Utopian vs. Dystopian Futures

July 19 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 16 Hot

In the field of futures studies, expectations on what the next century holds for us range anywhere from the fantastical to the downright depressing. Some would say having a negative outlook on the future hinders the science of actually progressing towards a better future. Others contend that expecting the incredible will lead to irreparable technological mistakes.

Utopians might argue that if you see the future as doomed, then every decision you make will be influenced by that negative outlook. A perfect example is the pleadings of many scientists and environmentalists for the media to stop portraying global warming as inevitable. Their fear is that if people feel that global warming can’t be stopped, then why care about pollution? Why try and bail out a sinking ship if it’s guaranteed to go down?

On the other side, having a positive outlook on the future also heavily impacts your choices. Utopianism is by far more uplifting (for obvious reasons), but there is harm in it as well. If you have the expectation that humans will invent a cold fusion reactor in the next decade, maybe you’re less likely to conserve energy. Or maybe you’re not concerned about the impact of smoking cigarettes because thirty years from now, you assume there will be a cure for cancer.

In the utopian corner of futures study we find a world where “biotech and nanotech advances eliminated disease and aging,” according to Dick Pelletier of www.positivefuturist.com. In his vision of the future, every human on Earth is not only free of illness, but also lives in an “ageless body powered by enhanced neurons.” This fantastical view he sees as not only entirely possible, but so easily attainable that he estimates all this will be achieved by the year 2030. Raymond Kurzweil, famous futurist and holder of 15 honorary doctorates, calculates that our rate of progress is doubling every decade. Pelletier, although holding seemingly fictional beliefs, might not be too far off the mark. (cont.)

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