Feeling Blue about the Future? Not All Futurists Are Dystopian
Joe Tankersley wants you to reimagine a brighter tomorrow.
How many times have you heard people say, “I’m never going to have kids. I would hate to bring them up in a world like this one.” Or something to that effect. Global warming, no jobs because of automation and AI, our loss of freedom and privacy due to technology, the shredding of families, the ongoing concerns regarding a nuclear event… these are just a few of the threats that weigh us down as we face our future.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If we would first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better know what to do and how to do it.”
But that’s just the problem. We don’t really know where we’re at. We’re so in the thick of it that we can’t see what is really happening. Our world is being mediated to us in such a way that we don’t really know what is a real concern and what is not.
For this reason Joe Tankersley, a former Walt Disney Imagineer, wants us to re-imagine our future around better stories. Our fears about tomorrow stem from the stories we tell ourselves, and unless we rewrite our scripts we’ll never realize the true personal fulfillment.
Tankersley does not deny the disruptions we’re experiencing in technology, society, culture and economics. Instead, he argues that these disruptions help create community prosperity and personal empowerment.
The author’s approach is somewhat unconventional. He doesn’t bury readers with statistics. He doesn’t make projections at all, really. Instead, he invents stories that illustrate possibilities. The chapters unfold as follows:
Chapter 1: Saying Goodbye to the Past
Chapter 2: Reimagining Aging
Chapter 3: Reimagining Consumerism
Chapter 4: Reimagining Automation
Chapter 5: Reimagining the Gig Economy
Chapter 6: Reimagining Technology Access
Chapter 7: Reimagining Suburbia
Chapter 8: Reimagining Rural Life
Chapter 9: Reimagining Sustainability
Chapter 10: Reminagining Community
I believe he is realistic in the sense that he knows these kind of optimistic outcomes will require work. He’s painted pictures, but leaves the reader with three questions.
- How can I use my skills and talents to contribute to these futures?
- What must change for these tomorrows to be possible?
- Whom do I need to help me realize my vision?
The second question there ties directly into my Medium post of January 5, Before we go into battle we must know What We Are Up Against.
And the third ties into a project a friend and I were working on a couple years ago, a novel or screenplay about a cohort of young children of one-percenters who had this same vision, to do whatever they could to make a good future for all humanity. What will it take? Where are the hurdles to leap, land mines to avoid and barricades to bust open?
Dystopian futures are easy to imagine. We live in a world more broken than we can even get our minds around. As Bob Dylan sang on his 1989 album Oh Mercy:
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken
And yet the resilience of the human spirit continues to urge us toward better outcomes for our fellow travelers. This is undoubtedly the catalyst that impels Joe Tankersley to do more than just hope. He’s become an advocate. It sounds cliche but it’s real. “Change your thinking, change your life.”
Think about it, our ancestors once had no penicillin and many died from stubbed toes and animal bites. At one time the bubonic plague killed one-third of the people of Europe. I’m sure it was not all that easy to be an optimist at that time either.
Tankersley doesn’t want us to just hope for a better tomorrow. He wants us to do something about it.
As for the book itself, Reimagining Our Tomorrows doesn’t really give prescriptions. Instead, it just makes clear that there are other ways of looking at things, and prods us to begin reimagining for ourselves.
The past is like concrete now frozen in time. The future remains unwrit.
It’s our turn now.