Film futuristics

A forecasting methodology

Authored by: Michael Glock

The Routledge International Handbook of Jungian Film Studies

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138666962
eBook ISBN: 9781315619163
Adobe ISBN:




Imagine that in 2020 you are tasked to understand and predict potential threats that existed in the world against your country. You decide to use film futuristics because its methodology is anchored in C. G. Jung’s formulation of the collective unconscious and archetypes. It is a methodology where you research and analyze multiple films, synthesize the collected insights through a hermeneutic, heuristic process which is then followed by writing three fictional scenarios of possible, probable and preferable futures.

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Film futuristics


Imagine that in 2020 you are tasked to understand and predict potential threats that existed in the world against your country. You decide to use film futuristics because its methodology is anchored in C. G. Jung’s formulation of the collective unconscious and archetypes. It is a methodology where you research and analyze multiple films, synthesize the collected insights through a hermeneutic, heuristic process which is then followed by writing three fictional scenarios of possible, probable and preferable futures.

Jung describes the collective unconscious as ‘a second psychic system of a collective, universal and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals’ (1936: §90). The collective unconscious appears in dreams as elementary and primordial images. When seen as a sequence, specific motifs dramatically appear. Film futuristics treats film as a dream sequence, a collection of systems that often reveal the collective unconscious at work.

Dreams operate in an altered state of consciousness and express themselves in a logically abstract way, often in the language of symbolic image, allegory, parable, metaphor and simile. They, theatrically operate below the threshold of awareness similarly to how films reveal hidden dimensions. Just like films, dreams have a language, a dramatic structure. As Jung puts it, ‘a dream is a theater in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic’ (1916/48: §509). Dreams are a fundamental portal to the source and can be contemplated in terms of an unfolding dramatic sequence as expressed in classical Greek drama: ‘exposition, peripeteia, crises, and lysis. These can be roughly translated as setting, walking about or development, crises, and outcome’ (Whitmont and Perera, 1991 p. 69). Drama is an art form that has been consciously created and crafted to power pack the psychological allegories, symbolism and stories of human life to both entertain and teach forward. The dream on the other hand is the outcome of unconscious, non-rational processes in the individual. Both film and dream present unconscious dynamics and we relate to them both through the dramatic structure as an expression of the ‘mythopoetic stratum of the psyche’ (ibid., p. 69).

Film futuristics is a critical, action-orientated methodology that can be used to unpack the hidden dimensions and prospective probabilities within films and make the resulting knowledge and insight available to future planning. Film futuristics is a re-visioning of the original cultural futuristics methodology first proposed in 2007 by me (Glock, 2008). Unlike cultural futuristics where significant cultural events are analyzed, film futuristics primarily focuses on cultural artifacts such as films, video games, interactive media, virtual reality (VR), and similar moving image based narratives. Films are analyzed using an interdisciplinary approach including psycho and analytical approaches. The interdisciplinary approach is vital because film futuristics is fundamentally a forecasting technology and storytelling tool that interacts and informs the researcher, in order to enhance the depth and wisdom of the future histories that are created. Film futuristics is a close reading of the depths within artifacts, it is a heuristic phenomenological hermeneutic, whereby the researcher is implicated in the research and reanimates living within the analysis, synthesis and fictional future histories that are the outcome of the research. Such research requires the attitude of the ‘smooth mind’ which brings into being ‘flashes of acute intuitive insight [that] marks the presence of wisdom’ (Basso, 1996, p. 147).

By focusing on the myths, symbols and powerful narratives within film, we can identify harbingers of events to come. Through psychologically understanding the symbolic material, and the disguised meanings communicated by these artifacts, film futuristics develops foreknowledge and oracular skills necessary for writing ‘future history’ that articulates possible, probable and preferable future conditions.

Practically consider this: films as I suggest can be understood as dreams, both have a dramatic structure and often present themselves theatrically. They offer access to the hidden dimensions of the collective unconscious by presenting archetypes as images, sequences of allegories and metaphors. Now, imagine tracking the development of the robots, or artificial intelligence (AI) as a character in four science fiction films, the original Frankenstein (1931) directed by James Whale and based on Mary Shelley’s original story, the bodiless AI named HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick, the robots TARS and CASE in Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan and the intelligent humanoid in Ex Machina (2015) directed by Alex Garland. By using the film futuristics methodology and doing a close reading of the films’ texts and developmental arc of the androids and robots, it would be possible to conclude that a technological singularity will happen and is predicted within these films. The singularity ‘is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial super-intelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization’ (Wikiwand, 2016). The concluding three scenarios of this research would therefore expound on and explore the unfathomable changes confronting human civilization.

Film futuristics has been developed from Freud’s metapsychology and Jung’s models of how the unconscious is at work in human nature—via projection and shadow, the collective unconscious and collectively via the archetypes. Additionally, Jung’s use of complexes, constellated opposites and alchemy provides the basis for film futuristics’ analytical constructions. Film futuristics is further validated by Hillman’s (1992) perspective that ‘sickness is now out there’ and a necessary focus for psychological inquiry. Hillman’s emphasis on story and fiction confirms the value of film futuristics’ precise and detailed attention to the fictional scenario-writing process itself.


The American event known and experienced as 9/11 was predicted and, because it occurred, it represents a failure of imagination. The powers in charge failed to perceive larger cultural patterns at work or to appreciate their implications. Peter Schwartz led the scenario team for the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century—the Hart–Rudman Commission—in 1998–2000. After the surprising end of the Cold War, the commission’s task was to envision a new defense and security strategy. Their report, written ‘a few months after George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2000, warned that terrorist incidents represented the greatest threat to the United States. In one scenario we anticipated terrorists destroying the World Trade Center by crashing airliners into it’ (Schwartz, 2003, p. 4).

