How bleak is the future really? An interactive exhibit, Monash University’s “A Future Without Change,” answers that very question and shows how science can change our dystopian future for the better
Here you can hop into a bowl of antidepressant-laced cereal, complete your mandatory daily screening for infectious diseases, and view the last living piece of The Great Barrier Reef on display in a museum.
Set in a not-too-distant future in which things have gone very wrong, this Monash exhibition was a tongue-in-cheek look at where our current choices are leading.
But not everything was doom and gloom. At each exhibit visitors are prompted, “if you don’t like it, change it!” Every dystopian future had an equal and opposite solution that Monash University researchers were already working on, and the public was invited to join them by pursuing a research career.
Fighting modern slavery
The futures themselves were based on real trajectories from today. There was an interactive app where you could pick your own personal slave by swiping left or right to find the right match. As a comment on modern slavery and human trafficking, it was a powerful message. The Trafficking and Slavery Research Group at Monash are working with UN programs to ensure more safe migration and fair work conditions for migrants.
The university representatives at the exhibit were passionate about what their institution is doing. “We are working across a range of issues that really matter. I think it’s great to do an exhibition like this to raise awareness of these important issues, and to show people what we’re doing to help fix our future,” said one representative.
In a future without good management of urban areas, there would be less parks and clean air. ‘Products’ on display at the exhibition included a virtual “window” of waterfalls or a forest, to obscure the dreary city-scape that would be there instead. You could also try out an “inside yard” that was a pollution-free way to experience the great outdoors. Although difficult ideas to face, at this very moment researchers are working towards designing greener cities and are investigating the link between climate change and toxic chemicals in the air we breathe.
While this exhibition was confronting, it is also a message of hope. STEM has available all the solutions to create a brighter future, instead of a dystopian one, and researchers are already working on it.
It’s pretty clear that anyone can be a part of the solution. With a bit of study and hard work – you too could help create a more utopian future!
Author: Cherese Sonkkila
Cherese is Assistant Editor of Careers with STEM. She is passionate about producing engaging STEM content and has a strong background in science writing and editing. She holds a science degree with Honours from the University of Melbourne.