David Brin is best-known for shining light — plausibly and entertainingly — on technology, society, and countless challenges confronting our rambunctious civilization. His best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. Other novels are translated into 25+ languages. His short stories explore vividly speculative ideas.
Brin's nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
As a scientist, tech-consultant and world-known author, he speaks, advises, and writes widely on topics from national defense and homeland security to astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction, creativity, and philanthropy. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications.
where Brin ponders, predicts & plans
ideas, plans and proposals for bold & thriving futures
How can we better prepare for (and understand) the posthuman future? A lot of folks are earnestly exploring the topic. Will we see the explosive or exponential transitions predicted by Vernor Vinge, who gave 'singularity' its modern meaning, or as championed by Google chief technologist Ray Kurzweil? What will happen as we enter the era of human augmentation, artificial intelligence and government-by-algorithm?
The novel Earth is known for its many predictions that were realized. Did David Brin's Uplift novels — like Startide Rising and Existence motivate scientists to explore the possibility of scientific 'uplift'? Explore the many steps science is taking to realize this future.
We allocate much of our economy to weather reports, stock analyses, sports handicapping, financial and strategic planning... but well-grounded science and science fiction may be the greatest tool for exploring tomorrow.
Throw in curiosity about science- and tech-driven change, an immersion in history/anthropology, plus an avid belief in the potential of human civilization... and more than 200 groups, companies, and agencies have invited me to speak or consult — plausibly and entertainingly — about trends in technology and society, including challenges we'll face in years ahead.
One key, seldom-mentioned aspect for saving megacities is the problem and opportunity of rights-of-way. Any of these megacities could be vitalized by a process that — at first sight — will seem brutal, but that does not have to be. It is the rebuilding of a 200 meter wide corridor extending from the port to the urban center, then out to the industrial parks, airport and countryside. Within this band, every major, revitalizing service can be inserted: utilities, sewer systems, water, underground metros and a grand boulevard.
Will bitter ideological rifts dominate the 21st Century, as they did the 20th? Or might we shrug off some of the obsolete intellectual baggage we've inherited from past thinkers who (in fact) knew much less than we do now? David Brin's questionnaire regarding ideology and human destiny pokes at the deeper assumptions that underlie the many assumptions we take for granted.
David presents "A SciFi Author's take on space technology innovations in the near and distant future" at Vint Cerf's Space Technology Innovations Conference at Google Headquarters.
What technologies will make a difference in the future? This you-tube interview with David Brin takes us on a Journey into 2050 and is part of the Futurium Talking Futures interview series.
There are good reasons for concern about what is going to happen, given that we are mired in blowback from failing to correctly anticipate our 21st Century crises — ranging from new ways warfare and terrorism are waged to the economic uncertainties of a cybertechnological world. Can we uncover who is anticipating new, un-dreamed of threats — and listen to them, instead? Brin worked to establish Predictions Registries, a method that might help us identify new oracles, to better "score" the credibility of those who want us to trust their vision of tomorrow. (Readers maintain a Predictions Registry page that tracks hits and misses for Earth.)
Fifty years from now, will we have destroyed the world? Or saved it? It's not too soon to ask. If we don't give serious thought to our trajectory as a global society, if we spend too much time looking backward nostalgically rather than ahead thoughtfully, we will succumb to our worst or most fearful selves.
We are ready for the dawn of a new era, one of private space ventures. And, fortunately, the politicians seem perfectly ready to welcome non-state activity. We may, at last, be ready to embark on the equivalent of the the great age of "barnstorming" aircraft development, that our grandparents saw in the 1920s, when risk — and even some loss — was considered part and parcel of courage and exploration.
This article (by George Dvorsky) discusses the promising scientific innovation that "... scientists have successfully enhanced the intelligence of rhesus monkeys using a brain implant, albeit temporarily.... Ongoing advancements in pharmacology, genetics, and cybernetics hold huge promise for the further development of 'uplift' technologies."
Throughout the 20th Century, the trend in our culture was monotonic, toward ever-increasing reliance on protection and coddling by institutions, formally deliberated procedures and official hired guns — none of which availed us at all on 9/11/2001. Rather, events that day seem to suggest a reversal, toward the older notion of a confident, self-reliant citizenry.
Of course it’s too early to forecast a major counter-trend. But indications are provocative. Rather than diminishing the role of the individual, advances in technology seem to be rapidly empowering average citizens, even as professional cynics forecast freedom’s demise.
Widespread interest has been generated by Brin's concept, outlined in "Horizons and Hope: the Future of Philanthropy, of an "Eye of the Needle" (EON) Foundation. EON proposes an entirely new kind of proactive charitable institution, one that offers the super-wealthy (and us, too) a unique incentive: Invest now in a brighter tomorrow. Over fifteen trillion dollars may transfer between generations during the next decade or two in the United States alone. If even ten percent of this money went toward projects neither governments nor private capital controlled, we could create a thriving and prosperous future for our descendants.
In this YouTube video, David Brin looks at a crystal moment when we did something right — when we unleashed the internet to the world. We must continue to create new agile systems to adapt to an ever-changing future, an adaptability that will be enabled by a growing age of amateurs. Amateurs will be able band their expertise together to form agile and flexible 'smart mobs.' This will help us achieve a future civilization where individuals matter and are empowered.
In each of the last six centuries, the West was shaken by new technologies that transformed three things — vision, memory and attention — providing human beings with greatly augmented powers that thereupon triggered crises of confidence. For example, printing presses, glass lenses and perspective dramatically expanded what we could know, see and perceive. Later transformations, like mass education, libraries, telecommunications and databases, took this process farther by orders of magnitude, till today people are used to seeing, knowing, and perceiving vastly more than their ancestors might have imagined.
We must endeavor to make the next generation both more ethical and vastly more scientifically/technologically powerful — because only that combination can save the world.
What technologies could make the most difference in aiding and enhancing 21st Century citizenship? We must have new ways for communities to self-organize, both in everyday life and (especially) during crises, when normal channels may collapse, or else get taken over by the authorities for their own use.
Media advances don't always liberate, at first. The tracts that emerged from printing presses enflamed Europe's 16th Century religious hatreds, while the 1930s-era radio and loudspeakers helped consolidate the power of tyrants. Our new media — the Internet — has inspired its own peril: the rise of fake news and too-easy proliferation of alt-facts. Can ordinary citizens can separate truth from manipulation before the harm spreads? Brin's proposal, as outlined in "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competitiveness for Society's Benefit," could help us out-run a lie.
Do we live in a special time? In an episode of his science-interview show Closer to Truth, Robert Lawrence Kuhn warned against temporal chauvinism... the ever-present temptation for any observer to believe this particular moment is unique, a fulcrum around which destiny will turn, decisively transforming all future ages. He and his panel identified four potential crisis points in our near and far future. In "The Odd Way We Design our Destiny," Brin notes: "If we face a time of crisis, it isn't with our eyes shut!"
In "Do We Really Want Immortality?," Brin predicts what would happen if, through a mix of compassion, creativity and good luck, we complete the difficult transition and manage to spread a life span of eighty- or ninety-years to everyone across the globe. Will future generations take a full life span as much for granted as modern Americans do? And will we be able to extend it even further? How long can humans live?
In his article for Salon magazine, "How Will the World End?," Brin explores various possible "doom" scenarios. Which will bring us down, and will it be a hard or soft landing? Will it be entropy — we just give up trying? Will we fail to out-run Fermi's Paradox? Will nature take us down, as she did to the dinosaurs? Or are we simply going to "conflict" ourselves into a collapse? Read the article, and weigh in on your prediction. Then check in with the Lifeboat Foundation, and see who's working to prevent the predictions.
In one of the boldest and most popular essays about our destiny, "Singularities and Nightmares: Extremes of Optimism and Pessimism About the Human Future," David Brin explores a startling range of possible changes available to us — changes that could occur within the next twenty or so years, roughly a single human generation. It's an opportunity for humanity and the Earth to avoid dangers and inspire hopeful futures — if that's what we choose. Weigh the range of possibilities for yourself. This article is also available on the Lifeboat Foundation website.
In today's world, it is foolish to depend on the ignorance of others. If they don't already know your secrets, there is a good chance someone will pierce your veils tomorrow, without you ever becoming aware of it. The best firewalls and encryptions may be bypassed by a gnat-camera in your ceiling or a whistle-blower in your back office. In "Probing the Near Future," Brin discusses how, by thoughtful planning and preparation, we can make the scary parts of the near-future less scary, and the good parts better.
These visionary sites keep an eye on breakthroughs in scientific research and advances in cutting edge technologies. They offer insights into innovative trends that impact industry, education, energy, entertainment, transportation, economics, medicine, and war... with repercussions that spread through all aspects of society.
The joyful blending of breakthrough technology with artistic sensibility... extravagant imagination merging with utilitarian vision, leading, it is hoped, to spaces and tools and devices and projects and inventions... as well as wonderful frivolities... that people not only find useful but love to use, amid a growing prosperity that's perfectly compatible with a sustainable Earth. Watch David Brin's dedication sppech on YouTube — or read the speech.
Oligarchy reflects the same old pyramid that failed the test of governance in nearly 100% of previous civilizations, always and invariably stifling creativity while guiding societies to delusion and ruin. It also means a return to zero-sum logic, zero-sum economics, zero-sum leadership thinking, a quashing of nonlinear synergies... the death of the Enlightenment.
We may have a chance to create a fantastic new civilization on this planet, by returning to and enhancing the Enlightenment methods that brought us to this party, embracing methods like transparency and reciprocal accountability and divided power and pragmatic negotiation that have nothing whatsoever to do with "left" or "right" but that are deeply threatened by one side in our current culture war.
That the 20th century escaped the destiny portrayed in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four may be owed in part to the way his chilling tale affected millions, who then girded themselves to fight "Big Brother" to their last breath. In "The Self-Preventing Prophecy: How a Dose of Nightmare Can Help Tame Tomorrow's Perils," Brin notes this and more: how a society's continued success depends at least as much on the mistakes they avoid as on the successes they plan and implement.
Arthur C. Clarke's brilliant book was made into a 1968 movie. Yes, its pace is glacial by today's standards. No, we don't have a vacation destination on the moon and probably won't. Is the film still as relevant and "fresh" as the books or as dead as Pan Am? Ponder the following two hoary old clichés: 'Isn't it a shame that human decency and justice haven't kept pace with our technological progress?' and 'No past era featured as much cruelty and misery as this one.'
Big institutions, small institutions, and individuals all pay their connection charges, phone bills or whatever, to maintain the computers and the nodes... and nobody controls the whole. Some companies and educational institutions willingly take a bearable financial loss in order to support this new commons which is expanding inventively everywhere, allowing chat-lines, special interest groups, even anarchists and net-parasites, to join the flow. Why? Because the fruit of this commons — enhanced creativity — is worth whatever it costs.
The possibility that artificially intelligent machines may some day pose a risk is well-known. Less understood, but more immediately pressing, are the risks that humanistically intelligent people or organizations pose, whether facilitated by "smart" buildings, "smart" cities, or "cyborgs" with wearable or implantable intelligence, as we augment our bodies and our societies with ever more pervasive and possibly invasive sensing, computation, and communication capabilities.
Most of our holidays look backward, honoring past victories, dead presidents or long-standing traditions. How about a day that looks forward, toward thinking creatively about building a better tomorrow? The brand new Future Day (originally proposed by Ben Goertzel at Humanity+) will be March 1. How would you (productively) observe such a day, particularly to inspire the next generation?
The seasteading model — a plan by the Seasteading Institute to build a floating 'start-up country' off the coast of San Francisco — has many aspects that need to be decrypted, in a spirit of due diligence.
Author David Brin on new ideas and ways to fund them. He discusses the gedankenexperiment: how the human brain creates and tests a 'thought experiment' to explore the future consequences of our actions. How can crowds make smart decisions for our society?
Might believers in modernity find ways to break free of the doctrinal rigidity that has been imposed on us by fanatics of both the so-called Left and the so-called Right? Is it possible to negotiate a list of desiderata that all modernist defenders of the Enlightenment might stand behind?
Proclamations of doom are perennial flowers which have sprouted in the garden of human imagination since earliest times. Oracles appear whenever turmoil causes nations and peoples to feel uncertain about the future. Ambiguity is the prophet's major stock in trade. For example, King Croesus bribed the Delphic Oracle for good news, so the priests told him what he wanted to hear — if he marched on Persia he would destroy a great empire. He marched, and the empire he destroyed was his own. Other doom-prophecies prove devastatingly self-fulfilling.
Here are the answers to a compilation of frequently-asked questions about the future, including: Is there hope for the future?
Does science fiction still influence or predict technological advances? Brin is one of several sages interviewed on this terrific-brief NPR show about the ideas and influence of science fiction in creating the modern world.
Scientific American interviewed Brin for their Too Hard For Science? series about raising animals to human levels of intelligence.
In this video Brin presents "The Near and Far Future in Space" at the Space Technology Innovations Conference at Google Headquarters.
"How do you see research and innovation making a difference for a better future?" The European Union asked questions like this of about a hundred "sages" in preparation for the Horizon 2020 conference in Vilnius, November 2013. You can view Brin's 90-second answer to that question here, or read a transcript of the full interview.
Here are the answers to 12 questions from my Reddit AMA "what's the scariest thing about the future that hasn't come true yet?" session.
In the South China Morning Post interview, Brin discusses the secrets of a bright future.
David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More
Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More
Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More
David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More
Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More
Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More
Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
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As a bestselling science-fiction writer himself (Earth, Startide Rising, The Postman), Brin gets paid handsomely to look into the future and report back on what he's seen.
"This is a fun novel, rich with ideas, that examines on a very human level the ramifications and side effects of our ambitions and the things we take for granted. It's also a hard-boiled murder mystery with levels of physics and metaphysics that work your brain. But for me, as always, it's David Brin's characters that really pull me into the story and keep me up until three in the morning."
— Barnes and Noble Review
"The fiction of David Brin is informed by a central recurring theme as well, in his case the operation of various kinds of evolution: organic and synthetic, directed and undirected, fast and slow. This interest in dynamic change feeds into his vision of SF as an essentially optimistic form: not because he believes in 'progress' but because he believes in the ability of humankind to improve its condition."
"Existence is a book that makes you think deeply about both the future and life's most important issues. I found it fascinating and I could not put it down."
"We are in a race to cross a very dangerous zone, between where we are and where our grandchildren may be. Will they know how to manage the planet? How to expand beyond the planet? How to stay calm? How to argue in a fair and decent way, bypassing politics? This isn't a vast utopia; it is just us, much more reasonable, having raised better grandchildren." — David Brin