15. Futurism, Futurist Party and Iran
A. Artificial Intelligence & Nanotechnology
There was a lot of interest in the field of Artificial Intelligence in early 80's. Marvin Minsky at the time, in his book "Society of Mind", was talking about the coming of a new species superseding the human species. The great expectations of 80's, were followed by the skepticism of 90's, where the limitations of capabilities of our current computers were emphasized.Let me note that although the hype of early 80's died soon, but the real interest in the topic of Artificial Intelligence has been very much alive and continuing. In fact a bibliography shows a good list of many works that in one way or the other, have dealt with this epochal event and related topics. My own paper, which is mentioned in that bibliography, was published in Fall 1985, in AI Journal, and was entitled "Artificial Intelligence: The Cornerstone of New Civilizations".I think basically the main theme of my paper about intelligent tools (the narrow sense of intelligence, meaning tools with inference capability), and that the production of intelligent tools would have a glacial impact on human life and the world, has been more confirmed in the last two decades, and actually the growth of Internet is now expediting this glacial change, and Internet2 will even do more in this respect.Let me also note that there are and there will be ups and downs in this development and the current economic crisis that the world is experiencing, particularly in the high tech sectors, is part of this development, as the displacement and replacement of various sectors of the old and new economy is inevitable, and also the obsolete economic strategies that can impede such development, but these ebb and flow, will not mean that this glacial change is reversible. I would repeat what I wrote in the conclusion of my paper 15 years ago that:
"In this light, I welcome the coming of the new civilization and look forward to a better future following upon the heels of the contemporary upheaval. Pessimistic views about our future arise from viewing our own evolution to be static, while intelligent tools progress. The emergence of artificial intelligence has made it feasible for human beings to be intellectually challenged by the immense tasks of exhausting the intelligent characteristics of some artifacts- a historical first. Together with improvements in genetic engineering and telecommunications, the production process will change so rapidly in this space-age society that we can barely imagine even its most general lines. But whatever shape the new social formations may take, some possible social effects of these intelligent tools may include:" -- A broadened scope of our intelligence: Our common sense should become much more developed and we should expect many new discoveries, inventions, and even a new understanding of ourselves.
"-- A freeing of the majority of human beings from living as tools and means of production: A greater percentage of people should be able to do what they like rather than being forced to do something they dislike merely to secure their basic needs." -- A tremendous multiplication of the wealth of humankind: The opening of new frontiers before us, in space or on Earth, will certainly follow the above advancements." At first glance, molding the new production processes, e.g., building "factories and offices of the future," or "homes of the future," may appear to be the key endeavor for shaping the future. Nonetheless, the real *challenge* before future-minded individuals is the improvement and introduction of appropriate social relations if the fruits of these technological advancements are to be realized. The role of science will be enhanced both due to the new technical needs of sophisticated, knowledge-intensive production processes and due to the new social needs of the related human interaction. Hence, we can expect an increased sophistication of essential human pursuits; the central activity of most individuals will likely be related to the progress of social relations and the enhancement of knowledge. We may even find personal income based on a synthesis of one's intentions and needs." The distribution of wealth and power in this new civilization will remain a social issue rather than a technical matter. Thus, whether everyone and every country will be able to avail themselves of these intelligent tools and accompanying benefits depends on future social institutions. These achievements may even add to the misery of many individuals for some time. However, I am optimistic about the future. I think that with the disappearance of the technological basis for treating any part of humankind as tools, humans will, at least, be able to spend more effort on resolving social issues and on molding new social institutions. These new social institutions must address and alleviate the menace of poverty, tyranny, war, and ecological deterioration. Whether the new civilization will evolve peacefully and uniformly world-wide is still an open question."
Finally regarding more advanced species, this is what I had written in my aforementioned paper:
“Finally, it is appropriate to mention that in this treatise, I have examined robots only as tools. I know, as many authors have pointed out, there is a *logical* possibility that these robots could turn into a new species surpassing human's current intelligence (yet I think by then humans will also have moved far more ahead and may still be ahead of them). There are numerous possibilities that more advanced species may reside on Earth some day (e.g., extraterrestrials are still a good possibility), and their origins could be in anything from genetic engineering and space travel to intelligent robot production and human evolution. Perhaps we will share mostly biological needs with animals and primarily social needs with other intelligences. This may help eliminate some of our *anthropocentric* views of the world which have been a part of our world outlook since the fall of early Greek civilization. However, these issues fall beyond the scope of this review as I have focused solely on the technological basis of the subjugation of human by human.”
I should note that the issue of trans-human species introduces a new variable, beside the *intra*species social relations of all the past human societies. This area, in the past, has been addressed by science fiction authors, until the advent of technologies like AI, Genetics, and Cloning, that are making such *inter*species relations a real possibility, in our life-time, and their impact on human society is no longer just a science fiction theme of very distant future. I admire Kurzweil’s work "Spiritual Machines: The Merging Of Man and Machine", where his discussions are bold attempts to understand these new developments. I think Ray Kurzweil's book "Spiritual Machines" is a very good account of what we have ahead of us. It would be interesting to revisit the economic theory and what I already noted before about social justice in light of these epochal changes .
The new Luddites are scaring people of the new achievements. They basically do not even help humanity with the issues they seem to be worried about and they just may delay the progress a little bit. I believe as we get closer and closer to the real production of sentient beings, we should go back and read the old 1817 classic work called "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelly. Unfortunately the way that book has been popularized in popular movies is completely distorted, and is not what one would learn from the book itself. I highly recommend reading the book.
The movies try to show the message of the book as if the meddling in nature's work and "acting" God is bad and try to scare one of doing that. Whereas the book tries to show the dangers and what one has to *predict* and compensate for, when making such an attempt, albeit *acting God*. At least this is my understanding of the book. And regardless of one's understanding of Mary Shelly's book, I think the book gives one a good understanding of the feelings of the new sentient beings and the kind of things one should watch for when developing these new artifacts.
Among the new books of our times in the same vein, I would recommend Pamela McCorduck's "Machines Who Think". But as I noted nothing can replace Mary Shelly's great classic. A real work of literature where one can really feel the feelings of the new creatures and their tormenting at their creators for not having thought of the agony they are going thru.
Is Nanotechnology Real? There is a very important debate in the nanotechnology research community. The debate is called Drexler-Smalley debate and is focused on the issue of molecular assembly. K. Eric Drexler founded the field of nanotechnology about 20 years ago, and he is the chairman of Foresight Institute. Richard E. Smalley is a Nobel Laureate in chemistry and has been a researcher in the field of nanotech for ten years, working on potential applications of carbon nanotubes.
It is interesting that one of the great visionaries of our times, who is the foremost authority in the field of Artificial Intelligence, namely Ray Kurzweil, has diligently addressed the Drexler-Smalley debate. Kurzweil's article is a very detailed technical account of the debate, and he shows very scientifically why it is important to support Drexler's vision.
In my opinion, the Drexler-Smalley debate today has a significance way beyond the interests of their special research areas, just as the field of Artificial Intelligence had similar debates 20 years ago, when on the one hand, McCarthy and Minsky, believed AI was possible, and on the other side, there were those like Dreyfus and Searle, either negated the possibility of Artificial Intelligence or saw it too weak. I have written about the AI debates elsewhere.
Today twenty years later, it is obvious that Artificial Intelligence is possible, although it is not the same as natural intelligence, but in many respects, for example for handling large amounts of information, it is even more powerful than natural intelligence . So it really is *artificial* intelligence, not in a pejorative sense. The same way artificial diamonds of nanotech may prove to be a new creation, yet better than the original, in beauty, durability, and other properties.
Do Undeveloped Countries Need to Care?What is important in such debates is that if people accept the view of impossibility of artificial remaking of the world, which opponents of nanotechnology are advocating, we can end up with a loss of opportunity that may be as important as the computer revolution of the last 20 years.
