It’s funny, I thought I was pretty clear on what my deeply formative influences were… Star Wars, evangelical Christianity, my family’s deification of Ronald Reagan and of course the profusion on male flesh on TV during the 1984 LA Olympics.
Then yesterday I clicked on a link to scans of The Usborne Book of the Future and it all came flooding back to me. I never went truly hard-core into science fiction books, but pseudo-nonfiction future-science books drilled deep into my consciousness and the Usborne series from the UK were at the top of the list.
I always loved science — up until the point when my lagging math skills meant that our misguided educational system forced me to abandon that passion. These sorts of books remained an outlet, and offered the buoying thought that it was ideas — not just equations — that invented the future. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to harness this love for ideas in my professional life, regardless of my inability to do long division or solve multivariate equations.
Back then, under the twin eschatologies of the Nazarene church and the Cold War, the future seemed so much less likely than the Second Coming or the Blinding Flash. I think these books helped me to imagine that both of those might be delayed until we got some cooler gadgets. I must admit looking back at these, that’s about all we go… we’re perilously closer to some of the dystopian imaginings of these books than the bright frontiers.
Anyway… take a look. Even for those who aren’t that interested in my formative years, it’s clear that these influenced a lot of other people — certainly including the future designers of Wired.