IEET > Vision > Directors > Giulio Prisco > Futurism
Back to the 60s, Back to the Future, and Onwards to the Stars
Giulio Prisco   Feb 22, 2012   Space Collective  

I was honored to be included in the 200th episode of The Future and You: “Over a hundred never before heard predictions about the future from dozens of past guests, a few possible future guests, several listeners and an assortment of people actively building the future we are all going to live in.”

The Future and You‘s host, my good friend Stephen Euin Cobb, interviews a variety of authors, futurists, scientists, celebrities and “pioneers of the future” as to what they believe both the near future and distant future will be like for individuals as well as for humanity in general. I had already been interviewed for the February 20, 2008 Episode.

Stephen’s question for the 200th episode was:

“The next episode of my show (The Future And You) will be the 200th episode. If you would, please send me a prediction of the future I can read into the show. Especially good would be a prediction based on a trend most people have been ignoring or just not aware of.”

Here is an annotated and commented version of my own prediction. I am hoping to bring attention to what I consider as a very important issue that should be discussed, and a very dangerous trend that should be avoided:

“My long term predictions are as optimist as ever. I am confident that we will develop human empowerment technologies such as radical life extension, mind uploading and synthetic realities. I am confident that we will go back to space, back to the Moon, and then onwards to Mars and to the stars. I am confident that those who wish will someday have have the option of leaving biology behind, move to new high performance substrates, and beam themselves to the galaxies.”

The paragraph above is an introduction where I start with an optimist attitude on things that are very important to me, but it is not the main point that I wish to make. Read on.

“Sadly my short term predictions are far less optimistic, at least as far as the future of our “western” society is concerned. I see that we are becoming old, ossified, with far too much obsession for safety, control and political correctness, like old people afraid of their own shadows in a safe, PC and sad retirement home.”

This is my main point, and I think I can safely assume that you know what I mean. There is this clear feeling that over the last few decades we have been slowly and gradually walking from a (more or less) free world to a prison, without even noticing it. This is especially evident to those who are old enough to remember. Governments make more and more intrusive (and completely useless) regulations on what we can or cannot eat, drink or smoke. Sooner or later they will be making regulations on which hand we must use to wipe our own butt. And sex will be illegal when it is not practiced in presence of a qualified nurse who can give emergency treatment in case one of the participants has a heart attack.

What really worries me is that nobody seems to notice and complain. I hope younger people will wake up and say ENOUGH someday soon. Many young persons cannot remember what personal freedoms feels like, because they have been over-protected since they were toddlers. When I was a kid, we were not over-protected from life and reality, yet most of us are still here and have grown into responsible citizens, so I think we should give our children the same respect that our parents have given us. But even if we don’t, kids are much smarter than us, and they will quickly find their way around our stupid intrusions in their privacy: if a kid really wants to watch porn, have sex, smoke or participate in Internet chats with adults, (s)he will find a way. And this is good.

“If this trend continues, we will cease to be relevant and other cultures, younger and more dynamic, will take the lead.”

I am an Italian, a European and a person with ethnic and cultural roots in the “western” civilization, and I think our culture has produced a lot of good things. I do not consider our culture “better” than others, whatever that means, but I do not consider it worse either. And of course I wish we could continue to play an important role in this century and beyond. But I see myself mainly as a citizen of the planet and a member of the human species, I think we can build a great future for everyone, and I think this is much more important than the preservation of specific nations and cultures. So if we become a relic of the past, I hope other cultures will take the lead and I wish them the best.

“I see, but perhaps this is wishful thinking, also some counter trends: Wikileaks, the Pirate Parties, new spiritual movements such as Terasem, citizen scientists, file sharing, Bitcoin, DIY tech movements, citizens everywhere beginning to realize that we must take the power back in our hands and build the future that we dreamed of in the 60s.”

