Why all of us need to be futurists

Looking forward to reading this in a bit… but can I pre-emptively add that, while we need to think about the future, we also need a firm grasp of the past, which far too many people just don’t have. I don’t think you can have any sort of productive discussion about the future until you know how we got to this moment.


Just leave it to the Germans, who have a smooshed up word for everything!



And one of the games to which [the human race] is most attached is called, “Keep to-morrow dark,” and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) “Cheat the Prophet.” The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

But in the beginning of the twentieth century the game of Cheat the Prophet was made far more difficult than it had ever been before. The reason was, that there were so many prophets and so many prophecies, that it was difficult to elude all their ingenuities.

They were so common that a stupid man was quite exceptional, and when they found him, they followed him in crowds down the street and treasured him up and gave him some high post in the State. And all these clever men were at work giving accounts of what would happen in the next age, all quite clear, all quite keen-sighted and ruthless, and all quite different. And it seemed that the good old game of hoodwinking your ancestors could not really be managed this time, because the ancestors neglected meat and sleep and practical politics, so that they might meditate day and night on what their descendants would be likely to do.

  • The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G.K. Chesterton
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Thank you. I came here to remind everyone that historically, futurism led to the ugliest events of the 20th century.

Let’s all instead become surrealists, and usher in a vivid, unpredictable, subconsciously bright future!


Germany has the most fun words!

Googles for fun…

Gooder world improve practitioners?

So much yes!


futurism preceded some of them. Nostalgia preceded some of them. Correlation causation something something.

No, I mean people who held futurist ideas in high regard later went on to hold fascist ideas in high regard. Read the futurist manifesto that was posted previously.

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Hence, my one liner about history.

Finally read it. I think there is some valuable ideas in there, but my problem was on the over-emphasis on Silicon Valley mode of futurist thinking. Although futurism is most often associated with Italian art movement that had ties to the Fascist regime (which @Beanolini helpfully linked to the Futurist manifesto and @peemlives highlighted underwrote some of the greatest atrocities), there is a longer line of thinking involved, going to back to things like millenialism and utopian thinking. I don’t have qualms with thinking about and trying to find a better future. I do have qualms with the inability to connect that to the past and something a bit deeper than the latest technological trends - she seems to have no means in her article of connecting the present and future to a deeper past, other than through the evolution of technologies that are supporting the current flowering of economic power in Silicon valley.

She talks about a sense of awe, which is lovely, but that sense of awe is not just found in thinking about the future and the possibilities opened up by technologies, but it can be grounded in the past, too. She talks about a painting, well that’s a connection to the past.

And this is not a contrarian, anti-tech, anti-future view point. On the contrary it’s about figuring out, through a proper study of the past, what has worked, what has been uplifting, uniting, and truly people-centric in our past and what of that can be used to think through what can be brought into the future.



Okay. This appeals to the engineer within me. With enough hands, we can fix this.

It is tempting to seek a new word to use instead of ‘futurist’. Let’s stick with ‘futurist’ for now, and the Italian Futurists with their manifesto and their horrible visions of mass architecture will serve as a constant reminder that we could all be wrong. Let someone else come up with party names and banners and manifestos; while we actually do something if we can.

First off, what are we trying to do?

There are all sorts of futurism, just as there are all sorts of possible futures: bleak futures, technical futures, warlike futures, sterile futures, and a small set of futures I might actually like to live in. Out of this small set, I must exclude any and all futures that seem ideal to me because everyone different - less clever, less pretty, less tall - has been excluded; because that way lies racism and little else. This is tricky - I don’t want fundamentalist religion in my future, but I don’t want the tools that would exclude it either, and maybe I do not want the bland future that would result.

In practical terms, we seek a future we collectively desire, and we can achieve by without passing through an intermediate state that we do not like. There is no handing blankets with smallpox to Native Americans, or ordering barrels of arsenic for Aborigines, because ‘the future might thank us for this’.

Is this possible? I think it is possible to do our generation’s bit because the job is so huge. Perhaps, the trick is to concentrate on the obvious, basic stuff, and grow on that. Nobody should be suffering for want of basic medicine. Nobody should suffer unjust discrimination. We should strive to reduce pollution, waste, and hurt.

Sadly, none of this wins votes. To be a politician, you have to have the right background, the ideal family, the resilience of a stand-up comedian, and the ability to stir the mob as a demagogue. These are not useful talents for our long-term future. I would love a parliament where everything is discussed as online presentations; where you can use diagrams and you can express a complicated idea; rather than reduce everything to a soundbite because that cannot be interrupted. The speaker might not even be seen so we are not influenced by irrelevancies such as Jeremy Corbyn’s resemblance to Obi-Wan Kenobi (good, though, isn’t it?); or heard directly so they cannot convince us by their oratory, but only by their argument. Maybe, an artificial intelligence could get elected, just to prove we do not discriminate. Fix politics, and I think a lot of the rest might follow.

PS: I think the US presidential candidates are quite surreal enough, thankyou.

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Or whether or not guitars are allowed:

Hence Toffler et al are often referred to as ‘futurologists’ rather than ‘futurists’.

