"I've been an innovation fan since... ever," Argentina-based designer Fernando Barbella mused in an email exchange with HuffPost. "New materials, mashups between living organisms and nanotechnologies, improved capabilities for formerly 'dumb' and inanimate things. There a zillion things going on around us!"
"And all these advances can be as exciting as they are disturbing, if we think about it. The fact is all these things are going to cease being just projects and become part of our reality at any time."
Barbella is the mind behind "Signs of the Near Future," a clever tumblr that ponders what road signage and other everyday symbols might look like in the decades to come. In his futuristic world, we live amongst hologram companions and exoskeleton-clad travelers, we eat synthetic hamburgers and take selfies with our contact lenses, and we use slime mold equipped with artificial intelligence to power elevators.
Barbella's tumblr is hardly just a compilation of bizarre predictions. The imagined visuals nod to contemporary society's hesitation toward emerging technologies and the dystopian narratives we've attached to innovations like drones. Set in familiar settings like super highways and public bathrooms, the photos reveal a slightly twisted tomorrow that, at first glance, might seem more mundane -- even sinister, at times -- than your typical sci-fi theorizing. A deeper dive into the nuanced project reveals the wonder is boiling just below the image's surface.
"Our relationship with new technologies and all things digital, is something worth studying," Barbella explained. "It seems that there's some kind of 'status quo' worried about the reach of our acts and thoughts... So I chose to show these upcoming advances coexisting with very common places and environments, because at the end of the day, the future always is very similar to the present."
"Signs of the Near Future" only hints at what the next generation of life might look like. So what does Barbella really foresee changing in the next, say, 50 years? "I hope by that time we have managed to improve the quality of life of all mankind," he said, "erasing differences between having access to the latest advances in science and technology and not having access."
Check out a preview of his futuristic tumblr here: