One way to get your brain around the armada of destructive retro-thinking we’re facing right now would be to sit down with a book that organizes the various issues into a high quality collection of essays. That’s exactly what editors Torie Bosch and Roy Scranton give us in What Future: The Year’s Best Ideas to Reclaim, Reanimate & Reinvent Our Future. More than 20 pieces, most previously published, make up this book which is out next week. Authors include everyone from Laurie Penny to Jeff VanderMeer to Elizabeth Kolbert to Kim Stanley Robinson.
Not surprisingly, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In “Selfless Devotion”, Janna Avner puts her finger on the dark side of robot development: not that they might take over someday, but that since we are creating them specifically to do work for us, it’s more than a little suspect that nearly every advanced model is female. A.M. Gittlitz examines how the Silicon Valley elite, while providing the masses with amusing baubles, are using their wealth and influence to slowly separate themselves from the rest of humanity in his essay “Let Them Drink Blood”. Trekkies like myself will rage through bitter tears when Kim Stanley Robinson lays out his argument that travel to and settlement on planets outside our solar system is simply not possible in “Our Generation Ships Will Sink”, but be invigorated at his assertions that it’s all the more reason to take care of planet Earth. The last two pieces, by Roy Scranton (“Anthropocene City: Houston as Hyperobject”) and Jeff VanderMeer (“Hauntings in the Anthropocene”), are mind-bending, and you’ll just have to read them for yourself, as I certainly cannot encapsulate them intelligently.
This book covers a lot of ground: race, gender, animal rights, neurobiology, leap-frogging evolution, the extinction of cash, self-driving cars and feminism in Saudi Arabia – the most interesting aspect of which is seeing how they all connect in surprising ways. More than simply arming you for an argument with your dangerously stupid uncle who thinks coal is the next big thing, What Future will fire your passion for creating space for humanity (in every sense of the word) in the unyielding universe of reality.