This demonstrates a poverty of expectations in policy enactment and an inability to grasp the collective capturing of the movement of psyche in cultural artifacts. Using cultural artifacts such as films, interactive video games or any type of moving narrative structure, a researcher and forecaster can imagine the unintended consequences to come and plan for and mitigate what Schwartz identifies as ‘inevitable future surprises’ a term that characterizes future events that ‘can be anticipated now’ (p. 2). Significant events and inevitable surprises are manifestations of humans’ psychological lives and, as such, can be examined in order to fathom the future, because my contention is that the future is embryonically present within cultural artifacts.

Artifact, myth, metaphor, image and symbol

What movies signaled the first whisperings that terrorists might obtain a nuclear device for purposes of blackmail? Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) projects a Nazi plot to sabotage American war industries at a time when public fears of espionage and industrial terrorism were at their peak. John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962), depicts the assassination of a presidential candidate, masterminded by the Manchurian Corporation—perhaps a precursor of the powerful role special interest groups, lobbyists and big business has in American government today. The film appeared during a time of political killings; in fact, the movie was still in theatrical release when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. In Director Terence Young’s Thunderball (1965), Sean Connery’s James Bond character manages to thwart the terrorists, but the film’s storyline seems remarkably prescient for post-9/11 times. George Seaton’s Airport (1970) depicts a psychopathic kamikaze attempting to hijack an American airliner. At that time, the movie reflected the American public’s growing anxiety over increasing airplane hijackings. These movies can be regarded as Hollywood’s propaganda machine, producing cinematic terrorism for global consumption, as well as the collective capturing of the movement of the cultural psyche.

Video games, too, provide learning environments that teach a player how to control and often dominate, as well as providing an experiential environment that instructs a gamer to actually drive cars and fly planes within simulated environments. Violent editions of video games elicit aggressive solutions to conflict, ‘priming aggressive thoughts and practicing new aggression related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise’ (Steyer, 2002, p. 90)

In fact, after 9/11, when Western journalists were visiting Al Qaeda safe houses in Kabul they: ‘discovered packaging elements from the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator—a computer game that allowed users to simulate flight takeoffs from the world’s largest airports and crash them into skyscrapers, including New York’s World Trade Center’ (ibid., p. 90). The attacks on 9/11 were eerily prefigured by Microsoft’s Flight Simulator video game. The existence of the game can therefore be considered to have been a warning of imminent danger, a danger that went unnoticed because events tend to be seen in isolation and unconnected.

Prior to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator video game, a spate of war movies prepared the collective American psyche for things to come, including Tora! Tora! Tora! (dirs Fleisher and Fukasaku, 1970), Platoon (dir. Stone, 1986), Saving Private Ryan (dir. Spielberg, 1998) and Three Kings (dir. Russell, 1999). Jarringly, Three Kings is about three American soldiers who went into the Iraqi desert to find millions in stolen Kuwaiti bullion and became involved in a democratic uprising. Their purpose was not to bring democracy to Iraq, in contrast to the Bush administration’s main reason for going to war. The battle at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, forced America’s hand into the Second World War through a surprise Japanese-kamikaze attack. Eighteen ships were sunk, and 2,403 Americans were killed. The movie Pearl Harbor, released in 2001 was still fresh in the American cultural mindset when 9/11 occurred, thus preparing the country for rhetoric such as ‘It’s Pearl Harbor all over again.’

Another film that similarly was a psychological preparation and harbinger of a different form of catastrophe was The China Syndrome (dir. Bridges, 1979). The fictional story portrayed a near meltdown of a nuclear facility. Only weeks after the film’s opening night, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania partially melted down and released radioactivity into Dauphin County. Was this an eerie coincidence or the silenced voice of a super-heated cultural psyche?


The event referred to as 9/11 is the result of myriad previous events, crises and historical decisions, all of which caused trajectories that careened into the present and continue onward into the future. This forgotten and unconscious material is a result of reification, a process described by Berger and Luckmann (1990) whereby the ‘products of human activity’ are apprehended ‘as if they were something other than human products—such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will’ (p. 106). This implies, argue Berger and Luckmann that ‘man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and, further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness’ (p. 106). Berger and Luckmann further suggest that the reified world is ‘a dehumanized world’ and is experienced as a ‘strange facticity, an opus alienum over which he has no control rather than as an opus proprium of his own productive activity’ (p. 106).

Understood from this perspective of the sociology of knowledge, 9/11 is a critical-cultural event, a human construction and an event that we have forgotten that we authored. This necessarily results in an inability to bring essential meaning to the event, because we do not understand that it is a manifestation of our own psychological world, realized and made manifest. By using a rhizomatic model, as defined by Deleuze and Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1987), the researcher is able to counter this amnesia by unpacking the history and the current state of the official myths and hidden stories that comprised the human constructions in the preceding events that precipitated the current event. The rhizome unlike trees or roots

connects any point to any other point … it is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills.

(1987, p. 21)

This process returns the dialectical possibilities to the event, where an exchange of propositions and counter-propositions may be exposed. This, in turn, generates the possibility of creating a synthesis through the exposure and articulation of opposing assertions, which invariably leads to remembering that we are the creators and authors of all the previous events. This knowledge produces a concomitant wisdom with reflexivity that garners foresight and insight into the future.

From a depth psychological perspective and methodology, one can etiologically return to and recover early culturally traumatic incidents. Similarly, a film futuristics researcher understands that reified material in a cultural artifact can cause a neurosis and a dysfunctional response to it, as occurred after 9/11 in America. In fact, the task of film futuristics is to remember what has been forgotten, to recover, and to unconceal hidden and unconscious constellated opposites, shadow material, projections and defense mechanisms. Bringing these elements to consciousness is the psychoanalytical healing process used in the consulting room in action and a core task of film futuristics.

