Futurists look at the world and see unbridled potential everywhere, imagining possibility and looking forward to every new day. While this may seem to detractors as if they are not “living in the moment,” in fact this attitude leads to a sense of calm detachment and flow. To the Futurist, everything is “becoming” rather than being. Futurists also study the “future of the past” by looking back in time and seeing what people thought the future would be like, in order to understand not just the development of progress, but also to appreciate general human imagination and sense of wonder and hope. Consequently, the Futurist is forward-thinking in most things, even as they harbor concerns for humanity’s dystopian tendencies.
For most of human history, there was no such thing as Futurism. People saw the world as a stable and unchanging place in which the annual and generational cycles repeated over and over without change. After the renaissance and the age of enlightenment, everything changed: it became clear that humanity had changed over time, but slowly. And with the advent of science and technology, it now it also had the power to fashion a reality of its choosing. We still live in this very young “modern” era and are just beginning to get to grips with the possibilities.
In some ways, the Futurist movement is a continuation of the Hippie movement of the 1960s, which asserted that intellectual and spiritual freedom were paramount to the development of humanity. Most of the most famous Futurists (like Stuart Brand, Steve Jobs and Ray Kurzweil) have been cut from this cloth.
Currently many Futurists believe we are on the cusp of the “singularity,” and event in which information systems will detach from their biological bases and limitations, and become self-sufficiently digital. This will occur both in the sense of self-sufficient Artificial Intelligence, as well as a hybrid of human and artificial intelligence, where humans will become merged with computers, and so ultimately infinite in their information processing power. Some Futurists consequently engage in longevity and biohacking techniques in order to try and prolong their lifespan, so that they will be alive if and when the singularity takes place.
Because they are interested primarily in abstract ideas, Futurists tend to read a lot. They also tend to love technology, although not for the materialist reasons that some people do: They appreciate the development of new capabilities more than the capabilities themselves. Futurists are thus often tinkerers, who modify things to their liking. Consequently, some Futurist engage in biohacking, in which they try to alter their bodies and consciousness via technology and chemical supplements.
I think there can be a positive sort of futurism even in a presentist society. But I think it’s a kind of futurism that envisions augmenting human ability and intellect rather than creating some artificial machine intelligence that displaces us.
— Douglas Rushkoff
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov, who is a great man, perceives three stages so far in the development of American science fiction, says we are in stage three now:
1. Adventure dominant.
3. Sociology dominant.
I can hope that this is a prophetic outline of Earthling history, too.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.