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Jamais Cascio on Gadgets and the Future 43

Armchair Anarchist writes "Futurismic has just posted the first column from its new monthly contributor, the renowned Jamais Cascio. Cascio is best known as a co-founder of, but is also a prolific blogger (at his own site 'Open The Future'), writer, public speaker and pundit on many aspects of futurism and foresight. This new piece sees him discussing the way futurist thinkers tend to focus on gadgets and technology, and advocating the use of more critical approaches."
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Jamais Cascio on Gadgets and the Future

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  • This is just a variation of the old debate about whether art (including popular expressions of art such as movies, games etc) merely reflects the society that created it or whether it is art that creates and changes society.

    The answer, obviously, is that neither choice is exclusive of the other, and that both are often true.

  • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @04:57AM (#15857910)
    ... but maybe it would be better to wait until he posts a really interesting, insightful column before posting it to the front page of Slashdot. This was just a preliminary bit of throat clearing from what I can see.

    And really - a futurologist who finishes his column with "I can't wait to see how it turns out." - that's right up there with "only time will tell" - much beloved of lazy trainy-journalists who have got tired of thinking and have completed their allotted word count.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:09AM (#15858072)
    Nerds have been indulging in it for decades in the privacy of their rooms. It's called science fiction -- with an emphasis on the science. "Futurism" seems like a PR attempt to get invited to better parties and better academic or think tank gigs. Perhaps by those who don't feel competent to handle the "fiction" half?

    Flippant? I don't know. How many sci fi writers have, or have had, day jobs as scientists and mathematicians? (Quite a few.) "Serious" science fiction has always been that outlet where people can explore their "futuristic" speculations without being considered a crank in their day job.

    As for dealing with gadgets, I think William Gibson would say he has always dealt with how his envisioned distopia affects the lives of his characters. Any good writer would. Perhaps that is where "futurism" has always been inferior to science fiction.

  • yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beaverfever ( 584714 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @08:42AM (#15858284) Homepage
    "Most of the controversy surrounding these technologies has to do with what they mean -- that is, the values they embed -- not how they work."

    Take the mobile phone, for instance. When people were imagining mobile phones and how they would work, how much attention was paid to considering how people would really use them?

    People driving their cars through traffic while holding a phone to their ear and talking about shopping or going to a party, people sitting in restaurants or other public places speaking loudly into their phones, or mobiles ringing in the middle of discussions, meals,movies or plays, meetings, etc... These circumstances were considered rude or even illegal, and some of these are expected and tolerated now. They have become a normal part of our lives - our values have changed because of the technology.

    This guy is talking about looking at that aspect of new technology, changing how we think of its potential. When Buck Rogers movies showed a visual communicator thingy that worked like a tv, who would have thought that when television was invented people would sit in front of it for hours on end as if they were hypnotised?

    Perhaps by expanding on how we think of the potential of technology, then we can develop better technologies that really lead to people living better lives.
  • by neatfoote ( 951656 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:33AM (#15858473)
    Cascio has worked on a number of television and film projects, and has designed two science fiction game settings, exploring issues of posthumanity, intellectual property, sapient AI, nanotechnology, and bioengineering. Jamais has degrees in Anthropology, History and Political Science.
        This snippet from the blogger's bio encapsulates, basically, why calls (like this one) for a turn away from "content" to "a more critical approach" make me nervous. It's true that social values influence technology, and that the nexus of the two is an important area of study-- but why is it that offers to critically examine that nexus always seem to come from outsiders who aren't themselves involved or well-versed in the technology?
    Everybody has an opinion, naturally, but a learned commentary on bioengineering, coming from a poli-sci type who may or may not have taken even the most introductory biology courses, would carry about as much weight for me as a lecture on Aristotle from my cocker spaniel. If "critical futurism" is poised to become a valid scholarly/intellectual discipline, I'd much rather see it populated by actual scientists and engineers-- people who're themselves helping to create the future, and who should therefore be in a good position to comment on how it's going-- than by film-school types who've read Foucault but can't do math.

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