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The History of the Future

I like having a salon biweekly, but I also like to have a month to let the theme sink in.  And it happens that our last discussion was our first to go near the dangerous waters of Time, and sure enough we were sucked right under the waves!  So it makes sense to revisit The Future, while explicitly steering away from unresolvable metaphysical questions.


By "The History of the Future" I mean the future as a cultural concept, which we explore through fiction, politics, and anthropology (religion, law, commerce...the list is endless).  What do various portraits of the future have in common and how do they differ?  We could probably spend hours studying the futures in classic science fiction, but those who attend are sure to bring further sources. The vast majority of blockbuster films take place in future or alternate realities, and we've found film a good anchor for discussion points in the past.


We will try to "see" the future--not in the sense of what the future will contain, but rather what it means to be the future.  We started on this road last time, when we compiled a list of "signs" of the future, such as traces or vestiges of the past (though the "past" implicitly refers to the future, doesn't it?)  And while we're not interested here in predicting the future, we are interested in prognosticators themselves:  why did Nostradamus, Marx, and Kurzweil think they could, and why did anyone believe them?  (That is, could we predict what predictors will say?)


The future can have a "history."  Given our approach of looking at the "future" as it exists in the present, there may be a story to be uncovered about the evolution of that portrait in historical time, but our main interest is in the comparisons necessary to assemble such a narrative; it is only very recently that some historians have become interested in trying to predict the future.  Also, our conceptions of our own futures probably develop nonrandomly against our advancement through the stages of life.


I do hope that by taking this broader look at the many futures that occupy the minds of people in various cultures or subcultures, or the minds of past members of our own culture, that we will gain some insights how to regard "the Future" as we (so often) encounter it in our own very forward-looking culture.  Come join us--it is not necessary to have attended the prior salon--as we venture Back to the Future...


Jeff


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  • Jeff G

    In the category of The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, this essay addresses the possibility that the non delivery of the flying cars we were promised in the seventies was something of a conspiracy: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/david-graeber-of-flying-cars-and-the-declining-rate-of-profit.lt.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjXjKLo4KXRAhXD7CYKHdoPAFUQFggjMAE&usg=AFQjCNHcVV8sVxE5EOZraIc93-rS2g8pZQ&sig2=9a3o_9T1nDCckRXAr1NZHA

    January 3

  • Jay C.

    Up to our usual standards

    June 18, 2014

  • DaveR

    Heres' a link to the short Dan Gilbert talk I referenced at the meeting: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_you_are_always_changing . Thanks for being so friendly and receptive to this newcomer - hope to see you all again.

    June 18, 2014

  • Harlan L.

    A good discussion.

    June 17, 2014

  • mlee

    Sorry, I have a conflict.

    June 17, 2014

  • Charlie5

    one more thing then, on "science", i'm a scientist - in my little pinky, on my left hand. And that serves me well. The rest of me is a grand irrationalist, I have posts on my wall out of recent aricles and journals that I consider to be the concession speech of modern science and promisory materialism, the concept of the "umwelt" has been raised in the field of philosophy of science, which means promissory materialism is dead. You might say the only objective facts science is dealing with anymore are proven delusions. Here, this is on my wall: Steven Weinberg, of the University of Texas at Austin, who won his Nobel in 1979 for using higgs theory to unify two of the forces in nature, declared mournfully in the new york review of books: "physical science has historically progressed not only by finding precise explanations of natural phenomena, but also by discovering what sorts of things CAN be precisely explained. These may be fewer than we had thought"!!! - the concession speech!

    June 9, 2014

  • Charlie5

    as far as seeing into the future, i look at reality as an altar, and what is an altar but a dollhouse, a psychotic (or "inspirationally imaginative") dollhouse, that we orient toward heaven, doxical and mantic - we want to praise heaven with this but we also want to see more, to see history of the future in signs, and, my personal favorite - to see more deeply into the essence of what is all around us, to practice "utmost pervasion", where we see not only the surface of everything, but the transparent earth, the transparent universe, the depths of eachother's souls.

    June 9, 2014

  • Charlie5

    oh man I'm a time philosopher! I used to threaten time, but I met time, time is purple, and I now understand the role of the universe and time, we are partners, the universe sacrifices itself into time, moment by moment; time is purple, time is stuck behind a wall without us. We are one but it looks different, that's time's fault, but then every moment that pulses forward unites the entire sprawling universe into a single ball again, every second, in between the planck time!

    June 9, 2014

  • Harlan L.

    Marx, of course, was a student of Hegel and the two of them promoted the idea of progress. For Hegel the progress toward the perfection of the Prussian rational (legal/bureaucratic) state was the inevitable result of the laws of existence. Marx waxed sometimes more sometimes less sure that the proletariat would finally win out and produce a classless society. Interestingly, Marx tried to persuade people that his ideas were "scientific," as have communist polities in the past and present. Of course, capitalists call themselves pragmatic which suggests that their policies are based on objective fact, too. Science can be abused by people, just as religion can, to try to persuade that certain ideas are TRUE. There is competition out there to define the future and marshal efforts to move toward the "scientifically" supported future. "The future" is to me definitely a cultural concept, as Jeff has written.

    1 · June 9, 2014

  • Carlos C.

    I just finished the Back to the Future trilogy with my kids. Certainly not a deep philosophical dive, but examples of movie-making at it's best.

    June 9, 2014

    • Harlan L.

      I really liked these fliks. As in all good scifi the human stories were the most important. (but the car was beautiful)

      June 9, 2014

  • Jay C.

    Is there a pattern for a future which is neither an extension of the now nor a variation on a theme of the past ?

    June 8, 2014

    • Carlos C.

      I think these are alternate world fantasy and perhaps alternate world scifi (Star Wars?).

      June 9, 2014

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