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  • Yone' Ward

    It's a simple reality. If you work for someone else, they will use any technology like a proper Cartel Capitalist. You will be a cog in their machine. You work for yourself, you can use the technology like a proper Free Market Capitalist. The machine is still there, but it's yours and made of you. If you work for a government branch, they will use the technology like a government agency, and you will be a cog in a machine that runs like a Yugo.

  • FarmerGiles

    I'd not blame it on "futurists", although I 'm not impressed by Toffler. Indeed, the title I'd have used for expressing very similar thought is "Why Capitalism Sucks". There are two possible interpretations of the purpose of industrialization. One is, to reduce the amount of work necessary for everybody to live a decent life. In the Book of Genesis, remember, the punishment is that "by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread". Work here is the Curse that God decreed, for the disobedience of seeking Knowledge. On the other hand, the holders of industrial and financial power in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, reckoned it was a way to acquire even more money and power, by having the same goods to sell and fewer workers to pay. This is the difference between democratic socialism, and capitalism. So-called Communism in Russia and China is merely a State based form of Capitalism, as China's international market success makes perfectly clear.

    But it is true and very important that the corporate culture must not be allowed to gobble up the Internet as it has done the news media, entertainment, and broadcast media.

    Every person who can do so, should do their share of the work and drudgery necessary, to provide themselves and all of us with the goods and services we need.

    The entire cadre of those whose job it is to persuade us to want things that we do not need, in order to keep the factories running and the workers working, we would be better to pay them to stay home and find some more worthy outlet for their talents.

  • dazedand

    The overriding response I have to this article is.... So?
    This group you rather dramatically label, 'Futurists!' which immediately gives them a kudos I'm willing to bet they don't have in reality and, at least for me, conjures a group of 1950's sci-fi B Movie over-acted Time Travellers who can not only predict but actively shape the future - rather than a bunch of hapless human who lack either the intelligence or vision or balls to grasp the fundamental human need to evolve - as for any democratic Government or country-wide consortium attempting to impose restrictions or control at a national level on a global tool like the internet stand no wholly effective chance of closing all the loopholes or enforcing any parochial and predominantly pointless policies, even the dictatorships of the world can't fully stem the tide - let them chatter, no-one need listen - I wager not a one of them has ever said a damn thing worth hearing anyway.
    For the first time in humanity's history, we have at our disposal a peer to peer open free and equal global communications network, if we as individuals can effectively and intelligently master this extraordinary tool we could create an unrestricted flow of ideas, skills, education, micro-commerce, culture and society and in doing so build and become part of one larger ideal, an autonomous existence that inherently fosters a non-judgemental acceptance of our fellow man and puts a very real and willing world at our virtual disposal. Even more exciting is the potential to naturally move away from the insidious mechanisms that seek only to segregate and subjugate - the social prejudice, financial constraints, inescapable geographic borders, individual judgements or indoctrinated illusions that foster fear and resentment as a matter of course...
    There are no right answers only degrees of speculation and guesswork... we all have an equal right to choose (within reason) whatever damn path we want to choose and no-one can say definitively that their path is any more right or wrong than yours, they can tell you theirs is the only true path, they can sell you a dream, but I'll smile politely and wish them well and carry on down my own path and keep dreaming my own dreams - like the one I have where humanity exists as 6 billion individual states of equal rightness co-existing within a self-styled, self-supporting global framework - I admit it's idealistic, but it's a dream and frankly pretty tame compared to some of my other dreams, but I couldn't possibly share them on here..... whatever you're doing today, tomorrow, for the rest of time.... i wish you all the very best life ... and always always love xxxx
    But of course you're all totally at liberty to disagree =o)

  • robert leonetti

    It seems like you are pointing to the gap between a world where goods and services are dematerializing, and the need to get money that can be exchanged for goods and services. Basically, how do you make money to buy stuff? Your pseudo-premise is that things should be free, and nobody would argue with that in the abstract (what's better than free stuff?), but politically and functionally it would be a different matter. Consider this fellow, non-futurist... when goods and services shift to app-based and vending machine delivered distribution tollgates, who makes the money? And then the question you really want to answer is, what can individuals do in lieu of money to be able to live? Personally I have a different take on technology. I believe the issue is not monetization but centralization, particularly in the process of manufacturing. If we radically decentralized manufacturing, the world would change in immeasurable ways. Imagine if your local shopkeep made her own cell phones and sold them to you. Or if your local mechanic also built the cars he worked on under his own micro-brand. That world is a different place.

