As said in a former post, we really like Robin Cousin’s work. Aside of his great job on the « Gimini » AR glasses, he has also worked on what would happen in a world that is about to collapse and that discovers an alien civilization in « Des milliards de miroir ». What we want to share here is not the alien discovery part of the scenario, but the collapse one.

The way that Robin Cousin writes and describes that collapsing world is exactly how we should talk about the future : in mundane terms. There are no zombies attack, no nuclear radiations transforming people or whatever. It is basically today’s world, lacking most of the resources we currently know about and it shows the incredible capacity of humans to adapt (just to be clear : as opposed to harnessing the issues before in order to avoid ending in such a scarcity state…). So people cook, walk, ride their bikes and go to work. It gets worse at the end of the book, but basically, no Big Bang but a slow decrease in everything that we know.

The other thing that we really enjoyed is how Robin Cousin speculated about things. One example in particular is striking: the use of energy by a cult. Basically, he describes a Buch of people who believe in aliens and believe they can talk to them. Agin, this is not the key subject, but what is the subject, is the way they deal with energy. The whole cult is centered around the fact that « the universe is energy, and we, as humans are machines that are dissipating it ».

“Humans dissipate energy”

So the members do their absolute best in order not to spend to much energy, or to create that energy themselves. In order to do that they use a mechanical approach : lifting weights with human hands, and letting these weights go down when needed in order to produce electricity. The technical approach is not key here, but the metaphorical one is: lifting the weights is difficult and everybody can literally see how much energy they have contributed to, and how much has ben spent for what. That is something something that service designers have been working on a lot : how to visualize our energy spendings in order to manage it. Here the answer is fairly massive and clear, really far from a digital thermostat.

“An old way to produce electricity. Or is it a modern one ?”

The other interesting aspect is the social one : because it is a cult, it has its own set of rules that it can enforce. So the social control is very high and for example, people are requested to produce a set amount of energy to come in the place (in this case, you need to lift the equivalent of 20.000 Joules)

“20.000 Joules if you want to join”

This is an excellent example about how to use “world building” as a creative tool. Just define one new rule. A powerful and maybe awkward one. Then define a context that makes the rule relevant. And then explore the logical consequences on the technological, but also the social and economical sides. Then you start to create a new world, same same but different ! Something extremely powerful to really think about the future rather than creating pure dystopia that set the stages to fear or willingness to run away from the present, like sometimes social criticism do in Orwellian style fictions.