I’m taking another futurism class at work, and I wanted to share a bit of what we’re learning. One of the great call-outs is the idea that “there are no future facts.”
What this means is that since nothing in the future has actually happened yet, whatever we think of as “the future” doesn’t technically exist. What we imagine, may never happen at all.
The contrary of that is that many possible alternatives may happen, and we never thought of them, and we didn’t see them coming, and we are caught unawares.
One of the examples from our class was that commercial advertisements can be a good source of fringe signals. Another student questioned this and didn’t see why commercials would matter. I shared that around 1980, I remembered an AT&T ad showing a video call. We have that technology now, but at the time the commercial aired, my family was still using a rotary phone.
(I can’t find it, so I’m probably wrong about either the company or the year... or maybe I just dreamed the whole thing... or maybe we’re in the wrong wormhole again...)
I find it relatively easy to think in futuristic terms, because I’ve seen so much technological and cultural change in my lifetime. It was also easy for me to imagine what things were like when my grandparents and older relatives told stories about their own childhoods. Imagine growing up in a house with no electricity or running water, and then living to see a person land on the Moon... and *that* moment was half a century ago.
I think most people aren’t really paying attention to how rapidly “the future” is forming all around us.
It’s different for those of us who work in the space industry. It takes a long time to build stuff that is space-rated, but it does get built eventually. What we’re seeing are preliminary designs of things that will be Up There fifteen years from now.
I love thinking about the future because it makes all my present-day problems seem small and dumb. Which they are.
For instance, I’m almost out of curry mustard. (#astronautproblems) That is something that matters to my daily life, but it’s also a pretty dumb thing to be worrying about in the midst of a global pandemic. The pandemic itself is a whole lotta nuthin’ compared to the vast chasm of science denial that has appeared beneath our feet.
I’m not even worried about the pandemic anymore - I’m worried about all the otherwise rational-appearing people who are spending their spare time attempting to discredit any and all mainstream sources of information, on general principle.
“If I didn’t tell you it myself, ignore it!”
“Nobody who is smarter than me is worth listening to!”
“Only believe random bloggers or people who know how to make videos on their phone!”
This is what’s happening right now. Or actually it’s been happening since the 1990s and we weren’t really picking up on it. What is happening is that sources of information are fragmenting more and more and more. Individual people are starting to have their own completely personalized versions of current events.
Which is fine to an extent - don’t get between me and my gator news - but also, it means we aren’t even going to be aware of other people’s personal news bubbles. They’ll be thinking about, planning around, and acting on stuff we don’t even know exists.
The nice part about that for someone like me, someone who has special access to reports and diagrams and designs for future things, is that I can make plans for myself and my personal household that will help me to be resilient. I can avoid threats and I can create opportunities for myself.
Giant bummer for everyone else, though.
It’s easy to imagine... hmm... take the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters,” for example. If you haven’t seen it yet, then it’s your own fault if you keep reading before downloading it and watching it, because spoilers. Okay, remember in the movie that that one big apartment building was a sort of portal for Zuul? And all sorts of things disrupted Manhattan? “Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria!”
Okay, now imagine that a few people somewhere out there in Alterna-News-World have some kind of conspiracy swami telling them that my apartment building is going to have a Zuul visitation on a specific date.
That would suck for me, because I live here, and I don’t really need rando’s camping out on our steps.
On the other hand, this sort of thing can only really touch me if these speculative people conspire to do things to my building - and only if I’m still living here. I have the resources to simply go elsewhere. For a day or an hour, or for permanently.
What “the future” is always about is the ability to handle whatever happens. That’s resilience.
In my life, and I think this would work for anyone, there are only a few absolute must-haves for someone to be versatile enough to handle “the future.” Those are a flexible mindset, the ability to think strategically, having a portable lifestyle, practical skills, physical fitness, and money.
Unfortunately, what most people want when they think about “the future” are comfort items. We can’t bear the stress of living in the place of uncertainty. So instead of preparing ourselves to have fun with all the cool things that are coming, we cling to memorabilia, buy large heavy liabilities like houses and cars, and dig ourselves into debt through recreational purchases, entertainment, and calories.
Not to say that I don’t also indulge in recreational calories, entertainment, etc. It’s just that in between, my husband and I will hit pause, turn to each other, and start discussing the fringe signals we have just seen. Or why whatever was in that movie is so unlikely and what we think would happen instead.
I’m thinking about putting together a ‘bad sci-fi’ club at work to have watch parties and either try to invent real versions of those props, or laugh ourselves sideways at what people of earlier decades thought our 20’s would be like.
Newsflash: It’s The Twenties again, time to party. But not like it’s 1999.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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