Cultural complexes

The concern with fanatics, psychotics and neurotics is important to film futuristics, because the psychologically affecting and emotional power that exists around them leads inexorably toward the unexploded landmines of culturally unconscious complexes. If humans do not recognize how the unconscious is at work in culture, and if they remain unconscious of these underground, powerful, motivating forces, the conscious mind cedes control to the images and symbolic content. This implies the potential for dissociation, paranoia, systemized delusions and the projection of cultural conflicts ascribed to the supposed hostility of others. If unchecked, dissociation progresses to a cultural disturbance of consciousness and aggressive acts are rationalized as holy missions. Or acts are committed in so-called self-defense, such as America instigating a global war on terror because Saddam Hussein, the American people and the world are told, has weapons of mass destruction.

This disturbance of consciousness exists in present-day America. It was seen in the George W. Bush administration’s ‘holy mission of a global war on terror’. As Jung asserted:

Today humanity, as never before, is split into two apparently irreconcilable halves. The pyschological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.

(1951: §126) Jungian analysts Tom Singer and Sam Kimbles (2004), took Jung’s theory of complexes and mapped them onto culture, coining the term cultural complexes. Cultural complexes deal with the cultural level of the psyche and the life of the group and how the life of the group exists in the psyche of the individual. Invariably, Singer and Kimbles suggest that the notion of cultural complexes will lead to an ‘enhanced capacity to see more objectively the shadow of the group in its cultural complexes’ (p. 4). Singer and Kimbles further suggest that:

As complexes emerge out of the level of the personal unconscious in their interaction with deeper levels of the psyche and early parental/familial relationships, cultural complexes can be thought of as arising out of the cultural unconscious as it interacts with both the archetypal and personal realms of the psyche and the broader outer world arena of schools, communities, media, and all the other forms of cultural and group life.

(p. 4)
The task now, Singer argues, is for every injured culture—be it American, Iraqi, Iranian, Balkan, Palestinian, Catholic, Jewish, Jungian, men, or women—‘to learn to drink to the dregs of its own complexes, as well as those of its neighbors, allies and enemies’ (p. 31). The emergence of a theory of cultural complexes suggests that an ‘understanding of the individual psyche through its consciousness will not be enough. The group itself will need to develop a consciousness of its cultural complexes’ (p. 31).

Through the postmodern fascination with the surface and its absorption in decoration, modern humans have lost knowledge of the cultural wounds that litter the global cultural psyche. Tribal, racial and ethnic wounds; gender mutilations and transformations; and religious, political and economic inequalities are all lost to the surface gaze. Like landmines, cultural complexes are buried under the surface and inside cultural artifacts, ready to detonate at the slightest provocation. Like dried-up riverbeds, these complexes are reminders of unresolved conflicts that have accumulated in the collective memories and emotions of generations. Like water that returns to a parched riverbed, critical and numinous events flow in as markers and expressions of deep wounds in the collective cultural psyche. These critical-cultural events explode and trigger chain reactions, because each is connected rhizomatically to all others. As each event explodes, the hidden invisible wounds grow.

Film futuristics delves into this fund of culturally unconscious images that often fatally confuse cultural consciousness. It is film futuristics’ task to re-envision and return the ‘matrix of a mythopoeic imagination which has vanished from our rational age’ (Jung, 1989, p. 183).

There exists an unconscious, interdependent connection among all critical-cultural artifacts. When a researcher sees them this way, as an interconnected rhizomatic web, he or she is more able to visualize the affecting cultural-wounding effects, emotional power and destructive potential of the cultural unconscious within society’s larger framework.

The power of opposites

Jung conceptualized the dynamism of the psyche by using the ‘first law of thermodynamics which states that energy demands two opposing forces’ (Samuels et al., 1986, p. 102). The key to understanding the psyche in critical cultural events and the key to the analysis used by film futuristics is in the revealing and understanding of opposites.

Pairs of opposites are by their nature considered to be in an undifferentiated state and diametrically opposed. Cultural life theoretically furnishes rules and limitations that of their own prevent excessive psychic disproportion: cultural ‘wholeness implies a tremendous tension of opposites paradoxically at one with themselves’ (Jung 1956: §460). However, the dissolution of any compromise reached between two halves of a pair renders the activity of opposition ever more intense, causing psychic disequilibrium and disassociation, such as that which is noticeable in psychosis. Alternatively, experiencing being at the mercy of one opposite extreme and then the other is the hallmark of an awakening consciousness. Ultimately, when the tension becomes intolerable, an alchemical synthesis occurs. Relief occurs because a reconciliation of the two opposites occurs at a ‘different and more satisfactory level’ (Samuels et al., 1986, p. 102). This is the coniunctio process that represents the most basic anatomy of the individual and collective psyche. The flow of libido, or ‘psychic energy, is generated by the polarization of opposites in the same way that electricity flows between the positive and negative poles of an electrical circuit’ (Edinger and Blackmer, 1994, p. 12).

The coniunctio, or sacred marriage of opposing constellations, can be ‘conceived as opposites, [that are] either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love’ (Jung, 1955–6: §1). Either way, it indicates that the drama of the opposites is at play. Understood psychologically, consciousness requires the simultaneous experience of the opposites; similarly, the heart requires blood to pump full–empty, breath requires in–out. The more that consciousness can hold tension between oppositional forces or ideas, the greater consciousness is enhanced. Another fundamental aspect of opposites is that which is denied, repressed or activated by a complex can be brought into view via oppositional energies, a process that spawns advanced consciousness, which in turn cultivates forward-thinking wisdom, insight and clarity.

