favorite quotes

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 cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow.


Some of these quotes, gathered from Brin's novels, books, articles and interviews, have gained a fair amount of use over the years. Feel free to share with your circle.

Contrary Brin blog

We're starting to get accustomed enough to this new century to want it to be different from the last, which is why Brin expanded his "laboratory" to the real world, blogging ideas and topics that pique, fascinate, and infuriate.
Contrary Brin


quotes on fiction & writing

DAVID BRIN: Science fiction contemplates the possibility of successfully defying fate.
DAVID BRIN: I like to be surprised. Fresh implications and plot twists erupt as a story unfolds. Characters develop backgrounds, adding depth and feeling. Writing feels like exploring.

"For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, sniffed, tried, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original."
— David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Our species' greatest harvest - words.
DAVID BRIN quote

"Many post-holocaust novels are little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules. In fact, such lonely 'heroes' would vanish like soot after a real apocalypse."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on.
DAVID BRIN: We all create monsters in our minds. The only important difference may be which of us let our monsters become real.
DAVID BRIN: My first duty is to write a gripping yarn. Second is to convey credible characters who make you feel what they feel. Only third comes the idea.

"If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego. Don't let too much of it prevent you from seeking the feedback you need in order to keep honing your craft."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: But we're at the dawn of a new era. In today's Hollywood writers are the lowest form of life. But that will change when a small team - writer-led - can create a rough, animated storyboard of a film, fully 90 minutes long with spoken dialogue and music, that can gain a web following long before any studio sees it.
DAVID BRIN: Creative people see Prometheus in a mirror, never Pandora.
DAVID BRIN: Anyone who wants simple, pat stories should buy another author's product. The real universe ain't that way and neither are my fictive ones.

"I would normally never set out to write a trilogy."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Forward-peering storytelling is one of the major ways that we turn fear into something profoundly practical.

quotes about life and other creative acts

DAVID BRIN: I am a member of a civilization (IAAMOAC).

"A hallmark of sanity is the courage to face even unpleasant points of view."
— from Earth

DAVID BRIN: Why must conversions always come so late? Why do people always apologize to corpses?

"Life is not fair.... Anyone who says it is, or even that it ought to be, is a fool or worse."
— from Startide Rising

DAVID BRIN: Our most precious human gift: The wonder of curiosity. The insatiable thirst to know about what we know... and to speculate about what we don't - and to explore this vast realm.
DAVID BRIN: Some claim we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology, suggesting that we would be better off if we slowed or suppressed changes in technology. I disagree: I believe that technology has not yet caught up with our wisdom.
DAVID BRIN: Self-awareness is probably over-rated. A complex, self-regulating system doesn't need it in order to be successful, or even smart.
DAVID BRIN: Our civilization's success depends at least as much on the mistakes we avoid as successes we plan, but sadly no one compiles lists of these narrow escapes.
DAVID BRIN: Only a knowledgeable, empowered and vocal citizenry can perform well in a democracy.
DAVID BRIN: A successful person is one who can lay a foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.
DAVID BRIN: Each of us is many. Within every human, a cacophony of voices rages.
DAVID BRIN: Truth - it has been proved mathematically - is a thing with fuzzy outlines, when you look up close.

quotes for science and the scientific-minded

DAVID BRINWe aren't a curse upon the world. We are her eyes. Her brain, testes, ovaries... her ambition and her heart. Her voice. So sing.

"To meddle in the makeup of other species, in an attempt to 'uplift' their intelligence, might be the most ethically fraught and worrisome decision humanity could make. But to refuse the chance might be the most damnably selfish one. It would say: 'we stumbled into this gift and now we refuse to share.'"
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Science is the best and only reliable method human beings have ever found for penetrating delusions and gradually discovering what is true.

"But there is another reason to protect other species, seldom mentioned. Perhaps we are the first to talk and think and build and aspire, but we won't be the last. Others will follow us in this adventure. Some day we may be judged by how well we served, when we alone were Earth's caretakers."
— from The Uplift War

DAVID BRIN: If we find ourselves alone in the cosmos amid a great silence, without others to talk to, humans will solve that problem by making our own friends among the higher animals, such as dolphins and chimps, giving them a boost to their intelligence.

"There has never lived a profession more inherently competitive. Every participant dreams of being the next one to upset the apple cart. Freshly-tenured junior professors are the Young Guns, swaggering down Main Street looking to build a reputation by overturning some Nobelist's accepted model."
David Brin

"All of the great enlightenment arenas — markets, science and democracy — flourish in direct proportion to how much their players (consumers, scientists and voters) know, in order to make good decisions. To whatever extent these arenas get clogged by secrecy, they fail."
— from The Transparent Society

DAVID BRIN: Criticism is the only known antidote to error (CITOKATE)
DAVID BRIN: For all its beauty, honesty, and effectiveness at improving the human condition, science demands a terrible price - that we accept what experiments tell us about the universe, whether we like it or not. It's about consensus and teamwork and respectful critical argument, working with, and through, natural law. It requires that we utter, frequently, those hateful words - 'I might be wrong.'
DAVID BRIN: Don't be fooled by all the prim detail and surface courtesy. If objective reality weren't the fierce arbiter, it would be a bloodbath. The dopes who call science 'timidly orthodox' would not last two minutes.