    • Misha Vela

      I completely agree to your point of decentralizing manufacturing (it's something I ponder over often). However, I wouldn't say the premis is necessarily for things to be free, but rather that we have at our fingertips now the ability to communicate with anyone in the world, basically, so why not use that to get your goods another way - through bartering. It doesn't get rid of the problem completely, and I think eliminating money would be a near impossible task, but by using money for less, and instead building websites/platforms for community share and bartering, we could go back to the olden days, but with technology to make it easier! If you add in your point of decentralizing manufacturing, we have local manufacturers trading their goods for various services, etc. When things are on a smaller scale, it's much easier to come to agreements between people. There are endless possibilities of how these ideas could be executed.

      • robert leonetti

        I like where you are going Misha! The original notions of capitalism were based on local economies buying, selling, making, servicing, circulating with each other. That's what makes the ecology of an economy; not getting money from the outside to grow beyond the community then sending all the profits back to that outside entity. No community can be sustainable in that model (unless you live in a vc community). The nice thing about barter is that it cuts out that process and forces locality. Likewise with localized manufacturing, the entire 'big business' process is short circuited. the main thing left is localized commerce. It is basically the model of food. Some is globally produced but much of it is local. We are at a point where it is feasible. The question is how do get it to a point of realization. Then, whether through barter or money, communities can grow.

  • Michael Hackmer

    I consider myself a Futurist in the Toffler school (the title "Present Shock" feeding off his 1970 book "Future Shock"). But I don't think this is an accurate representation of the Third Wave or post-industrial society that Toffler envisions or reflects the true ideals of futurists. Toffler specifically sees "demassification" or the break up of large institutions, like corporations and governments. He sees that technology frees us from industrial society. I am even working on a post-industrial model for education that would reshape our education system. Because our current public school system, for example, was created by wealthy industrialists who wanted standardized workers for factories. Toffler and I believe in a more personalized learning so people can become inventors, artists, and more - and do what they are are good at, not what big corporations want them to do. Think about 24-hr/day schools, tech centers, etc that use technology to provide unlimited educational options instead of what you and everyone else are forced to read in a text book that comes from Texas... Maybe I am a different kind Futurist than the ones the author has met, but I certainly don't see myself supporting an economic system. I support shattering the current system to its core.

  • leigh1

    Is it the futurists that suck or the fact that people come hard to change? Learning to use the tools for old ways is the first step toward using them in new ways.

    But then, I've had one desk job in my life. That was my first job, and from then on I took a far less traditional approach. I tend to believe the old systems no longer serve us well, and I'm excited by what I see as a slow but unavoidable move towards new systems in education, collaboration, and community exchange .

    My question is how will people ultimately move from old ways of thinking to new ways of using digital tools? Or do you believe that's just not going to happen?

  • brianjhong

    My experience so far of conducting business online has been exactly this "exchange of goods and services with one another in real time."

    There isn't really another way for the internet to operate, is there?

  • Frank Spencer IV

    I'm confused... what does the basic premise of creating a better world have to do with hating futurists, futures studies, strategic foresight, intentional futures, aspirational change or futures design... even in the slightest? Strange article, indeed.

  • ahascha

    lol... Are all engineers bad because some build bad bridges? Are all farmers bad because some work for "evil" transnationals?

    As a futurist I know that the futures are highly contested and some can only see one singular future and all that emerges corresponding with that future.. never future(s), never alternative, never open.

    Real futurists or those who call themselves futurists because they had some idea about the future are part of the fight for the futures. Many come already invested in a certain future or invested in his/her own pocket, telling companies/ institutions the futures they want to hear.

    Suck it up! And don't hate on futurists and sell books on futures. It's hypocritical and not to mention, bad marketing!


    Agree totally. I will be putting his book on my list. However most of us concentrate on what we need to maintain or improve our lifestyle. Real change is unlikely. Specific diseases designed to elimate those of us who are not seen as useful are far more likely.

