American Futurists Quotations

Brand, Stewart / b. 1938 / Illinois, USA / music producer, author, publisher

A realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.

Source: Whole Earth Catalog (1968).

Science is the only news. When you scan through a newspaper or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same sorry cyclic dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness, and even the technology is predictable if you know the science. Human nature doesn’t change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.

Source: Whole Earth Discipline (2009).

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

Source: Whole Earth Review (May, 1985).

Every interview with a public figure should include the question “What have you been wrong about, and how did that change your views?” The answer will tell us if the person is intellectually honest or a tale spinner with delusions of infallibility.

Source: Whole Earth Discipline (2009).

When environmentalists are wrong, it is frequently technology that they are wrong about, and they wind up supporting parochial Green goals at the cost of comprehensive ones. 

Source: Whole Earth Discipline (2009).

Redundancy of function is always more reliable than attempts at perfect, which time treats cruelly.

Source: How Buildings Learn (1994).

We are as gods and might as well get good at it.

Source: Whole Earth Catalog (1968).

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Gilder, George / b. 1939 / New York, USA / economist, investor, author

In the age of Big Data, the von Neumann bottleneck has philosophical implications. The more knowledge that is put into a von Neumann machine, the bigger and more crowded its memory, the further away its average data address, and the slower its functioning.

Source: Life After Google (2018).

The most powerful force in the universe is the need for freedom.

Source: Attribution unconfirmed.

The challenge is to create a society of collaboration and creativity, not one of emulation and envy.

Source: Attribution unconfirmed.

Much of what I’ve written about has been in reaction to the materialist superstition, the belief that the universe is a purely material phenomenon that can be reduced to physical and chemical laws. It’s a concept that’s infected the social sciences as well.

Source: Interview with the Boston Globe, July 27, 2005.

Academic scientists of any sort expect to be struck by lightning if they celebrate real creation de novo in the world.

Source: Knowledge and Power (2013).

In 1976 Friedman suffered a crippling intellectual trauma that for the rest of his life seriously affected his thinking. The king of Sweden awarded him a Nobel Prize for economic science, specifically for his errors—his monetary theory and his permanent income hypothesis.

Source: The Scandal of Money (2016).

The question thus becomes: Will the scientists and women’s liberationists be able to unleash on the world a generation of kinless children to serve as the Red Guards of a totalitarian state? Will we try to reproduce the Nazi experiment, when illegitimacy was promoted by the provision of lavish nursing homes and the state usurped the provider male. Or will we manage to maintain our most indispensable condition of civilization—and obstacle to totalitarian usurpation—the human marriage and family.

Source: Sexual Suicide (1973).

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Joy, Bill / b. 1954 / Michigan, USA / computer engineer, venture capitalist

Given the incredible power of these new technologies, shouldn’t we be asking how we can best coexist with them? And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn’t we proceed with great caution?

Source: “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired, April 1, 2000.

. . . the smartest people in the world don’t all work for us. Most of them work for someone else. The trick is to make it worthwhile for the great people outside your company to support your technology. Innovation moves faster when the people elsewhere are working on the problem with you.

Source: Cited by Brent Schlender in “Whose Internet Is It, Anyway?,” 1995, Fortune, 132(12): p. 130.

Our most powerful 21st-century technologies—robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech—are threatening to make humans an endangered species.

Source: “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired, April 1, 2000.

We have to encourage the future we want rather than trying to prevent the future we fear.

Source: Attribution unconfirmed.

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Toffler, Alvin / 1928–2016 / New York, USA / Editor, Author

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.

Source: Attribution unconfirmed.

Man remains in the end what he started as in the beginning: a biosystem with a limited capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the consequence is future shock.

Source: Future Shock (1970).

Freedom of expression is no longer a political nicety, but a precondition for economic competitiveness.

Source: Interview with John Perry Barlow (1997).

Change is not merely necessary to life—it is life.

Source: Attribution unconfirmed.

If industrialism, with its faster pace of life, has accelerated the family cycle, super-industrialism now threatens to smash it altogether.

Source: Future Shock (1970).