Check out these street signs from our inevitable cyberpunk future

Beware the drone crossing.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Published May 16, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 7:22 am CDT

Driverless cars, printed meat, and synthetic biology—the near future is going to be very weird in some subtle ways. As always, we’ll desperately need help navigating the new reality.

Signs of the Near Future is an excellent Tumblr dedicated to exploring the many possible futures in a way that quietly turns traditional science fiction on its head. Instead of featuring the ostentatious cutting edge of technology center stage, Argentine artist Fernando Barbella focuses on something incredibly important that surrounds us but normally only registers on our periphery: Signs.

Signs are one of the most inconspicuous and essential ways we learn about the world around us. Animal crossing signs, subway signs, and no smoking signs all tell us a lot of important facts about the time and place in which we exist.

What will it mean when our deer crossing signs start getting replaced with drone crossing signs?

Barbella, a 39-year-old experiential and digital creative director in advertising living in Barcelona, Spain, took a break from commercials when he was inspired by—what else—the vastly strange potential of science.

“Neuroscientists are making real progress in finding ways to read people’s minds with machines, nanomedicine is one area experiencing rapid and dramatic growth nowadays, tech companies like Google, Ford, Volvo and Audi are making great efforts in order to launch some autonomous cars in a couple of years,” he told the Daily Dot.

Barbella brought to life a near-future world of holographs, synthetic food, and virtual reality that strikes eerily close to home.

“Like any other time in recent history, while all these new technologies emerge, we will need some help and directions for sure, in order to speed up our learning curves,” he said. “Remember the first time you have to program a VCR? Or what about the time you set up your first smartphone?”

The best part of Barbella’s work is that these world-changing technologies are shown in the most ordinary of settings. He’s managed to craft a world of mundane cyberpunk and, in doing so, has made it very easy for us to imagine ourselves living in just such a world very soon.

What’s more realistic than a killjoy airport security warning that you’ll be arrested if you try any neurohacking? Brain hijacking sounds like a good time, so way to be lame in the future too, TSA.

Art via Signs of the Near Future/Fernando Barbella

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*First Published: May 16, 2014, 6:16 pm CDT