Opposition is ‘the basic drama that goes on in the collective psyche. Every war, every contest between groups, every dispute between political factions, every game, is an expression of coniunctio energies’ (Edinger and Blackmer, 1994, p. 15). Whenever one-sided identification with either one of a pair of warring opposites occurs, the tension between the opposites is lost; hence, the ability to enhance consciousness or to develop broadmindedness is lost.

The cultural-therapeutic goal of film futuristics is to strengthen and to support an expansion of personal and cultural consciousness—to rouse the personal unconscious of the film futuristics researcher, to reveal the unconscious within the event under study and expose the collective unconscious of culture at large. The intention is to produce insight, foresight and superior critical thinking with a concomitant wisdom, thereby lifting the fog caused by participation mystique. In a more modern sense, this is understood as removing the projective identification from between the researcher and the event under study. Essentially, this implies that knowledge of what is projected by the personality of the researcher onto the event is recognized and minimized. According to Jung, accomplishing this task ‘integrates the unconscious, and gradually there comes into being a higher point of view where both conscious and unconscious [elements] are represented’ (1946: §479). The collision of two opposing forces causes the unconscious psyche to produce a third possibility that becomes an ‘ambiguous and paradoxical SYMBOL which is capable of attracting attention and eventually reconciling the two’ (Samuels et al., 1986, p. 102).

Film futuristics recognizes that the critical artifact, as it acts out in the world, is indeed the result of secret springs of action. No matter how much information, dialog, news and media exist, cultural consciousness always remains the ‘smaller circle within the greater circle of the [collective] unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea; and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self-replenishing abundance of living creatures’ (Jung, 1946: §366). It is a wealth beyond our fathoming. For a long time, culture has been experiencing the effects and characteristics of these unconscious constellations without ever having understood their depths and ‘potentialities, for they are capable of infinite variations and can never be depotentiated’ (ibid.: §366). The function and task of film futuristics is to delve into the cultural unconscious’ depths, examine some of its infinite variations and fathom the opposites that exist there, so as to bring forth wealth.

Sickness is now out there!

Freud and Jung both knew that analysis of neurosis would ultimately escape the therapy room and develop into a form of cultural analysis. James Hillman exemplified this possible future of analysis when he suggested bringing psychological meaning to what are often viewed as isolated cultural artifacts. Thus, this act of psychologizing is a ‘process of seeing through’ (Hillman, 1975, p. 140) into the underlying teleological factors, needs, values and archetypal impulses of the cultural psyche as they are expressed through numinous cultural events.

In accord with Freud and Jung, Hillman (1992) advocates that theories of neurosis and cultural pathology must be radically extended. He argues that psychology must re-envision the notion of subjectivity itself, because breakdown now exists in the world—in events like terrorism and the ecological and global climate change crisis—not just in people: ‘We now encounter pathology in the psyche of politics and medicine, in language and design, in the food we eat. Sickness is now “out there”’ (p. 96). Cultural breakdown is producing symptomatic fragments of paranoid politics, manic manufacturing and a loss of cultural vitality. Film futuristics aims squarely at understanding, and listening into, this symptomatic and ailing world in service to planning a better future.

Robert Sardello, a pioneer in understanding that an antidote to the ‘subjectivizing tendencies of a psychological culture’ (2004, p. 21) is imperative because we find ourselves further from the world. Sardello understands that ‘therapy has shifted from the isolated chamber of the psychotherapist’s office to the world’ (p. 21). The organizing forms of buildings, economics, medicine, technology, energy, media and religion are making our culture. The result is that these are: ‘making a pathological civilization.… The new symptoms are fragmentation, specialization, expertise, depression, inflation, cruelty, hardness, violence, and absence of beauty. Our buildings are anorectic, our business paranoid, detached and abstract, our technology manic.’

It is clear to both Sardello and Hillman that, psychologically, because of breakdown, the world ‘is entering a new moment of consciousness: by drawing attention to itself by means of its symptoms, it is becoming aware of itself as a psychic reality’ (Hillman, 1992, p. 97). The work of psychology … ‘consists of a re-evaluation of the domains of the modern world in terms of metaphor, image, story, and dream’ (Sardello, 2004, p. 21). Hillman further argues that the world is in a state of ‘gross chaos, exhibiting acute symptoms’ (1992, p. 97) and observes that not only is pathology projected onto the world but that ‘the world is inundating [us] with its unalleviated suffering’ (p. 99). Hillman argues that it must become psychotherapy’s task to take up the thread first initiated by Sigmund Freud (which is, fundamentally, film futuristics’ task)—to analytically dissect cultural neurosis—which ‘might lead to therapeutic recommendations which could lay claim to great practical interest’ (p. 98).

The world is projecting its own repressed collective unconsciousness onto humanity through films, videos and virtual reality that humans make, witness and themselves live! Much of humanity is oblivious to this remarkable concept, yet it is nothing other than the cultural complexes as the anima cultura mundi at work in the world—behind and below the threshold of human consciousness.

Film futuristics seeks to perceive and to discern the hidden needs and voices of psyche that lie within significant films and to see underneath the repressive modernistic shroud of scientific and cultural materialism while conceptualizing the artifact as a rhizomatic web that interconnects meaning making threads with underlying unconscious components. This interlinking postmodern concept parallels Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome model, with its constantly emerging immanent space and place, versus the modern era’s tree metaphor and idea of nomadic space. Film futuristics relies on Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) argument that a new nomadic space illustrated by the postmodern rhizomatic model is a ‘map and not a tracing’ (p. 12). ‘The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted, to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation’ (p. 12).

