Speculation, invention and making new worlds


Speculation is a word with a history. Originally from a root meaning ‘to observe’, it has moved from Latin through Old French to English, and along the way its meaning has been enlarged, from indicating the use of thought to pursue the truth, to describing conjecture and unsupported assertion by the sixteenth century, to risky gambling in the stock market by the eighteenth. Together, these meanings point to a general sense of intellectual experiment, of asking ‘what if..?’ and trying things out. This experimentation is what leads to the production of new ideas, departures from how we thought before the experiment. Speculative design, speculative fiction, speculative philosophy and research are not all trying to do the same thing, but they all have a common interest in trying out new ways of being in the world. They suggest that speculation about the future is less about simply moving our present further along the timeline, and more about finding new ways to imagine relating to the world and each other.