From UMK by Dunne & Raby

Is this the Britain of the future?

The Design Museum's forthcoming exhibition, United Micro Kingdoms, speculates on how we might end up living

It seems unlikely that a quarter of the British population, either in this century or the next, will identify themselves as a Communo-Nuclearist or a Bioliberal. Yet The Design Museum's forthcoming exhibition, United Micro Kingdoms: a Design Fiction, running 1 May – 26 August at the museum's Shad Thames site, does raise some interesting questions about the way we might end up living.

The show, put together by the famed speculative London designers, Dunne & Raby, imagines the UK at some unspecified point in the future split into four distinct Kingdoms, each dealing with particular contemporary concerns in different ways.

There are the Digitarians, who “depend on digital technology and all its implicit totalitarianism: tagging, metrics, total surveillance, tracking, data logging and 100% transparency;” visitors can also see the aforementioned Communo-Nuclearists, who place their faith in “nuclear power to deliver near limitless energy; the state provides everything needed for their continued survival. Although they are energy rich it comes at a price — no one wants to live near them.”

There are also the Anarcho-Evolutionists, who “abandon most technologies, or at least stop developing them, and concentrate on using science to maximise their own physical capabilities through training, DIY biohacking and self experimentation,” and finally the Bioliberals, who “fully embrace biotechnology and the new values that this entails. Biology is at the centre of their world-view, leading to a radically different technological landscape to our own.”


From UMK by Dunne & Raby
From UMK by Dunne & Raby

As with much science fiction, the details don't serve so much as an accurate prediction, but more as a sharp critique of today's difficulties. Yet, unlike the works of sci fi writers such as Philip K Dick or JG Ballard, UMK is less concerned with a narrative thread than it is with the simple stuff of life; what kind of houses might we use, what kind of transport might serve us, and what kind of food and drink would we consume, if we take these emergent trends to a slightly unnatural conclusion.

Not quite design, art, trend forecasting or think-tank wonkery, UMK makes us question the kind of world we want to live in, by presenting four beguiling alternatives. To discover more, visit The Design Museum's site.

For further insight into the kind of country we might make for ourselves, consider our forthcoming title, My World, Your Future by Jonathon Porritt. Porritt CBE, is a famed ecologist and author, who co-founded Forum for The Future, which contributed to the UMK exhibition. By employing similar speculative techniques in the form of a fictional memoir, My World, Your Future describes how we might reach to reach a genuinely sustainable world by 2050. It's a great read, and one that's full of hope too.