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Speculative Future of Death and Our Society

The front page of a newspaper showing the utopian future of our society where all experiences around death have been revolutionized.

Photo of Panisa Khunprasert
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We will be living in a world relying on a body of ethics and culture created through the centuries by religious faiths. Technology and morality have evolved in perfect harmony. In 2075, humanity is able to communicate with the dead. We now realize that reincarnation is real and we can start over fresh if we do good in this life. Karma does exist! The myth and beliefs have been validated and we live our lives with consciousness and morals. We will seek religion and faith. Our consumption behavior will change; balancing technology and material consumption with spiritual practices. There are countless new religions and faiths emerging everywhere, which allow those who do not believe in the ancient religions to choose a new one; there is something for everyone. Meanwhile, traditional religious beliefs and practices still play important roles in our lives. 

Death and dying

Technologies will not only be able to save lives in serious and life threatening situations, but can also end lives. Scientists and doctors will focus more on engineering and developing a better experience for lifesaving and dying. Using human beings to save other human beings. Blood and organ transplantation will become very advanced. Every human being will be willing to donate their organs to save other human lives. In the meantime, patients with chronic diseases will be dying with less pain and in peace using medical technology. Families will also experience a more beautiful and peaceful end of life process for their loved ones. We all want to create or witness magical and meaningful moments in our lives. We all want to give fellow human beings second chances to live. Human beings have reached a higher  state of enlightenment and stop all attempts to overcome biological nature. The reason is that we are more empathetic to the next generation; to our ancestors and deceased loved ones who are waiting for reincarnation. We talk more openly about death and dying. Advance directives will be mandatory for everyone. there will be no more confusion, conflict, or difficult decisions for the families of the dying and deceased to make. 


Technology will focus on empowering the griever and mourner to move forward. Neurobiological technology will enable us to create well designed, highly engineered, and precisely calculated tools, guidelines, and practices for individual mourners who do not like to seek social support to move forward. There will be no more emotional disorders, mental breakdowns, or suicidal thoughts in the grieving period. As for people who like to seek support, there will be technologies to indicate what sort of support works best for them to better overcome their sorrows. We will continue to die and lose those we love, but we will use faith, spiritual practices, and compassion to move forward. Individuals may have a have different pace of recovery, but we all mourn gracefully and calmly because we know that our loved ones will have a better after lives. We look back to historical and wise traditions, and bring back  prescriptive mourning practices, adapted to the modern society. We will also adopt traditional customs of celebrating death from other cultures. The majority of people will grieve openly and embrace vulnerability.


Technology and marketing will offer us unique and imaginative ways to remember our loved ones. Starting from the moment they die to the way we treat their remains decades on. There will be different varieties of cremation; ways that are space saving, eco-friendly, and highly spiritual. For example, an adjustment of the micro set in our body to accelerate decomposition, will become a very common choice in 2075. At a Constellation park the body will be put in a vessel within which decomposition occurs, and as the body decomposes it produces energy;  the by-product is methane gas. This gas can be converted into electricity. For this project, there is illumination generated by the corpse. The vessel has an element of mourning light that glows and dims. This process can be as short as a month or two, or it can be slowed down to a year, giving the family time to mourn.  When the decomposition is complete the remains can be taken home and kept by the family. While the vessel can be reused in another cycle, the location, or site, remains. The family is welcome to come to the location to remember even though the light they now see will come from other vessels.. The most important thing is the aggregation of the mourning vessels, a temporal shrine, and the collective constellation of light endorsing the remembrance of the deceased, even though the physical body is gone.* The idea of collective responsibility toward our own death will affect the way we remember our loved ones. In other words, the death of our loved ones will reflect the way we plan our own end of life experience for ourselves and our family. Countless popular, fun, and innovative experiences will be offered to those who like collective or collaborative memorialization. Magical, graceful, sacred memorializing experiences will also be available for those who like to remember quietly and privately.


After twelve years of being put on hold, FederalDept. of Education finally passes out the law that Death Education class must be held in every school in the nation. Many schools have already put death education class in their middle school syllabus, but there has never been any prescribed curriculum for this sensitive subject. US government, therefore, is now creating the teaching guideline for instructors. For example of an eight-grader’s assignment that is a perfect interlace between the dark, the humor, the understanding, and the expression of personal views on death. The student at Epiphany School, NYC were introduced to ‘Vanitas’; it is a type of symbolic art popular with still life painters in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th century. Vanitas is a Latin word which translates to the English 'emptiness' and this is represented through the objects displayed in the paintings. Vanitas themes were often used for funeral art in medieval times, and skulls were often used to represent mortality and the certainty of death. Fruit was commonly used, often rotten, to symbolize decay and again, death. “With the exam theme in mind, I took this style of artwork and changed it. I combined the old, traditional still life objects with a modern object (laptop). I put a picture of a skull piece of Vanitas art in the laptop to combine old and new. I tried to edit these pictures to look like old style photographs, however I think they could have come out better. Next I would like to take pictures of a similar composition, however replacing the objects with more modern alternatives. Self help books, digital clocks, food packaging etc.” Says Hannah Lowrie, an eight-grader artist who took this assignment very seriously and expand her interest into series of Vanitas’ inspired photograph. Another example of her collection contains of half a melon, a delicate egg cup, a branch of leaves and a piece of cling film. The background is completely black and makes all the objects appear floating. The almost rotting melon and leaves are aspects of traditional Vanitas paintings, but the cling film adds a contemporary and modern feel to the image which Reyes wants us to associate with nostalgia. Studio lighting was used to light the picture, and the whole series was shot with a four by five camera. Vanitas artwork often portrays the theme of death, and Reyes reminds us of that by showing us rotting fruit as it is a decomposition of natural objects. She combines these with the man made objects like the egg cup and cling film to represent the physical body and the inevitability of death.

*From Columbia University GSAPP Death Lab

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

We as a society have to learn how to live with death and grief because death is a natural step of life and grief is the price we pay for love. By imagining the speculative future of our society's view on death, I realize that wisdom traditions should be integrated with technologies to revolutionize death in all aspect of human's culture.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a recent graduated design student and spent a year working on a thesis titled Hereafter; remapping the landscape of of death and the way it is remembered.

If you participated in an End of Life Storytelling Event, tell us which Chapter or city you came from:

New York City


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