The Future of: Futurism

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by: Iqbal Mohammed

In his last column for WIRED magazine, prognosticator Bruce Sterling takes on futurism itself. After tackling the directions the Internet is going to take us – more individualism, less institutionalism, low cost connectivity, ubiquitous creativity, collaboration and a blurring of where reality ends and virtuality begins – Bruce hones in squarely on futurism.

Though he starts off saying that futurism has no future, what he surely must mean is exactly the opposite. He points out, rightly, that prognostication is no longer the preserve of the elite and anyone with a Typepad account (his example, not mine) has a license to hold forth on the future. Surely this democratisation of expertise only means a blooming of creativity, collaboration and delivery – as has already happened in other fields (and everytime there has a democratisation movement in history).

In my opinion, there will also be a bigger fallout of this transfer of the wand from the pundit to the garden-variety blogger – there will be a explosion in the width and variety of predictions, a kind of explosion never seen before. The bell-curve of predictions which Bruce refers to (in the context of the Pew Future Of The Internet II study) will remain but the volume it harbors will increase manifold as will the elongation of its tails on either side.

This newly empowered collective of prognosticators is a powerful engine that can process a far greater amount of information about the future than has been possible before. The sheer number of people thinking about the future only means that a wider variety of possibilities – from the crazy to the crazily conservative – can be considered, imagined, fleshed out and championed. And the collective’s processing power will only increase exponentially as more join the fold.

However improbable, or impossible, a particular version of the future is, you can bet your last penny that there’s someone out there imagining it – and preparing to champion it – right now.

The result will be the unlikelihood of encountering surprise – pleasant or unpleasant – at least for a lucky few (not necessarily the same few all the time.) Bruce begins his column by saying that "The Internet has a habit of defying expectations." The same could have been said of the future until now – but I believe beginning now the future’s ability to pull a rabbit out of its habit will progressively vanish.

Whatever happens in the future, there’s going to be some blogger out there logging into his blogging account to say, "Told you so."

(Read more posts from "The Future Of:" series.)

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