One may ask what importance this debate may have for undeveloped countries like Iran, and whether the Iranian intellectuals should bother with such a topic. The same way that years ago, many wondered why Iranians should worry about AI and post-industrial society debates, when even the industrial society is hardly developed in Iran, whereas today, everyone sees the importance of computers and Internet and global economy, and why issues like joining WTO are of paramount importance to Iran, and many Iranian intellectuals are now actively involved in such endeavors.
The same way, the nanotechnology can be the most important technology that may replicate fuel cells, to put an end to the age of oil, and not only it would impact the economy of oil producing countries like Iran, but it can change the whole economy of energy production in the world, which is the basis of all industrial production worldwide, and can make a huge impact on poverty and wealth worldwide.
And there is no reason why the scientists of a country like Iran should not be involved in the nanotechnology development, when it will have an epochal impact not just on the developed countries, but can change worldwide manufacturing output beyond an order of magnitude.
The above is why I think the Drexler-Smalley debate is important for Iranian intellectuals to follow.
What is Molecular Assembly? The first manufacturing processes called manu factus date back to the end of Middle Ages, in Europe of the late 1500's. It was making things from raw materials by hand or by machinery carried on systematically with division of labor. The invention of steam engine in the 18th century made these machinery power-driven, and the manu factus developed to industrial factories, and thus changing the face of Earth in the subsequent 200 years.
Today's nanotechnology is about creating the molecular assembly, which is a miniature version of manu factus, and can basically remake the whole world more efficiently, and the result not only can end the energy dependence on all natural resources, but may finally complete the industrial development that, as best shown by Daniel Bell, was basically an energy era of human civilization, a production with power-driven machinery.
Therefore nanotechnology can successfully complete the remaining part of the past agricultural and industrial productions, not just by solving the energy issue, but also by adding intelligence to the subject of those civilizations, and in short it can help all productive activities that still lag in pre-industrial modes of production, to arrive to the post-industrial intelligent production. The way intelligent programs work in post-industrial high tech industries today, will be applied to all productive activities, once the nanotech is fully developed.
Here is how Kurzweil explains the intelligence used in nanotech using the word *software* in a very wide sense of the word:
"Although many configurations have been proposed, the typical assembler has been described as a tabletop unit that can manufacture any physically possible product for which we have a software description. Products can range from computers, clothes, and works of art to cooked meals. Larger products, such as furniture, cars, or even houses, can be built in a modular fashion, or using larger assemblers. Of particular importance, an assembler can create copies of itself. The incremental cost of creating any physical product, including the assemblers themselves, would be pennies per pound, basically the cost of the raw materials. The real cost, of course, would be the value of the information describing each type of product, that is the software that controls the assembly process. Thus everything of value in the world, including physical objects, would be comprised essentially of information. We are not that far from this situation today, since the "information content" of products is rapidly asymptoting to 100 percent of their value." [Ray Kurzweil-The Drexler-Smalley Debate on Molecular Assembly, Dec 4, 2003]
The above is the crux of what is at stake in the new nanotech paradigm. If Newton described laws of motion, and following that, Laplace argued that having the initial state of the world, and knowing those laws, one could predict the state of the world at any moment, here we are seeing that the accomplishment of science in the last 300 years, to describe the structure of things, is followed by nanotechnology pioneers to work for ultimately rebuilding the whole nature artificially "atom by atom", as in the same paper, Kurzweil quotes from Feynman's 1959 seminal speech.
Why is Artificial Remaking Important?What is the point of making water from two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Of course, when making molecules of water this way, it will be like a manufacturing assembly, and it can be created in trillions and trillions, and it means *maneuvering* things atom by atom as Feyman had noted, and the material can become even more efficient with more desired properties. Moreover in cases where there is scarcity or environmental hazards, such as the case of oil, where there is so much dependence on fossil fuel which is environmentally lethal, nanotech can create a clean alternative with an economy of scale.
Also such a nanotech process can avoid more errors, just as the computers make less errors than humans, when dealing with huge amounts of information, and this is an important problem of current biological processes, where errors like cancer occur in the existing natural processes.
Can all this also introduce dangers and problems that the critics note? Kurzweil gives a good example of computer networks and viruses that are propagated thru them, and notes that we would not be willing today to discard the computers and the Internet because of viruses, and intead of returning to the past, we create protection against viruses.
Of course the main issue of critics like Smalley is not the dangers. Dangers such as problems of self-replicating mechanisms. Because as we all know the nature's own self-replicating systems, such as human cells, have shown the problem of bad copies time and again, which is why we have diseases like cancer. And not just that, even the whole process of aging and diseases like Alzheimer's are about errors in the self-replicating cells. So the control in artificial self-replicating systems can even be helpful to resolve those kinds of issues in the existing natural life processes.
In other words, the above dangers are not the basic issues raised by critics like Smalley. The main thrust of their arguments is like Dreyfus and his arguments of chess, at the time of inception of Artificial Intelligence, namely trying to argue for impossibility of molecular assembly, referring to issues like fat fingers in nanotech, which basically means the robot arm for bounding of atoms cannot act freely when nearing quantum sizes, because of quantum uncertainty effects. But as Kurzweil excellently shows, the nanotech size is much larger than sizes where such quantum uncertainties would even come to play, and even if they were real issues, they are issues to be solved, and not to cause discouragement for possibility of nanotechnology.
Finally I should note that basically scientists, in the last 300 years, have been describing the world by various formulas, and if genetics has been one of the first sciences to use this knowledge to remake a part of the natural reality in a controlled way, nanotechnology can remake everything in the world more intelligently, and it can create the environment for intelligent tools to be in an effective interaction with the physical world, and change nature to a wealth producing reality for the human species, and at the same time help us to go beyond our own biological limitations and deal with issues like cancer. There is so much at stake here that leaving this work, can hurt any nation, and the whole world at large, from the real potentials of our times, and can seriously impede the development of post industrial global society.
In sum, nanotechnology is tied to the impact of intelligent tools on life and the world and together they depict the tremendous potentials in front of humanity and the world. I have discussed the post-anthropocentric production, and also the issues related to wealth and justice in the upcoming civilizations.
B. Modern Futurism
For more information about Modern Futurism see The Future File (1978) by Paul Dickson and an excellent older book by Alvin Toffler called The Futurists (1972).
The discourse of futurism is not an old discourse. In the form of what we call modern futurism today, this discourse has been formulated after World War II by the German-born futurist Ossip K. Flechtheim in the U.S. and the French futurist Bertrand de Jouvenel. Prior to this date, IMO, futurism did not exist as a separate discourse and it was part of the discourse of progress in the Western philosophy.
The discourse of progress has been around at least since Aristotle in the Western Philosophy, and as I have noted it before in other articles, the terms humanity and progress have been formed at the same time around the second century AD. In here, my main focus is on the futurism in particular and not progressive thought in general.
The primitive formation of the Industrial Society gave rise to releasing great potentials to build the human society. Thus prediction of the future structure of society became a very important criteria of progressiveness; and many sociologists started studying the structures of the future society.
The writings of Machiavelli and Sir Thomas More of Renaissance period laid out two main models of the future industrial society, the society that was built during the four centuries after the Renaissance. Two centuries after these two thinkers, the first one who noted the importance of futurism as a scientific discipline was the French philosopher and satirist Voltaire. Perhaps he, more than anyone else, had recognized the value of what we call *analytic* futurism today.
The glacial changes of the last half century and the formation of post-Industrial society (see Daniel Bell's The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society), have caused a social upheaval similar to the start of the Industrial Society. Thus viewing of the future, this time within a society with more potentials, has found a new importance.
But not only the world that is under study by the futurists is a different one from the world of Industrial Society; the futurism itself has also become more precise and its many aspects have become different fields of knowledge and inquiry. At the present, the futurist outlooks relative to the newly forming post-industrial Society are where the outlooks of industrial society were relative to the industrial society in the eighteenth century.
