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Entries in thomas hine (1)

Wednesday
Oct242007

The End of the Future (1991)

In his 1991 book, Facing Tomorrow, author Thomas Hine opens with a decidedly pessimistic tone. The first chapter, "The End of the Future," expresses a feeling of betrayal that the world did not provide the future humanity was promised. An excerpt from that chapter appears below.

For at least two decades, no compelling, comprehensive vision of the future has captured the American imagination. Our culture is like a child raised without adults: We have no idea what we will be when we grow up. We don't know what to tell our own children, though we dimly suspect we are setting a bad example. We condescend to past visions of the future - the progressivist utopias of the turn of the previous century, the streamlined dreams of the 1930s, the jet age exuberance of the 1950s. But we have nothing to take their place.

Instead, our popular culture is filled with tainted dreams, manipulated horrific fantasies planted in the minds of innocents, which come true when Freddy Krueger, the sleep-invading slasher from the endless Nightmare on Elm Street movie cycle, comes to eviscerate the dreamer and most of her friends, relatives and neighbors. Today, we know all about what was wrong with the visions of the past and are, we tell ourselves, more realistic. But we are more limited, too. Besides, there's no evidence, outside of the movies, that a refusal to dream prevents nightmares from coming true.

When the world does not seem to be going your way, it is worth finding out which way the world is going. If progress seems self-defeating, it is time to come up with a new definition of progress. It's time for a new future, one that will enable us [to] make sense of the present and judge how the actions we take each day will shape tomorrow. We need to understand our past ideas of the future, in part so that we can understand the ways in which we have gone wrong. But we can't slap a new coat of paint on our old tomorrows. We need to conceive of our future new and whole, from the ground up. We have to examine our fears, to see if they are real, and our desires, to understand what we really want and what we can hope to get. Today, people become angry at the future because it is not going to provide what was once expected. We need a clearer idea of what we can anticipate, what we can achieve, what we can create, so that we can once again feel the exaltation of moving toward something we want rather than the bitterness of settling for less.


Progress to Counter Catastrophe Theory? (1975)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
Technology and Man's Future (1972)