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IDEAS

Party like it’s 2269

It’s been said that the future isn’t what it used to be. But it looks OK to two guys sending out invitations for an event almost 250 years away.

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You are invited to a party. And not just a party, but the greatest party of all time.

But there’s a catch: There is no chance that you’ll actually be going to this party, because it starts at noon on June 6, 2269.

If all goes according to plan, the event will be a worldwide — even wider, if our extraplanetary ambitions are realized — celebration of life and living, creativity and community, innovation and exploration. Ambitious and hopeful, the idea of this 2269 event posits a future in which parties are possible and there will be a lot to celebrate.

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The party is the project of Michael Ogden and Peter Dean, friends in London with backgrounds in film, design, animation, and virtual reality. Ogden, who is chief creative officer for Mesmerise, a VR events platform, thinks a lot about death; he once wrote a book called “2Do Before I Die: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Rest of Your Life.” Dean, principal of branding agency Novagram, thinks a lot about time travel. In 2013, he designed the invitation for a party Stephen Hawking had thrown in 2009 for time travelers. (Yes, the invitations went out after the event. As far as anyone can tell no one showed up at it.)

That project for the Hawking party began a conversation between Dean and Ogden. “I was thinking,” Dean says, “instead of an event in the past, what if it was an event in the future?” Their discussion became more serious, however, after 2016: “It was born out of a divisive time, which was Brexit and Trump and chaos and division,” Ogden says.

They launched this project on June 6, 2019, with a Kickstarter campaign and a modest goal of £2,269 to print the invitations. In 29 days, they earned £12,042 (about $16,000) in pledges. The date for the party was chosen because it reads as 6-6-2269 regardless of whether you list the day or the month first. Though the date does have some ties to existing events — D-Day, notably; National Yo-Yo day less notably — it wasn’t exactly “taken.”

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Why did they set it 250 years down the road?

“Because it’s not so far in the future,” Dean says. “It’s a somewhat human time scale. But it’s also so far ahead that it’s impossible for someone alive today to attend — therefore, it will only work if it’s passed on.”

2269 founders Peter Dean and Michael Ogden.
2269 founders Peter Dean and Michael Ogden.COURTESY OF PETER DEAN/NOVAGRAM

To be clear, Dean and Ogden aren’t themselves planning the party, booking venues, or deciding on the canapés — after all, they’ll be dead, too. And they’re not interested in creating some sort of blueprint for a party, since circumstances may be very different in 250 years. Arranging the details will be up to any people of the future with whom the idea resonates.

To that end, Dean and Ogden have designed the invitations to spark intrigue — and to last. They’re foil-blocked on rich archival paper, and they read: “One day the world will come together. . . . You are invited to the greatest party of all time an astonishing 250 years in the making.” The invitation is meant to live on any invitee’s wall until it is passed on to the next generation. Each person who possesses one is supposed to sign and date the companion Record of Owners.

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Hundreds of these invitations, priced at $110, have already been sold; Dean and Ogden are working on releasing a digital version that will be available for free, as well as versions in languages other than English.

But the invitation is simply the tangible artifact of a larger idea. Since 2016, the feeling of chaos that motivated Dean and Ogden has only deepened. Thinking about the future is causing real anxiety for many of us. A recent survey of young people about climate change discovered that three-quarters of them found the future frightening. More than half believed that humanity is doomed. Asking us to think about what kind of wine our descendants will bring to a party 250 years in the future requires us to think about a world in which perhaps there is no wine.

A framed invitation to the 2269 party, intended to be handed off to someone in the next generation.
A framed invitation to the 2269 party, intended to be handed off to someone in the next generation.COURTESY OF PETER DEAN/NOVAGRAM

But the 2269 project also says that — wine or no wine — there’s going to be a party and it’s up to us and subsequent generations to make sure it happens. “It’s a stake in the ground,” says Ogden. “You can paint a picture of a bleak future and . . . that’s a vision of the future. A different narrative is around building a culture of community and . . . if you have that to work towards, a vision, then you are more likely to get there.” The 2269 event, he says, is “an invitation to think, think bigger, to think differently, about the future.”

The promise of a party in 2269 isn’t going to give humanity more motivation than we should already have to get our act together. But very long-term planning is key to survival. In psychology, thinking about the future is termed “prospection,” a concept that encompasses a number of complex emotions and actions: imagination, projection, contemplation, construction, simulation, empathy for a future self or, as the 2269 party project suggests, for your many-years-distant descendants. The ability to think this way is part of what separates humans from other tool-using, language-possessing cooperative animals.

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Research has demonstrated that active prospection helps us make better decisions. For example, in one survey the more “connected” an individual felt to their future self, the more likely they were to save their money. It also promotes pro-social behavior. One experiment found that people who were asked to imagine helping someone expressed more willingness to actually help that person later on. In Japan, several cities have embraced the tenets of “Future Design,” a movement that pushes people to work toward a more sustainable future by appealing to their “futurability” — a sense of pleasure in forgoing short-term benefits to aid later generations. The people of Yahaba, Japan, after imagining themselves as future residents, agreed to a 6 percent increase in their water rates to finance long-term work on the town’s water infrastructure.

The Long Now Foundation began in 1996 to foster thinking on an even longer time scale — 10,000 years. To put that in perspective, 10,000 years ago humans were starting to practice agriculture and the last of the Ice Age megafauna — woolly rhinos and saber-toothed cats — had just died out. The foundation’s projects include the Rosetta Disk, which can be held in the palm of your hand and has microscopic etchings revealing information in about 1,500 human languages; and the 10,000 Year Clock, a monumental timepiece built deep in a mountain that, once completed, will bong once a year for 10,000 years. Jeff Bezos has contributed at least $42 million to its construction, though some may feel that his money would be better spent addressing contemporary or even near-future problems.

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Whatever the temporal distance, however, the act of thinking about the future makes it feel more malleable. It also can start conversations. Ogden hosts a podcast called “2269,” in which he asks guests about the distant future. And every June 6, Ogden and Dean throw a party — the last one was in a field in a London park. They call these parties “One Day,” a nod to the hope that one day, we’ll have it all figured out. And with the help of their guests, they have been working on the ultimate party playlist, which is about nine hours long at this point.

As for the rest of the ultimate event — the venues, the food, the guest list — only time will tell.

“I think in 2268, by that time, we’ll probably just be planning the hors d’oeuvres,” Ogden says. “You know, there’s long been dancing and music and drinking and conversation. We’re pretty confident that that’s still going to exist. This is what’s important. This is what makes us human.”

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is an American journalist living in London. Follow her on Twitter @linrod.