Scifi mini-novel for Rocca“Reflection from the future”

Cesar Jung-Harada, Singapore, Apr 17, 2023 For Rocca Gallery, Diane Gray King. Special thanks to Sarah Ichioka. 852 words | 5,118 Characters | 40 Sentences | Reading time: 3 minutes

"Homo Sofia, The Generation that took charge". Cesar Jung-Harada. Singapore Institute of Technology. Chapter. Published April 17, 2023: In an illustrated sci-fi novel, the author describes the generation that took charge and how their heroism manifests in ways that are different and possibly unappreciated by other generations.

Credits: Clearbot with MakerBay, 2021. Rights: Clearbot. Found: Microsoft website

The generation that took charge did not look like what we expected. I was a little stressed, 23:30 in Singapore was way too late for our 13 years old son Aster to be playing video games, but it was still the best slot to coordinate with Maya in Lagos (Nigeria) and Hilma in Ensenada (Mexico). It was not any game: "Clearbot Pacific II" enabled online players to remotely control real ocean cleaning robots and play on a massive scale. Whoever collects the most marine pollution wins! Of course these sailing robots made in India had advanced computer vision and AI but it was the teams that had both humans and robots players that usually won.

Credits: Open_Sailing, Cesar Jung-Harada at the Royal College of Art, 2009. Source: Flickr

I was tired, but I had to trust that our son Aster would have the self discipline to switch to autopilot and go to bed at some point... Maybe, Abbie and I had not been the best role models of life-work balance, as we believed working for the cause made a good life. After a short night, I left home quietly and paddled to one of the International ocean stations in the Strait of Malacca. There was no better time to focus than before the other members arrived on board. A few hours to research and write, before a buzzing crowd of youth and wise grey heads rushed in to develop marine climate solutions. Once a week, we would connect with the other Stations in the region, and once a month to the global network, to share our resources, observations, findings, and new ideas.

Credits: “Blue Revolution” Blue 21, Rutger de Graaf.

The floating lab seemed small next to the growing floating city. A large part of old Singapore was now underwater, and instead of abandoning, millions from the city-state reclaimed the sea. It was a delicate balance to figure out how to make high density housing that was energy efficient while creating a diverse and inclusive community. The design proposed by the Indigo Civilisation Foundation worked well in Western Europe, but had to be adapted to the Southeast Asia local climate, materials, biology, and culture. Life above water nourished life underwater, vice versa. In our protected area, many of our species died due to temperature rise and acidification while many simply migrated.

Credits: “Balon Balón Ijo” Jung-Harada, Cassinelli, Pascual, Dwidiani, et al. 2022. .
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The tiny dots on the horizons were massive semi-translucent balloons once you got up-close. In addition to the solar panels on the floating city, marine hydrogen farms were producing large amounts of the clean gas nearby. That gas was contained in low pressure iridescent envelopes, and simply carried to the city outskirts replacing an increasing amount of formerly coal and nuclear-generated electricity, gas for heating, and fuel for transportation. And it was not just one big utility company that benefited from that green hydrogen revolution, but anyone could start a small hydrogen farm with a micro-loan. As fish stock dwindled, it was the fishermen who benefited the most, adding many lines of incomes to fishing: hydrogen sales, carbon and biodiversity credits, algae, mollusk and even some ventured in genetic data in isolated islands, completely transforming their economies and living standards.

Credits: “Protei” Scoutbots, Cesar Jung-Harada, 2011. “Ocean Train” Scoutbots, Cesar Jung-Harada & Guillaume Dupont, 2014

Times had changed, and even if we did not fully understand nature's forms and processes with our rational minds, we humbly accepted to learn from nature, intuitively. Our common boats looked a lot like fishes, changing shape and elegantly bending in the waves. Our cargo-carrying ships look like endless trains, giant heavy steel snakes slowly zigzagging across the ocean with powerful hydraulic systems. We cared for the machines that made our lives better with a similar attention we had for our pets, or even friends and family. We were still far from optimal efficiency, but it felt like the synthetic and natural world were converging. The balance of the system rested on that friendship between the organic and inorganic world. Pervasive Artificial Intelligence really blurred the boundaries of consciousness especially as we improved our communication with other species.

The world was still far from harmonious, and we were still divided and cruel, yet we had agreed on some basic fundamentals to avoid major conflicts and mutual assured destruction. We recently agreed to share existing knowledge, and the capacity to create new knowledge, also known as "Open Science". It sparked a global renaissance, where climate technologies could be developed fast and affordably around the world. As Kurt Vonnegut said "We'll go down in history as the first society that wouldn't save itself because it wasn't cost effective". And we did go down. We made all the mistakes, experienced all the stages of grief “piling wreckage upon wreckage”. Human culture destroyed and re-created itself. We left no choice to our children but "to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed" (Walter Benjamin, 1940). They had to do the impossible as they faced the unthinkable (responding to Murray Bookchin). The planet was still shaped by us - Anthropocene - but the generation that took charge went from doing less bad, to doing good. Not just reducing impact, but regenerating the world. The collective aim was to build an actual “civilization 1.0”, and become "homo sofia", translated from Greek "wise human".

Cesar Jung-Harada: