"Five hundred words on the theme of the title". A simple brief, but having just read the first proof of The Future We Deserve, that simple brief has conjured forth a wonderful mélange of foresight, insight, powerful fiction and playful speculation.
From cyber-monasteries to socialism, from taking 'phlight' to the importance of introspection, the contributors have taken those four titular words and run with them in myriad directions. Indeed, some even appear to have run at them. I expected an abundance of different takes on "future", but "deserve" is challenged, "we" is questioned, and even "the" doesn't get off scot-free!
In the face of the dauntingly poor track record of futurism, this book adopts a radically different approach, and not just in terms of the number of authors. Remembering the Chinese proverb that "when men speak of the future, the Gods laugh", it perhaps seeks to humbly laugh along with them, embracing a healthy diversity of disparate and even opposed visions, ideas and plans – the useful attitude that the postmodern theorist Ewa Ziarek termed 'dissensus'.
In grappling with an uncertain future, this exploration of many paths may be only appropriate, reflecting nature's own evolution, which never seeks to reach consensus on the ideal life-form, but simply creates, creates, creates. Such dissensus also underlies the Transition movement, with communities exploring diverse paths towards preparedness for likely future scenarios, even where the detail of any threats may remain unclear.
Trying to agree on one grand unified story of the future is a waste of energy because whatever we may decide upon, reality surely has other plans. It may be possible (and useful) to discern trends, but the specifics will always elude us. Accordingly, resilient approaches are those which make sense across a wide range of possible futures. They are humility in action, and they keep our eyes open. So let us explore dissensus – explore our various curious projects, inspirations and stories – secure in the understanding that while some of them will thrive and others die, our task is not to foresee the future, but rather to enable it.
I wrote in The Transition Timeline that we will certainly get the future we deserve. As one contributor puts it herein, let's work for a future worth deserving. And who can know which obscure passion, vocation or tale might turn out in retrospect to have provided a defining contribution to our collective future? The Future We Deserve is a ground-breaking collection of candidates, and while reading it I find myself always wondering whether some of them may be fated to shape our world, and whether the future collaborators may find each other through these pages.
I hope to see many more books like it, for it feels like fertile ground.
Shaun Chamberlin has been involved with the Transition Network since its inception, co-founding Transition Town Kingston and authoring the movement's second book, The Transition Timeline (Green Books, 2009). He writes at www.darkoptimism.org