"One of the worst calumnies has been to portray scientists as timid herd creatures, chasing teensy grants and chanting the consensus paradigm."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Sometimes the best kind of planning involves leaving room for the unknown.

quotes that contend with progress & change

HERB BRIN quote
DAVID BRIN: When your 'side' contains monsters, it is your duty, as a patriot and as a decent member of civilization, to stand up and repudiate them - no matter how painful that repudiation might be.
DAVID BRIN: History shows that underdogs - those who lost the last campaign or who bear a bitter grudge - often turn to innovative or resilient new strategies, while those who were recently succesful are in grave danger of getting mired in irrelevant solutions from the past, often with disastrous consequences.
DAVID BRIN: Change is the very fabric of our time.
DAVID BRIN: The expansion of our horizons of interest may be among the most human of all activities, as we stretch our gaze and curiosity beyond the mere present, the mere town, nation, or even planet.

"It is simplistic to claim that secrecy is the root of all evil. But there is no evil that is not worsened by secrecy."
— from The Transparent Society

DAVID BRIN: On the singularity: What's important is not me. And it's not you. It's us.

"The village is coming back, like it or not."
David Brin

"Self-righteous people can talk themselves into forgetting they are a part of a civilization. Instead of negotiating, they despise the neighbors who nurture them, feeding on that culture while disdaining it."
David Brin

"Change can't be prevented, only guided."
— from Earth

DAVID BRIN: Progress doesn't always go the way we expect it to. It is sometimes wiser than we are.

"What if this was all a fight between two factions of the government or aristocracy? Such things happened all the time, and when dragons battle each other, peasants are better off ducking out of the way."
— from Existence

DAVID BRIN: It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.

"For we already live in the openness experiment, and have for two hundred years. It is called the Enlightenment — with 'light' both a core word and a key concept in our turn away from 4,000 years of feudalism."
— from The Transparent Society

DAVID BRIN: When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.

"If facts are inconvenient, well then, why not damn those who live and work with facts? How's that working out?"
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Liberty flourishes, not when government is weak, but when government is accountable.

"The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions. It often proved fatal."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: If government and corporations will know everything about us, our sole option is to know everything about them.

"Reciprocal accountability, or criticism, is the only known antidote to error."
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: Information is not like money or any other commodity. The cracks that it can slip through are almost infinitely small, and it can be duplicated at almost zero cost. Soon information will be like air, like the weather, and as easy to control...

"Light is the scourge of evil."
Earth

DAVID BRIN: Freedom can only be effective when most of the people know most of what's going on, most of the time.
DAVID BRIN: The Dogma of Otherness insists that all voices deserve a hearing, that all points of view have something of value to offer.

tongue-in-cheek quotes

"Prison for the crime of puberty — that was how secondary school seemed."
— from Earth

DAVID BRIN: 200 of us skeptics climbed a Mayan temple in order to stave off the end of the world by standing there, shaking our heads and uttering the skeptics' incantation: 'naaaaah!' Feel free to thank us for staving off doomsday. You're welcome.

"We must go forth and crush every world view that doesn't believe in free speech and tolerance!"
David Brin

DAVID BRIN: To predict is human... But to be right is divine.

"Where subtlety fails us, we simply make do with cream pies."
The Uplift War


a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

DAVID BRIN author

novels

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


shorter fiction

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


Contrary Brin blog

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


social media influencer

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 scientist

scientist

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


transparency expert

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


speaker & consultant

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 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More


future/tech advisor

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 cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More


other points of departure

visit other pages on this website

pages about DAVID BRIN

  • latest news and activities
  • information about DAVID BRIN
  • public speaking and consulting & popular topics
  • speaking/consulting references and testimonials & a list of past appearances
  • print and podcast interviews
  • video interviews and talks
  • Brin's presskit and complete biography
  • traditional media and social media
  • Brin quotes and frequently asked questions
  • pages about BRIN's science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's special-order books for sale
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • BRIN's nonfiction explorations

  • THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY
  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

    Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN

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    testimonials

    endorsements and recommendations

    George B. Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines

    "As David Brin details the inevitability of ubiquitous surveillance, your instinct, as an individual facing this one-way mirror, is to hope that he is wrong about the facts. As you follow his argument for two-way social transparency, you realize your only hope is that he is right."

    io9

    David Brin has created some of the greatest classics of recent science fiction, including Startide Rising, plus the short stories "The Crystal Spheres" and "Thor Meets Captain America."

    praise for Brin's science fiction

    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.
    — Metroactive Books

    Los Angeles Times Book Review

    "David Brin is notable for unquenchable optimism, focusing on the ability of humanity to overcome adversity."

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    In every one of my past lives, I had this same personality — ornery, contrarian, outspoken and willing to be wrong, just to shock stodgy consensus. In none of those other lives did I make it past age sixteen! Garroted, hung, eviscerated, burned at the stake... I recall them all. This is the very first society that not only let me live past 60, but with honor and kids and respect, paying me well for all of those disruptive traits that other cultures punished!

    Whether you know I am kidding about reincarnation, or imagine that I meant it, one thing is clear. I'm loyal to this enlightenment civilization. I have no reason to be anything else. I'll serve it till death, offering up the one thing I can provide that it needs most: criticism. I hope you'll do that, too. It is the truest patriotism.

    — David Brin