Please don't say Philip K. Dick
August 3, 2007 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Are there any currently active futurists/pundits with a good track record of predicting societal changes 10+ years in the future? Who should I be reading now to understand where things are going? Or is any speculation about the world 10-20 years from now strictly in the realm of science fiction?
posted by DarkForest to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This guy who works for BT in the UK tries to make sensible predictions based on current trends (although some appear a bit far out) but some of what he says is quite interesting.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:09 AM on August 3, 2007

You might find This article with William Gibson interesting.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:13 AM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: People like Kurzweil's track record.
posted by grobstein at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2007

Well, I know you're not explicitly asking for SF novels, so, at the risk of having my comment deleted for being too much of a derail, let me just say this: an awful lot of what I read in that fascinating interview with Ian Pearson reminded me of M.T. Anderson's brilliant novel, Feed.

If you haven't read it already, and you want to get a visceral sense of what life in the realm of tech that Pearson describes, I strongly suggest checking it out. It's compelling, it's creepy, it's funny, and best of all, you'll read it in, like, an afternoon.
posted by deejay jaydee at 9:47 AM on August 3, 2007

Two suggestions. In the realm of science fiction, Bruce Sterling comes to mind. I've noticed lots of plausible asides in his writing. For instance the adoption of face masks to combat pollution and how they could become designer items. For a more formal treatment of the problem, you might consider Peter Schwartz. He wrote an older book called Art of the Long View focused on techniques for predicting societal change through trend analysis and scenario planning.

Incidently, I found both these authors, and several others in this vein through a group called the Long Now Foundation, an organization concerned with promoting long term thinking.
posted by Jeff Howard at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: Our own Charlie Stross fancies himself a predictor. I don't know how accurate he will turn out to be, but this piece really intrigued me.
posted by yerfatma at 10:00 AM on August 3, 2007

Robert Cringely sees himself in that role, and often has insights far better than you'll normally get in the echo chamber.
posted by lubujackson at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for your responses! I have read a bit of Kurzweil (the age of spiritual machines). I've tended not to think of scifi writers as that useful because they throw off so many ideas and scenarios that they would be likely to get some things right just by chance, and the right ideas would be drowned in the noise. But I will check out "Feed", which I've heard good things about elsewhere.

I'm wondering perhaps less about the impact of computer technology on the individual than on the impacts of globalization, the world economy, peak oil, new technologies, population, and the environment, etc. on societies in a larger sense. A vague question to be sure, and probably one all too subject to right-leaning and left-leaning propaganda. But still, are there any well-vetted futurists writing in this area?
posted by DarkForest at 11:58 AM on August 3, 2007

David Brin is both a sci-fi writer & a futurist/pundit, who by his own estimation has a notable record at predicting the future. I can't quickly find a list of them on his site but from time to time he reels them off in his blog & it's a significant list.
posted by scalefree at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2007

Maybe you'd be interested in Faith Popcorn. Maybe not.
posted by trip and a half at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2007
posted by gregschoen at 2:23 PM on August 4, 2007

I should learn to read, Jeff Howard had it.
posted by gregschoen at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2007

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