I’m consulting for and appearing in a new television docudrama series, “How to Survive the End of the World”, spun off from EVACUATE EARTH which reruns occasionally on the National Geographic Channel. The new series premiered Dec. 10, 2013 with a speculation on “weaponized” rabies, followed by a show on super-volcanoes, one on a snowball Earth (see video below,) and one on “monster storms”. Yet to air: floods and gray goo. See the National Geographic web site for times, and double-check your cable listings – the schedule seems to change from time to time.
In previous shows I was on, I was billed as an author. This time there is a little less fiction and a little more prediction. Given the wild premises of THE END OF THE WORLD, how might things realistically play out? That’s a question for a “futurist“.
Okay, what is a futurist anyway? To me, a futurist is simply someone who imagines the future. So if you plan what to have for breakfast tomorrow, you are a futurist. Now, some try to predict the future (or pretend to) while others offer best or worst case scenarios, ideals or cautions to guide a thoughtful society.
Not everyone thinks about the end of the world, as a concrete possibility. It’s too unlikely or remote in time. So we limit ourselves to thinking about our own lives. Like breakfast. But someone has to think about these more unlikely things, or we will be utterly surprised by things like war, climate change, societal collapse – complex things that do not occur often enough to be easily foreseen.
In many ways the future is unpredictable; we fail to predict many things that occur (PCs and 911) and predict many things that have not (lunar colonies and flying cars.) Yet a futurist does not need to predict things in such detail; often it is enough to monitor ongoing trends, project them into the future, and sometimes throw a small number of variables into the equation. The further into the future we see, the dimmer our vision.
Is there a way to sharpen that vision, to build a sort of mental telescope to see more accurately into the distant future? Yes! The tool is speculation, though a more apt analogy in this case might be the microscope, rather than a telescope. That’s because it is easier to predict specific reactions to simple events than to predict complex reactions to broad events. It’s rather like constructing an experiment in which you control as many variables as possible, only in this case, speculation is a thought experiment. If you are put into THIS situation, with THESE choices, which will you make? Simplistic, yes, but there is potentially much to learn.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE END OF THE WORLD takes place in the very near future, so it is reasonable to extend each premise down a logical set of outcomes. Understand: the unlikelihood of a planetary catastrophe is not the only consideration. This is classic risk management, where the enormity of the stakes can make the unlikely worthy of attention, at least by a few of us.
In addition to my role as a futurist I am a high-tech project manager, and a published writer of spec fic.
Recently back from French Polynesia!
Click link for the highlight reel:
I’ve also started a photo album on my Facebook page, so check it out. Here’s a sample:
MAN-KZIN WARS XIII is here!
My story “Zeno’s Roulette” appears in the major new Larry Niven anthology, MAN-KZIN WARS XIII. If you’ve ever wondered how the Slavers constructed their stasis boxes, read “Zeno’s Roulette”. In paperback and electronic versions.
Also, my award-winning story “Alphabet Angels“, co-written with Ekaterina Sedia, has been included in the new anthology for Kindle, INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM: TRAILBLAZING TALES FROM ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT, 2000 – 2010. This is a best-of volume for which it was quite an honor to have been selected. Available on Amazon.
In addition to the above, see my Kindle page on Amazon for more of my stories for sale. I also have stories free and for sale on Smashwords (some of which show up on iTunes, etc.) Please check back occasionally, as I have more stories to add.
Click here to read about my 2011 appearance on an international Discovery Channel show featuring Michelle Rodriguez and Michio Kaku. Behind-the-scenes notes and photos.