However, I need to point out that the speed of the progress of the post-industrial world is so much faster than the speed of the progress of the industrial world that the process of maturing of the new outlooks may take two decades rather than two centuries which took for the new outlooks of the industrial society to mature.
B0) Modern Futurism-Main Types
Viewing the future can be for answering one of the three following questions:
1. What will very possibly happen in the future? (analytic)
2. What can happen in the future? (visionary)
3. What should happen in the future? (participatory)
The answer to the first question is *analytic* futurism, to the second question is *visionary* futurism, to the third question is *participatory* futurism.
Among the famous futurists, John Naisbitt's book "Megatrends" is a good example of *analytic* futurism. R. Buckminster Fuller's works are good examples of *visionary* futurism. Alvin Toffler's works are good examples of *participatory* futurism.
B1) Modern Futurism-Analytic
The response to the *first question*, "what will very possibly happen in the future", i.e. *analytic* futurism, is studied by the evaluation of different existing social and economic trends and tendencies thru scientific investigations.
For example, using the *Delphi* method, a group of experts within a specific field of knowledge, use collective brainstorming, to come up with different alternative futures for the topic at hand.
This kind of question about the future, i.e. asking "what will very possibly happen in the future", has not been that much of interest to the thinkers of the past, whereas nowadays, it is becoming more and more a positive science, called social forecasting, and most of the university programs of Future Studies follow this type of futurism.
Future Studies or analytic futurism in the last four decades has grown tremendously in relationship to the government and corporate planning needs. For example, research works conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) are good examples of such research undertakings.
The futurists involved in this type of futurism are more and more developing and testing newer models and methods, such as models of systems theory and cybernetics, and are now able to some extent to predict some future qualitative changes too.
For example, the Futures Group of Mr. John Naisbitt uses a methodology called *context analysis* to study the general social and economic trends in the world. This method uses the space allocated to different topics in various newspapers in different periods and different places as its data; and this way discovers underlying or formative trends that are otherwise hidden to sociologists. He has uncovered many glacial changes in the modern world this way. His bestseller *Megatrends* was based on this methodology.
The latest achievement of *analytic* futurism is the study of different possible futures which is called study of *alternative futures*. That is studying the different scenarios of future and the resulting consequences of their happening. Thus reviewing what side-effects each alternative can cause in different realms of life and to study to plan to compensate the ill-effects of progress in one realm of life, on the other realms. Sometimes the possible *side-effects* may become the reason to avoid a certain progress (for example studying the environmental effects can mean avoiding a certain type of manufacturing development).
In some countries such as Sweden, there is a government ministry dedicated to Future Studies which coordinates the future studies of various government and corporate agencies. Centers of Future Studies in all the developed countries have been popping up during the last three decades.
One can hardly find any prudent government or corporation that would disregard the value of this type of futurism in their respective areas of interest. Although this branch of futurism may not seem that important in relation to sketching one's ideals of a future society, but this type of futurism is definitely valuable even for forming one's ideals of the future, if used together with the other two types of futurism. The Future Survey magazine of World Future Society specifically focuses on *analytic* futurism..
B2) Modern Futurism-Visionary
The *second* type of futurism, that is *visionary futurism*, has been formed in answering to the question of "what can happen in the future?"
This type of futurism has fascinated the intellectuals long before Voltaire. Even before Plato's Utopia, various schemes of the future in the philosophic and religious texts have been examples of *visionary* futurism.
This type of futurism is more an art than science and perhaps Plato's Republic, which influenced human mind for many centuries is the best example of this type of futurism (see Karl Popper's Open Society for a good critique of Plato's Republic). Also Machiavelli' s Prince is another example of it. I believe, Even Frederick Engels's book, "Socialism from Utopia to Scientific", should be considered as a work of art than science.
The topics of interest to *visionary* futurism and depicting ideals and visions of the future cannot really be the subject of science and are generally beyond science, although it can use science. For example the analytic futurism a science) can be used to *test* the ideas offered in the *visionary* futurism, but *visionary* futurism itself is more of an art than science.
In the area of *visionary* futurism, there have existed *two* tendencies in history:
1) The *first* tendency within *visionary* futurism is the model of the Jewish religion, which offers the mythical picture of a golden era at the beginning of creation and the goal of humanity is to return to that lost paradise from which it was once driven out.
This model has been used to certain degree in Marxism too. In Marxian model, the original classless society is negated by class society and then after negation of the class society in the future, a classless society of a higher kind, i.e. communism, which is an evolved version of the original primitive communism. Thus instead of the circular movement model of Jewish religion, a Hegelian Spiral is offered.
The important characteristic of this model is that this model believes in a previous plan and design in the world, thus the plan of the future has been devised in the past. Therefore either through the prophecy of the prophets, other people are informed of *parts* of this pre-existing Plan and Design, or according to some other beliefs laymen may never qualify to know any parts of the pre-existing Plan and Design at all.
Accepting this kind of teleological causation (philosophically called *final cause* ellat-e ghAii), which accepts the priority of effect to cause, not only gives rises to many problems about the freedom of action in many such religious and philosophic schools, but the other problem this viewpoint carries is that according to this view depiction of the future is not by evaluating the achievements of the past or in evaluating the world using knowledge and rationalism, but it is to be done thru believing in the principles announced by the prophets or the benevolent leaders of a doctrine.
In other words, in this view, the future outlook is not understood as a wish or as an ideal so that others can agree or disagree with it, instead, the future outlook is presented as a pre-ordained fate, announced for all time and all place. Thus the defenders of this model, such as some apocalyptic cults, at times are very fanatic.
I should note that not all religious interpretation are fatalistic. And not all atheistic views are free of it. Many atheistic views suffer from this kind of fatalism, and at times have been worse than their religious counterparts.
2) The *second* tendency of *visionary* futurism is found in literary works as early as the books of Aristotle and after him in the works of Lucretius, the Roman thinker of 99-55 BC.
According to this view of visionary futurism, future is the evolution of the objective realities and does not have a pre-determined goal and design outside of these objective realities. Thus only by postulating indeterminacy, at least in the narrow sense of the word, talking about future has been meaningful for this second tendency of visionary futurism.
Aristotle, in the Book V of his Metaphysica, emphasizes *final causes* and thus is more teleological in that work and also in most of his biological works, and the concept of entelechy in those works, distances him from the position of efficient causation. But, IMO, essentially Aristotle's writings and general outlook espouses a non-teleological evolutionary concept of the future.
I need to point out that following the *second* tendency of visionary futurism, when responding to the question of "what can happen in the future?", does *not* mean that one is acting within the boundaries of scientific evaluation of trends and existing conditions. That would have been just *analytic* futurism.
Here, using the second tendency of visionary futurism, one actually uses rationalism and wisdom and learns in a general sense from the achievements of the past. Thus the various possibilities of future are conjectured which may not necessarily be results of any existing or immediate trends. Nonetheless, in contrast to the first tendency of *visionary* futurism, this second tendency of *visionary* futurism does not talk about anything which does not have an objective basis in the world.
Therefore, it is still different from *analytic* futurism, because the latter in addition to objectiveness, essentially focuses on the existing trends and their *existing* priorities, whereas this second type of *visionary* futurism may offer an option of the future as its ideal, and that option may in reality not be a powerful trend in the foreseeable future at all.
IMO the second tendency of *visionary* futurism, although seemingly more scientific, but at the same time this very fact is also its weakness. The element of imagination in arts and religion has a powerful creative quality, and that element has many times in history been a reason to start very new trends and institutions in the society, which have in many cases formed superior social forms than the continuation of existing trends and institutions.
Of course, unlike the anarchists, one should not consider all the evolution of existing institutions and trends as "traditional" and thus as "bad" and to admire any *new* institution as "good", because of being new (please see my article entitled "Anarchism"). In fact, if there is anything to be "admired" blindly, maybe the thousand-year old traditions deserve more to be admired, as they have been tested for thousands of years for their side-effects.
