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SNP’s word of the day: Near-futurism

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Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Near-futurism

Meaning: A concern with the events of the future, coupled with a belief that the future is… now.

Usage: “The current wave of literary near futurism comes at a time when the printed book — and the very act of traditional reading — seems under siege by digital technology.” — New York Times, The 10th Annual Year in Ideas, 2010

You should know it because: Gary Shteyngart, at an International Festival of Authors talk yesterday, joked that his 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story made him a “Nostradamus of three months from now.” Indeed, since his dystopic romance came out, he’s proven eerily right about significant things, like credit defaults and the #Occupy protests in city parks everywhere.

The world has become so unpredictable—okay, unstable—that guessing at the near future is as difficult, maybe more difficult, than peering into some far-off state of things. As the Times noted, Shteyngart isn’t the only writer tackling it; did you read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad? It was another of last year’s most-read, most-discussed books, and it was set at a similar diagonal angle, the same short distance, from the present.

And in the design sphere, I’m kind of into Near Future Laboratory, a think/make design and research network focusing on digital interaction designs based on “weak signals” from the fringes of digital culture, where the near-future already exists. If that’s too headspinning for a Monday, watch YACHT’s double-feature music video for “Utopia/ Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)” again. Close enough.

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