How I Learned to Love the Future

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.

One thought on “How I Learned to Love the Future”

  1. This sounds much like my own early years, perhaps with less reverence for Reagan and more fantasy fiction. The idea of a bright and wonderful future seemed much less likely than some terrible war after which there might be a supernatural evacuation of the truly faithful — and I was never quite sure that I was one of those.

    So, I spent a good deal of time imagining life in other realities, including Star Trek, Star Wars, and the latter-day Buck Rogers (Battlestar Galactica was broadcast during Sunday night church services). I think space travel, and its attendant technology, seemed attractive partly because it seemed to completely remove me from any apocalyptic beliefs, nuclear or cosmic, about end times on that tiny blue-green planet. (Also, based on my observations, women wore much less clothing in these futures, and that seemed like a good idea to me.)

    In Usborne’s future, it seems the world still has a policeman: on page 24, the “Rocket Troops of the Future” are sent from one side of the globe to another to “quell an uprising” in what seems to be the Arabian Peninsula.

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