For example, everyone knew the dangers of the institution of the Church, but nobody knew the dangers of a new institution like the Nazi party when it was climbing up to power in Germany, and the unfortunate experience of genocide and World War II was needed for people to recognize the menace of this new non-Christian evil in Europe.
Returning to the issue of the two tendencies of *visionary* futurism, I need to point out that if the element of imagination is understood correctly and used cautiously, the second tendency of *visionary* futurism can be augmented to bear better fruits. Thus, IMO, the existence of a Utopia in visionary futurism does not mean a school of thought is completely partial to the first tendency of visionary futurism.
The utopian ideal does not mean an eternal destiny, it may be just the social ideal of the existing society and it is therefore not what is thought of as Utopia in the first tendency of visionary futurism, with its pre-ordained Design. Maybe the visionary futurism in some writings of the past such as Frederick Engels's book on utopia was also a combination of both of the above tendencies. A good example of such a utopian model in our times, which is a combination of the two tendencies, is a book called *computobia* by a Japanese futurist author, Yoneji Masuda.
B3) Modern Futurism--Participatory
The *third* kind of futurism, i.e. *participatory* futurism is defined as a response to the question of "what should happen in the future?"
This group of futurists, in their plans and actions, specifically have a certain future in mind, in an area of life, such as education. They focus in their actions to achieve the results intended in their plan, and thus are consciously participating in the formation of that future. If for other people, their ideals and expectations of the future play an unconscious role in their participation in making the future, for the ones who believe in participatory futurism, this participation in creating the future is done consciously.
Thus for this group of the futurists, the topic of origination and formation of *alternative futures* finds a *practical* importance and is not just limited to analytic or visionary futurism. Although participatory futurism does necessarily include other types of futurism, but these futurists make their decisions depending on their ideals of the future as to what *should* happen, and practically support those social programs which reach their ideals faster and better.
A good example of the activity of participatory futurism was the work on Proposition 13 in California. Please see Alvin Toffler's book Third Wave for details (also available in Persian called moj-e sevom, published by Nashr-e-no, Tehran) .
From a distant past, the third type of futurism, i.e. *participatory* futurism was of interest among the philosophers of politics, more than any other thinkers. The issues of ethics and law find significance in this realm of futurism, because the values and social priorities in every step, find practical importance in this type of futurism.
Thus philosophers of politics from Plato to John Locke paid a high attention to ethical and legal issues. In fact, the differentiation of the question of "what can be done?" from "what should be done?", without which this separate area of futurism would be meaningless, is emphasized in Kant's philosophy of ethics.
Even Leninist social-activists, despite opposing Kant, were not able to explain the theoretical basis of their endeavors, without accepting the differentiation of the above two questions as legitimate in their ideology. Of course, they still claimed that in the so-called "final analysis", there is no such differentiation!
One of the best examples of a plan for a participatory futurism in the modern times was the Manifesto of Condocret and its evolved version, the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, and finally the minimum and maximum programs of the communist parties.
Nowadays the futurists, instead of using the terms minimum and maximum programs, use short, medium and long-term plans and they also separate their programs geographically into local, countrywide, regional, and worldwide plans.
In the area of participatory futurism, futurism is not just defined by the existing general trends or the future ideals of its participants. In this realm, it reciprocally interacts with the cultural, ethical, social, legal, and political values of its local and universal environment. In a word, in this type of futurism, *future* finds value as it turns into the *present*.
B4) Modern Futurism-Conclusion
With the above short description, it is evident how futurism is inseparable from the idea of progress. Needless to say that the formation of a post-industrial civilization has increased the need for paying attention to all three types of futurism.
The growth of the first type, i.e. *analytic* futurism, has been the main focus of the futurists in the last four decades and it is still their main interest.
The second type of futurism in our times, i.e. *visionary* futurism, has been essentially done by science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, or Gene Rodenbury. Also some authors such as Gerard O'Neil in his book 2081, emphasizing the development of space colonies, have offered valuable insights for the future options of human race.
It is interesting to note that in the works of the science fiction authors of our time, the conditions and type of production are fantasized as changing rather than the social relations. Even the *Next Generation* series of Star Trek, in its view of social relations, is not really that far from what we observe in our world today, but fantasized technological changes are abundant in the series.
In contrast, in the works of the Utopian authors of the past, such as Fourier, the production was mostly assumed as constant, and post-factory production was not even dreamed of, and the alternative social relations was central to the past Utopias.
At any rate, the second type of futurism, i.e. *visionary* futurism, has been of interest in the works of R. Buckminster Fuller and Gerard O'Neil. I should add that the depicted new horizons are hardly anything beyond Plato or John Locke in their respective outlooks of future society.
Finally the third type of futurism, i.e. *participatory* futurism, fortunately, in contrast to the era of Industrial Revolution, is not essentially within the confines of the realm of politics, and different realms of life such as education, health, and mass media have found the utmost attention among the participatory futurists of our times.
A look at most of the programs on Public Broadcasting (PBS) channels in the US is a good illustration of this fact. At the end, no need to repeat that futurism and rational thinking, although carrying new meanings today, in contrast to the seventeenth century, but they are still both inseparable from the ideas of progress and development.
C. The Futurist Party Platform
I wrote this proposed platform in July 2001, and my introduction to the Persian translation, explains more about why forming a party with a platform like this, is so critical for Iran's development. This Futurist Platform is the proposed party program for Hezb-e Ayandeh-Negar-e Iran. The aim is to achieve the following democratic and futuristic policies and principles in different political, social, and economic areas of Iran and Iranian life. The Iranian Futurist Party will strictly maintain an independent political and electoral identity, although this policy will not prevent it from forming coalitions and alliances with other parties and organizations.
FEDERAL STATE: Introduce democratic decentralization and restructuring of political institutions in a federal Republic of Iran.
LOCAL ELECTIONS: Build up district elections for local Municipalities, Cities, and Provinces to further federalism in Iran.
BALLOT INITIATIVES: Institute "Ballot Initiatives", with direct voting of all Iranians for Propositions, at State and Federal level, to go beyond representational democracy and to actualize participatory democracy.
SECULAR STATE: Promote abolition of the Islamic Apartheid and Theocracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and support a non-compromising full separation of state and religion and formation of a secular Republic of Iran. Abolition of all Islamic laws of persecution of heretics, and the Qessas laws such as laws prescribing stoning, amputations, etc.
FREEDOM OF POLITICAL PARTIES: Ensure the freedom of association by allowing all political parties to participate in all elections and voting of the country. Allow primaries of these parties before the national election so that they become the vehicle of screening of the candidates rather than any organ like the current Council of Guardians of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
PARLIAMENT: Support a parliament, as an independent legislative branch of government, ensuring representational democracy.
CHECKS & BALANCES: Support division of power between judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government with complete checks and balances.
DISCLOSURE OF COMMERICAL ACTIVITIES OF STATE OFFICIALS: Prevent corruption in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government.
FEDERAL RESERVE: Institute an independent Federal Reserve Board to oversea the Exchange Rate, inflation, interest rates, and the overall economic health of the federal Republic of Iran.
FOREIGN POLICY: Promote professionalism rather than honor system in Foreign Policy. Promote Iran's independence, while recognizing the need for full participation in global economy and global institutions such as the UN.
HUMAN RIGHTS: Actively support human rights organizations campaigning for Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
RIGHT OF DISSENT: Build membership accountability to the Futurist Party program, nonetheless, fully support the right to public dissent by any member.
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: Promote and fully support the individual rights of every person and their pursuit of happiness.
DEATH PENALTY: Abolish torture and death penalty for all.
ECOLOGY: Support ecological and environmentally sound policies that at times may even undermine immediate financial gains.
DRAFT: Abolish compulsory draft and conscription (sarbAzi-e ejbAri) and any needed army to be run as a paid enterprise of cadres.