These are little signs that citizens everywhere are beginning to become really fed up and to take some action. Subversiveness and civil disobedience are, I believe, not only our right but also our duty if we think our intrusive nanny-states have gone too far and must be stopped. Of course a society of sheeple is the wet dream of nanny-state bureaucracies and control-freaks, which now dominate both the Left and the Right. I think we citizens must stop them, encourage positive subversion and disruption, work around stupid regulations and laws, and take the power back in our hands where it belongs.

“In the 60s we used to think of 2011 as “the future”. Now I realize that the 60s WERE the future, and later we as a society have lost our imagination and let nanny-state control freaks take us back to the past. Let’s go back to the 60s, back to the future, and onwards to the stars! But it is going to take some work.”

Yes, the 60s have been the most beautiful decade that I can remember. I was too young to really participate in the 60s, but I could appreciate the flavor. Of course, I say this also because I was a kid in the 60s and we all tend to think the world was more beautiful when we were kids. But I think the free spirit of the anti-authoritarian 60s, the hippie and New Age movements, the cultural and social experimentation and the widespread protests were healthier than our contemporary, geriatric western societies. The cultural roots of the Internet revolution and the beautiful “Californian Ideology” can be traced back to the counterculture of the 60s, as RU Sirius shows in “How the Sixties Shaped the Personal Computer Revolution” in the book “True Mutations.” What has the nanny-state culture of sheeple produced instead?

The 60s began with Yuri Gagarin’s flight and John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s “Moon speech”, and ended with Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon. Then, we have walked back from space, and we have walked back from freedom. Let’s go back to the 60s, back to freedom, back to the future, back to space, forward to the next phase of our evolution as a species, and onwards to the stars!

Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.


Excellent article.

I wasn’t born until 15 years after the 60s were over, so I don’t have to worry about being biased due to nostalgia - and I totally agree!

Most of my peers (mid twenties) simply do not care about the future, science, or society. They also don’t seem to be too worried about having their freedoms taken away, although I do admit that for the time being we still enjoy a much more secular and open society here in New Zealand (but it is still headed in the same general direction as the rest of the Western world).

A common trend now is for everything to be dumbed down oops I mean “streamlined.” Heaven forbid we have to think for ourselves!

Now I’m going on a bit of a tangent but it seems related so I’ll go ahead and say it anyway:

Western capitalism was a good idea when it was made, but it has been around for long enough now that everyone has figured out how to bend the system to do some real damage to society for personal gain.

It is also in total conflict with everything that the internet stands for - maybe I’m being wildly optimistic, but I’m hoping that as the internet becomes a bigger and bigger part of our lives, that there will be some sort of paradigm shift in the way we think and society will change with us.

Something has to snap: here’s hoping that the change is a positive rather than a negative one.

@Bevan re “Western capitalism was a good idea when it was made, but it has been around for long enough now that everyone has figured out how to bend the system to do some real damage to society for personal gain.”

Exactly. This is what I have to say, pasted from another comment thread:

Capitalism can be good:

Smart and hard working baker Joe knows how to make good bread. He finds a capitalist partner and opens a bakery. At the beginning he works in the bakery himself with his family, then he hires some workers. Then he opens a few other bakeries, treats and pays his workers well, and continues to make good bread and sell it at reasonable prices. Everyone wins, Joe and his family, the workers, the investors, and the rest of us who can eat good bread.

And capitalism can be bad:

Finance shark Jim bribes his buddies in government to pass regulations that put Joe (and all other small bakers) out of business. Then he opens a chain of bakeries that produce tasteless and toxic bread and sell it at outrageous prices. Of course, he continues to bribe his buddies in government to protect his monopoly. After a few years he is a billionaire who scams financial markets to bring entire currencies and economies down. He owns banks protected by the government and bailed out with citizen’s money when he needs. Every few years he (and his buddies in government) engineer a financial crisis to force people out of their homes and buy them back cheap. Everybody loses but Jim and his buddies.

I suggest that we forget the terms “capitalism” or “anti-capitalism”, and just build a system where Joe’s methods work and Jim’s methods don’t.