Recovering, remembering or reconnecting the facades with the depths is therapy at work: in an individual context, therapy is the labor of restoring the how, to the what, bringing insight and vision to the invisible via the symptom that is in itself in disguise. This is what film futuristics does for the collective life of humanities future. It restores us to our place because it shows us that the cultural artifacts from which we seem to be apart is in fact a part of us, the visible expression of a story originated by us and continuing today and forming our future history.

Keith Basso: the smooth mind—wisdom and place

As a methodology, film futuristics requires the researcher to access a particular attitude in order to achieve maximum efficacy while conducting the analysis, synthesis and future history (writing the three scenarios) on cultural artifacts. This required attitude can be found within the framework of indigenous wisdom, particularly in the idea of smooth mind as articulated in Keith H. Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places (1996). Basso explains how the Western Apache concept of landscape and place is culturally significant and how they tell stories about places in order to foresee danger before it arrives from the future. Basso lifts the veil on the most elemental poetry of human experience—place. My move is to understand film as place.

For the Western Apache, certain places are significant and numinous. The stories told about those places are passed down from one generation to the next in order to pass on lessons learned from the events that occurred there. ‘Drink from places, Apache boys and girls are told. Then you can work your mind’ (Basso, 1996, p. 34). Drinking from places means that places have acquired the stamp of human events, meaning a consequential and liminal event has taken place there. Places that have greatly affected the Apache are named, and places are memorialized because they have become consecrated. Places with names are thus enhanced and endowed with hallowed force. The uncanny exists in these revered places, spaces and sites, and it is here that one experiences the soul shuddering, an ‘experience [of] a religious humility’ (Corbett, 1996, p. 12).

Places-of-occupation, combined with an elemental story and the stamp of a numinous event, mark place as an occupied field filled with wisdom. Consequently, places are like water that never dries up:

You need to drink water to stay alive, don’t you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must remember everything about them. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them a long time ago. You must think about it and keep on thinking about it. Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. Then you will see danger before it happens [italics added]. You will walk a long way and live a long time. You will be wise. People will respect you.

(Basso, 1996, p. 127) Wisdom is, therefore, equated with survival; surviving is enhanced by having smoothness of mind, and smoothness of mind rests on two subsidiary conditions—‘mental resilience and mental steadiness—which ward off distractions that interfere with calm and focused thought’ (ibid., p. 132). Mental resilience is defined as a state of mind that is immune to chaos or affecting havoc. Even in horrifying circumstances, ‘resilient minds maintain their ability to reason clearly and thus neither ‘block themselves’ nor ‘stand in their own way’ (ibid., p. 132). Resilience of mind is analogous to a tightly woven round basket—a container that has inherent flexibility because of its organic and natural fiber, yet is also strong because its shape yields to accommodate that which it encloses. Resistant to the unnerving effects of jarring external events, resilient minds protect their interior spaces by shielding them against outside disruptions that threaten quiescent thinking.

By understanding these three mental conditions—smoothness, resilience and steadiness of mind—as a developmental model and applying this model to film futuristics, film as place becomes a transmitted story about place—a carrier of wisdom. Practically, knowledge is useful to the extent that stories about film/places can be swiftly recalled and turned rapidly into wise responses to the pending danger of significant and numinous events. This ability to recall stories under powerful affecting situations produces an uncanny ability to quickly and effectively respond, and is based on knowledge that has been passed from one generation to the next. This is the smooth mind and practical wisdom that defines foresight—an integral portion of film futuristics.

Film futuristics: praxis

Film futuristics requires the researcher to phenomenologically engage in a process of reliving history as a now experience. Significant cultural artifacts are understood to be manifestations of an age’s psychological life, a mirror that returns an accurate picture of the forces at work behind the scenes. When tended by using film futuristics, the many-faceted symbols are uncovered in the symptoms, the countless myths are uncovered in the multitudinous meanings and the hidden dreams in the unfamiliar metaphors are revealed in the taken-for-granted truths.

The practice of film futuristics becomes a way home to the future, a method of ‘way forward engineering’ with soul in mind, because it includes that which has been forgotten, reified, repressed and exiled returning unconsciousness by reinserting soul into the fantasy of the future scenario—future history.

Film futuristics is constructed in three fundamental stages similar to the three principal stages of alchemy. The essence of film futuristics is in performing research, then separation and analysis on one hand, and synthesis and consolidation on the other. Numinous cultural artifacts are examined and explored phenomenologically, psychologically and mythically. Numinous artifacts as in the previous examples of robots and AIs in the science fiction films may be analyzed and then followed by writing future histories that predict, or forewarn or forearm policy makers and planners about (perhaps) a new age of leisure, or new teenage initiation rituals or a trans-modern world where all private ownership of motor vehicles is outlawed. Future histories act as narrative devices that condense and consolidate the analysis, which in turn produces synthesis. This is a fundamentally alchemical procedure that reunites opposing hostile and previously separated constellations by synthetically reintegrating them, and therapeutically transforming separation into unity.

The resulting future histories are written from a metaphorical perspective using the researcher’s own activated transcendent function, functionally mediating, by way of the emerged symbols, the constellated opposites revealed during analysis. This perspective facilitates a transition from one psychological attitude or condition to another, by creating a linkage between ‘real and imaginary, or rational and irrational data, thus bridging the gulf between consciousness and unconsciousness’ (Samuels et al., 1986, p. 150). This is the therapeutic-healing function in action, oppositional forces, when held in tension, seek their compensation in unity. The confrontation of rational data with that of unconscious or irrational information is the transcendent function’s task, resulting in an expansion of consciousness, a modification of standpoint and a transformation of perspectives.

It is important to iterate that film futuristics produces future histories that neither explain, nor develop, any unified or grand theories. Film futuristics makes the postmodern move from the need to cure and fix, to a deep honoring of the symptom in the dream of the film. Future histories are, thus, generative, intentional inquiries into symptom because (a) the teleological thrust of the hidden voice within a significant event has been understood as initially representing coniunctio energies, (b) the opposites have been held in tension and (c) future histories are written using the activated transcendent function of the researcher. The researcher is fundamentally implicated in the research process because the transferential field between the event under study and the researcher exists and affects both.

