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
Legalist is a startup founded by Thiel Fellow Eva Shang and Christian Haigh, backed by Y Combinator: it will use data-mining to identify people who have been legally wronged by deep-pocketed aggressors and offer to finance their litigation in return for a share of the winnings.
The new Ikea Catalog is making a big bet on very small living spaces — the kind of place that costs more than half your monthly salary but is too small for a dinner-table, let alone a separate room for your kids, who are supposed to sleep in a bunk-bed in the living room (“Why […]
Retired Brigadier General John Adams served for 30 years, including a stint as a military intelligence officer: in an op-ed in The Hill, he says that while he supports trade deals, the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership has almost nothing to do with trade, and will hasten America’s de-industrialization, making it harder for the US military […]
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