Which requires a minimum level of intelligence. This is exactly why a significant portion of the population is suffering from future shock. Consider that roughly half the folks in the real world are of below average intelligence.

Germergoat to a tee.

Alec Empire and the Manics say that they are

(this full album is on the official ATR Youtube channel, if anyone wonders about legality)

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Ooh, I like the way your brain works.

I think there are four big components.
1) To expose/define/create futures that don’t suck and are increasingly awesome (plural because we’re all different and we all change over time)
2) To create a mechanism where people can ‘join’ these futures and the process of creating them in a manner that smoothly dovetails with existing systems and is as painless as possible
3) To maximize peoples’ ability to explore/grow/redefine the futures
4) To design for the flawed creatures we actually are with evidence-based mechanisms rather than depend on some amorphous hope, enlightenment, or kumbaya moment.

So…more of an adaptable framework than a specific plan. Specific plans made by a small number of people don’t have much staying power or (when they do) are great for a tiny number of people but often range from ‘okay’ to ‘awful’ for others.

Our American experiment is an example of this!

SUPER agreed! A few of us are working on something ourselves, and this turned out to be a major factor that we couldn’t ignore.

We need a way to allow people to cluster based on their motivations and their perception of ‘awesome’ without creating ‘Skinhead City’, right?

Excellent starting point and agreed. The bar is set VERY low so it doesn’t have to be raised too high when designing fundamentals.

And that doesn’t keep us from having ‘shoot for the sky’ options, just so the building blocks support it.

Mind if I offer a bit of a shift in perspective here?

Don’t think politics or nations as a starting point. That’s a TON of work and requires getting everybody in a region on the same page (or else having some people very unhappy). Instead use join/invite mechanism that can provide all the benefits of citizenship without all the burdens.

For existing legal constructs, that gives us various sorts of corporations, NGOs, religious institutions, and a couple of weaker options.

I lean corporations because they have all the power anyway. And that’s the engineering challenge, right? To create an entity that is, essentially, overpowered vs. the status quo, one that can attract and gather the people and resources it needs without being trapped by people who don’t have the greater good or basic harmony in mind.

Or, as a friend said…figure out how to cheat at Civilization, but in the real world. :wink:

We have a solid foundation already, but I’d love to hear some of your ideas without overpriming the pump!

Okay, I will try a reply here while this thread is still going. We can always take it somewhere else afterwards.

I cannot see your four big components as separate and countable entities. There is a lot of overlap. But, in the whole, they are probably right. Instead of extrapolating forwards, try thinking the other way. Most people in history seem like jerks today. The further back you go, the worse even the heroes of the day look. They were sometimes critical of others, but they thought they, themselves, were okay, Futurology is hard. Karl Marx was a good historian and had a keen eye for how things actually worked. He spotted that the most respected members of society were unproductive. But he, bright guy that he was, was unable to propose a practical solution.

Maybe we ought to try and extrapolate one generation head and no more. We can hold general principles that work over a longer time span. For instance, it seems generally a good idea to meet our neighbours rather than avoid them. It now seems the 14% or so UKIP voters in the UK who recently voted to leave Europe thought they were voting for ethnic cleansing of some sort. These votes came from the regions in the UK where there were the fewest migrant workers: London was solidly for staying in. The other only hate what they don’t understand. So, here we recognise a good idea that seems to stay good over a longer time scale. We can hold that idea with some confidence. But, I still suggest we do not elevate it to the status of a rule.

And here we get into a particularly US phenomenon, of the Constitution. There are no truths that are self evident, and we the people have to bootstrap everything from nothing; but fine words (and they are fine, aren’t they? - they did English proud back then) can be a trap Fine words, just as having a fine, statesmanlike bearing, and a good speaking voice, can add gravitas to what you say, but does’t make you right. Weirdly, the European parliament with its three languages, may have an advantage there, as your fine words may be lost through translation though the meaning remain.

Politics, alone, is not the starting point. I see it as a particularly flawed, but that does not mean all else os good. The media, particularly the Murdoch press in the UK, is horribly biased. It was reporting (there was a copy in the pub, I wouldn’t buy that filthy rag) saying the government was honouring the Brexit heroes with high posts in government. This is a weird view - many of them have been exiled, and even Boris Johnson’s Foreign Secretary job was seen as a posting to the Eastern Front. But, a lot of older people get their perception of the outside world from reading stuff like that. We visit the internet forums we like, so confirmation bias turns everything into a Hall of Mirrors. There must be a way out of this, but I can’t see it yet.

Money wants looking at. I am waiting for Money 2.0 to come out, with some fixes for the more obvious bugs. But that’s a whole essay in itself.

The tricky thing is to be inclusive. A friend of mine was saying recently “There ought to be some sort of intelligence and general knowledge test before you can vote”. This sounded like good sense to him, but to me it sounded like “we ought to restrict the vote to smart and responsible people like us”. Am I suggesting we get the mob to vote at general electrons, so they feel a part of the process, but we keep them away particular issues like Europe, where they will do damage? I have a nasty feeling I am doing exactly that. And I am also thinking “…and it is for their own good”. Damn.

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