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
Earlier this month, I gave the afternoon keynote at the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Summit, and my talk was about how the people who founded the web with the idea of having an open, decentralized system ended up building a system that is increasingly monopolized by a few companies — and how we can prevent the same things from happening next time.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is one of the world’s largest private jailers; it runs prisons and immigration detention centers across the USA (and is diversifying into halfway houses, mental health center, and surveillance for poor neighborhoods). Mother Jones’s Shane Bauer went undercover at CCA’s Winn Prison in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration […]
Steven Levy is in characteristic excellent form in a long piece on Medium about the internal vogue for machine learning at Google; drawing on the contacts he made with In the Plex, his must-read 2012 biography of the company, Levy paints a picture of a company that’s being utterly remade around newly ascendant machine learning […]
Some people say magic tricks are nerdy and best left to your 12-year-old asthmatic cousin. But others see value in perfecting the slight of hand and showmanship associated with a perfectly executed routine. We’re firmly in the latter camp. And now, we’re giving you the ability to put a few parlor tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin […]
Bluetooth speakers may be convenient to use, but many of them just aren’t that powerful. Sure, it may be fine if you’re seated in front of the speaker. But move across the room, and you may strain to hear what’s coming from those tiny drivers.There’s a reason why the G-BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Boombox (now $79.99 in the Boing […]
If you’re working to build your web programming knowledge, you know you have a lot of ground to cover. With literally dozens of languages, platforms and environments available to coders, mastering all those technologies can be a daunting task.Up-and-coming coders can start learning some of the most fundamental programming study areas with this Web Hacker course bundle – and […]