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Futures that Work

Futures that Work hall view
Futures that Work hall at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building, Courtesy Albert Ting.

What will our “normal” look like in the years to come? Futures that Work focuses on possible solutions: ways of making a healthier, happier world. Should we slow down? Use our resources more efficiently? Focus on sustainability? Many strategies have vital parts to play in our collective next chapter.

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Like all precious resources, time is worth saving. The Virgin Hyperloop Pegasus aims to do just that, by transporting cargo and one day people up to 670 miles per hour through an airless vacuum tube. Distances that currently take hours to travel, could require just minutes in the future. Buckle up!

Discover the future of travel

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Los Angeles-based artist Beatriz Cortez creates Mayan-inspired “chultunes,” ancient storage containers for precious materials, that she imagines as a speculative space-time capsule to carry ancestral Indigenous American seeds and traditions into the future.

See a Space-time Capsule for Indigenous Futures

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Capsula mundi
Would you want your body to grow into a tree? Capsula Mundi, a biodegradable burial capsule, offers a sustainable way to mark human loss with dignity.
Mineral Rover in field.
The Mineral Rover, a project from Google’s speculative “moonshot” factory, X, collects site specific data and gets individual plants exactly the amount of nutrients and water they need. READ MORE>
Man on loom
Porfirio Gutierrez is a California-based Zapotec textile artist and natural dyer, born and raised in the richly historic Zapotec textile community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. He seeks to preserve the traditions of the Zapotec people of Southern Mexico in ways that speak to modern life.
What if you could pull water directly from the air around you? This solar-powered Waha Water Harvester can create enough drinking and cooking water for two to three adults.
coin operated wetland
What if you could wash your clothes in a wetland? This Coin Operated Wetland by Australian artist Tega Brain uses a closed waste water system to grow a miniature ecosystem.
Dava Newman biosuit
Professor Dava Newman dons the BioSuit, a “second-skin” spacesuit that would provide astronauts with greater motility.
Gilbreth Efficiency Study
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth used long-exposure photographs to study factory workers’ movements in an attempt to determine the “One Best Way” for every task, anticipating the ultra-efficient logic of robotics.
Environmental Poster
Awareness of climate change has grown rapidly since 1970, when the first Earth Day was held. Posters like this represent the effort to raise public concern.
Hypergiant bioreactor
Hypergiant’s Eos BioReactor captures carbon from the air with 400 times the efficiency of a tree. The algae inside uses light to convert CO2 into a biomass, which can be used for food, fertilizer or other purposes.
Fiskskin Clutch
As an alternative to the ecologically damaging effects of “fast fashion,” artist and designer Elisa Palomino uses fish skins sourced from food waste in her work.
Atoms for peace poster
Is nuclear power a viable solution to climate change? It’s an ongoing debate which has gone on for decades, with proponents adopting the slogan “Atoms for Peace.”