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The End Of The World Isn’t As Likely As Humans Fighting Back
Jamais Cascio   Jun 1, 2013  

Scenarios for the future that involve a horrifying end for humanity might make for exciting reading, but they’re the most unlikely of scenarios—and incredibly unhelpful in creating a better tomorrow.

Dystopias make for boring futurism.

While it’s certainly true that one can tell a compelling dramatic story about the end of the world, as a mechanism of foresight, apocaphilia is trite at best, counter-productive at worst. Yet world-ending scenarios are easy to find, especially coming from advocates for various social-economic-global changes. As one of those advocates, I’m well aware of the need to avoid taking the easy route of wearing a figurative sign reading The End Is Nigh. We want people to take the risks we describe seriously, so there is an understandable temptation to stretch a challenging forecast to its horrific extremes--but ultimately, it’s a bad idea. Here’s why:

It’s simplistic

William Gibson famously said “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Unless we’re talking about an extinction-level asteroid strike, true dystopian futures will affect diverse parts of the world differently. This is true at a high level, even for dystopias--most of the time, the poorest parts of the world are also the ones hit the hardest by Globally Scary Threats--but it’s better to think of this observation as something more akin to a scalpel. Even within the same region or country, some communities will be hit harder than others, and some will have access to far greater resources than others.

If your dystopian scenario includes the phrase “we’re all doomed” or otherwise implies the Globally Scary Threat will affect us all equally, it’s probably bad futurism.

A better option: Describing some places doing better than others in the midst of chaos is a useful lead-in to discussions of political conflicts and ethical quandaries.

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Jamais Cascio is a Senior Fellow of the IEET, and a professional futurist. He writes the popular blog Open the Future.

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