Why all of us need to be futurists

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/14/why-all-of-us-need-to-be-futur.html

I am willing to bet you made that image using the Prisma app…


Futurists are people who get paid to be incredibly wrong about the future - people who can give ideas pulled de novo ex rectus the imprimatur of corporate and academic respectability. At least Sci-Fi authors throw in a ripping yarn. Futurists, not so much.

Saying “all of us need to be futurists” is like saying all of us need to be Nostradamus. We don’t, nor would that help us in any way. While I like the call to action to be creative and open to new ideas, I don’t think that requires us to be “futurists”.


I agree somewhat with the thesis of the article; perhaps, stated differently, we need be both playful and hopeful in our understanding of the present and our vision for a more optimal future for all. Mostly, I see futurism as simply being attuned to the events and developments of today and thusly able to think credibly a few steps ahead of the established order of the world.

I disagree with Skeptic; I don’t believe futurism is about ‘being Nostradamus,’ but about having situational awareness, being attuned, and having foresight to possibilities, both good and bad, based on a pragmatic understanding of historical past and the present world, and maybe as well some insight into why certain kinds of retrofutures were never realized.

Futurists are people whose ‘credibility’ is always in hindsight, but we mostly remember only the ones who were seemingly prescient or laughably off. Some of the more interesting futurists were wrong, but not because they were space cadets but rather because the world twisted away in some nearly-unforeseeable or revolutionary way. The best visionaries navigate such changes in their futurism, but even the lesser futurists- the ones who merely extrapolate trends-- are interesting, and sometimes visionary.

To me, futurism is hope and life-affirming; not because of novelty but because of affirmation of progress and ingenuity and even a deeper sort of love of mankind. And because we can’t go on sliding down the slippary slope to man-made hell, nor living in the purgatory of irrational slavish loyalty to harmful constraining anachronistic thinking and value systems.


You aren’t really convincing me that my comparison to Nostradamus was unwarranted. You are excusing failures and doubling down on successes, of futurists in a way consistent with confirmation bias, which applies to futurists and Nostradamus equally.


If we are all to be ‘futurists’, I guess we should start by reading the Futurist Manifesto:

We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.

We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.



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Setting aside for the moment any attempt to ‘win you over,’ if you don’t believe in some core present-day merit to futurism, what populates your world of ideas about our present, our possible futures, and our relationship with both? What do you offer as an alternative that may be missing from the vantage point from which I perceive the futurism you criticize or reject? If no alternative, what then? A world consigned to tomorrows that endlessly look like today, all static and no hope for an ability for us to collectively create new destinies?

I reject the term “futurism” for the ordinary process of extrapolating trends, nor do I see its necessity to characterize open mindedness, imagination or hope. As Beanolini has so concisely demonstrated, the term “futurism” is fraught with baggage, being founded in a violent disdain for the past.

Perhaps you could point to a published, statistically rigorous and sound meta study of the accuracy and predictive power of imaginative “futurism”?

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Perhaps you could point to similar studies. I’m not actually sure everyone ever agrees about what futurism is or means, or perhaps that’s a contextual thing? I don’t really have a horse in the race, it just seemed like an odd inspiration for pessimism and cynicism. Obviously, I don’t agree with those Italians cited earlier, and so, was the term re-appropriated from them for the English speculative fiction world?

Since we’re talking definition here…what is the term for people actively trying to create the best potential futures instead of those who are just talking and theorizing about it?

It’s nice to dream and all, but the reality is we’re all very different and one person’s dream isn’t good enough for everyone anyway. The only way that we’re going to see these futures is if we charge towards them and when things don’t go according to plan, we panic instead of react.

So who are these people? I’m one of them and I have a few allies who are helping us along.

Those are my peeps, and we’d really like to get the chance to blow some minds.

I’m a big fan of imagination - making stuff up can be glorious. What I’m not a fan of is making stuff up, dressing it up with an academic cloak, and then telling us it is our future. I’ve just not seen proven and consistent results from imaginative futurism any more than from psychic prognosticators. We can fit curves and predict that computers will get smaller and smaller (up to a point) but as you’ve pointed out we aren’t good at predicting the stuff that was revolutionary. I haven’t seen that imaginative futurism is proven to work in any reliable fashion - something we generally demand of science and academia.

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I don’t have a serious answer, though these ideas rose to the top for me, first: Priestesses, hackers, idealists, artists, gardeners, progressive activists and all who sympathize with and support the above? I think my thought process was colored, however, perhaps because I’ve just started reading a contemporary book about the rise of civilization in ancient Babylon, including the pressures and world-change that led to and encouraged the settlement of the first (then) large cities…

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We get hats, so its not all bad… now strap me to the front of a steam locomotive!


Weltverbesserungsaktivisten. Add a “-praktiker” to reinforce the ‘doing’ part.

(literally world improvement activist practitioner)


I’m liking those stylish double breasted coats, too. Perfect for cold nights redirecting canals into museums…


Disorientation. Irrationality. Malaise.

Election year 2016, a perfect definition if ever one existed.


Ooh, and that helps put me in the right set of mind. Because I’m working so hard on the nuts and bolts my mindset is on the creation of X

But really, the only future I should be defining with any specificity is my own. We all see the world through different lenses and what’s awesome to me isn’t necessarily awesome for everyone.

Instead the focus should be exposing opportunities and enabling people to reach them, right? It’s fair to expect a bit of bar-raising (and who wouldn’t expect that? Joining a group who hasn’t committed to respecting each other and interacting in a civilized way sounds awful)…but once that stage is set it should be all about setting people free and being amazed by all the places they all lead us.

Does that need a new word? Or does it still work? :slight_smile:

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I see your point and think you’re right - we need more fairness and equality in the definition. hmm, tricky, have to think about this. @zathras, any ideas?


ha, found a solution: We preface it with Gutmenschen (good human beings), similar to social justice warrior coined to denigrate but later used by the targets of the slur like some kind of award. the meaning of the word is wider than SJW and covers also topics like environment protection in addition to socially progressive views - politically mostly in the left/green range.

last activity here before going to sleep: @William_Holz, the word I gift you is “Gutmenschenweltverbesserungspraktiker” (I threw out the activism to ease the pronounceableness)

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