Futurists Need to Return to Politics
The early modern futurists, such as Ossip K. Flechtheim and Bertrand De Jouvenel who in the years after World War II advocated going beyond capitalism and socialism to solve the fundamental issues facing human society, were very politically oriented (1).
Later futurists essentially left the arena of politics and focused on economic and social issues. The main reason they avoided politics was that in the view of futurists their efforts were not aimed at achieving any specific society, be it capitalist or socialist. For example when Daniel Bell spoke of Post-Industrial Society, it was mostly defined as something that was not industrial society, whether in its capitalist or socialist forms. Thus although his theory was a challenge to socialism and even played a significant role in challenging the Soviet Union, it was not predicting any new society. In the following years as post-industrial society became synonymous with information society, it still was about things like codified knowledge in products that were being developed in the new economy sector rather than a schematic of a new society.
Both Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt, who followed Daniel Bell's theory in their respective works in futurist thought, essentially viewed the computer revolution and later the genetic revolution as major events showing a path beyond industrial society in the distant future. Thus, unlike the liberals and socialists of industrial society who saw the prospects of the new capitalist and socialist societies in their horizon and worked in politics to further define them and welcome their arrival, for the modern futurists there was no such prospect in their horizon and they basically kept distance from politics. At best, some futurists acted like Alvin Toffler, who supported the American Republican neoconservative politician, Newt Gingrich.
During the turn of the 21st Century, Ray Kurzweil proposed his Singularity theory. He showed that we will approach a technological singularity in human history by 2045 when human and artificial intelligence will essentially merge. He also defined the law of accelerating returns, which shows faster returns as we approach the point of singularity. In other words, just like Moore's Law in computers where one expects the performance of the CPU to double every 18 months and the price to be halved, we can witness the same trend in all technological, economic and social trends. Therefore, working with the goal of Singularity in mind means that one should form economic entities that can embody such a mechanism at the core of their processes and just like CPU makers not only not to break up because of accelerating returns but to be built around it.
Having this goal of singularity in mind, today's futurists need to get involved in politics and make their own political party to plan a political and social system that can handle the issues such as chronic unemployment which follows the current trends in economy. In other words, the whole model of industrial society where income was based on work may no longer be a viable business model for the whole society because only a small fraction of the lost jobs are created and the ones who lose those jobs can never fill the new jobs that are tens of times more sophisticated. The issue of singularity is not just a simple technical issue and such disruptive changes cannot be addressed without a political party, and the existing parties with their platforms of the industrial society do not have the goal of singularity in mind.
It has been discussed that we need to start building the singularity economy from now (2). And that means to incorporate accelerated returns in the very production processes of the new companies. Otherwise, the companies will be obsolete before they can even ship their first products. The goal of a new futurist party will be building the economy and society for the singularity as we approach it and not just to observe the different technologies making that journey, as partially incorporated in early drafts for a proposed futurist party platform (3). At the end of the day, the issue of singularity is an economic and political issue and not just a technical matter. To see it as just a technical matter will make us unprepared for such an epochal change.
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
February 25, 2013