When I was growing up, magicians put a lot of emphasis into looking mysterious and smart. (Also: hair products.) It was all very precious and boring, and then these two guys named Penn & Teller changed everything. They didn’t take themselves too seriously; they even told you the secrets to their tricks! I thought that was really cool, and I’ve tried to imitate them in my writing ever since: get good, then share what you learned.
That’s what Near Future Field Notes is about. I love thinking about why people are drawn to a new thing, why they’re acting a certain way, how they’ve come to a particular worldview. I love thinking about what’s going to happen in the next twelve months. Once I think I’ve figured something out, I want to share it with you so we can talk about it. This process of learning and sharing is my favourite thing in the world.
Years ago, I wrote a series called Fuck Jetpacks. I explained the goal of the project in the first essay:
[Great design moments] can be difficult to describe in words, or are too subjective, so they don’t get as much publicity. Instead we get facts, which are boring: I can tell you how many gigs a phone has, or the color of a car, or the dollar amount of the latest patent case settlement. But describing how something feels is much harder. More personal. More interesting. And if I do my job right, it’ll be a lot more fun to read.
A few years later, I started a new series called Design Explosions. The goal was to do a better kind of design critique. Here’s an excerpt from when I started that project:
Wouldn’t it be great if someone would combine the deeply informative and insightful style of John Siracusa’s technical reviews with the warm and kind teaching approach of Mr. Rogers? The essays would treat you like a smart and curious person who’s interested in learning more about great design, but without all the posturing and snark that passes for design critique today.
I did that for a few years, and loved it. Which brings us to today.
A lot of trend watchers, cool hunters, and futurists come off too precious, like the disappointing magicians before Penn & Teller. They clearly want to seem mystical and smart, but that gets old fast. I don’t need you to think I’m smart, I want you to be curious with me.
Sound fun? The first issue is called The Problem With Futurism and it’ll go live shortly. Follow this publication to be the first to get it.
Let’s go exploring!