  • fractalarian

    This seems like a really unprofessional and ranty post for a website that is supposed to be about Good. First, it alienates futurists and futures studies after lumping all futures studies into a preposterous pigpen of greed and irresponsibility. Second, it jumps all kinds of conclusions making delusional assumptions left and right. It really makes no sense. On this same page, I see an ad for Good's spiel about crowdfunding, and Facebook is littered all over in different elements. You do realize that if we had just stopped at the Internet and made no work to advance the technology, you'd be sitting here with your ranty content on a webpage from 1995 with atrocious flashing colors, right? The responsible route would be to promote positive and collaborative community thinking about real issues that face us now while promoting more responsible futures strategies. Everyone in a layman's sense is a futurist. I don't see you criticizing yourself for planning bills months in advance, or the different ways you plot out, map, imagine and try to reimagine your own future. You do know that there is a specialist field of futures studies dedicated to ethical futures studies research and library science, right? You are aware that medical and space technology benefit highly from futures studies, right? And that Stephen Hawking is a futurist? TED seems to be on your radar as a fugitive having offended your ideals. This content seems highly out of place for this website and largely subjective without due course of journalistic integrity. Do some personal research and live up to the personal standards you are preaching about. We are a species that naturally wonders about and tries to craft our own future, if you do not understand this basic element of human nature you probably should not be writing for a website that purports to positively encourage and promote the best of that human spirit. You drew no correlations between "time is money" and "futures studies," but assume a tone in your content that there is a line. What makes futures studies unique to somehow causing technology to take more of our time? Did you have logic there and facts to support your claim, or are you just ranting about things because you have an irrational fear and hatred of the RAND Corporation? Did you participate in Delphi methods in school, or did you even go to school? Just some questions related to futures studies methods that exist in broader form in our world. Does a SWOT analysis somehow personally offend you? Because that's a basic practice in futures studies. You identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And come up with multiple contingency plans. Maybe you are confused about the term "futurist." Until you brush up on the subject matter, please avoid insulting your avid readers. You would not have been able to type this post without futures studies. I'm not sure where you picked up the idea that futurists are people that try to set down strict policies and rules about how to control you and take your money, but you need to stop watching those movies because they are not aligned very well with reality. What about people who study and try to plan for and help create a broadened future of cheap DIY open source machines to help people in third world countries become self-sufficient? I suppose that technology is just supposed to fall out of the sky without anyone planning for it. What you mean by collaborate, is for everyone else to get off your internet and let you invent the future. Sorry, but collaboration means other people have different ideas, too. It's how we learn to mesh them together and find the best of both (all) worlds. Your article makes it sound like futures studies is against recent movements such as the DIY movements, open source movements, and et al. I am aware of how the tone of this comment appears, but please do research before posting blanket statements like this. You claim that people should be responsible about how they use their influence. Well, you are effectively trying to turn your readers against futurists because of a subjective personal experience that isn't very seated in credibility or objectivity. It's akin to attacking library science, really. I'd love a retraction, but I imagine we won't be getting one. Just my projection for the future.

    • stephenkob

      I think you missed the main point (perhaps because of the provocative title) but he isn't against making predictions or dreaming about the future. He is suggesting that newer technology, new dreams etc will never be realized if we continue to produce them in a money system that is based on debt (and therefor has to constantly grow, can never be repaid, and has a guaranteed group of winners and losers built in).

      It's a change in the goals of our systems that he's alluding to - right now it's all about infinite growth based on an assumption that more is always better (at least on paper or in predictive models). We're at a point as a species that this clearly isn't the case, and desperately need a similar shift in a "futurist" mindset if we hope to achieve a better equilibrium with the world we actually live in vs the "digital" or "theoretical" world of finance.

      And this line of thinking isn't necessarily new (it gained a ton of traction in the 70's with Limits To Growth, the gas crises, biodynamics etc) but it's great to hear a new voice talking about better ways to use our great new technology in a new system, rather than continuing the old.

      • fractalarian

        I can agree with those sentiments to a point, but I think you are confusing "provocative title" with something else. Nowhere in the content does it differentiate between proponents of the fixed traditional capitalist greed system and the noble fields of futures studies. It basically misinforms the public and is highly opinionated without any references. Who are all these futurists demanding that the author throw their dreams away, get a job, and become complacent to some nefarious profit-driven future as a continuation of course of traditional economics?