As far as the role of regulatory bureaucracies is concerned: I see regulations not as an antidote to, but rather as one of the originators of, the savage nature of today’s capitalism. The first who makes enough money to buy the regulators wins, and and all the others lose. That is why I think we should get rid of _both_ “bankers and bureaucrats” (ref. my previous article:)

I know that some bureaucrats are good and honest persons who care about others, but these exceptions don’t reach the top, are not invited to the important meetings, and nobody really listens to them.

“if a kid really wants to watch porn, have sex, smoke or participate in Internet chats with adults, (s)he will find a way. And this is good.”

Smoke? would you want to in any way encourage a youth to smoke?- count me out of that one, Giulio.
But today I saw something quite encouraging: a National Geographic special magazine “100 Scientific Discoveries”; the first two were nanolithography and carbon nanotubes.

@Intomorrow - I encourage youths (and adults) to do whatever makes them happier, provided it does not harm others.

If eating toxic bread (something you were correct to mention, as it is everywhere on the market) makes a youth happy, do you encourage such?; how about lard sprinkled with sugar?

Want to err on giving what appears to be good advice based on what is known at the time the advice is given, and would not encourage youth—or anyone for that matter—to smoke.

... btw,
one can prove scientifically that smoking provides pleasure;
but happiness? a real stretch.

The problem is the increasing infantilazation of the people of the developed world. Consumerism preaches against any form of delay of gratification. Capitalism in its present form preaches that greed is good and everything is subject to that greed. The increase in litigation is a results of people who refuse to take the slightest responsibility for their own actions and decisions. (Look a an electric drill for the warning not to use it for dental work!) The lack of thought and compassion is creating bigotry that blames everyone but us for the way the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

In spite of the obvious flaws in the science fiction of the 60’s at least the assumption in the stories was one of self-sufficiency, responsibility and courage.

The truth is that becoming a mature, ethical, thinking human being is hard work, includes some risk, some suffering, many mistakes and a vision of life that is broader reaching than our desire for immediate pleasure.

Okay, Alex, but just so’s you know:
the reason I like Christianity is because Christianity is the antipode of reality—e.g. Christianity is an escape from the verifiable reality of Darwinian existence.

Intomorrow, I’m not sure why you feel it necessary to attack Christianity every chance you get as if it actually matters. It might be nice if you actually had a clue about what you were attacking, but that would mean you’d have to educate yourself and apparently in your Darwinian world that is unnecessary.

If you wish to make a deity out of Darwinian theory that’s your look out, but try to get it right.

have made it clear to you I like Christianity- but not for the same reasons you do; I perceive Christianity as escapism- what is so wrong with that? have I ever said ‘Hail Satan’ to you?
And—one might add—it is confusing as to why if you are a Gaian you would want to blog at a technoprogressive site. It isn’t necessarily that you are mistaken, it is not knowing what it is exactly you are searching for at IEET; everyone searches for something, somewhere.. you are searching for some sort of validation which you possibly cannot obtain at this site. However, without knowing what it is you seek…
well, you get the picture.

@ Intomorrow, I am not a Gaian, at least not in terms of warm fuzzy thoughts about our dear mother earth. I do consider the possibility that the planet is a self-regulating organism to be an interesting one and worth considering.

Christianity is escapism only if you skim the surface and take out what you want and leave the rest. If that is what you want that’s OK, but don’t paint me with the same brush.

How can one not skim Christianity? Christianity is a v. large topic, only the Father, Son and Holy Ghost have a full knowledge of Christianity- rest of us are novices smile
I don’t reject religion, because the fairy tales differ little from mine:
in the mind’s eye I see the cosmos in a Ptolemaic way; the cosmos revolves around the Earth. Nevertheless, I know it is imaginary whereas the religious very often see their cosmic vision as reality.

@Intomorrow re “Christianity is an escape from the verifiable reality of Darwinian existence.”

No scientific theory is “verifiable.”

Scientific theories are _falsifiable_, which means that any scientific theory can be refuted by experiment.

But no experiment can prove the “truth” of a scientific theory beyond the conditions currently testable by experiment. Newtonian mechanics was “true” for centuries, but it was eventually falsified by more accurate experiments and superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics.

