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Entries in interview (2)

Tuesday
Jul222008

Joseph Corn on Future Shock (May 17, 2008)


This past May I sat down with Joseph Corn, co-author of Yesterday's Tomorrows, to talk about past visions of the future. We chatted over coffee at Brian Horrigan's house (Brian is the other author of Yesterday's Tomorrows) about the paleo-future of transportation, robot servants and the end of the world.

Joe challenged a lot of my assumptions about how to classify different decades and the way in which various generations view the future optimistically or pessimistically. A short excerpt from our conversation appears below.

Matt Novak: Have you ever read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock?

 

Joseph Corn: I did. I so vividly remember reading it in a campground in the Redwoods in Northern California.

MN: What did you think of it then and what do you think of his ideas now?

JC: [long pause] They deserve re-examination now, the concept of future shock. At the time of his writing . . . I didn't really find it that persuasive. People talk as if future shock is a major syndrome that deserves Medicare treatment today, and I sort of feel that way. The pace at which software changes and technology generally, although it is still filling in . . . Filling in the cracks is not the right metaphor . . . I've had a personal computer now for 25 years and it is so different. The web, plus wireless, plus speed, plus miniaturization in the laptop form makes it something different. As we carry these things around with us when we couldn't with an IBM PC.

MN: Do you think that all this technological change that you've seen recently, is that harming us? Because that seems to be the main thesis of his . . .

JC: I don't buy that. As a historian I'm very skeptical. I think we're trained professionally to be skeptical of . . . you might put it, in terms of the Golden Age fallacy. There was a moment when things were better and everything's been done since. I just can't buy that. One could worry and yet, I don't. I just see it as different. As fascinatingly different. I just don't see civilization going to hell in a handbasket. [long pause] At least I don't want to.


See also:
Future Shock (1972)
Future Shock - Electrical Stimulation (1972)
Future Shock - Skin Color (1972)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)

 

Monday
May052008

What the future didn't bring


Paleo-Future readers in the Twin Cities may have noticed a certain blogger on the front page of today's St. Paul Pioneer Press. No, it wasn't my idea to pose, fake-blogging on my bed. We have a small apartment. The living room is filled with books and there's no place to sit. The photographer didn't have many options.

A couple friends of mine made a bet about how early in the piece Disney or EPCOT would be mentioned. Nic won. He guessed the sixth paragraph.

It was the fifth.

Matt Novak has seen a vision of the future. A lot of visions.

 

That's because in the past year or so, the 24-year-old St. Paul resident has turned himself into a sort of accidental expert on the paleo-future: depictions of the future from the past.

He collects and comments on yesterday's predictions of tomorrow on his blog, www.paleofuture.com, which has become a sort of online museum of a promised world of jet packs, meals in a pill and sex with robots.

Novak said the project, "a look into the future that never was," started in January 2007 when he was taking a writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. One of the assignments was to create a blog.

He'd always been interested in the fantastic, strange or goofy predictions of the future, dating back to a childhood visit to Disney World: "In the 1980s, EPCOT was a thing that already looked dated." There also was his second-grade diorama in 1992 of what the world would look like eight years in the future: "Cars on magnetic tracks, all sort of crazy things like that; 2000 was such a magic number, the world would be so different."


See also:
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future