Cool Futurism: We’re The Foundation, and Not In The Asimov Way

Such was the delusion. We wouldn’t have to do any actual work to get rid of all those terrible problems that didn’t actually have technological solutions, like class warfare (or actual warfare). All we had to do was wait for the tech to evolve to the point where those problems would wither away, where money and jobs (at least, as we currently understood them) would become irrelevancies.

In response to my analysis of the Omni Cool Futurism and how disunity set in in social trends, Serdar noted one of the big flaws that occurred was that we relied on technology to solve problems. The problems that we needed to solve in many cases were the problems of US.

Now Serdar notes that he thinks 9/11 more finished demolishing the sense of a bright high-tech future that had been slowly eroding. I’m not sure that’s the case as I felt it was more a catalyst/opportunity for some of the forces and trends out there to be unleashed. That may be something to address further down the road (or specifically). The demolishing of the idea of a bright future was one, in short, that I think benefited some people not in a conspiracy sense, but more in that pressing their own advantage harmed us.

However, he hits on the simple point that we thought technology would solve our problems and it didn’t because sometimes, we’re the problem.

That’s one of the flaws that’s gone unaddressed in a lot of cool futurism; that we ourselves are going to have to change to make the future we want. If we don’t change and evolve to use science, solve problems, etc. then whatever future we envision is not going to happen. A mere inventory of the technologies we have now, and how under/ill/un-used they are is extremely telling.

There are several reasons I think this issue has gone unaddressed.

The first is part of what I called “Integrationalism” earlier. Much as Star Trek and other SF presented a world where we’d be unified – by being a lot like American WASPS – there’s also the assumption that people want the same future we do. This is very easy to assume when you can imagine or even plot out a bright, wonderful future.

The problem of course is not everyone does think like you. Not everyone has your experiences. Not everyone agrees with you even if you’re right, and it’s up to you to convince them. However when you’re in a kind of techno-cultural bubble, you can miss this.

(There is also the chance that you’re dead wrong about the future people could want, but let’s assume you thought of that.)

We see this now in some startup areas, in technology, and in media. People are so convinced they know what everyone wants, know what works, they forget everyone else doesn’t think like them. In fact, there may be a very good reason people don’t think like you – because you’re wrong.

The idea of a Bright Shining future without having to change is no different than the idea that your three person startup that no one else wants is what the world needs.

The second part of the problem is Perfectionism. It’s part of the “Integrationalism,” but is essentially the idea that “hey, we’re pretty good here.” It’s the arrogance of your country, state, community, or subculture being just bang along fine and doesn’t need to change that much. When it comes to a bright vision of a future, assuming that you are right and don’t need to change to make it happens kind of misses a very large part of building that future.

People would be willing to remodel desert plateaus and entire cities centuries old, but not change their minds about, say, proper education for people. In fact they may not think they have to change, they have a Vision.

Third, you can become drunk off of technology. The fact we can do something can be an immense high – if you were alive to see milestones in space travel, it is enthralling. So when we can visualize and truly see a path to a Cool Future, it’s intoxicating. It is amazing, it is possible.

The high distracts you from the hard work.

Finally, the last piece of how we failed the Cool Future as it were is that we as a whole were unwilling to change. We resist change, we protect our ever-fragile egos, we don’t want to admit to our problems, we don’t make sacrifices. We may want that shining energy efficient city but will we give up our car to do it? We dream of a bette future, but are you willing to raise your taxes for it?

The future does not come without change, sacrifice, and effort.

Now lest this seem depressing, especially coming from me, consider this a diagnosis. If we want that future, it starts with us, because really, we’re the problem – and we’re the solution.

Perhaps if there’s a new Omni, a new Cool Futurism to arise, it can start with us. Actually if we want it, it’s going to have to.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at