Book Review: The Future by Nick Montfort

Book Review: The Future by Nick Montfort

As long as people have been on this planet they have been formulating, imagining and planning for the future. And their individual and collective visions of this – their future-making and how they frame the future says a lot about the present.

The Future by Nick Montfort is a fascinating look at futurism. From the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series of 2018, each chapter plots the mysterious and generative potential of future-planning.

As the world ramps up and speeds ever faster towards the Singularity – that dread word of finality – predicting future trends has become a hazardous exercise given the sheer complexity of the accelerating present. Recent events in the world have shattered the mould of how things were supposed to go in relation to politics, technology and economics.

Curious Victorian Fantasies of the Year 2000
Curious Victorian Fantasies of the Year 2000

This book synethises a lot of highly complex material into a readable and non-academic book that is fascinating and ideal for non-specialists in economics, IT and technology.

It’s not a cautionary tale about our dystopian future, which seems to be the theme of so many books about the future. And quite frankly it’s exhausting to read these kinds of books and it scares the shit of me.

No, instead Montfort’s The Future side-steps discussions about crystal ball gazing and focuses on the historical lessons of future making.  This is an accessible book with a lot of intellectual nourishment. Ideal for people who like futurology, quirky sci-fi history, cultural studies, Marshall McLuhan, Hyperreality studies and the weirdness of technology. Although this is the kind of book that will take a fair bit of brain power and attention to get through, so curl up with a big coffee at the ready. 4.5/5*

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Future by Nick Montfort

  1. Sigh, another one for my to-read list. It’s timely, as I’ve been mulling over doing a post about Alvin Toffler and his Third Wave book….

  2. I hope I don’t burden you with too many books for your tsundoku Mike 🙂 It would be great to read a post about the Third Wave book, I haven’t read anything of Tofflers, although I have heard of him, he is quite famous I think.

  3. Books on the future can definitely be too dense and detailed can’t they (computer scientists!)— I got bogged down in Bostrum’s ‘superintelligent’ for example. This one seems to get the balance right. I have 3-4 books about the future that i’ll tackle together at some stage. Need to get through some bios first not to mention my ever-growing stoic reading list.

    1. What a tsundoku you have Jeremy, it is a good feeling to have these books ahead of you no doubt. Yes, I know what you mean about books and technology and the future, it can be overwhelming to contemplate it all if it’s too intense.

      1. Yes it’s a tsundoku alright! I don’t think I’m that susceptible to worrying about these future predictions so that side of it is fine. It’s just that most future scientists tend to be hardcore academics…well the ones I’ve seen anyway

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