“Futurism”, or “How to Talk like ‘That Guy’ at a Dinner Party”

Futurism is a movement that first started back in the 1930’s. As Wikipedia tells us, it was an “artistic, literary, and political movement that sought to reject the past and rather uncritically embraced speed, technology, and violent change.” Since I’ve spent the last couple months at a Web 2.0 company, I’m all about the rejection of the past. And thumbs up to speed and technology. And who doesn’t at least love reading about violent change?

Now, a lot of Futurists fall into the category of criminally insane, the type of doomsday predictors that you always see mocked in movies and cartoons (“The World will End Tomorrow!”) But when their work is research-based and scientific, they can come up with some pretty cool stuff. That said, there’s a grey area over their scientific methodology – too much grounding in current science sort of defeats the purpose (ie – forecasting population growth), whereas too little makes them little more than a sci-fi writer.

So, if you liked the top Microsoft video (the idea of it anyway, the sexiness is hard to replicate), what are some of the leading Futurist sources available?

The World Futurist Society is well-cited, and their publication, The Futurist Magazine is pretty cool. A recent article in there predicted:
* A global sensor grid may appear by 2018.
* In 2020, sports-goers could be seeing the opening of the first Bionic Olympics.
* By 2025, only 15% of deaths worldwide will be due to infectious diseases, and human lives will be extended at a rate of one year per year.
* Nuclear fusion as a major energy source could be a reality by 2038.

Overall though, the WFS site isn’t as clean as you might like.

Next up, Patrick Dixon’s GlobalChange.com is sort of a portal of various futurist videos. Every video on the site gets rated, which is a good feature. The downside is that a lot of it is business-related, and not too “out there”. Some of the high-ranked videos can be interesting, like this one about the future of consumer space travel, but the bulk of the videos aren’t this cool (not that this one is really cool to begin with).

GlobalChange is worthwhile reading for managers, but lacking the sexiness* of other futurist writings.

Futurist.com is one that I actually really like. There’s a good range of topic areas, and a mix of “coming up soon” and “20 years down the road”. I’d recommend browsing this once in a while. The article “Eleven Events, Trends and Developments that will Change your Life is over 2 years old, but very intriguing (check out invisible computing, and the outward links). Their blog also deserves your weekly readership.

Finally, you’ll notice my recent Tweet about a BusinessWeek article on 20 inventions for the next ten years – check’er out.

So there you have it: Futurism. Check out some of these sites on occassion and at the very least, you can sound like that really cool/smart guy at a dinner party. Or the really nerdy one. Depends on the dinner party.


One Response

  1. Alex, thanks for noticing http://www.Futurist.com. We do try to put out a lot of information, for free, that can help people imagine the future, near term and longer term. Be sure to check out the video section. Your article here is a nice intro to futurism, and we appreciate it.

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