Friday, March 30, 2012

'90s Flashback: Reading The Extreme Future

I read less futurism these days than I used to, in part because it seems as if the field has been decreasingly fertile this past decade. My recent brush with Dr. James Canton's The Extreme Future (New York: Dutton, 2006) has not encouraged me to revise that opinion.

Once one gets past the author's relentless name-dropping, and the endless repetition of buzz words like "innovation," and the abundance of useless illustrations (redolent of the Powerpoint mentality at its worst), what he offers is not much more than '90s-vintage New Economy optimism, tweaked by post-9/11 terrorist-centrism and the 2003- oil price shock. This sort of thinking seemed shallow when these developments were fresh, even shallower by 2006, and still shallower (and less relevant) another six years on, after events like the 2008 economic crisis and the Fukushima disaster – and it seems less and less of a wonder that shiny, tech-y futures are rarer now. The dreams of what I called the "post-cyberpunk moment" seem less and less credible as time goes by, and no new dreams have emerged to take their place.

Meanwhile, the nightmares only seem harder and harder to escape.

A Primer on the Technological Singularity
"Twenty Years After the Cold War: A Strategic Survey": A Short Version
Twenty Years After the Fall
New Review: The Next Decade: Where We've Been . . . And Where We're Going, by George Friedman
The Next 100 Years: Another View
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, by George Friedman

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