Aye, “the verifiable reality of Darwinian existence” was shorthand for not only how evidence exists for evolutionary theories, but also for the impact evolutionary theories have on our lives; one can escape Christianity but not Darwinism.
Those who operate IEET might appreciate Pastor Alex because he is educated and brings other viewpoints, whereas I appreciate a Christian view merely for sentimental reasons—which is nothing to be proud of. I have heard nothing new concerning non-science topics for the past four decades; have witnessed the same discussions on Christianity for the last five decades, though those new to Christianity can and do benefit. Mostly, though, what comes to mind is that it is praising Christianity with faint damnation to write,

“Christianity and religion in general have existed for thousands of years ergo [we are stuck with religion for the duration, to put it without tact].”

Something of a tautology. And since agape love is fictional, it is a nonstarter, IMO.
Will write it again ‘n’ again: whether necessary or not, it is escapism. Vacationing is escapism in the literal sense. Watching a film, one is escaping by imagining actors and actresses in different roles in various locations. One might say art, literature, music, is escapism by the evoking of images in the mind.
Sexuality evokes images in the mind of flesh and cum. Religion evokes something else, and my point to Alex is, why should religion be more important/less escapist?
An open question.
We don’t even know if the historical Jesus was an individual, or a composite of priests living at that time or BCE.

@Intomorrow re escapism. If you define escapism as trying to “escape” the harsh and unpleasant reality of everyday life for a few hours, then you can say that art, literature, music, and religion can be considered as forms of escapism. I agree.

But then, I think escapism is the main driver of human progress. If you don’t dare to imagine something better than current reality, you will never actually build something better than current reality. All those who have contributed to progress have been escapists for hum current reality was just not good enough.

Life imitates art, in the sense that artists propose beautiful visions and the rest of us try to make them reality. In this sense, science fiction is a very powerful driver of actual scientific progress.

Re religion, the visionary prophets of the past have given us powerful visions of immortality, and the scientists and engineers of the future will realize them.

Having said this, can we go back on-topic? There are many other excellent threads about religion here @IEET.

@Alex re “The problem is the increasing infantilazation of the people of the developed world. Consumerism preaches against any form of delay of gratification.”

Consumerism means making you believe that you want something, and give it to you hoping that you forget what you really want. It is nothing new, the Romans did that already.

What I want, is personal freedom in a fair society, and much less bullshit from greedy bankers and control-freak bureaucrats. Of course this is precisely what the bankers and the bureaucrats do NOT want us to have, so they try to persuade us that we want iPads instead.

Right. We both remember the ‘60s, and how both a conscious and instinctive interest in somewhat less-commercialized art, literature, film, music, and—perhaps—religion evolved. In case it needs to be written, it’s not commercialism, it is the degree of commercialization; one wouldn’t mind a few Justin Biebers and Britney Spears, but not to predominate.
Though we can both agree such was *better* in the ‘60s, it wasn’t that much better.. say, to throw out a number, it was 20 percent less over-commercialized. The memories that stick out most for me are connected to the Moon landing effort: the excitement building from Mercury up to Apollo; and most of all how an error boosted the endeavor: the error, series of errors, in building the defective spacecraft that had a fire and killed three astronauts. Because of the fire, the spacecraft had to be radically renovated, which reminds of how science proceeds from error; trial (literally ‘trial by fire’ in this case) and error. It was the first event I can remember every detail of.

.. it does appear science moves through error more than that which is pro-active. War changed the world dramatically, the’60s was about the Vietnam War as much as the positive; youth escaping from the war’s undeniable, inescapable reality. It was a more innocent era than the 2010s, yes—though the same sort of hype we know today existed at that time: rather than iPads it was smoking Kool cigarettes, banana peels or some other faddist activity.

Came back briefly to apologize for using a certain epithet against Christians; besides, even if it were to be applicable to 80- 90 percent of Christians, the number it would not apply to, IMO, is roughly between 100- 200 millions.

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