Friday, 19 February 2016

Three Tomorrows

What would a better future look like? Most of us have different ideas.

Some, for example, anticipate improved gadgets and exciting projects like travel to Mars. Others look forward to the eclipse of capitalism, and the birth of more equal societies. Conversely, some want hypercharged capitalism and eternal life. Still others like to imagine the surface of the Earth re-wilded, and a better balance between technology and the natural world.

The appeal of these visions – or otherwise – depends on your worldview, your ideology, and the paradigm – or world-model – that you’re using. And there are a whole range of these; perhaps one for every person.

W. Warren Wagar’s book ‘The Next Three Futures’ contrasts what he calls ‘three major modern futurist paradigms’ that have shaped thought. The first of the paradigms he calls Technoliberal.

This is a dominant paradigm in the mainstream, and is often assumed without much thought. It is an ‘abiding faith in the power of technology and managerial technique to solve problems and help preserve liberty(p. 36, op.cit).' This view also includes both the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ (‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’) of much current mainstream thinking.

The second major paradigm is the radical or ‘socialist’ paradigm. This includes Marxism, and Wagar describes it as a ‘reasoned hope for the demise of capitalist world system with all its festering injustice and its replacement by some form of workers’ polity or commonwealth(p. 38).' 

He includes green politics in this paradigm, but acknowledges that it’s an uneasy fit. I'd say green paradigms sit somewhere between the radical and countercultural ones; and there have even been recent attempts to assimilate them into technoliberalism.

The third major paradigm he terms ‘countercultural.’ Counterculturalists are primarily concerned with a rethinking of values and social decentralization. Their values are based on the question; ‘[w]hat if, instead of more urbanization and the centralization of power, humankind chose a different dream, concerned more with the quality of life than with its quantities? (p. 41, op.cit.)'

Counterculturalists, following thinkers like Aldous Huxley, see the need for inner transformation. To them, social reform is not enough. Without inner development, civilization will continue to slide into confusion and chaos. And right now, it seems hard to argue with this.


We all have an idea of what a better future might be. Where do you stand?

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