Futurism: Speculating and Getting Paid For It

I’m all into the future. My brain works backwards. I even think I’ve stepped before I have.  Usually this results in  tripping down the stairs. Worse case scenario has me thinking I’ve turned in an assignment…only to realize it was due the day before. Ooops.

I’ve gotten better I promise.

Futurists don’t work backwards from a goal and then aim to achieve it. Instead they work forwards–starting from the histories past and then making educated guesses about how the world will turn. It isn’t a hope for the future, but a reconciliation of the past. This determines the present situation’s choices, which then influence how the future will work. It’s not a bad game to play. Fashion does it similarly. 80s Inspired Glasses? So 2013. The upturned collar? Definitely the new women’s mod trend. Steampunk clocks and gears? Thank you, Etzy Artists; and thank you:

Bruce Sterling.

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Bruce Sterling (left) and Dan Reed (right)

Yes, our world constant reinvents its idea of the future. I met author and futurist Bruce Sterling this past September. The Englert Theatre in Iowa City featured him with our own university futurist–Dan Reed. Mr. Reed is the vice president of economic and research development for the university. (Good job, university; way to stay ahead of the competition.) Bruce and Dan wanted to stay away from defining futurism. Futurism wasn’t so much about talking about the future, as it was dealing with the change people say happening in the present.

Seats were placed on stage for audience members to participate. Most people just stared with their legs crossed while the two men talked about the economic crisis and technology trends. Both treated the future like a glass art piece–fragile but easily tossed.

The future is just an educated guess from the past. If you want to go fifty years into the future, you need to go fifty years into the past. What’s happened? How has it happened? And why will it continue or change?

Bruce Sterling

The future isn’t ours to take. Futurists combine the concepts of critical theory with real time politics. I want to believe that I can change the world–but this implies that I am changing the future. Well, obviously I am changing the future. For every action I choose, I piece together the road that will lead me to a future I have no true control over it. Futurists look back and sigh. They wish their favorite corner shop still served Folgers instead of Starbucks. They go back to their hometown and don’t recognize it anymore. The world is changing faster than ever and as futurists stand around shouting claims and criticisms of the world around them–they too must live in it. They too aim to change it.

Even if that change is to stay the same.

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all my lovely new science fiction books

The future must be constructed. Believing in my personal goals and achievements is critical to my success. I have to be proud of my accomplishments. I cannot brandish them off or shove them in peoples’ faces; but I have to take pride in what I’ve done. And I could never have done it without help. This isn’t about talking myself up. This is about talking you up. This is about showing you why the future isn’t yours to take; the future is yours to create.

Students: Did your professor give you an assignment that your company has to make $5 million in five years? DO IT. And make it your company or hobby or business idea. Don’t prove it to him that you can do it. Prove it to yourself. Don’t understand? Say something. Don’t understand something? Google it out. It isn’t cheating or defeating to use your entire skill set. Parents. Friends. Video games. What ever gets you out the door and doing something because you want to do it. That is something you should be doing.

Professors: students don’t want to work or show up or participate? Don’t be afraid to teach them. To inspire them. To share your passions and your love. Then ask them WHY they care. WHY they thought this class would be great. Forget the syllabus until the second or third day of class. Get to know your students. Put them first. Never be afraid to share your knowledge. Because I’d rather have students complain that I knew too much than taught them too little.

Innovators: Take it easy. I know. The other two got totally pumped up. But you. You don’t need me to say anything. Just remember the little things of life make a difference. Walk the dog. Feed the fish. Wash the dishes. Take a shower. Don’t eat pizza every day. One cannot conquer the world on ramen noodles and Monster. Neither has adequate nutrition. So stay focus, but stay sharp! It takes a lot of energy to disrupt the status quo.

I write to create a better world. We are the present that determines the future, guys. Get out there and start living the world you want to see. If we don’t change, how can they?


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