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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.”

Check out The Transparent Society and have a look at David’s blog

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What Others Are Saying

  1. cuhome August 8, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Great post! Enjoyed very much, and got a lot to think over!

    • Max August 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Glad to hear, thanks for coming by.

  2. Thomas Cotterill August 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    As a Canadian, I’ve lived next door to America all my life and would never think to characterize it as Brin does: “a people whose genius lay in pragmatism – in practical, calm negotiation and finding mixed solutions to problems.” This is the liberal ideal, oft spoken but never realized. America is, and always has been, a land of strong opinions on all manner of things from religion to evolution to race to guns to isolationism. I’m old enough to remember many violent riots and vitriolic disputes over all of these issues. This is not meant as a knock on the US. I’m simply pointing out the obvious fact that America – far from being a peaceable place – is a vigorous nation peopled by those who are willing to step forward and be counted when they don’t agree.

    • Max August 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Very good point Thomas. I would agree with both of you, in that to me America’s main characteristic is its sheer diversity. There are the strongly opinionated who won’t back down as well as quiet pragmatists.

  3. Thomas Cotterill August 24, 2012 at 2:51 am

    You are the voice of wisdom on this one, Max!

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