Will the first decade of the 21st Century be known as the time when our Scientific Age came to a whimpering end? The one trait shared by anti modernists of both left and right appears to be disdain for our ability to learn and do bold new things. Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, explores (a bit one-sidedly) how partisanship can explain much of this collapse of confidence. See my review of The Republican War on Science.
When it comes to Earth's future, we tend to be offered two simplistic choices, either guilt-ridden pessimism or a pollyanna faith in market forces. Too much planning or too little. Jared Diamond's new book, COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, makes one thing clear. No society ever succeeded using the prescriptions we hear touted from today's Left OR Right. But history does offer some alternatives. See my review of Collapse on my website.
Two books that tout assertive problem solving are The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth by Robert D. Atkinson and ....
Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. The first explores measures that could allow us to play our roles better in the world economy. The latter pursues Kurzweil's argument that our scientific competence and technologically-empowered creativity will soon skyrocket, propelling humanity into an entirely new age. I don't entirely agree, but boy, what a ride.
Taking up where Kurzweil leaves off, Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution sheds light on the notion that most scares the nostalgists and romantics... that we may soon pick up creation's tools and start altering, even enhancing, our bodies and our minds. This is the stuff that Francis Fukayama writes about with dread in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. (Both concepts fed archetypes into my graphic novel The Life Eaters.)
Still highly relevant is The Progress Paradox: How Things Get Better While People Feel Worse. Gregg Easterbrook suggests we may be better than we think... and we really need to realize it. Those who spread either complacency or gloom aren't helping. What we need is confidence and a sense that our efforts can matter. See my review of The Progress Paradox on my website.
Like so many authors with an axe to grind, Kevin Philips makes a wonderfully erudite case in Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, that civilizations are always endangered when elites reach heights of unaccountability. We who grew up under the threat of communism tend to forget that 99% of past cultures saw their freedoms cauterized by cabals of church and aristocracy, historically far worse enemies of markets that socialism ever has been. And yet, read Philips with a healthy "Yes, but..." He neglects to mention the marvel of 1950s and 1960s America, when wealth burgeoned while wealth disparities plummeted. If we could do it then...
Nobel Laureate Douglass North, in his recent book Understanding the Process of Economic Change, acknowledges that we just don’t know understand the process of economic change. But we have learned that important "institutions" are not just formal ones such as banking laws and tariffs, but also "social norms and cognitive styles". North argues that economic change depends largely on "adaptive efficiency," a society's effectiveness in creating institutions that are productive, stable, fair, and broadly accepted--and, importantly, flexible enough to be changed or replaced in response to political and economic feedback. Thus the sort of property rights reforms proposed by Hernando de-Soto in The Mystery of Capital may not work until systems of accountability are in place first, backed by a sober populace insistent upon enforcing them.
In The Coming Democracy: New Rules for Running a New World, Ann Florini dares to raise a long-neglected question -- how will Planet Earth be governed during the next century and beyond? Some say this is just the latest in a series of imperial ages -- Pax Americana. Even if itis the 'best' pax, should we count on its beneficial hegemony lasting forever? Or might it be wise to start using that great influence while it lasts, to lead in designing Whatever Comes Next (WCN)? Florini's discussion is narrow and Sometimes flawed, but at least it starts the conversation.
Also see my list of Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.
WorldChanging edited by Jamais Cascio and Alex Steffen is so good, so extensive and far-reaching, that it is departing the blogosphere and becoming a highly influential Netzine. One of the most interesting places on the Web.
Follow Ray Kurzweil's Accelerating Intelligence blog, as well as the IEET: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies: Which technologies are likely to have the greatest impact on human societies in the 21st century? Another is Futurity.org, with news updates on recent developments in science and technology that affect our near future, as well as The Futurist, from the World Future Society. Paleofutures charts the future that never was...
See George Dvorsky's Sentient Developments on the impacts of cutting edge science and technology, and the Foresight Institute, which provides information on recent developments in nanotechnology. Also: Open the Future, with updates on various topics of future technology.
Considerably more radical, but entertaining, is Armageddon Buffet: An online journal of fiction and commentary.
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I will shortly begin a new series... a draft of my 11,000 word article for a new book on GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISK. A bit more apolitical than some recent posts.
Rob Perkins has been kind enough to set up a mirror site for http://www.davidbrin.com/ so that people in Asia and Australia can get easier access. (Rob, does it refresh automatically? I don't want this to be a chore.) It is http://brinmirror.parasiticmeme.com If you feel like it, check it out. I am concerned that the "Guestbook" and "email brin" feature may not work, so if your last name starts with S-Z feel free to experiment with those features. If I DON'T reply, please email me separately at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know it failed.
Gary Nunn has kindly taken this to the next level, setting up http://www.davidbrin.net which should call up http://brinmirror.parasiticmeme.com automatically. Unfortunately, nothing I can do will get this to happen on my Mac (OS 9.2) Any suggestions? I especially hope that the ID description up top will say "mirror for http://www.davidbrin.com/ "