Think futuristic neo-Victorian, with gadgets, gears and goggles. It is philosophical and has a strong link to the maker / DIY movement which is gaining new popularity. In comparison to cyber-punk (think Matrix trilogy), Steampunk is more optimistic about the future and paints more of a utopian world rather than a dystopian version.
So why would I use a historical fantasy to talk about our post modern future?
We have access to so much information, news that is up-to-date by the minute and opinions that are forceful, loud and ranging from evidence-based to pure conjecture. It is difficult in this environment, to concentrate on essential principles, when we are coloured so much by current information. During this COVID-19 season, all of our conversations are about practical responses to a world turned up-side-down. People want to discuss the future of business, the new normal, virtual meetings and work and education, and political responses and vaccines. There is little space for philosophical reflection.
By exploring the issues of the future from the perspective of a fantasy period, we can disengage our conscious minds from all we see online and actually deal with the concepts we are trying to learn. If we are not, from the very beginning, trying to fit in every bit of information to our already overwhelmingly complex lives, then we have the time to wrestle with some issues, a little theoretically or philosophically perhaps, before trying to apply them to a real world setting.
For example, if we spoke about the future a year or two ago, most people began talking about self driving cars, robotics and artificial intelligence. Our current conversations are about remote work or safety in the workplace. If we get caught up considering these very real but current issues, then we may miss the other things we should be discussing. We need some philosophical reflection on the changing face of demographics, resource planning and job opportunities. We need to understand values and narratives and fears. These may not be as sexy as Tesla’s self driving car or a cute robot in a bank, but they are more pressing issues and need to be considered.
My Steampunk Futurist theme aims to clothe the conversation about the future in a fun and engaging fashion, challenging our thinking while introducing new concepts. By removing ourselves even slightly, from the pressing concerns of current reality, we can play a little with some ideas about the future, so that we can find creative solutions, based on solid models, for problems that had seemed insurmountable.