I find it worth listening to the futuristic people of the past. These are the visionary breed who see the future better than us. Now while their futuristic stories are sometimes our trivial past, it could as well be our unforeseen future!
There’s something about their way of observing the world that makes their ideas more resilient against the test of time. Those ideas die out with a different time constant than the normal so they will eventually win over the temporary opinions of the habitual daily routines, the temporary, the mortal.
Now with that in mind listen to Terence Mckenna’s interview on the power of the Internet, from 20 years ago:
At a penetration rate of perhaps less than 1% of its current rate, the rise of the Internet is referred here as an example for “the emergence of the transcendental object”.
Mckenna foresees the rise of the citizen press, new media and grassroot journalism before the creation of mainstream blogging or digital social networking services. He ellaborates so beautifully on the social aspects of the digital disruption before the rise of new business models powered by the Internet. He has great especulations on the future of augmented reality and in other sources he had predicts the rise of data science. And he spells the long-tail theory, what Chris Anderson and other visionary entrepreneurs of the Sillicon Valley started branding 10 years later (half way between this interview and us). Fun to notice that some predictions of the long-tail theory have already failed, while Mckenna’s ideas are still – mostly – valid. And last but not the least his deep insights on the “technological singularity” and the implications of extrapolating the Moore’s [and similar] laws and the take over of AI, are neater than what people like Kurzweil did, trying to coin the term to their names.
And the striking fact is that McKenna has done the same thing in several other fields, epigenetics, linguistics, anthropology and sociology. Pretty much anything that he has been queried by his audience after he was back from the woods to give talks on his new insights.
This is the power that you get when you leave the civilization and observe merely plants for a couple of decades away from an urban settings. Some turn into Charles Darwin. Some turn into Terence Mckenna. I am very excited to have found this profile. And now if you don’t find this interesting, go ahead keep reading the morning news, the scientific paper right in front of you, or the manual of your vacuum cleaner.
P.S.1. the content of your sweeper’s manual may be still valid in 20 years, so I take that one back!
P.S.2. Many futuristic attempts fail to understand the importance of that “meme time constant”. As an example, in the expensive Hollywood sci-fi projects we see that long-term trends are masked by temporary hypes. If a movie is made today to depict 2040 you see they introduce spaceships and flying cars too early, next to the to-be-extincted numerical keypads (too late). But not even a vintage radio is seen in the scenery. In a futuristic depiction I find it unrealistic not to present the past’s profound achievements in retro style. I however understand that not many others find it as silly, just yet.