Looking to the future……..

Feel like thinking about the future? SciFi master and (accidental) futurist William Gibson’s book of erudite, clever and charming essays is a good place to start. Distrust that Particular Flavor: Encounters with a Future that’s Already Here is a collection of a number of his non-fiction pieces, written in the past, about the future – some of which is now.
Famous for having written about the internet before there was an Internet (there was an internet in a sort of larval stage but not The Internet we know, love, hate and live in) in 1984’s Neuromancer, Gibson seems to be able to envision human/technology interaction, and to write about it, with a unique and exciting voice. He says he was not writing about the future, he was really writing about 1984, just as Orwell in 1948 was writing about 1948 in 1984. Tricksy, huh? And, as he stresses in this book of essays, he is often, spookily, accidentally right. Perhaps things work out the way they do because he has already imagined them, given people a way of relating and using technology before it happens, so that when it does happen they sort of follow a script.
Honestly, Star Trek communicators taught us how to use smartphones before such things existed or were dreamt of by most of us. When smartphones arrived, didn’t most of us think “Oh, of course, here they are! Where have they been?”, not nearly in the state of shock and marvel that we should be, because, really, they are sort of familiar. Personally, I am expecting to be beamed up any day now…
Gibson adds postscripts to the articles, reflecting on what has come to pass. I like his thinking, he worries about technology and how we are changing, and being changed by, it, and he is also excited by it, enjoying the ride. In the introduction he writes about how he gets asked to various labs and businesses to see what they are up to, and about how the people there are doing things, striving to create things, they can’t describe because they don’t actually have the language because the things – and their purpose – don’t exist yet, they are just ambiguous, misty thoughts – perhaps that is why they invite him to have a look, hoping he’ll create the narrative…

Humane, creative, thought-provoking and wryly knowing, this is a great introduction to both Gibson’s fiction and the burgeoning world of the futurists creating our brave new world…


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