NEW ETHICAL ISSUES: Promote noninterference of state in new ethical issues of Euthanasia, Sex Change, Sperm Bank, Surrogate Mothers, Abortions, Methods of Birth Control, and Human Transplant, and when conflicts come up, the courts to seek the pro and con opinions of the experts in the field.
WOMEN: Promote participation of women in every aspect of Iranian life, and at all levels of contribution by removing all the religious, legal and traditional obstacles preventing their full participation in the political, social, and economic affairs of Iran. Women are playing a very significant role in post-industrial economies and they can spearhead the development of Iran to a post-industrial information society.
NATIONAL, ETHNIC, & RELIGIOUS MINORITIES: Expand the state and local organs to encompass all the needs of national, ethnic, and religious minorities in the federal republic of Iran.
MASS MEDIA: Support full independence of mass media from the government interference and full guarantee of freedom of the press. Promote self-sufficiency and privatized radio, TV, newspapers, Internet_based news, and other forms of mass media.
SOCIAL JUSTICE & WELFARE: Oppose the popular money and profit-centered view of people and the world; and to support the manifestation of a movement towards enlightened self-interest; for individuals, businesses, and governments. Support welfare programs that promote new technical investments, or compensate for unemployment, or provide public health and education.
EDUCATION & CULTURE:
RESPECT FOR LIFE: Promote reverence for life in all its forms and its interconnectedness.
SECULAR EDUCATION: Ensure that Public schools do not promote any religion or ideology.
NONVIOLENCE: Advocate personal and political nonviolence, peace and democracy in the classroom, as well as the workplace, and political arena; and recognition of the emotional and spiritual dimensions of life, as well as the intellectual and physical ones.
PEACE: Oppose any form of tyranny, war, injustice, and aggression; and assist the overcoming of the human unconscious flight or fight programming, as the only guarantee for a lasting peace.
DIVERSITY: Promote the diversity and contributions of each race, nationality, culture, religion, sex, and sexual orientation; the honoring of individual regardless of age and ability differences.
STATE POLICY: Prevent any state interference and censorship of Music, arts, festivities, and other cultural activities.
ART EDUCATION: Promote close association of educators and artists to decide how to introduce students to various art-forms, free of the interference of any state and religious institution.
CULTURAL HERITAGE: Promote nongovernmental research, about art and culture, through nonprofit organizations of writers, artists, and musicians to help the youth to come to terms with our roots.
SPORTS: Promote private sports enterprises and discourage government interference in sports.
MEDITATION: Although supporting the separation of religious practices from the activities of government and promoting non-compromising full separation of state and religion in a secular Republic of Iran, support practices such as meditation, that enhance the sense of interconnectedness.
AUTONOMOUS SYNCHRONICITY: Urge the democratization of all human institutions to achieve the pursuit of individual happiness and to outreach for autonomous synchronicity, as the ideal of interpersonal relationships of the individuals, and the institutions.
RETROGRESSION: Oppose all the so-called "new age" propaganda that promote retrogression to Dark Ages, rather than moving forward to a post-industrial information society, as an alternative to the problems of the industrial society. Encourage new understanding of the universe and to favor the boldness to challenge popular philosophical and religious beliefs about the origins and the fate of humanity and the universe.
TECHNOLOGY: Make use of the latest computer and communications technologies to raise the efficiency of schools, while not losing sight of the importance of the human factor and teachers.
LANGUAGE OF EDUCATION: Fully support bilingual and trilingual education in areas of the federal republic, where various national and ethnic groups speak multiple languages.
STATE & HEALTH: Promote minimal interference in development of various forms of health institutions, while supporting the welfare programs to guarantee minimal health insurance for all.
IMPLANTS: Promote development of artificial implants to fundamentally eradicate the savage practices of obtaining human implants from prisoners and needy.
DRUGS: Join and work together with international associations that are addressing this worldwide problem, rather than trying to solve it in isolation. Also work together with the educational system to create joint programs at schools, to address the issue rather than trying to solve the problem by force and executions.
FAMILY PLANNING: Work close with the educational system to address these issues in the schools and universities.
MEDICAL RESEARCH: Promote active participation in international efforts in research in areas of AIDS, Cancer, Alzheimer, MS, and other deadly diseases.
AGRICULTURE: Promote applications of biotechnology, genetics and other new technologies to completely modernize the agricultural system of Iran.
POST-INDUSTRIAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Support development of the post-industrial enterprises and fade away the smoke stack industries of the past. Promote the technologies of computers, communications, genetics, and satellite communications to make the infrastructure necessary for post-industrial development of Iran.
NATIONAL VENTURE CAPITAL FUND: A capital fund focused on development of post-industrial infrastructure in Iran.
COMMUNICATIONS: Support construction of Fiber Optic cables connecting the major metropolitan cities of Iran and connecting the Northern coast of Caspian Sea to the Southern Coast of Persian Gulf.
TECHNOLOGIES: Focus on computer, networking, and communications technologies, followed by biotech, solar energy, artificial intelligence, and space technologies.
ENTREPRENEURS: Support growth of entrepreneurs in the areas of new technologies. The entrepreneurs are the backbone of the growth of new post-industrial economies.
TRADITIONAL INDUSTRIES: Support advancement of traditional industries such as carpet weaving to the 21st century standards. These industries need to be modernized, using the latest software for design, and more effective equipment for weaving. Such industries are being wiped out in global competition because of backward technology and old-fashioned marketing.
SKILLED WORKFORCE: Promote close cooperation of state, universities, and research centers to develop a highly advanced workforce. Post-industrial society requires very advanced workforce with high technical expertise.
BAZAAR: Oppose favoring Iranian traditional bazaar by government, over other forms of property relations in Iran.
STOCK MARKET: Promote enhancement of Iranian Bourse to get on par with international stock market exchanges. At the same time, to form a security and exchange body, to monitor the proper practices of the exchange to prevent fraud.
PROPERTY RELATIONS: Government not to interfere in supporting one form of property relations over others, and discourage state ownership as much as possible. Property relations can range from private ownership of a telecommunications equipment-maker business, to employee ownership of an airline, to private or nonprofit ownership of a radio or a TV station, to state and city ownership of a park or a recreation area.
ANTI-TRUST LAW: To protect consumers and to ensure fair competition of business enterprises.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE: To nurture social justice in every corner of the world, support a comprehensive welfare sector in the world economy, to encourage the unfolding of the most far-reaching creative activities that are ahead of economic feasibility.
MINIMUM WAGE FOR ALL: Establish min wage for all and Max wage for state and public officials (exception to be private entities).
UNEMPLOYEMENT: Promote fundamental training and retraining programs for new economy, rather than frivolous plans of creating not-needed jobs just for the sake of creating pseudo-employment.
POVERTY: Support plans that create more economic activity for the poor. Even the charities that promote new job skills, alongside food and shelter, are the ones that better help the poor by enabling the poor to become independent.
STATE PLANNING: State planning especially in the areas of energy and telecommunications is still very important for any nation state. The planning body should work closely with the private sector for the goal of providing fundamental research and infrastructure for such mission critical enterprises, rather than making the government the sole owner of such industries.
MANAGEMENT OF STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES: State-owned enterprises, such as oil and copper industry, should work towards enabling the private sector to grow in these industries, rather than keeping their monopoly status in these industries forever.
NON-COMPETING LAW: The state should not be allowed to compete with non-government organizations in any commercial and cultural areas.
NATIONAL UNIT TRUST: A structure to replace the State Ownership and create opportunity for direct participation of people in social ownership.
ANTI-PROTECTIONIST POLICIES: Oppose import and export policies that are based on any protection of local industries, rather than protecting the consumers. If the local industries cannot develop the price, features, and quality that Iranian consumers desire, they should not be helped by import/export policies. They should be helped by technical and scientific programs to get them become on par with the leading-edge industries worldwide.
