At some point in the 1980s we gave up on the future. Before then, we imagined wonderful days to come, free from disease, work and want, in television series like Star Trek or events such as the 1939 Futurama World Fair. When we look ahead now, we tell dystopian stories of environmental collapse, zombie plagues and the end of civilisation. If it is true that we have to imagine the future before we build it, then this is deeply worrying.
There are of course good reasons for this bleak outlook. Serious environmental and societal problems are building, most notably climate change, inequality and population demographics. These will be accompanied by technological advances, including artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which will amplify the rate of change and make the future increasingly unstable and unpredictable.
But it is not just technology that is changing. We are changing too. The postmodern world is evolving into a metamodern one. In the metamodern world concepts previously shunned, such as meaning, purpose and sincerity, return not as absolute truths but as necessary tools. While the postmodern world view was detached, cynical and frequently pessimistic, the metamodern is naturally more optimistic. If we engage with the problems of the world, we can overcome them.
John Higgs takes us on a journey to find the individuals who are engaging with the changes that are coming, and through that engagement finding their own sense of purpose. As a result, the characters we meet along the way will not be titans of industry or world-renowned experts but rather regular people who were curious about new technology and who have begun exploring its potential in ways that are meaningful to them. Through their stories, we will come to understand what this much-hyped new technology can and can't do, in order to see past the hype and headlines. In the process, we will come to a better understanding of what lies ahead and how, despite everything - despite all the horrors and instability we face - we can imagine a future worth building.
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