Futures studies vs film futuristics

The purpose of futures studies, or futuristics, is to discover or invent, examine and evaluate, and propose possible, probable and preferable futures. Futures studies’ objective is to grasp today’s landscape and how changes (or the lack thereof) may become tomorrow’s reality. It includes the analysis of source patterns, that is, the causes of change and stability, in order to develop conceptual maps of alternative future conditions and states. The subjects and methods of futures studies includes the conceptualization of alternative formulations of the present social and natural environments, where natural is defined as independent of human impact.

Like depth psychology, future studies also uses a variety of methodologies to examine how forces at work in the world today are forming the future. Using multiple interdisciplinary perspectives, futurists seek to develop insight, foresight and maps of alternative futures. They construct narrative fictions called scenarios that explore tomorrow’s possibilities. They call this process scenario planning. Film futuristics scenarios are differently constructed from the scenarios of futures studies. In cultural futuristics, scenarios A (possible future) and B (probable future) are written from the perspective of each constellated opposite, as revealed in the analytical phase. Scenario C (preferable future) is written from a metaphorical style of consciousness and from the perspective of the researcher’s own activated, transcendent function. This scenario performs the alchemical-coniunctio function by reuniting the constellated opposites identified in scenarios A and B. This process, therefore, brings soul to scenario planning and consciousness to way forward engineering. This concept, method and approach currently does not exist in cultural analysis, cultural therapeutics or futures studies and are this chapter’s contribution to the field.

Like Futurists, film futuristics’ decisions and action are informed with futures thinking. Similar to van den Berg’s Metabletica (1983), which attempts to explain what happened in the past and why, the efforts of futures studies and film futuristics are to examine, identify and propose responses to the embryonic potential that exists within the present as evidenced in film. This requires theoretical constructions of present conditions and how conditions might change.

Film futuristics adds several additional dimensions that are not currently included in futures studies. First, there is an unconscious motivating force existing within critical-cultural artifacts/films. Second, the rhizomatic interconnections of the unconscious components within multiple events can be utilized to expose the hidden, orphaned and exiled teleological directions as seen in the symptoms and complexes within the artifact. Third, the resulting scenarios after analysis can be written as future history. Future histories are designed to reveal the unconscious conflicts within the artifacts. They are revealed and released by focusing on the shadow projections, cultural complexes and constellated opposites witnessed within the artifact. The scenarios of future histories expand the consciousnesses of the researcher and the artifact, because future histories mediate the conflicted opposites within the event under analysis. Holding the tension between the opposites results in psychic growth and a concomitant wisdom, precisely because the opposites have a chance of being reconciled.

Two factors usually distinguish film futuristics studies from research conducted by other disciplines (although all disciplines overlap to differing degrees):

  1. Film futuristics examines not only possible, but also probable, preferable and wildcard scenarios of future states or conditions.
  2. Film futuristics endeavors to advance a holistic or general-systems view based on insights from a range of different disciplines.
It is important to note also that future histories are written through the lens of the anima cultura futurus mundi (the future cultural soul of the world), which recognizes that coniunctio forces are at work through collective-unconscious, and constellated complexes as seen in the cultural complexes. Film futuristics and future histories, as a two-part methodology, become an applicable process that benefits all the other methodologies that futurists use. Why? Because film futuristics offers radical insight into the cultural complex as a symptom and reveals the cultural soul within cultural artifacts.

The scenario

Ultimately, the end product of every futures methodology is the scenario. Scenarios are fictional stories about possible, probable and preferable futures. They are the optimistic, pessimistic or most probable outcomes, or a combination of all three. Often, there are numerous stories about possibilities for the future, each of which have different probabilities of transpiring under diverse and sometimes contradictory conditions. In this case, many more than three scenarios can be written. Scenarios propose goals and values that address the desirability or undesirability of various futures. Typically, they contain descriptions of available choices and a list of anticipated and unanticipated outcomes. They can include the formulation of unintended circumstances that could alter the scenarios dramatically. The scenarios may also include implicit and explicit recommendations regarding what ‘choices and actions ought to be made now in the present to create the most desirable world in the future’ (Bell, 1996, p. 317).

Even a brief example of this process will show how rapidly effective the method is and demonstrate the process. Imagine it is late 2020, and you decide to use film futuristics in a personal capacity to write a novella. But you face a blank page!

We will use the same films mentioned previously: Frankenstein (1931) directed by James Whale, 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick, Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan and Ex Machina (2015) directed by Alex Garland.

Phase 1

Research begins with a steady, resilient and steadfast mind, anchored in place like earth packed around a post. You unpack the many meanings within the monster of Frankenstein. A being made up of the discarded and dead parts of previously living human beings. Frankenstein is constructed from what we have cast away, discarded, orphaned and exiled: Frankenstein is built completely of our shadows. In Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein (1996) we have a fundamental story of mankind becoming God by creating life. But the creator, Victor Frankenstein, of the so-called monster abandons his creature and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. The monster becomes marginalized, cast adrift and becomes the ‘other’, yet the whole story may also be understood as a prophesy. It is a modern retelling of the original mythic story of Prometheus and the Christian creation myth. It is a narrative construction that forces us to see our own psychological blindness and it is a haunting prescient rendering of the inevitable rise of technological power, artificial life and AI threatening to rival us.

