I recently attended the BIL conference, a free version of TED in which most of the speakers are from the audience. Given the crowdsourced nature of the speaker selection process, the quality of the talks is very good, which speaks to the quality of the attendees.
One interesting conversation came up that hit at something I find wrong with the futurist community. I was having a conversation with two very intelligent people that ended up with the two of them claiming that “average” people are basically too dumb or narrow-minded to understand futurist concepts like the Singularity. I said something to the effect of “most people aren’t as dumb as you think they are”.
Most futurists (including myself) are atheists, and a lot of them tend to look down on people who have strong religious beliefs. The argument usually goes along the lines of “if someone literally believes the world was created in seven days, and Eve was created from Adam’s rib, how smart can they be”?
The funny thing is that these strange creatures with their strange, clearly unscientific beliefs are still capable of incredible feats. They can successfully run large organizations. They can build things like these:
How can someone with such gaping holes in their logic still expertly handle all the logistical decisions required to construct a cathedral or run a megachurch? Clearly they are actually very capable, probably more capable at certain things than most futurists. Most futurists are actually quite unexceptional when it comes to organizational skills.
I think what’s actually going on is that every personality type has a blind spot where logic simply doesn’t apply. The religious fundamentalists’ blind spot (IMHO) is their religious fundamentalism. The futurists’ blind spot is, on average, their arrogant belief that ideas are everything and that they are so much smarter than everyone else that it’s not worth trying to explain these ideas to the general public. There is of course a lot of individual variation on this, and a few futurists have successfully shared their ideas in the mainstream media, but these people feel like exceptions.
I think we, as futurists, can do better. I’ve taken it upon myself to spend more time introducing futurist topics to random strangers in an accessible way. My conversation about computer vision with a random woman in line at the Long Beach airport went quite well.
- Countering futurist arrogance