Having succumbed to the perils of destruction from global warming, planet earth in 2118 is completely inhabitable. Some of my family was lucky enough to have their consciousness uploaded to a major server thrust into earth’s orbit, and we now live subconsciously through networks maintained by the International Space Station, but others weren’t as lucky. The graduate school program I completed in 2019 called ITP formed an environmental guerilla group, set up by its residents and faculty to organize a way of managing the inevitable collapse of society under worldwide authoritarianism. Countries no longer exist because the land on Earth is now under water and there are no known species that have outlived the multiple natural disasters that began shortly after Trump became re-elected for his second term in 2020.
Museums in 2118 are visited through certain designated ports on the network controlled human consiousness servers and are experienced as though you are walking through the buildings in augmented reality. Since people are no longer able to reproduce because we are no longer connected to any temporary, flesh-bound bodies, we are left with the avatars we created of the 3D scanned imprints that keep us the age we were at the time of the collapse of human life on earth. Our families now consist of friends and neighbors too and we rely on localized networks within the international space station that allows us to live on but in a dysphoric repetitive way that only enables us to explore an open world that we have to struggle to maintain because it’s controlled in part by a secret company Elon Musk created shortly after the 2020 elections in the States. In our idle condition, we are simply roaming an endless lobby of ports waiting in line to plug into the next virtual experience.
As we slowly work together recreate human life in a post planet atmosphere, the need for museums become essential to learning about human life on Earth. There is a massive sense of longing for places on the network where people can revisit famous landmarks and great cities. One of the most popular exhibits PWP’s (post-world people) love revisiting is The Bodies exhibit that popularly traveled the word in the early 2000’s. The families who decided to upload their children wearily port their “selves” into these exhibits and use it to inform their loved ones of the bodies they once had and the world they once lived in. It is sad for these parents, however, because their children still hold on to life on Earth and are increasingly confused by their unaging virtual selves incapable of enjoying Earthly delicacies like eating and sleeping.
ITP’s guerilla group has been trying to instantiate museums of the senses that came out of a class called Cabinets of Wonder which I was lucky enough to be a part of in 2018. Creative coders discovered a way of allowing people to experience smell again through neural networking and are on their way to developing a version of ITP so other’s can learn new ways of experiencing what it was like to be human. I decided to take my uploaded blood-related and newly found family to ITP’s Museum of Smells in 2018 to revisit an exhibit we did in class. I told them about proposing to my wife Sadie while we were in Venice but and the smell of the bathtub soap I used in the hotel while deciding where to take her to propose. She was visibly sad and shaken up while I was telling this story and I couldn’t avoid mentioning that on that day, October 29, 2014, the first of many destructive hurricanes hit NYC — Hurricane Sandy. Despite the strange way we visit museums today, children are still unable to keep full attention in this virtual museum and they long for swing sets, candy, and grassy plains to run across. For now, it’s the adults that use museums to engage their unfulfilled nostalgia. In fact, most museums are now referred to as Places of Earth’s Nostalgia.