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Bridging Open Borders

VVFA : Superstition As a Last Resort

Very Very Far Away (VVFA) is a public facing research project consisting of a podcast, a workshop and a series of special projects, seeking to re-ignite future ideologies. VVFA focuses on democratising future narratives, through exploring multiple perspectives simultaneously, and disseminating new cultural fictions. Bringing members of the public and experts together, each episode is a designed fiction collectively crafted into a web of stories capturing new space potentials (future roles, future social and organisational structures, and collective aspirations) subsequently documented and disseminated via podcast. Its method uses space exploration as a lens to examine current ideas and values that may pertain to future society through technological advances. This process, crossing the boundaries of disciplines, enables the conceptualisation of future worlds, through which newly formed ideologies can permeate the public realm.

The following text is an extract of a fictional correspondence between our narrator, a journalist, and a lithium mining specialist working as a trader on the Astronomical Stock Exchange (ASE), prior to the recorded interview.

This conversation is inspired by a workshop run at The White Building, Space Studios Art and Technology, in Hackney Wick, London, during October 2015.

Subject: Superstition As a Last Resort.


Sorry for the delay! We’ve been super busy producing another segment. To be honest, after our last exchange I got into a very drawn out argument with a colleague regarding a specific sentence in your last email. You said: “One way or the other, we are all governed by agreed upon fictions.” She said she thought that statement was a bit grand. I think she was a little taken aback with your notion that “fictions are more alive than us, like living organisms that keep evolving and reproducing, to the point that we are host bodies for these ill formed thoughts.” I kept drawing a parallel that as journalists, information is our lifeblood in many ways but she didn’t seem to get on board with your metaphor.

Are you still interested in doing an interview? Let me know your availability and I’ll arrange my schedule around yours.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and hope everything is going well! J

Subject: RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

Good to hear back from you, was wondering what happened to you. About your skeptical co-worker – I don’t think there is any cure for that kind of complacency, some people never understand. At least I wouldn’t waste my energy explaining it to them over and over.

Not that I need to clarify, but you must see it. Things have been different. The world has gone weird. Everywhere you look, from headlines to tweets and our ride-share convos, everything is weird now. Bizarre creatures have appeared, rewriting old morality into pitch perfect conspiracies. Our wasted hope has come crashing down on the horizon. Rational self-interest has given way to magical thinking — the last resort when fear takes hold.

Subject: RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

But magical thinking and hope are two different things. Can’t we have hope and remain rational? J

Subject: RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

I think we can, but it’s not what I see most of the time. We don’t know how to frame our desire for hope so we’d rather just wish things in and out of existence. We pray, we curse, we damn and we condemn, hoping our magic spells will rewrite the world around us and banish inequality from this plane of existence. We want to believe we can remake the world – the world flipped upside down and turned inside out (and best of all made flat!). And yet we do it, by sliding into superstition. We argue about our most basic beliefs: Flat Earthers v. Space Communists, Transhumanists Enthusiasts v. Prophets of the AI Apocalypse, Grammar Fascists v. Emoji Apologists, Internet Trolls v. Sanctimonious Journalists. All we have left is the ability to denounce, to point the finger at the other guy in the name of transparency. That’s what we feel has become our only inalienable right, our civic duty.

Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

So, you believe that we have reached a point where we can only be ideological partisans? Do you think our individualised narratives have completely divorced us from factual reality? In a previous email, you mentioned that journalism should be a stronghold of objectivity. I’m not sure if that is an achievable goal, but I would argue that it’s only in the process of questioning these personal narratives that we can obtain some measure of truth. J

Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

I know I shouldn’t judge, but when you describe the work you and the other producers of your program do I start to think that at this point, you journalists are just trying to make it through the day. Never addressing the fact that you’re all just saving face: the last bastion of the integrity of a dying breed. You have this shared belief that there is a truth out there, embodied in the struggle of decent folk. As though you can remain separate from the masses, as though anything can be observed at a distance without running the risk of tampering with the specimen. Manipulation is always necessary for knowledge, or truth (and certainly to play the market). And that’s not saying anything about your industry’s business model…

Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

You know I appreciate your point of view, but I feel you’re oversimplifying. You’re implying that any shared belief is a symptom of collective delusion. Don’t you think that is a bit extreme?

Shouldn’t there be a place in society for shared visions? The global situation is complex, the planet is composed of myriad interdependent economies. Out of all people you should be well placed to know that a lot of our natural resources are found on other planets.


Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

Yeah, the situation is complex: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, final sunsets over wasted horizons. Let me ask you something – doesn’t it feel like these are our last moments on Earth?

It’s no wonder that in a world we feel spinning out of control, our only recourse is superstition. A world that some believe to be flat while others regularly commute back and forth from the moon. A world where those of us who can afford it get seasonal vaccination against plagues brought on by the thaw every season and the poor are left to die. A world of privately controlled news outlets routinely contradicting each other. A world not so much governed by AI but where cities are clumsily automated sets of services; where fortresses of tailored knowledge are built by the rich and paranoid — the same people who would have built survival bunkers years after the cold war had ended. A world that unfolds in the breathy exaltation of the prophets of self-improvement and deregulation. A world completely hollowed from statehood and running on competing cybernetic management systems. A world which has been drained of its fossil fuels. A world in which I trade asteroid-mined lithium futures for 14 hours a day, waiting to find out what other valuable metals are extracted from the Martian regolith…

Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

It sounds like you are quite concerned with the global situation. So you feel like we’ve all become isolated from each other? I’d like to explore this further. Would this be a good place to begin our conversations for the radio piece?


Subject: RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:RE:RE: Superstition As a Last Resort.

Isolated AND insular, indeed. Earth has become an island (the idiots who think the globe is a pancake surrounded by a wall of ice might be right in the end — metaphorically anyway). Earth is a dying island where resources are incredibly expensive and where life has become slower and where the poor are trapped. How many of us do you think will get to become colonists? It’s is an expanse of land and water where geography is meaningless and where people attempt to hang on to cultural myths while their lives are dictated by a failing economic infrastructure. Meanwhile the business of speculation over resources in space is thriving. It keeps the digitally literate employed — lucky me!

If you want to chat on Skype, I am available next tuesday UTC +8.