Note — Feb 07, 2021

How Predicting the Future Became a Literary Genre

In The Atlantic, Samantha Culp provides a whirlwind tour of pop-futurism, from the impact of Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s Future Shock, to those who followed in their footsteps, including singulitarians Kurzweil and Diamandis. Since all of them basically want to “disrupt industries while preserving the status quo,” she then takes a step in a different direction with Smith and Ashby’s How to Future, and Krznaric’s Good Ancestors. Connecting with the above pieces, Culp closes with the hopes of today’s futures thinkers of conjuring “slower, more restorative, community-driven futures that are just as irresistible.”

Grown in the soil of management consulting and overheated start-ups, even when these works branch out into the wider world, they are more interested in, and can more easily imagine, interstellar colonies and eternal life—which offer an immediate road to profit for some—than an issue such as prison abolition. […]

In The Good Ancestor, the philosopher Roman Krznaric calmly calls for a reorientation toward the future, not to benefit us (as is typically the pitch of the pop-futurist book), but to benefit our far-off descendants. […]

Unlike a linear book, interactive card decks and collective storytelling projects may best embody the strange, mutable, participatory ways the actual future unfolds. […]

Now, just as in 1970, the future is made by intricate interactions of people, systems, communities, material and environmental conditions—and by the stories that influence those relationships.