  • eestonikas

    I'm looking forward to a peaceful revolution along these lines. Thanks for doing your part!

  • c c

    As one of those hired TED-talk-like digital luminaries - I agree. My experience as one has proven that the job is to tell the future as they would like to imagine it rather than what it actually is. Huge amounts of research is ignored, shaped or retrofitted to reviese engineer a strategy that has already been decided on before real research has even had the chance to got to the table. I know I'm on the wrong side of this, but not for much longer. I hope other people working in companies, agencies and organizations, can also start to wake up and take responsibility for their actions, even if they seem like they come from a place of good. If you're paying attention to what you're researching, it's hard to ignore the moral dilemma in your position, even if you're trying really hard to ignore it. It's time to stop working in this capacity for companies with an agenda that does not do something good for the world. The disposal of entire species of living beings should not be taken lightly. Let's use our collective skills, backgrounds, passions and connections to each other, to go do something good for the world - in whatever capacity you can.

  • Aubrey Yee

    As a futurist who works on envisioning and creating alternatives to neoliberal capitalist systems I have to emphatically say that trained, legitimate futurists are not the problem, in fact we are part of the vanguard proposing novel solutions. I'm not sure which so called futurists you've met, but they are certainly not the ones I know. Like anything, it's a diverse field and each futurist invariably brings their own values and ideologies to the table. Your rant against futurists is akin to maligning all doctors across the board simply because some are beholden to drug companies... As if there aren't any who truly care about patients and health... But, I can see how such a hard line might help you sell more of your books, though it's not a particularly responsible or accurate appraisal of the field of futures studies.

  • ForStudentPower

    Fantastic post — and they're sentiments that need to be heard everywhere (like here at GOOD), not just in anti-capitalist enclaves, as wonderful as they are.

    With every technological advance, the potential is there to use it to liberate people, but instead they've been used to more effectively indenture people. Look at how we've more than doubled in productivity over the last several decades, but we're actually working longer hours and making less.

    If ever there was a need for hierarchical management — in both our economic and political structures — it's long since dead. That's why we see elites spend more and more of their energies to keep convincing us that there is no alternative, that we *need* them.

    • Douglas Rushkoff

      Thanks. I admit the headline "why futurists" suck is a bit inflammatory. The sentiment here is not that futurism is itself an evil art, but that recasting the net as something more about the future of the stock market than the present of making, the folks at early Wired and elsewhere sidetracked many of us from could have been happening.

      I thought better than to name names, other than early Wired editors, some GBN scenario planners of that era, some of the chaos stock market people and so on.

      There are many futurists - such as those at Institute for the Future - who I think do a terrific job.

      Still, I'm glad most seem not to have taken offense, so I think my intended meaning is coming through.

      • abakar

        Dear Mr Rushkoff, Great article. Having been around for more than half a century I have heard many wake up calls in my time and the almost spontaneous collective assault of the snooze button. Please continue to inflame.

      • Andrew Norris

        I agree the stock market I always thought was about making those with money richer. It pushes companies to be far too money grabbing, despite them having CEOs that pretent to be hip, not of the stock market, and caring (e.g. Richard Branson).

        I have some nice ideas that could improve programming. But how else can I get investment in my company so that it does not turn into a monster? Or am I best simply taking my profit out of it and setting up another company which I own, and use my creative talents in there.

        • Andrew Norris

          PS. my ideas do make programming less hard work, which should free time, I hope. Only so much work needs to be done after all.

          • Enlighten Together

            I agree that the internet is definitely not meeting its potential and that business has given consumers the wrong impression of how the internet can be used, i.e. a commercial about the latest smartphone will show a user sending pictures or reading personal updates from friends rather than reading a news article or sharing educational information.

            Encouraging others to look at the internet in a whole new way is one of the best things that we can do. I do an online broadcast where time and time again I tell viewers to think about what they post to social media sites or what they spend their time doing online. Instead of posting a picture of fast food post a picture of healthy food, or share an article about policy changes, urban planning, etc. IMO social media hits the spot since it is where closest friends and relatives stay connected the most - imagine how much you can influence family simply from being more conscious of your social media usage.