We’ve been fooled by utopian visions of the future

Hoovering robotSince the 1960s, politicians and pundits have predicted the imminent arrival of a digital utopia in which robots would do the washing up and we would live in peace and harmony in an electronically connected, global village, thanks to the net.

So why are the utopian visions of 40 years ago strangely similar to the ones we hold today? Because business and political leaders have consistently pushed a carefully orchestrated fantasy of the future to distract us from the present, says Richard Barbrook, who explores the subject in Imaginary Futures – From Thinking Machines to the Global Village.

Barbrook, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Westminster, has been researching this topic for more than four years. What he wants is to show how ideology is used to warp time. “In other words,” he says, “how we’re told that the importance of a new technology lies not in what it can do in the here and now, but what the more advanced models might be able to do one day.”

He is particularly interested in exposing the “nonsense of technological determinism”, which he describes as “the theory that someone builds a machine, the machine sprouts legs and runs around the world changing it”.

Source:  Guardian


2 Responses to “We’ve been fooled by utopian visions of the future”

  1. clauswitz Says:

    It is strange isn’t it that some believe so strongly in some coming ‘singularity’? The main current exemplars, Verner Vinge and Ray Kurzweil are very bright people but they seem to just take it as ‘obvious’ without ever backing up their claims.

    I have made a few other comments on the context of this belief (@http://futurespaces.wordpress.com/2007/05/14/the-reality-and-components-of-the-spikesingularitycrisis/) that now seem rather in-tune with those of Barbrook.

    Do you have a personal take on it Futuresheet or are you just reporting?

  2. futuresheet Says:

    for the most part I am just reporting, but here’s an interesting news passage regarding today’s stem-cell breakthrough:

    “David Scadden, a stem cell biologist at the Harvard Medical School, said the finding that cells could be reprogrammed with simple biochemical techniques “is truly extraordinary and frankly something most assumed would take a decade to work out.”

    Is this Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns at work?

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