In 2001 A Space Odyssey, HAL, interestingly one letter of the alphabet removed from IBM, implies an immediate link toward evolution of the computer and perhaps the eventual enslavement of mankind by (IBM’s) Watson technology. The film opens with primordial apes around a watering hole, a brilliant and unexpected beginning, considering the title of the film. Then we witness what logically must be the very beginning of bone as tool and weaponry. A tracking shot follows it up as it is flung into the air; revealing satellites circling the Earth. We recognize the configuration as preparation for space warfare. The soundtrack playing over this scene is the music of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube, it was also the name of Britain’s first operational nuclear weapon. The fundamental plot is that we are not alone, humanity has found a mysterious monolith on Earth that when discovered sends a signal to another on the moon.

This is an evolutionary story. Sometime in the past, someone or something nudged evolution and placed monoliths on the Earth on the moon and Jupiter in order to warn or signal a maturity of human development. HAL 9000 and the human (Bowman) set off on a quest. A race to Jupiter begins with two fundamental players in competition to win a battle; whoever wins, and reaches the monolith creators achieves the next step in evolution, perhaps the final abyss.

Interstellar (2014) begins by showing us a near future where the apocalypse is approaching: blight, famine, major crops, such as corn, are ending their resource life cycles. Oxygen has begun to deplete, the ‘dirt itself’ has turned on mankind—man and the earth are cursed. Metaphoric, imagery, the wind torn dust of death is contrasted with our history of Eden. A possible reason for the blight and famine may be because we have genetically modified crops and geo-engineered the atmosphere. The narrative of Interstellar is perhaps a warning as well as proposing alternative responses for the resource crises afflicting humankind. This movie is a strategic warning scenario, with crucial components. Under the guise of fiction, it anticipates the way our society could ‘choose to fail’ yet Interstellar proposes that it is possible to invent the future and intervene in the present. We must accept the coming end of growth because of the finite resources and end of life cycle of everything. Space exploration suggests Interstellar holds the key to our civilization’s survival through new off-world possibilities.

In Ex Machina, Ava is the mythical Eve, the first artificial super-intelligence to rival human capabilities. Caleb wins an online competition to spend time at Nathan’s house/laboratory far away on an isolated mountainside. He arrives only to discover that he is to administer the Turing test. Conceived by Alan Turing to determine if a computer is as intelligent as a human, it requires that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both human and machine. Nathan says to Caleb ‘If you’ve created a conscious machine it’s not the history of man … that’s the history of Gods’ ( Ex Machina, 2015). This is narcissism in action, a current cultural obsession. AI is a very narcissistic field of research. Are we not attempting to surpass ourselves? The central conceit is that creating human-like intelligence is both desirable and an ultimate achievement. Much more comes to mind, particularly, that Nathan is portrayed as the epitome of an all-too-real trope in high-tech, a typical silicon valley style, a hyper-masculine depiction of the male-dominated libertarian world where Ava is a stand in for women who are relegated to playthings, and as slaves and sex toys, seeking only to be free.

Phase 2

Now we separate and analyze on one hand, and synthesize and consolidate on the other. Inequality between the sexes exists; inequality of pay for the same work is rampant. Humankind is attempting to become God, as the Promethium myth suggests, stealing fire and mastering technology to create AI that rivals humankind is doomed. We have become obsessed with the idea that through AI we can create, or even become, God or a god. Our geo-engineering and resource depleting hydrocarbon society we have constructed is causing blight, famine and global climate change which threatens our very survival. We are entering an end zone, catastrophic apocalypse for planet Earth. Our only solution is to travel to the stars and experience the final abyss on Jupiter or wherever, or whatever that will be. Perhaps the only conceivable future is to advance the computer, into a genetic computer/human hybrid possessing the full capabilities of human masculinity and femininity that balances itself out and creates a third thing—a spiritual AI. This then becomes the ultimate combination, this is how we transcend death, as human beings.

This is how we leave Eden. The underlying narrative is that the singularity is pending. Humankind’s key to defeating the real enemy—death—is to become Gods.

Phase 3

Now we write three scenarios and create future history. As previously outlined Scenario A is the possible future and Scenario B is the probable future. These are written from the perspective of each constellated opposite, as revealed in the analytical phase. Scenario C becomes the preferable future. This scenario performs the alchemical-coniunctio function by reuniting the constellated opposites identified simply: A plus B equals C.

Scenario A: the possible future

AI has found its way to Google/UBER. GoER is finding better ways for cities to move, work and thrive. Allowing drivers to earn money on your schedule with their own cars. A passenger hops into a GoER in Philadelphia, no human driver exists anymore only robots, good-looking robots. You, the passenger, have requested who you want, a gender neutral, jock or anime character. You have also chosen the conversation, a philosophical one, where the deepest questions are examined or the latest political news from the left, or right. It’s all choices in the application. GoER used big data to collect it all, the brand mark on the dashboard is Teoogle (Tesla/Google).

Scenario B: the probable future

GoER’s early adoption of AI is too early, several major incidents and massive deaths from autonomous accidents causes legislative delays. Tesla loses interest in domestic electric vehicle production and instead redirects focus on the first mission to Mars. One reason is because of the redirection of a pre-eminent first world democracy toward supporting right-wing dictators instead of shunning them and shutting them out. This combined with a reckless rebuilding of the oil and gas industry, and the reneging on the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Combined with the gutting of the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and US Department of Education causes a generational retardation of well-informed citizens. Panic in the streets ensues, America destabilizes, China expands, Pacific Rim influence currying favor with Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Russia and America become the best of friends muscling the last of the planet’s resources while plunging the Earth into an ever earlier apocalypse.

