Introduction: Postnormal Horizons by Ziauddin Sardar

It is all about gestures. Or more specifically, about ‘hand movement’, which according to an advertisement for Volkswagen, makes you ‘smarter and more popular’.This is why the German car manufacturer has devoted enormous financial resources to develop ‘gesture control’ – you will be able to drive future VWs simply by waving your hands.‘How much can we say with our hands? What does the future look like?’ The advertisement asks. And concludes, with a clarion declaration:Volkswagen is ‘Making the Future Real’.We are also provided with a convenient code to‘Shazam’‘to see the future with Volkswagen’. Seeing, as they say, is believing.
Is it? Is the future ‘real’? Can it be made ‘real’? The best answer in these best of all possible postnormal times cannot be black or white. It is both: yes and no; and maybe and perhaps. In one sense, there is nothing real about the future: it simply does not exist. It is always a time that has yet to be reached. Moreover, the future will not exist even in the future for the future exists only when it becomes the present at which point it ceases to be the future. As the future does not actually exist, it has to be invented; to put it another way, images, metaphors, ideas about the future have to be generated and projected.Where do these images, metaphors and ideas come from? Mostly from the (recent) past and the present. Collectively, they frame our thoughts and actions about the future; and we are influenced not just by our notions of what happened in the past, and what is happening now, but also by our images of what may yet happen in the future. Thus, while the future is elusive and uncertain, it is also a domain over which we can exercise some influence.That’s exactly why VW frames its advertisement in the image of a technological future.
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