Futurist David Brin doesn’t think apocalypse is imminent
I’m not a cynic and believer in nostalgic dogmas. A “leftist” or “rightist.” A pessimist.
What can’t a futurist predict?
Swings of politics. Technologies that help people to avoid technology.
What won’t society look like in 20 years?
Apocalypse and Star Trek.
Any memorable occasions where a client didn’t take your advice on board?
MySpace refused to update. A consortium of banks ignored more good ideas than you could shake a stick at. Several are now out of business.
We are – I hope – finally emerging from the Naughty Oughts… the insane first decade of the 21st Century, when folks avoided thinking about change.
What was a trend you didn’t see coming?
Culture War. The third phase of the American Civil War.
I honestly never imagined that a people whose genius lay in pragmatism – in practical, calm negotiation and finding mixed solutions to problems, would spin out into ant-scienceism and rigid dogmas and hating their neighbors. But Robert Heinlein foresaw it! Look up “Nehemia Scudder.”
What’s a prediction of yours you don’t want to come true?
I make so many. I toy with so many. I hope we never have to dig ourselves out of a hole as deep as the one portrayed in The Postman (David’s post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, later adapted into a film starring Kevin Costner). But if we do, I know we’ll do it with courage and hope.
David also provided an allegory from his novel The Transparent Society that he felt was in the Antiview spirit:
Plato to Galileo —
“Our senses are defective, therefore we cannot discover truth through experience. That chair, for instance. Despite all your gritty ‘experiments’ you will never determine what it is. Not perfectly.
“Therefore give up! Empiricism is useless. Seek the essence of truth through pure reason.”
Galileo to Plato —
“You’re right. My eyesight is poor. My touch is flawed. I will never know with utter perfection what this chair is.
“Nevertheless, I can carve away untruths and wrong theories. I can demolish fancy ‘essences’ and epicycles, and disprove self-hypnotizing incantations.
“With good experiments — and the helpful criticism of my peers — I can find out what the chair is not.”