The Warning Signs From The Future Show How Cutting-Edge Tech Will Shape Our Lives

Please remember to turn off your computer brain before boarding the airplane.

Aside from the addition of a whole lot more screens, daily life for most people doesn’t look much different than it did 10 or 15 years ago. But if scientists and eager startups are to be believed, the next few decades will be busting at the seams with dramatic, sci-fi inspired innovations, like synthetic meat, drone technology, and autonomous cars.


If these technologies pan out, the world will not only look very different, it will have to operate differently too. In a Tumblr called Signs from the Near Future, designer Fernando Barbella explores what signage will look like when we have to absorb all of these innovations into human culture–perhaps there will be advertising discounts on test-tube burgers, or airport warnings for travelers who may have forgotten to turn off their computer brains.

Barbella says that the project was inspired by articles he’s read on topics like nanomedicine, autonomous cars, and 3-D food printing, as well as classic books (Neuromancer, Fahrenheit 51), movies (Blade Runner, Gattaca), music (Rage Against The Machine), and TV shows (Fringe, Black Mirror). “New materials, mashups between living organisms and nanotechnologies, improved capabilities for formerly ‘dumb’ and inanimate things . . . There’s lots of awesome things going on around us! And the fact is all these things are going to cease being just ‘projects’ to became part of our reality at any time soon,” he writes in an email.

The designer chose to focus on signs because he figures that we’ll need a little guidance to speed up our learning curves with new technology. “On the other hand, I chose to express these thing by signs deployed in ordinary places, featuring instructions and warnings because I feel that as we increasingly depend on technology, we will probably have less space for individual judgment to make decisions,” he writes.

Some of the signs–including one thanking drivers for choosing to ride on a solar panel highway–can be traced back to specific news articles or announcements. The solar highway sign was inspired by a solar roadways crowdfunding campaign, which has so far raised nearly $2 million to build solar road panels.

“Regarding the solar roadways, I’ve been exposed to all the buzz and reactions about that project, but instead of focusing on how cool and modern the streets would look like, I’ve sticked to a more ‘mundane’ point of view, imagining that the people or authorities of any given county would be probably quite grateful for having the chance of transforming all that traffic into energy,” Barbella writes.

Barbella has more future signs in the queue, but he says that he’ll stop the moment they start to feel forced. Check out some of his signs in the slide show above.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.