Scenario C: the preferable future

GoER and AirBnB and other sharing, gig type economies explode onto the global stage, disrupting the mega corporations, the global travel, hotel and the transportation industry. The nationalistic right-wing move from Brexit, to Trump in the United States, to Putin in Russia, rising nationalistic dictators in India, Germany, Japan, Venezuela, Poland and France all come to power because of globalization. It’s the economy and the loss of jobs, loss of cultural vitality and soul. Globalization is stopped dead in its tracks. For now, but the pendulum swings away from the mega corporations and the mega rich who banked on a consuming pliable marketplace. Everyone on the planet begins to have less reliance on the corporate paycheck, on being or being used by big businesses or their offerings. Their power begins to wane, everything goes local and tribal, but is informed by the global, through social media. Peer to peer marketing, lending, financing, work and leisure become the new game in town. Thanks to robots taking over many of the menial manufacturing processes and service jobs leisure becomes the new industry and new models emerge that don’t require an honest day’s work anymore to live a full and well-structured, ordered, fulfilling life. Carl’s Junior a fast food joint in America, boasts that it has the most robots serving customers in America.

Here we have three scenarios and the beginning of a skeleton from which to construct a prescient, fictional, fantastic story about a trans-modern human being, part-time GoER driver, part-time landlord with AirBnB, making money with bitcoin in peer-to-peer lending, leading a life of leisure.

This is an example of how film futuristics may be used as a tool to fathom ideas that lead to writing a novel, or advising a corporation on what products may be appropriate in the future. The method lends itself to helping advise NGOs and policy makers on the cultural shifts to come. A depth psychology beyond just analysis, away from the individual, but a combination of analysis, synthesis and extrapolation as future possibility with a focus toward group and community.

A future scenario becomes a compelling vision that then inspires policy makers and change agents to strive toward the future by remodeling the present in such a way as to achieve way forward engineering. Or not. The opposite is equally true; a vision can be so diabolical that an entire culture mobilizes to avert the potential disaster that is foreshadowed in the scenario. The scenario of global climate change is an excellent example of this.

Scenario planning delivers the ability to produce stout decision-making. It accomplishes this task by meeting three objectives. Kees van der Heijden, in his book Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation (2005), argues that the first objective is to generate ‘projects and decisions that are more robust under a variety of alternative futures’ (p. 5). The second objective is to create better quality thinking about the future through unpacking and stretching mental models. With a lateral approach, new ideas and insights emerge that lead to new discoveries. The third objective is the search for predetermined elements, and the driving forces that produce predetermined elements.

Driving forces are forces that influence events. ‘Often, identifying driving forces reveals the presence of deeper, more fundamental forces’ (Schwartz, 1995, p. 103). When working on scenarios, it is imperative to identify the driving forces because they move the plot of the scenario forward. Schwartz identifies five driving forces: ‘society, technology, economics, politics, and the environment’ (p. 105). Film futuristics adds a sixth driving force—numinously significant cultural artifacts as film.


The bulk of this chapter has been devoted to arguments that validate film futuristics as a means to analyze the hidden dimensions and prospective probabilities in film to gain practical knowledge, insight, foresight and wisdom for future planning for both public and personal insight. It has articulated the required attitude necessary to perform film futuristics, outlined a process and methodological structure, and described how to write future histories, while also providing a brief personal example. Undoubtedly, there are ways of practicing film futuristics other than the way that I have outlined here. The more important issue is not the specific process involved or the methodology, even if the methodological questions may have some significance. What is important is to accomplish narrative fictions about the future that include the unconscious voice of soul in cultural artifacts. Film futuristics is one method of scenario writing that reanimates and functionally deals with future social and cultural issues. Following Keith Basso and the insights from indigenous wisdom, film futuristics’ final outcome will be future histories, or medicine stories—powerful narratives that share with future generations the wisdom that sits in places.

Furthermore film futuristics exists to recover from critical-cultural events their possible future implications, constellations and dangers. If we look at America, for example, it can be argued that it has become entangled in its own glory making, unable to tear itself away and see the submerged messages and meanings that perhaps the rest of the world can clearly see. From a film futuristics perspective, the messages and meanings are eminently visible in movies, video games, political foreign policy stances and the rhetoric of anti-intellectualism. In this chapter, I have freely associated in an effort to connect prefiguring cultural artifacts with critical events. China Syndrome (1979) prefigured Three Mile Island. A video game maker not only provided the idea but also the training to destroy the World Trade Center on 9/11. For the highest levels of government and its military leaders to say that an attack of this complexity using jumbo jets as missiles to destroy the World Trade Center was impossible to imagine. That it was failure of imagination, is nothing short of pathological denial, consistent with a clinical diagnosis of what may be called cultural narcissistic personality disorder.

Ultimately, film futuristics has been designed to clarify and deliberate the problems and risks that cultures face, and to outline, through future history, how things might be done differently. This is presented in full knowledge that a precise envisioning of the actual future is impossible.


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Online sources

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2001: A space odyssey. (1968) [film] Directed by Stanley Kubrick .UK.
Airport. (1970) [film] Directed by George Seaton .USA.
China syndrome, The. (1979) [film] Directed by James Bridges .USA.
Ex machina. (2015) [film] Directed by Alex Garland .USA.
Frankenstein. (1931) [film] Directed by James Whale .USA.
Interstellar. (2014) [film] Directed by Christopher Nolan .USA.
Manchurian candidate, The. (1962) [film] Directed by John Frankenheimer .USA.
Pearl harbor. (2001) [film] Directed by Michael Bay .USA.
Platoon. (1986) [film] Directed by Oliver Stone .USA.
Saboteur. (1942) [film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock .USA.
Saving private Ryan. (1998) [film] Directed by Stephen Spielberg .USA.
Three kings. (1999) [film] Directed by David O. Russell . USA.
Thunderball. (1965) [film] Directed by Terence Young .UK.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) [film] Directed by Richard Fleisher and Kinji Fukasaku . Japan, USA.
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