EXPORT PROMOTION FUND: A fund focused on Iranian exports and active participation in global economy.
INDUSTRY_SPONSORED RESEARCH: Promote more industry_sponsored research than government_sponsored research. The former is extremely weak in Iran and most research is in the form of the latter.
SCIENCE: Promote efforts of close relationship with international scientific activities ,and not in isolation, to ensure staying in the leading-edge of scientific discoveries. Strength of Iran and Iranians in basic sciences will guarantee the prominent role of Iran and Iranians in the post-industrial society.
REGIONAL COOPERATIONS: Support forming co-operations with those states such as Singapore, that can help Iran the quickest way to develop towards the post-industrial information society. In the global economy, geographic proximity is not the most important factor in forming international cooperation.
OPEC: Promote an OPEC policy to expedite the post-industrial infrastructure development of Iran and to help Iran develop alternative sources of energy. Although Iran's OPEC policy is of utmost importance to Iran's current income, and to the oil companies and others that benefit from the oil, we should try to use our OPEC policy to promote cooperation with other countries in the world,
ENERGY ALTERNATIVES: Support efforts to make Iran the leader in alternative sources of energy of the future, rather than a leader in the old oil industry. Solar, fusion, and other alternative sources of energy may not be economical today, but a break-thorough in these fields may change the whole balance of power in the field of energy. Also promote building of power plants in a central remote area in Iran and deliver electricity over a nationwide high-voltage wiring. The new high-voltage wiring has minimal loss over long distances, and thus a centralized energy development area, is a better strategy for many parts of the world today.
TAXATION: Transition those state-owned industries, such as oil industry, that can become privatized, to private corporations, and create a tax system to charge those corporations, by promoting a progressive tax system, that can support the state in its activities, and make the state less dependent on state-owned industries, and more dependent on the tax-payers.
LABOR UNIONS: Support independent labor unions and oppose compulsory governmental labor unions.
D. Futurist Party and Political Coalitions
If all parties work hard to find allies to achieve their ideals, futurist parties even before being formed, have so many political allies, who support the vision of futurists, in different realms of emerging post-industrial societies. This fortunate reality has caused almost total disregard of futurists to become an independent political party, in the most advanced country of the world, the United States, where the futurists have one of the longest histories of presence.
Futurists in the U.S. have either supported Republicans such as Newt Gingrich to represent our ideals in the U.S. Congress, or had our hopes in Democrats like Al Gore, to represent our perspective in the Whitehouse. And we have put so much efforts in various NGOs, public television or other social and cultural associations, without any independent futurist identity. At best, we have kept our membership of WFS (World Future Society), which is the biggest futurist association in the world. In other words, no Futurist Party has been formed in the U.S., and therefore there are no representatives of such a party, to work for a futurist platform in the U.S. Congress, or in other elected offices of the United States, when the postindustrial developments in centers like Silicon Valley of California are debilitating.
This is not only true about the U.S. I have detailed the same issue with regards to Iran in my paper entitled "Why Futurist Party for Iran". The Iranian Futurists have done just like the futurists in the U.S., working inside alliances within the Iran National Front (Jebhe Melli), within the newly forming unions for a secular republic in Iran, and also in many NGOs, but hardly having any independent political presence as futurists. Unfortunately these coalitions, although useful endeavors, cannot fully address the needs of post-industrial development, whether in the U.S., in Iran, or in any other part of the world.
What is United Front vs a Political Party? A united front, whether that of traditional Jebhe Melli or the newly formed unions for a secular republic in Iran, may achieve a secular republic by ending the Islamic Republic, and may even prevent the return of monarchy and stop formation of another despotic and religious republic. Nonetheless would such united fronts, by themselves, be able to ensure the building of a post-industrial 21st Century society in Iran, without the active presence of a Futurist Party in these coalitions, whether during the change of IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) or afterwards? Certainly not! In Iran, for decades, the political leadership of the country has been pushing it backwards to the Medieval world, and a new political leadership, focused on a post-industrial plan, will have to fundamentally change course, to form the Futurist Iran.
A detailed plan, such as the Iranian Futurist Party Platform that I proposed in 2001, is needed to drive a program for 21c postindustrial development. It is interesting that since I wrote the proposed platform, a number of people have commented on this document, when discussing postindustrial visions for political parties of our times, without even knowing me. They have not even been aware that my vision for such a party, does *not* mean building the postindustrial society in Iran, with the current Islamic theocracy, and in my view, the first step is to remove this regime and to replace it with a secular republic. Nonetheless their discussions of the platform are very interesting appraisals of the central theme of the document, which is about the possibility of a third world country like Iran, to take off for a postindustrial alternative.
The differentiation of united front alliances and futurist party is true for the United States too, although the forces are different, and the issues of alliances are not necessarily the same as those for a country like Iran. Nonetheless, in the U.S. too, political coalitions by themselves cannot properly address the needs of postindustrial development.
Early developments of the technology centers, such as the Silicon Valley of California, occurred without the futurists being an independent political force, thanks to the absence of any substantial resistance from pre-industrial enterprises. But the mounting of crisis of industrial society translated to the attempts of political representatives of old industries, to use government subsidies, to keep their moribund industries alive, rather than to reinforce new-sprung postindustrial centers. And thus as time has passed, it is becoming more and more apparent, that any alliances with Republicans or Democrats, without the active presence of a futurist political party, cannot effectively drive the high tech postindustrial production, because the old parties favor saving the old agricultural and industrial enterprises.
Of course, after forming futurist parties, the futurists will still continue to have alliances with parts of the Republican and Democratic Parties (or the Green Party and others), but their independent presence will make the impact of futurists different from the days of chasing Newt Gingrich or Al Gore, inside the Republican or Democratic Parties, as the only way to drive the postindustrial development in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
What was the History of Modern Futurism and Politics? Modern Futurists in the last 50 years were proven right in their analysis of the world, because as early as Ossip K. Flechtheim in Germany, and Bertrand De Jouvenel in France, in the years after WWII, founders of futurism predicted formation of a new civilization beyond capitalism and socialism, a civilization which years later, Daniel Bell, called the post-industrial society. In reality the post-industrial information society was a right prediction. From a political analysis of the modern world, both Flechtheim and De Jouvenel reached the conclusion that one needs to go beyond capitalism and socialism, to take humanity to the next step beyond the industrial society, as they saw both liberalism and socialism no longer to be viable solutions for our future.
Although they did not know the basic economic characteristics of this new society that was being formed, their approach was not like Tito and some other third world leaders in late 40's and early 50's, who tried to have a middle road between socialism and capitalism, as a political alternative in the post-WWII era. Modern futurists knew that one had to go fundamentally beyond the whole industrial society, in both its socialist and capitalist forms, to address the dilemmas of our times.
In other words, moderating or mixing up solutions that had worked for the industrial society, was not going to be the answer for the upcoming civilization, and they looked at a fundamental break with the past, in all areas of life, and not just politics. Nonetheless early futurists never neglected politics, and were very political, especially after their own recent experience of dealing with Nazi fascism in Europe, they had learned about the resistance and return of old political forces. Nazism was some kind of returning to the past, as an alternative to the crisis of industrialism in late 20's and early 30's.
Next major futurist who finally defined the fundamental characteristics of the post-industrial society was Daniel Bell. Daniel Bell's book "The Coming of Post-Industrial Society" is a classic of futurist thought, and I do not think any other book has impacted the modern social thinking as Daniel Bell's legendary book of 1973. He defined knowledge-based post-industrial economy in contrast to the labor-based economy of industrial production, and later in the foreword to the same book in 1999, he fully elaborated his definition of codified knowledge.
Daniel Bell's paper on The Break Down of Time, Space, and Society clarifies how the service industry of a post-industrial society is different from a service sector in a backward economy, the main differentiation being the codified knowledge. What Daniel Bell called codified knowledge, can be easily seen today, defining the basic barrier to entry for complex ASIC designs in modern semiconductor production, where the codified knowledge is inherent in the design, and such designs distinguish a real post-industrial economy from service-oriented old economies and I have discussed their valuations elsewhere.
