Critical Optimism and Sci-Fi Prototyping
People’s ability to envision the future tends to fall between two unhealthy and unconstructive extremes. On one side, there are those who are blindly optimistic about technology. This attitude is sometimes termed “technosolutionism”, the naïve idea that every problem can be solved with technology. At the other extreme are those so critical of technology that they adopt an unrealistic Luddite attitude, avoiding technology altogether; or they assume that a dystopian future is inevitable and, as a result, become passive. Critical optimism navigates between these two extremes, encouraging an earnest hopefulness that also incorporates a healthy dose of criticality. What futures are possible, which are probable, and, most importantly, which might be preferred?
Sophia Brueckner is a futurist artist/designer/engineer. Inseparable from computers since the age of two, she believes she is a cyborg. As a software engineer at Google, she designed and built products used by tens of millions. She received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MS from the MIT Media Lab where she investigated the simultaneously empowering and controlling aspects of technology with a focus on tangible and social interfaces. At the University of Michigan, she teaches Sci-Fi Prototyping, a course combining sci-fi, prototyping, and ethics. Her work has been featured internationally by Artforum, SIGGRAPH, The Atlantic, Wired, NPR, Eyeo, the Peabody Essex Museum, Portugal’s National Museum of Contemporary Art, and more. Brueckner is the founder and creative director of Tomorrownaut, a creative studio focusing on speculative futures and sci-fi-inspired prototypes. Her ongoing objective is to combine her background in art, design, and engineering to inspire a more positive future.