Highlighted Selections from:

The Future of Futurism


DOI: 10.1525/boom.2013.3.4.35

Wurgaft, Benjamin Aldes. “The Future of Futurism.” Boom: A Journal of California 3.4 (2013): 35–45. Web.

p.37: The rise of organized and professionalized forms of futurism, beginning in the 1960s, was coeval with the rise of the computer and consumer electronics industries. Along with the acceleration of technological progress, we’ve seen a commensurate increase in the volume of tech-talk and futures-talk. Ideas with their roots in technology are deployed to address nontechnological concerns. -- Highlighted mar 11, 2014

p.37: In the sense that we all think about our personal futures and the futures of our communities, futurism is everyone’s constant and quotidian practice. But futurism as I use the term in this essay means a professional interest in helping people think creatively about the risks and opportunities ahead. -- Highlighted mar 11, 2014

p.38: the mathematician Olaf Helmer, sought to extend customary planning horizons into "a more distant future." Helmer, along with other members of RAND, developed a method of forecasting called "Delphi," which involved the collection and crossreferencing of predictions by experts in a given scientific field. "Convergence of opinion" translated into "accuracy of prediction," writes historian Jenny Andersson. Despite his invocation of the Oracle at Delphi, Helmer’s goal was to render "fatalism a fatality." Like many futurists after him, he wanted to eliminate utopianism and dystopianism from the culture of futures thinking while devising an ultimate scientific theory of prediction, a general theory on the model of physics that would be aided by the data-gathering and processing power of computers. -- Highlighted mar 11, 2014

p.39: the responsibilities of futurists, of course, were subject to a question: Whose future were they trying to predict? A global future or a national one? An elite or a popular future? -- Highlighted mar 11, 2014

p.40: If one very loose definition of technology is the use of objects to bring nature more under control, futurism could be the use of different styles of thought to cope with the sheer uncontrollability of the future. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.41: Turner points out that this optimistic view of computers was, interestingly and importantly, the opposite of their demonization by the 1960s counterculture, which figured themas soulless parts of a social system designed to process and stamp the young. The most famous California version of this idea was on display at a 1964 Free Speech Movement rally at Berkeley, when a student used a sign that mocked by imitation the punchcards of the giant IBM computers used by Berkeley’s Registrar: "I am a UC student. Please do not fold, bend, spindle or mutilate me." -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.41: The idea of technology’s ultimate self-destruction found expression in the "Y2K Virus" fantasy, and the entire cyberpunk genre of fiction and film, which got its start in the early 1980s, was a series of dark visions about computers and computer-augmented humans being made to serve the will of corporations. Many cyberpunk stories took place in virtual realities whose negative dimensions genre chieftain William Gibson captured in his term "consensus-hallucination." -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.42: Flechtheim saw the techniques of organizations like RAND as merely symptomatic of bourgeois capitalism’s fetish for control.Hemight well have viewed our current trends as reflecting not the liberatory power of the idea of the future but simply a belief in economic growth and technological progress, both accelerated by market competition. The increasing visibility of libertarianism among Silicon Valley’s elite would hardly dissuade him, nor would the widespread belief that technological progress can fix problems that we don’t have the means to address politically. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.42: Some mid-twentieth century European futurists, such as Ossip Flechtheim who coined the term "futurology" while in American exile in the 1940s, would find only peril in our contemporary celebration of makers-as-futurists. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014