In near futures
“It’s your turn.”
“What do I do?” I say. She picks up a white stone holds it up with index finger and thumb and says: “My stones are white, yours are black, so you begin. The purpose is to surround more territory on the board than me, just place one of your stones on an intersection.”
I place a black stone in the middle to see what happens, but immediately I get distracted from sudden rain hitting the window just to my right. Thick drops hit the glass and drip down to the frame where they form a small puddle.
“Mmm.. don’t you love that smell? It’s great!” she says.
“Is it?” I ask, I used to hate rain and thought of cold, wet jeans sticking to my upper legs.
“Sure thing! It’s so important, and we all need it! Without the large tree by our settlement, it would be much more of a challenge, but we have collectors when needed since the summers can be very dry. Especially in the evenings, we enjoy the rain. It doesn’t evaporate as quickly and even helps us get to sleep.”
“Hmm, sounds like you got it down.” Rain does make me a bit rosy, I thought.
By this point there were seven stones on the board, four of them were white, and I was playing with a black stone in my hand before putting it next to a white one.
“Shhh”, she made a hissing sound, breathing in air from the sides of her mouth. “That is my liberty, right there”. Then she cocked her head, looking from the stones in her hand to the ones on the grid and back. Meanwhile, my eyes wandered over her sleeves. Her garment had the most beautiful shades of deep indigo and was patterned with abstract figurines, moving from the shoulders down to the wrists. Birds with pointy wings, berries, and seedlings were depicted from left to right. “You are looking at the arctic tern! During their migration each year, they stop by and have always brought new species to our yard, so they are part of our story now, and we made these prints on textiles ourselves.”
“It’s beautiful! But what is a tern?”
“It’s yours, haha, put another stone on the board.”
In the back of the room I hear a zooming sound, different from the zooming of insects, it is uneven, it starts and stops, starts and stops. “What is that buzzing sound, coming from the back?”, I ask.
“Well, I think we will have a coffee break soon, and I thought you would need your own cup, don’t you think?”
I shrugged softly with one shoulder.
“So, I thought to have your cup printed while we play. When you don’t need yours any longer, you can add it with the compost outside, if you will. We only print with organic cellulose. But keep it as long as you like!
We print pretty much anything we need anew, recently even an RC-car to play with.”
I felt like jumping up and running over there to see what my cup looked like and how it was made but tried to be a humble guest and asked. “Printing it, huh? Is all your table wear printed?”
“Some of it, sure, but all the earthenware that’s left from my time as a teacher, you know before they automated human cognition, we still use.”
“Gotcha! You’re captured! See? My stones surrounded yours; you can now take those off the board. Are you getting the hang of it?”
“Hmm, I think so, I was thinking of a strategy but let’s see if that works in a bit.”
“Shall we go outside for that coffee break now? It seems like the rain has stopped, maybe we’ll catch someone in the shared pavilion.”
“Right! Can you tell me about the others? The last settlement I visited for this article, was a group of thirty-five that were selected by an algorithm, which seems common.”
“Of course, I’ll grab your cup and meet you at the door to show you.”
“Well, I have to tell you, there aren’t that many people around here; actually it is just us, see the tall huts there and over there? The village, if you can even call it that, has been optimized from the beginning: off-grid and self-sustaining for eight adults. Even its construction went very efficiently. Everybody has their own skills, and we are quite complementary in that way. Also, we get along pretty well and support each other where we can. Dividing tasks is easy for us, and we use digital platforms to stay in touch with humans that live elsewhere. But we believe that it was a curator rather than an algorithm that grouped us.”
“Hmm, but how do you know what is going on, I mean, in general, how do you follow news and stuff?”
“In general, most of us prefer to not “follow” news, as you say. We do read and discuss, but we rather use research papers from websites that cluster data. Some platforms offer rather political and critical reflections around one topic, and we are politically active ourselves too. Through those, but even more by introducing these discussions in our community, we do feel very connected and involved.”