Among the three main kinds of Modern Futurism, i.e. analytic, visionary, and participatory; futurist organizations of the last few decades, mainly focused on analytic futurism, with excellent contributions in forecasting and trends analysis, and related methods, such as Delphi or context analysis, to define what *may* happen, and the achievements of analytic futurism in the last 50 years are enormous and it is taught in most universities today .
As far as visionaries, we are also in a better position in comparison to the past, and today there are great visionaries like Ray Kurzweil, whose contributions equals to a Buckminster Fuller plus an Einstein, tackling the questions of what *can* happen, i.e. visionary futurism, when examining our far-reaching horizons. And even with regards to issues like social justice, futurists have a lot to offer in contrast to both the left and right of old industrial society. Thus even in the area of visionary futurism, we are way ahead of visions of the past.
In the area of participatory futurism, when a futurist asks what *should* happen, the actions of futurists in NGOs, businesses, educational institutions, or mass media, have made important impacts in the world.
Yet in the political arena, participatory futurism has relied on the allies of futurists to represent our platform, and in that arena, we have failed.
True that analytic futurists like John Naisbitt and Tofflers have addressed political trends ,but as far as being involved in participatory futurism, their involvement with business leadership took precedence over creating a new political alternative. None cared to strive for forming a new futurist party in the U.S. or elsewhere.
What is the Platform of Coalitions & Issues of Post-Industrial Development? Many programs proposed by the old parties to solve the issues of post-industrial technologies are old solutions of old industries. For example, Howard Dean, the U.S. Democratic Party candidate today, is trying to solve the unemployment problem of Silicon Valley, by stopping the jobs from going to India and Taiwan, through bringing down the cost of production to the same level as those countries, to encourage high tech companies to hires in the U.S. If this plan even works, by using tax incentives or not, it basically means bringing down the compensation levels and environmental standards of the Silicon Valley to those of India and Taiwan and not vice versa.
This is so much like the way the Democrats tried unsuccessfully for decades, to stop the loss of auto industry jobs in the U.S., from going abroad. These are the type of ways the old smoke stack industries and their representatives, tried to compete with similar industries abroad, when they were not competitive anymore, and their use of tax incentives, trade protectionism, or government subsidies, only prolonged the demise of unviable industries, rather than creating blossoming new production.
In my opinion, Dean has no effective plans for development of nanotechnology or the last mile fiber to the home. In September 2003, I wrote about Dean's platform and the need for a last mile fiber optics project to the home, and someone from his campaign sent me a note, asking me to take back my word, because he claimed Howard Dean had a plan. I read all the references the man had sent me, and saw that the gentleman did not understand what *last mile* means.
Let me note that I think Lieberman and his team have a lot more respect for democracy and human rights than the team around Howard Dean, because when they are challenged for their *platform* and not personally, they try to bully critics like me, instead of trying to learn about the topic, a topic which is very critical to the future of telecom infrastructure, and consequently to the future of post-industrial development, in the U.S. and rest of the world. I responded to him that this is a democracy and he can publish his ideas and I can publish mine. I still do not think he understood what *last mile* means. Here is a good article about last mile fiber optics for anyone interested.
Let me return to my topic of why an independent futurist political force is needed. It is not just because of a single issue like fiber optics to the home. I am sure there are many people who are allies of futurists on this or on any other issue. The problem is that futurists without a futurist party, cannot be an effective force to be reckoned with, to drive the global postindustrial development, and after Newt Gingrich and Al Gore, we will end up supporting Howard Dean, with no major result for the post-industrial development. The problem is not about cooperating with allies, but the issue is the disadvantage of not having an independent futurist political party.
Today, the Silicon Valley is dead and to change the situation cannot be achieved only by the analysts. Political leaders with a clear postindustrial platform are needed to participate in the political process, and not just new faces with the same failed party platforms of the old parties.
I think our biggest shortcoming is that after 50 years, the futurists still do not have a political party in the U.S., in Iran, or in any other country. Then why are we surprised when the old industries like auto, airlines, and oil are promoted by the government, and even subsidized, while the Information Society is taking the back seat, and the postindustrial technologies are bleeding and suffering in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Finally, the early founders of Futurism were very political, but as time passed, futurists focused more on economic, cultural and social issues and lost sight of political arena. It was understandable why futurists made that decision. As long as futurism had not matured, getting focused on politics could have distracted the futurists from developing our own thoughts in different realms of life, and could have turned futurists into an extension of plans and platforms of other forces, that were already well-established in all disciplines. But the situation is different now, and after 50 years, the futurists have developed in all areas of inquiry.
Futurists and high tech technologists of the last five decades, were more like the early enthusiasts of industrial society in 18th Century Europe, who thought the superiority of the new industrial paradigm, would automatically translate to replacing the old agricultural society, which would usher in the new industrial world of their time. It was true that from an unbiased view they had a superior plan to the old feudal system, but that is different from actual winning in the economic, social and political arenas.
There were a few major setbacks particularly in the heart of industrial society in England, to realize that agricultural society was not going to lose its grip on the leadership of the country, and throw in the towel, and would try hard to use the resources of the state, to prolong its life, through subsidies. And the proponents of the new society had to fight a major political battles with the old, to be able to drive industrialization, and to make the industrial paradigm victorious, and the success was not given to them on a silver platter and required a real political struggle. The same is true for the new postindustrial paradigm today.
Any civilization that has succeeded to replace an older one, has done it by the advocates of the new civilization, taking on a political role to challenge the older civilization. One can try to avoid all the pitfalls of the past political forces, for example the error of statism of the socialists, but one cannot think of the need for political leadership to be frivolous, and leave it to representatives of old agricultural and industrial civilizations, and still expect things to work out for the post-industrial information economy. Futurist platform is our way of solving the current crisis in the U.S., Iran, and other parts of the world , and other political forces will not implement our platform.
A new political force in the U.S. could not be started by all the wealth of Ross Peron, but it can be started with the vision of the futurists. In the last 20 years, I have written about the retrogressive development of Iran, following the reactionary 1979 Iranian Revolution. What that event has illustrated, is that the progress of postindustrial society is not automatic, and a reversal even to a Medieval society is possible in this day and age. Therefore the need for a political force that clearly sides with the post-industrial new civilization, anywhere in the world, is a must, to avoid such reversals, and to build a new post-industrial civilization. Existence of such parties not only will not undermine the coalitions of the futurists with the other political forces, it will even strengthen such alliances.
References Chapter 15
16. Biographical Note
I am the publisher and editor of the Washington_based Iranscope futurist portal and news site and a futurist author. I am originally from Iran (b.1951) and finished Alborz High School of Tehran in May 1969. I went to university in the U.S. in Fall of 1969 and returned to Iran after graduation. During my student years, I was a member of Confederation of Iranian Students in the U.S. After going back to Iran in 1974, I was interrogated and harassed by Shah's secret police, Savak. I was sympathetic to the left and I was also critical of the leftist programs, even in the years before 1979. As a free thinker and theoretician, I always had a focus on science and future, and I was opposed to the Soviet Union and Hezbe Toodeh, from the start of my political activity in 1970.
After the 1979 revolution, as a co-founder and member of the editorial board of Nedaye Azadi, co-published this daily afternoon paper in Tehran, till the paper and all other free papers of the time, were shut down by the Islamic Republic in 1981. Nedaye Azadi was a democratic paper similar to Peyghame Emrooz, Ayandegan and other similar papers of those three years of semi-democracy in Iran of 1979-1982. The back issues of Nedaye Azadi may still be available in the archives of Library of Congress.
