tomorrow and tomorrow 04.22.2008, 4:34 AM
posted by chris meade
The future has only been a topic of interest for a relatively short while.
For most of time the future was likely to be pretty much like the past except we'd be dead then and replaced by replica offspring - same job, same village, same stories. Utopia was in heaven not a century hence and the gods were our time lords. When exactly did we start to picture fantastical possibilities to come? I grew up in a generation where everyone looked to space travel and videophones around the corner with excitement and trepidation. Tomorrow's World was a BBC TV show where bizarre prototype inventions were revealed and we prepared to live on capsule meals and drift around our (bookshelfless) spacepods in smooth lycra jump suits.
Now we don't expect to wait for new gizmos. The Millennium celebration led to more futuregazing of the glibbest kind. Everywhere were teams of youngsters singing hymns to a harmonious, multicultural, tolerant tomorrow. Then 9/11. And in 2008 the whole planet is fretting as a new day suddenly dawns of rising food prices and sea levels. Tomorrow has come after all rather suddenly and it isn't smiling.
In this context The Book of the Future sounds like some superheroic accoutrement, nostalgically space aged, something Batman keeps tucked down his utility belt, a magical entity that might just help to save the planet: a bleeping symbol of meaning and quality in a chaotic, cruel world.
O, all powerful Internet, come to my aid! I'm in need of further reading on the history of the future.
All suggestions welcome.
Oliver Q on April 22, 2008 9:06 AM:
If you havent already heard of it, the blog www.paleofuture.com contains many gems.
Ben Grossman on April 23, 2008 12:37 AM:
"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."
- Daniel Hillis
From the Long Now Foundation website:
Chris Meade on April 23, 2008 2:00 AM:
Thanks Oliver, that site is fascinating - not much mention of future books I notice.
sebastianmary on April 23, 2008 8:25 AM:
I'm intrigued that you appear to be eschewing search engines and in favor of crowdsourced research, Chris. A bold move for human-centered curation of the Web?
As for me, a brief Google turned up (amongst other things)
Palaeofuture (already quoted)
An upcoming V&A exhibition about design and Cold War-era futurism(s):
Jonathan Margolis' book on futurologists through the ages:
A Wikipedia article:
...and a lot of stuff about Italian avant-garde art.
Chris Meade on April 23, 2008 4:44 PM:
I thought crowd sourcing was the new rock 'n roll.
I did do some initial Googling, but there's nothing like personal advice from the discerning minds of the if:book readership surely? Thanks to all for your advice.
Lee on April 24, 2008 3:16 AM:
Read Taleb's The Black Swan. I think he's basically got it right: the important changes are inherently unpredictable.
Oliver Q on April 24, 2008 3:33 AM:
The most relevant entry from Paleofuture.com is probably this one from 1923, predicting that
"The great publishing industry will be the publishing of motion pictures instead of print... the world will have become picture trained so that words are not as important as they are now."
There is also this one with a video from 1994 about the 'tablet newspaper.'
On a bit of a tangent, there is an article from 1936 listing which contemporary authors they think will still be read in 2000.
Alistair on September 5, 2008 7:43 AM:
Well, I guess the Bible was probably the first book to contain a vision of the future. And for better or worse, it's a book that'll probably still be around for another 2,000 years. Although maybe the 4,000AD e-book edition will have alternate endings based on the reader's holiness quotient. Or it might just start with a foreword: "I told you so. JC."