Rahul on Sci-Fi, Spectacles, and Making the Frontier Not Boring
To be honest, I haven't really ever considered why we no longer have world's fairs. But imagine how incredible one could be in today's world. Think how everyone who visited could be inspired for our future. I think we should absolutely begin the tradition again, albeit, soon it will probably all be in the metaverse.
Great post. We certainly need optimistic stories to tell.
100% agree! Stories should be much more optimistic than they are and seek to inspire future generations.
Negativity sells but is deeply short-sighted.
I also only write inspiring fiction in my newsletter and am all in on moving in this direction.
Great post! Humans have really come a long way...
Great piece. I liked "Where's my flying car," and this essay riffed on similar themes.
I recently picked up "The optimism bias," by Tali Sharot. She writes on the seeming contradictions in polling that shows people are optimistic on their own futures while pessimistic on macro trends:
"While private optimism (positive expectations regarding our own future) is commonplace, it is typically accompanied by public despair (negative expectations regarding the future of our country). Statistics such as those that conveyed people’s optimism about the economy in 2008 (71 percent believed the economy would get better in the upcoming year) and the political situation (three out of four respondents expected positive change in international relations) are not frequently observed during stable times. When public optimism is observed, it is usually short-lived (such as hope being elevated shortly after elections)."
See more here: https://ourworldindata.org/optimism-pessimism
Bring on the next World's Fair!
Great read as usual. To achieve a new golden age of sci-fi and future-oriented thinking, I believe we need good products with compelling narratives first. In the coming months, there will be a GPT war between Google and Microsoft/OpenAI, both competing for a slice of the big market. However, they are also fighting for monopolies or company-directed regulations, as seen last week. Thus, my number one concern is the monopolistic approach and the potential harm it can cause to people's minds. If we cannot decentralize AI and related technologies with strong ethics and privacy, the future will not be bright, and 'Black Mirror'-like series will more likely to gain people's attention. As you mentioned, the world has become more decentralized, and we can hopefully advance towards this direction. Decentralization can create a healthy and positive feedback-loop which could be started at any given point: Imagination-product-storytelling-better imagination-better product...
Really interesting post!
You seem to believe that we don't tell great story because "the narrative has just not caught up". But could it be that the future is just not as exciting as before ? How do you know the problem lies with our ability to create narratives rather than with the underlying reality of the world?
Could it be that for an increasing number of people it is actually "hard to see how the future will be better than the present"?
I think you cannot assume that we just got lazy or bad at making narratives (why would have we? what changed?). I think that if people are not excited about progress anymore, it might be because they believe unfettered progress led to the dawn of a environmental and societal crisis.
I think fixing the climate and reducing inequalities is a necessity if you want to make people feel great about the future. Otherwise, all your attempts at creating narratives are just going to be dismissed as 0.1% hubris. I'm not saying progress can't help there, it definitely will. But all progress is maybe not equal there (e.g. I'm not sure how being able to grow babies that live 130 years out of artificial wombs on Mars will help).
Ultimately, the question is "is it possible to force people to be optimistic through narrative"? I think you can to some extent, but I'm worried we might be beyond the limit. I think we might have to address people's pessimism through actual change before we can make the future look exciting.
I find it highly ironic that Stephenson is complaining about "sci fi" - when his type of fiction is really "sci fantasy".
Sci Fi of old was focused on what was both possible and not possible. It looked at what could happen both positive and negative - or in other words, attempted to scry future reality based upon a handful of possible concrete technological progressions.
Sci Fantasy is a combination of utter bollocks - things that will never happen or even worse, completely unhinged techno-utopianism replete with technology unicorns in the rainbow sense.
Gibson is better at looking at the light and dark sides of the future, but ultimately is far more about shock and scene than future reality. Does anyone really think anything Gibson has written has even the tiniest chance of occurring in reality? Does Gibson himself, even?
So while the Sci Fi of old absolutely could and would get things wrong a la the quaint Jules Verne type submarines, it at least proceeded from honest attempts at prediction.
Hi Packy & Readers,
We're actually opening up a new frontier for real, in the world of atoms.
It's a startup city on a Caribbean island, called Prospera - the first of its kind to realise polycentric law for business regulations, i.e. a much more flexible structure for companies.
More on that here and why it's important for VC and startups: https://niklasanzinger.substack.com/p/infinita-manifesto-10
I'm organising more conferences for builders in Prospera (direct flight from Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas)!
We're aiming to build a medical tourism sector for longevity, and regulations for the digital asset industry to be a safe haven from the US regulatory onslaught on the crypto industry.
I'd love to invite you and your readers to join us:
Supercharging Health 2023 - A Próspera Builders’ Summit, April 21-23 on Roatan: https://infinitavc.com/healthbio2023
Decentralizing Finance 2023 - A Próspera Builders’ Summit, May 5-7 on Roatan: https://infinitavc.com/defi2023
I’m really curious how this works: “Even wars are more autonomous now, saving countless human lives.”