Sunset view of San Francisco. Photo: DARSHAN SIMHA/ Flickr

What are you doing after tomorrow?

It’s a simple enough question. Unless it’s being asked as part of After Tomorrow 2018+, an extensive, nine month-long series of events that explore the intertwined influence of art, technology, academia and science, and dares participants to imagine a world “after tomorrow.”

The events are a series of art exhibits; game development exhibitions; writing residencies; debates on science and technology impact, festivals for books, art, technology and music; workshops on climate change; music performances, and more. The goal is to share France’s values regarding innovation, create a dialogue between French and American innovators and to promote diversity in San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Portland and beyond. 

“It’s a multidisciplinary approach to trigger debates between artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and academia around fun events,” said Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Consul General of France in San Francisco. “We would like, throughout this season, to imagine what our world would be like ‘after tomorrow’. Indeed, as time accelerates, and innovation constantly disrupts our lives, especially here on the West Coast, it is tempting to say that today is already tomorrow. But who knows what our lives will look like after tomorrow?”

The “after tomorrow” Lebrun-Damiens referred to is the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is reshaping everything from production methods to the future of work to climate change survival to the role and place we hold in a society in upheaval. After Tomorrow will discuss questions such as:

  • Will our lives be what is imagined today in science-fiction novels, films and series?
  • How will machines and humans trust each other? Will we make new rights for robots?
  • How will virtual reality be used in arts? In business? In product production techniques?
  • How will humanity stick together if some of us move to other planets due to the rarefaction of resources?
  • How will we understand social and intimate relationships in the era of uncertainty? What perception will we have of our augmented or modified existence?
  • What global decision-making processes would be relevant to adopt radical technologies, for example changing the planet axis or solar radiation to correct our climate?

The idea for After Tomorrow+ was imagined over glasses of wine in October 2017 at a Friday Happy Hour with the team at the French Consulate in San Francisco. “We shared the same will to talk about French innovation differently,” said Anne Degenne, Press and Communication Attaché for the Consulate.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Jeff Gunn/ Flickr

Their imagination was big and grew to a nine-month programme that started in March 2018 and continues until November. The vision was to share France’s values regarding innovation. French President Emmanuel Macron often says that innovation is the centrepiece of his economic policy, which Lebrun-Damiens’ team interpreted to mean creativity, openness, common sense and solidarity. Their aim was to bring together French and American “actors” from different sectors of innovation, including cultural, artistic, scientific and technologic.

There’s also the creative and fun element of fostering dialogue between parties. Plus the programme seeks to promote diversity not only in the West Coast region that Lebrun-Damiens represents, but also in the multiple types of events and audiences they wanted to involve.

The French Consulate reached out and involved the leaders in the French/American community in San Francisco and the West Coast. Participants are the Cultural and Scientific Services of the French Embassy in the United States, French Tech San Francisco, Institut Français and the French American Cultural Society. They are collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; California Academy of Sciences, Bay Area Book Festival, the San Francisco Art Institute and other art, science and technical organizations.

After Tomorrow 2018+ season launch. Courtesy of the French Consulate in San Francisco

“Together, we would like to represent the face of French innovation and carry a vision where the values of creativity, openness, togetherness and solidarity prevail, said Lebrun-Damiens.

The discussions in After Tomorrow+ events will use two strategies: stop thinking in silos and favor multiple forms of expression including exhibits, performances, concerts and conferences.

Lebrun-Damiens noted at the March kickoff event at the French Residence, “…We believe that diversity, cross-pollination and … mutual understanding are the necessary ingredients to nurture fruitful and forward-thinking conversations.”

For example: a discussion between engineers and science-fiction authors could lead to ideas on foreseeing consumers’ tastes on the interior design of autonomous or even flying cars. Mathematicians and data scientists could learn what visual artists and musicians have already created using data.

After Tomorrow 2018+ season launch. Photo: French Consulate in San Francisco

After Tomorrow+ will have multiple events to support this kind of discussion. An “Interdisciplinary workshop on climate change” at will be held at the Autodesk Gallery on May 10. This workshop discussion will include French science-fiction writer Sylvie Denis, students from university laboratories and actors of Autodesk Gallery. Denis will also be the guest of the After Tomorrow+ Writing Residency “A Room With a View” April 26 – June 2.

Other key events are Mutek, the Montreal-based electronic music and digital arts festival on May 3-6; author discussions at the Bay Area Book Festival April 28-29; investigation of new ways of discussing music production, listening and critique at Ebbing Sounds May 24 – 26; and an After Tomorrow+ art exhibit curated by re:riddle at the French Residence in San Francisco through August 18.

Whew. All that’s a lot to think about and events to attend. But it’s time we all thought about what our future will look like after tomorrow.

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Martha Sessums is the France Today Ambassador for San Francisco. Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization.

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