Todd Seavey: Future Shock vs. Rationalia
With the singularity perhaps upon us any year now, and some combination of Google and the NSA likely to be in charge of it all, who but an egomaniacal authoritarian would still dare to play the long-term advice game? It may be revealing, then, that Trump advisor Newt Gingrich enjoys telling Americans what the path to the future will be, from computers to moonbases, and regards futurist Alvin Toffler, who passed away Monday, as one of his mentors. Toffler was already writing about the psychological difficulty of coping with Future Shock, in the book he co-authored by that title, way back around the time I was born (he was coping with the future way back in the past).
Similarly far-seeing, in theory, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets that we should look forward to the day when politics is primarily based on scientific evidence, creating a virtual land he calls #Rationalia (which will probably be a book pitch shortly). Critics roundly denounced his oversimplification and hubris. I’ve written comic books, a sci-fi short story, and articles on the virtue of science-based skepticism—but still know that the futurists and science buffs can be as wrong as anyone else.
The attempt to gaze into tomorrow should make them humbler, not imagine themselves prophets. The present is weird enough. If the future is an alien and baffling time, then I feel as though I’m already living in the future. My childhood philosophical allegiances, by contrast, were simple enough—in retrospect probably forged largely by cop and adventure shows, their core lesson being that if bad guys try to break into the house, you should be permitted to shoot at them. To this day, I tend to think anyone who disagrees with that very basic ground rule is probably a ghoul. You can see how my libertarian tendencies would flow easily from that foundation.