Here's a typically chewy, dense, thought-provoking essay from Venkatesh Rao, ruminating on the nature of the future and futurism. Rao describes the future as arriving through a "manufactured normalcy field" that prevents us from perceiving it, and proceeds from there to indict futurism as focusing on the part of the future where it is not yet "technologically boring," which is the point at which the future becomes commercially exciting. Also, Rao thinks we're still living in the 15th century. Sort of.
Engineering is about finding excitement by figuring out how human behavior could change. Marketing is about finding money by making sure it doesn’t. The future arrives along a least-cognitive-effort path.
This actually suggests a different, subtler reading of Gibson’s unevenly-distributed line.
It isn’t that what is patchily distributed today will become widespread tomorrow. The mainstream never ends up looking like the edge of today. Not even close. The mainstream seeks placidity while the edge seeks stimulation.
Instead, what is unevenly distributed are isolated windows into the un-normalized future that exist as weak spots in the Field. When the windows start to become larger and more common, economics kicks in and the Field maintenance industry quickly moves to create specialists, codified knowledge and normalcy-preserving design patterns.
Time is actually a meaningless organizing variable here. Is gene-hacking more or less futuristic than pod-cities or bionic chips?...
...We aren’t being hit by Future Shock. We are going to be hit by Future Nausea. You’re not going to be knocked out cold. You’re just going to throw up in some existential sense of the word. I’d like to prepare. I wish some science fiction writers would write a few nauseating stories.
Here's some other Rao posts from our archives.
Welcome to the Future Nauseous
The Nameless Coaltion, a global alliance of women’s groups, LGBTQ groups, human rights and digital rights groups has asked Facebook to abandon its “Real Names” policy, which puts Facebook users in danger of reprisals including state violence, stalkers, and on-the-job harassment.
Protesters angry over proposed layoffs stormed an Air France executive meeting and cornered Director Pierre Plissonnier and Resources Director Xavier Broseta, tearing off the men’s jackets and ripping their shirts off, forcing them to scale a fence to get free.
Maciej Cegłowski’s posted another of his barn-burning speeches about the Internet’s problems, their origins and their solutions (previously), a talk from the Fremtidens Internet conference in Copenhagen called “What Happens Next Will Amaze You.”
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