What If?

What If?

Twenty-Two Scenarios in Search of Images

Vilém Flusser

Translated by Anke Finger and Kenneth Kronenberg

An imagination of possibilities, of miscalculations, of futures off-kilter

120 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Hardcover
  • 9781517913656
  • Published: April 19, 2022
  • eBook
  • 9781452967615
  • Published: April 19, 2022
  • Paperback
  • 9781517913663
  • Published: May 3, 2022


What If?

Twenty-Two Scenarios in Search of Images

Vilém Flusser

Translated by Anke Finger and Kenneth Kronenberg

ISBN: 9781517913656

Publication date: April 19th, 2022

120 Pages

8 x 5

"While the universe Flusser created with his previous book, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, explores a single alternate lifeworld coherent in its mirroring of the human species by a cephalopod, each scenario in What If? suggests a variety of new ideas, given the speculative, projecting nature of their setting—in the best and most creative sense of ‘what if’—in the past, the present, or the future."—from the Introduction

An imagination of possibilities, of miscalculations, of futures off-kilter


“Probability is a chimera, its head is true, its tail a suggestion. Futurologists attempt to compel the head to eat the tail (ouroboros). Here, though, we will try to wag the tail.” —Vilém Flusser 

Two years after his Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, the philosopher Vilém Flusser engaged in another thought experiment: a collection of twenty-two “scenarios for the future” to be produced as computer-generated media, or technical images, that would break the imaginative logjam in conceiving the social, political, and economic future of the universe. What If? is not just an “impossible journey” to which Flusser invites us in the first scenario; it functions also as a distorting mirror held up to humanity. 

Flusser’s disarming scenarios of an Anthropocene fraught with nightmares offer new visions that range from the scientific to the fantastic to the playful and whimsical. Each essay reflects our present sense of understanding the world, considering the exploitation of nature and the dangers of global warming, overpopulation, and blind reliance on the promises of scientific knowledge and invention. What If? offers insight into the radical futures of a slipstream Anthropocene that have much to do with speculative fiction, with Flusser’s concept of design as “crafty” or slippery, and with art and the immense creative potential of failure versus reasonable, “good” computing or calculability. As such, the book is both a warning and a nudge to imagine what we may yet become and be.

Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) was born in Prague; emigrated to Brazil, where he taught philosophy and wrote a daily newspaper column; and later moved to France. Minnesota has published a dozen of Flusser’s works in translation, among them Into the Universe of Technical Images, Does Writing Have a Future?, Gestures, and VampyroteuthisInfernalis.

Anke Finger is professor of German studies and media studies at the University of Connecticut, where she also inaugurated the Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative at the Humanities Institute. She is cofounder of the open access journal Flusser Studies and coauthor of Vilem Flusser: An Introduction (Minnesota, 2011).   

Kenneth Kronenberg has been a translator for nearly thirty years, specializing in German intellectual and cultural history and diaries and letters. His recent translations include Jorun Poettering’s Trade, Nation, and Religion and Fritz Trümpi’s Political Orchestras.

Kenneth Goldsmith is an American avant-garde poet and critic, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and founder of the UbuWeb online archive of experimental literary and visual art. 

Introduction: What If? Into the Slipstream of Flusser’s “Field of Possibilities”

Anke Finger

First Scenario: What If . . .

Part I. Scenes from Family Life

Second Scenario: Grandmother

Third Scenario: Grandfather

Fourth Scenario: Great Uncle

Fifth Scenario: Brothers

Sixth Scenario: Son

Seventh Scenario: Grandchildren

Eighth Scenario: Great-Grandchildren

Part II. Scenes from Economic Life

Ninth Scenario: Economic Miracle

Tenth Scenario: Foreign Aid

Eleventh Scenario: Mechanical Engineering

Twelfth Scenario: Agriculture

Thirteenth Scenario: Chemical Industry

Fourteenth Scenario: Animal Husbandry

Part III. Scenes from Politics

Fifteenth Scenario: War

Sixteenth Scenario: Aural Obedience

Seventeenth Scenario: Perpetual Peace

Eighteenth Scenario: Revolution

Nineteenth Scenario: Parliamentary Democracy

Twentieth Scenario: Aryan Imperialism

Twenty-First Scenario: Black Is Beautiful

Part IV. Showdown

Twenty-Second Scenario: A Breather


Kenneth Goldsmith