“The world doesn’t yield to us directly, the description of the world stands in between. So, properly speaking, we are always one step removed and our experiences of the world is always a recollection of the experience. We are perennially recollecting the instant that has just happened, just passed.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot


“… when it comes to culture we tend to believe … that the future will be … roughly the same … It turns out that predicting who we will be is harder than predicting what we will be able to do.

we notice what varies and changes more than what plays a larger role but doesn’t change. We rely more on water than on cell phones, but because water does not change and cell phones do, we are prone to thinking that cell phones play a larger role than they do … As Amazon experiments with aerial drone delivery, its “same day” products are being moved through New York City thanks to that 19th-century killer app: the bicycle …

… “The horse,” he writes, “made a greater contribution to Nazi conquest than the V2.” We noticed what was invented more than what was actually used

… We expect more change than actually happens in the future because we imagine our lives have changed more than they actually have …

… Ideas, not technology, have driven the biggest historical changes. When technology changes people, it is often not in the ways one might expect … The washing machine freed women from labor … and … could have sparked a revolution in gender roles and relations. But … middle-class women did not take advantage of the freed-up time … to rebel against structures or even to capitalize on their independence.” Instead … the women simply assumed the jobs once held by their servants … Take away the object from the historical view, and you lose sight of the historical behavior. Projecting the future often presents a similar problem: The object is foregrounded, while the behavioral impact is occluded.

Why is cultural change so hard to predict? For one, we have long tended to forget that it does change … and when culture does change, the precipitating events can be surprisingly random and small … one of the landmark events in the evolution of gay rights in the U.S. was a change, by the Library of Congress, from classifying books about the gay movement as “Abnormal Sexual Relations, Including Sexual Crimes,” to “Homosexuality, Lesbianism—Gay Liberation, Homophile Movement.” This seemingly minor change, much touted by activists, helped pave the way for other, larger changes … Small wins do not combine in a neat, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal.”


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