. cartography! To wed Pachamama and Paul Vidal de la Blache (an early geographer), I made it my trade and my passion. Cartography can do anything, e.g. help us think of a moving, multifaceted world or enable us to travel and talk about the most beautiful utopias. Maybe even help us to glimpse the world's futures. #Pachamama
Direct descendants of the Italian Renaissance masters from whom they have borrowed colours, inspiration and talent, dubbed by David McCandless (the pope of dataviz), chosen as the best data-visualisation studio in 2015, the artists of Accurat are to data design what lyrical art is to music or Ferrari to cars. As much composers as actors, they know better than anyone how to make statistics dance on their graphical scores. With one foot in Milan and the other in the lair of an avant-garde museum in New York, they can sometimes be spotted in a Brooklyn park or in a trattoria at the Porta Sempione. #GiorgiaGabrieleFedericaGiovanni
Tarik, you are the project co-ordinator. Can you explain why Lépac has decided to appeal to crowdfunding?
"There are in fact several kinds of reasons. First off, although The Atlas of the World's Futures corresponds to its author's vision, making it happen means employing a big team to carry out research, gather data, do the graphics, create maps, design the layout, create original typography, lay it out, re-read plates, check the exactness of each graphic, map and text, update bibliographies and indexes and co-ordinate the team. In all 15 people have already contributed to the atlas in one way or another.
And then there are the costs to pay for more than a year's work by these people, plus the more technical expenses such as buying works, subscribing to specialist reviews and accessing databases. For certain data, the bill can be as much as several hundred, even thousands, of euros! There are also photo rights that have to be paid for, and the collage technique used in this second volume calls for a huge number of photos. Still on the material level, there are the costs of good quality laser color-photocopying to print and correct our plates on a proper scale.
Then too, we have decided to include in the budget all the means necessary for distributing and sharing the work because all this preparation only has meaning if the atlas is read by as many people as possible. Since the book costs so much to produce, it is also important for us to contribute to advertising the book by reaching out to readers in schools, universities, book stores, libraries, festivals and book fairs. We also have to spend a lot of time in maintaining our Facebook page, our Twitter account and the blog we are starting in 2016. As we are not known in the media and no star has come forward to support the project, all these operations require our engaging considerable human and material resources. So much for the budget.
On the resources side, you have to keep in mind that Lépac is a private research laboratory that has opted to maintain strict independence. We don't have any special funding to pay for all or part of the costs required by the project. We are lucky, of course, that a well-known publisher (Robert Laffont) has signed on. It is a huge advantage and should make things easier when the book comes out in book stores. But the publisher doesn't come into the mix until we have given it the manuscript. It then buys the paper, prepares the documents and prints the work before sending it out to its distribution network. Everything that comes before, i.e. nearly 18 months of work, Virginie Raisson and her team do it all.
Which is why we have decided to turn to sponsoring and KissKissBankBank. Sponsorship enables us to first launch the project without any delay thanks to the trust our partners (Fondation pour la Haute Horlogerie, Debiopharm, Banque Lombard-Odier, Matmut, Macif, and OFI) have put in us. As for KissKissBankBank, that's you and it is now! We hope that the appeal for funds we are making will enable us to cover the budget and make the atlas available on time, i.e. autumn of 2016. To sum up, I'll use my colleague, Guillaume's, turn of phrase: "We need you Kissbankers to see our project through so that together and with heightened consciousness we get a grip on this future we share."