Note — May 10, 2020

The History of the Future

Seen in → No.125

Source →

Audrey Watters always creates brilliant talks, long articles, and analysis even if, while justly calling out the blindly optimistic, she does (imho) tend to be overly pessimistic, assigning dastardly intent when the protagonists simply don’t know any better (also an issue of course, but less egregious). Here Watters looks at some of the reasons why she studies the history of the future, how scenarios made-up by futurists, even if they don’t come true, affect politicians and enterprises, orient decision-making, and influence the direction of the future we do get saddled with. Additionally, this kind of data-based, pseudo-scientific, corporate futurism forecloses “other ways of imagining the future — those based on emotion, care, refusal, resistance, love.” (Also covers RAND, game theory, and behavioral psychology.)

The future — as Macbeth figures out, I suppose — is a political problem. The history of the future is a study of political imagination and political will. […]

It doesn't account for precursors that make acceptance of a new technology happen more smoothly — new technologies rarely appear out of nowhere. Nor does it address the political or social occurrences that might prompt or preclude technology adoption. […]

We have to think about, we have to talk about, we have to make strides toward an open future before the futurist-consultants come in with their predictive models and techno-solutionism and tell the bosses they have to sell off the world to save it. These futurists promise certainty. They promise inevitability. And with their models, no one bears responsibility. “It was the algorithm,” they shrug. […]

And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.