The 1979 Revolution of Iran and programs of different forces during that revolution, showed me that the old ways of development do not work anymore. Thus even in an undeveloped country like Iran, one needs to look for new solutions to the old and new problems. And, I started to look beyond the old economic and social plans of both the left and the right. This is when I started calling myself a futurist in my articles, in 1981 and beyond, without even knowing there was such an outlook called “futurism”.
Later in 1983, I returned to the U.S., and through the same search, I found Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, Peter Drucker, Raymond Kurzweil, Buckminster Fuller, and the World Future Society (WFS). Daniel Bell has had a lasting impact on my thought. I can say I agree with 99% of his writings.
In Fall of 1985, I published an article called "Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New Civilization" in AI Magazine, the scientific journal of American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), where I expressed my own understanding of future and futurism. I received a letter from Daniel Bell, which helped me better understand the issues related to new technologies, inference and intelligence. I always have learned a lot from Daniel Bell.
In 1986, I wrote a paper entitled "Progressiveness in the Present Epoch", first as a small booklet, and later as a series of articles, I published from 1986-87 in Iran Times weekly journal of Washington DC, where I expressed my understanding of what being progressive means in our times, and this paper included my article "Modern Futurism," which was very well received in later years. Also in my paper on progressiveness, I first proposed my main thesis about the Iranian Revolution and wrote about the relationship of state economy and dictatorship in socialism which I have been discussing since 1981, and years later on January 2002, I touched on these topics in my interview with the site of Ayandehnegar, and finally in my book "Futurist Iran," I discussed in details on my thesis about the Iranian Revolution. I also wrote about a viable economic theory for knowledge economy and discussed Social Justice and Computer Revolution in 1987 and later on expanded on it and especially in my paper entitled "Alternative Income" expounded on my view in the discourse of social justice. I also wrote a book about the history of Kurdistan and Federalism and from 1982 to 1984 published papers on Pluralism and a detailed critique of Marxism and Monism.
From 1985 to 1989, I opened the first futuristic book store, called Nova Bookstore, in Sunnyvale of California in the United States. Of course the World Future Society book store existed before Nova but that was a mail order catalog. When I opened Nova Bookstore, Jeff Cornish, son of Edward Cornish the founder of World Future Society who handled distribution of The Futurist and other WFS publications at the time, told me that this project can be financially very difficult and I said that I understand but am very much interested in doing it and I continued it for four years. My goal was to clear my own ideas and to find people of the same interest. Once that was achieved, I closed the store, because as a business, it barely made a living for me. Professionally I work in the field of computer internetworking, bridges, routers, etc and in my resume I have written that before Nova Bookstore, from 1982 to 1985, I was busy co-founding Dehkhoda Library and Iranian Cultural Foundation in Berkeley of California and as noted, before that co-published Nedaye Azadi in Tehran.
The founding and managing Nova Bookstore in those four years of mid 80's helped me to deepen my understanding of futurism, and impacted my environment, and I was able to get to know different futurists of the world. Futurists from different parts of the world when coming to the San Francisco area would stop by my bookstore. Even the late Willis Harman was one of the panelists at the Nova Lecture Series that I had in those years at Nova bookstore and also from the first day that WFS had placed an announcement about the opening of Nova Bookstore, one of the founders of IFTF came to Nova Bookstore and would visit often in subsequent years.
In 1990, after closing Nova, I wrote my paper A Futurist Vision which was also signed by Jack Li who was a co-founder of Beyond War organization based in Palo Alto and cooperated with me at Nova Bookstore, Newsletter and Lectures. And in those years, I also worked on a few new works in the area of rationalism which included papers on Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Russell that I expanded on in later years in my discussion of secularism.
Three years after closing Nova Bookstore, in 1992, I started cooperating with Mr. Hossein Mola who lived in Sweden to start the Ayandehnegar (meaning futurist in Persian) magazine. Before this time, Mr. Mola and his associates had created a radio program in Sweden by the name of Radio Azadi. The magazine was first going to be in print and I sent the texts of my articles "Intelligent Tools" and "Philosophy of Science in 20th Century," the latter being only a handwritten lecture I had given at Berkeley in those years. I suggested to use a computer and later to publish the magazine on the Internet, and was hoping some of my friends in Sweden and Switzerland who were technical experts, to help Mr. Mola which did not happen, and Mr. Mola himself found his way thru the technical maze and that year got his computer.
In August 1993, I told Mr. Mola about the lecture Break Down of Time, Space, and Society which Daniel Bell had presented for Sweden's post office, and had been published by Sweden's Institute of Future Studies, and Mr. Mola found it and sent it to me and later he himself arranged for its translation and publication in Persian. I should note that the aforementioned paper of Daniel Bell has not been published anywhere else and Daniel Bell himself had suggested it to me in 1993, when he noted in a letter that he had not written about futurism for a long time and at that time, this was his last work on the topic, and said to find it in the Swedish journal Framtider which I asked Mr. Mola to find in Sweden that he did.
From 1993 to 1996, Mr. Mola set up the computer for the magazine that we wanted to publish and finally in March of 1996 he sent me his first email and two years later we announced the founding of Iranian Futurist Foundation and the first issue of "Ayandehnegar Magazine" was published on the Internet by Mr. Mola in January of 1998 and it has been many years that this Internet_based Iranian Futurist magazine has been published by Mr. Mola, and the Ayandehnegar site has been one of the most successful Iranian sites and has played a major role in promoting futurist thinking in Iran during the last decade and all that is thanks to the tireless work of Mr. Mola.
I was active on the Internet in the early 1990's and posted my first article about Iran on soc.culture.iranian Usenet newsgroup in October 1993. The next year on the same public Usenet newsgroup, I published a series of theoretical discussions with Dr. Hossein Baghezadeh, and in March 1994 we founded the Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) which was an Internet_based human rights group, an activity that started with my article about stoning of women and during the years, Dr. Bagherzadeh, the Chair of the group, and other associates, contributed a lot to the cause of human rights in Iran. I also helped to set up the group's first Internet site and archive with a colleague and also supported IHRWG by continuing the discussions of human rights on the Usenet especially when Dr. Bagherzadeh was threatened by Khamene'i at the time of closure of Neshat newspaper in Iran. And finally most of the members of IHRWG continued their activities in Manshoor81, which exists to this day.
After being active on the Internet, I saw the need for a futurist portal and Internet_based news distribution system related to the future and first posted the related information on Usenet and email lists and finally in August 1999, founded the Iranscope portal. In my article "Why I Created Iranscope?," I have explained in details about my reasons for starting the Iranscope portal. During those years, besides writing articles on the Usenet, I also published a mailing list called "doostAn" (meaning friends), which later developed into two yahoo lists called "Iranscope" and "future" and those two lists finally evolved to "IranscopeNews" list which is still active and it is now also accessible by RSS.
Recently an article was published about the formation of the activity of Iranians on the Internet and in that article, there was a mention of my work in the early 1990's, the title of the article is "A Brief Excursion of the History of Iranians on the Internet". The author was present on the Usenet with me and also before the Internet, during the years of 1985-1989, he had dropped by my Nova Bookstore in Sunnyvale. During the last 20 and some years, I have published in Iran Times, soc.culture.iranian, Jebhe political forum, Mehdis, AyandehNegar site, Iranscope, Brwska, Gozareshgaran, and other publications. All my works can be found at my home page.
In 2001, I finished my proposal for the Platform of a Futurist Party. I started this work in 1986 and wrote the first manuscript in 2000 and for years discussed about the need for such a political party in various articles.
Today when I look at my latest writing on futurism entitled Singularity and Us, I see what a long way it has been and all this with thanks to all those who accompanied me all these years and were friends and colleagues. Today it is a pleasure to see that so many people with various ways of thought see the importance of futuristic thinking and this thought is more and more welcome particularly among the Iranians.
Please read my online book entitled "FUTURIST IRAN: Futurism vs Terrorism" where I have explained in details my views of the world today and my thanks to World Future Society for publishing a "book review" of my work which is now included in the introduction of the book.
References Chapter 16