Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. – Arundhati Roy
I’ve had the rare, great opportunity to help organize and at the same time, witness the roll-out of an activity called Dare to Dream during the Rebuild Indonesia Youth Festival in Indonesia in October.
In the past, campaigning about oligarchy in Indonesia has been done in typical Greenpeace fashion – direct communication with a specific target. However, this festival took a different approach by engaging the youth through a happier and more lighthearted mood. The festival aimed at educating them to own their understanding about politics and oligarchy, and emphasizing their role in creating a better future.
One innovative way that was introduced was the use of artificial intelligence to reimagine the future. Around 200 young people tried to visualize their dream for the future of Indonesia through keywords. Using an artificial intelligence “text-to-art” engine MidJourney AI, a group of artists and Greenpeace volunteers created amazing images.
What is AI text-to-art technology?
Artificial Intelligence “Text-to-Art” is an emerging form of technology that allows you to type a short description into a “Text-to-Art” engine, which it then turns into an image (or more accurately, into multiple possible images) in a matter of seconds. We wanted to test how an innovative technology could be used for good, transforming it into a radically inclusive tool. We invited the youth of Indonesia to reimagine a better future with us, and specifically one without oligarchy, injustice and the environmental crisis.
What future did the youth envision?
The top keywords and common themes that came out were clean cities, no pollution (clean air and water), green spaces, safe streets, and community showing that youth are already imagining, and hope for, a greener and more peaceful planet. It was their dreams for the future that they visualized through AI. They were very excited and surprised by the images generated on the basis of one’s “prompts”. The amazing thing was that images were all completely different – even those that used the same or similar keywords. Of course, there are limits to technology, not all images created were particularly beautiful and professional artists also came in to generate images that could truly capture what one imagined their future to be.
And this was what made the Dare to Dream activity so inspiring, engaging youth, providing suspense, inspiration and a sense of hopefulness. When we first planned it, it seemed like a lot to achieve – getting the youth to be interested in the concept, explaining the objective, engaging them to be excited about seeing their own image come to life. But we were truly rewarded when we finally spoke with some of these young people. Participants confirmed how this activity can start a conversation about the alternatives they would like for their future. While artificial intelligence is not something that has been used before in environmental campaigning, it proved to be a very promising tool.
“It is amazing to see the image based on the words I wrote.”
“It is very close to what I imagine. I am very happy with my image”
“Though the image is not very realistic, it is still good to see and experience. Imagine what the future of Indonesia could look like.”
Dare to dream
Dare to Dream is about asking people to dare and dream – what they can imagine, they can create. Often big things start from something small. Martin Luther King had a dream of achieving equality and racial justice through non-violence, and it led to some of the freedoms we enjoy now. Who is to say that one image cannot inspire and have impact? Radical actions require hope and hope requires imagination.
With our allies, we are committed to co-create a future where the western development model based on infinite growth is replaced by many different alternatives that respect people and the limits and cycle of the Earth. To do so we need to inspire people to believe that a different future is possible, where we can tax the oligarchs, cancel GDP or go behind infinite growth models. Who is to say that we cannot get artists, the youth and the marginalized voices to co-create many visions of the future and spread a voice that the status quo is not the only way to go?
The possibilities are endless. Through collective imagination and action, a brighter future is within reach.
Abigail Aguilar is a Campaign Strategist for the Greenpeace Alternative Futures Project