HOW we imagine the future affects the choices we make now. So I’m really looking forward to the National Theatre of Scotland’s (NTS) forthcoming trilogy of science-fiction plays, Interference, performed in the old WD & HO Wills cigarette factory (now known as City Park).

They’ve chosen their topics very well from the futures menu. Each of them hinge on some very familiar, and all too-human dilemmas – mother-daughter relations, ageing, the commitment to childbirth.

Megatrends dominate our headlines and intimidate our minds. We need to get them down to a human scale. This is exactly the kind of reimagining a “national theatre” should be doing for its nation.

And one key task for the NTS show, it seems to me, is to encompass the hugely divergent visions of the future that surround us at the moment.

The shining, guileless face of the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg represents one story about the future. According to this, and fuelled by the recent IPCC report, we have just about run out of time to address climate disruption. We have 12 years to bend our social and economic systems towards zero-carbon emissions.

As Greta calmly states, it’s a black-or-white issue: perish or survive. So she tears strips off the adult elites around her, urging them to change the structures they control quickly and massively.

The “feel” of this future-story is like a war-effort – to avert disaster or conquest, we need to collectively agree to deeply constrain our freewheeling lifestyles. Or it feels like an emergency stop – where we judder to a halt and contemplate the calamity we have just avoided, while slowly reversing away.

In either sense, there’s something shocking or even violent about this future. I know many people around me who are letting the truth of climate breakdown sink deep into themselves. They’re making major decisions about their choices and commitments, redefining who they are and where they’re headed.

The other big story about the future is not disconnected from the climate one, but its feel is quite different. It’s the one coming from automation, robotics and bio-tech.

As the newsletter of one of its great advocates, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Diamandis puts it, this is a story of “abundance 360”, not scarcity and barriers. It’s about glorying in illimitable human imagination and ingenuity – not about an out-of-control megamachine smashing into the planet’s hard ecological limits.

In the techno-vision, we’re back at that edge of utopia promised by every major previous leap forward in technological productivity.

Both corporate CEOs and Corbynite socialists alike look at the numbers – particularly on how much AI and robots will replace routine mental and manual labours in the next 20 years. And they both turn to solutions that have lurked in the political margins for decades or more. That is, shorter working weeks, universal basic incomes, an expansion of free public services.

Compared to the ear-splitting klaxons of climate crisis, this techno-narrative plays the sweet music of progress and development. It believes we can build the institutions and laws that could cope with our dynamism.

Our irrepressible cleverness will be harnessed for a vision of the good society, one that’s been consistent since Ancient Greece. See this, from Aristotle’s Poetics:

“If every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, ‘of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods’… And if in like manner the shuttle would weave, and the plectrum touch the lyre, without a hand to guide them, then chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.”

Note the deeply incorrect power-relations there at the end. The future-climate story is usually very critical of how a certain idea of mastery, control and exploitation of nature and humans – usually male-led and scientific-rationalist – has brought us to this global cliff-edge. (Indeed, Thunberg draws much of her gentle, feminine power implicitly from this critique).

And let’s be honest, a techno-future of abundance is not well served by its current icons. Strutting alpha figures – like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Peter Thiel – shoot their rocket payloads into the stars, leaving behind an earth otherwise strewn with their transient products.

There is an ideal compromise scenario. Perhaps these two futures could begin to serve each other – indeed, become each others’ solution.

For example, if our decarbonisation is as urgent and vital as the scientific consensus tell us, then surely it’s all hands on deck. That includes all those swarms of self-proclaimed “disrupters” and techno-entrepreneurs, from Edinburgh to Cupertino.

Instead of letting them code up another yet addictive social app, or sneaky financial algorithm, we should loudly redirect the goals of physicists or biologists, engineers or mathematicians.

Shouldn’t their smarts be applied to making this future liveable and do-able? What are the devices and systems they could make, that would help mainstream the desire to save the planet?

The techno-future also has its benefits. If our collective zero-carbon shift needs to be so overwhelming and speedy, don’t we actually need more hours and resource to deliberate about it?

Don’t we need civic zones where we can discuss, practice and retrain for a completely different lifestyle (one that doesn’t transgress our planetary limits)?

In short, well-deployed automation could grant us enough time, space and resources to develop into the planet-friendly citizens we need to be.

Maybe we should keep learning lessons from the convulsions of Trump and Brexit (and for that matter, the continuing strength of the Yes movement in Scotland).

They show us that people will resist being told what to do, when they face the bayonet end of somebody’s Project Fear. But invite them into a great moment of redefinition and reconstruction – and support them as they do so – and the scale of the shift required might be achievable.

Of course, drama doesn’t set policy (though we maybe need an update of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre for this era). What I’m hoping for in these three NTS plays is that they open up how it feels to face these mighty future forces. What might the recognisable emotions and reactions be to such changes?

I’m particularly looking forward to Morna Pearson’s Darklands. In this play, an Aberdeen couple address their fertility issues by grappling with gene-editing technology. And as they design their baby, the natural environment around them verges on the uninhabitable.

Metaverse, by Hannah Khalil, looks at how virtual reality might be able to amplify human connection – immersing you in a world of absent loved ones. But it might also distort those relationships, making us unsure that the human presence in these media is even fully real.

Metaverse sits at the juncture of the two futures I’ve been talking about: natural and techno. Do we need to junk all these machines, and sink our hands into the soil – reconnecting with a nature which we then might value enough to preserve?

Or do we have to accept that human beings (and their predecessors) have been using forms of technology – from the flint axe onwards – for three million years? And that, to some extent, we’ve always been “interfering” with entities in our natural world, whether they’re non-human or other humans?

In any case, we need to talk this stuff through, imagine solutions, and come together to act on them. It’s extremely and wonderfully Scottish that a theatre company is taking the lead on how we might occupy our own futures. See you at – where else? – the cigarette factory.

Interference: Three Plays is on from 16th to 30th March, at City Park, 368 Alexandra Parade, Glasgow. More info and tickets at