21st Century ideas and inspirations

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.


Here are net-accessible articles, interviews, and essays about how we confront and solve our 21st century challenges and opportunities.

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where Brin brainstorms contemporary problems & opportunities

  • tackling our science & technology needs
  • continuing our space & seti explorations
  • solving our privacy & openness, security & transparency crises
  • creating outstanding near & far futures
  • finding the funding & the will to achieve it all
  • discussing real-world problems & solutions

    debate, discuss & conversate the issues

  • blog: Contrary Brin
  • public appearances: Brin as a speaker and consulting authority
  • scoop.it!: enlightenment civilization 3.0
  • pinterest: Curating 21st Century Politics
  • scoop.it!: Politics in the 21st Century
  • other great resources

    Brin recommends these books, articles & websites

  • Starship Century: Toward the Grandest HorizonStarship Century
  • "Freedom of the Press Now Concerns Us All," by Nick Cohen

  • which three trends will help us sink or swim?

    the 21st century holds many challenges, only some of which we can see today

    THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY

    our transparent century

    the role of the internet in shaping the 21st

    Following the publication of the The Transparent Society, David Brin became a prominent voice in the debates over information openness and the value of light in the modern world. Find more articles, books, and media about the central issue of our age.

    disputation arenas

    disputation arenas

    can we crowdsource wisdom?

    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 teach us how to out-run a lie.

    industrial age inventors

    crowdsourcing innovation

    reality seems to be catching up with fiction

    In this essay Brin discusses reviving the "lost art" of forming special-interest clubs and organizations: As a teenager, growing up in Los Angeles, Brin participated in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), gathering mountains of data for professional astronomers" — one of countless such groups formed around a limitless range of interests. In Existence, he portrays this trend as it can become, as individuals and small groups become ever more agile at sleuthing, data collection and analysis & forming very very smart, ad-hoc, problem-solving 'smart mobs.'


    articles about our challenging 21st Century

    The universe continues to amaze, but are we up to the challenge? What wonders (or nightmares) are we devising? What new technologies will we design?

    singularities and possibilities

    a century of singularities — or nightmares?

    how will we chart our course?

    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 available on the Lifeboat Foundation website and this website.

    moon transiting earth

    2015: our best year in space yet!

    time to look outward...

    ... toward the vast, vast majority of all that's been achieved. And after decades of doldrums, after the obstacles thrown up against us, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration. Have you been keeping score? We are a people who are doing all these wondrous things, exploring our solar system with pennies out of each citizen's pocket. We are doing all this, and so much more! We are a mighty folk — a folk of legend who will be the subject of songs, in times to come. Problem-solvers who will go ahead and save the world, despite the doubters and skeptics. And go on to the stars.

    Brave New World original cover detail

    ideological mirages

    are we even seeing the future?

    About a hundred years ago, people all over the world began drifting away from priests, kings and national flag-totems, transferring their loyalties instead to fervid ideologies — models of human nature that allured with hypnotically simplistic promises. Often viciously co-opted by nation states, these rigid, formulaic, pseudo-scientific incantations helped turn the mid-20th Century into a hellish pit. In "The Odd Way We Design our Destiny," Brin asks: will we remain mesmerized by ideology, return to totem-worshipping, or ...?

    bright ideas

    our 'alternative' future

    notes on calamity... and opportunity?

    After September 11, 2001, thoughts and feelings come spinning like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, ravaged by a cyclone. Rationalizations, cultural panic and xenophobic hatred ebb and flow, as do kindnesses, gratitude, and cultural resilience. So here, in rambling segments, are some of Brin's humble efforts to make sense of what happened on the day the world was thrust into the alternate reality 6 billion people did not want.

    the year of our change?

    where's our 21st century miracle?

    was 2014 our psychological turning point?

    As the 20th Century became the 21st, the trend in our culture was monotonic, toward ever-increasing reliance on protection and coddling by institutions, formally deliberated procedures and a small group of officially-sanctioned insipid, inbred aristocrats marketed to us as 'miracle men.' Hence the question: Is it possible that a new direction for our 21st century requires only that we snap out of our present funk? Perhaps the events of the 21st suggest a different approach is necessary — a far older notion of a confident, self-reliant citizenry — capable of rescuing ourselves.

    prediction saved

    predicting the next crisis

    screening out the alarmists & pundits

    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.)

    climate change of mind

    is it culture war or climate war?

    originally published in SKEPTIC Magazine

    Nothing demonstrates the silliness of left-right "culture war" more than the illogical fight over human-caused climate change (HCC). People who take fierce positions over a scientific matter based on their politics should be ashamed of themselves. "Skeptics versus Deniers: Creating a Climate of 'No!'" shows you how to tell a true "skeptic" from an opportunistic "denialist."

    climate science meets the inquisition

    denial is no longer an option

    creating a climate of change

    Every few years a new battle begins in the seemingly-neverending Global Climate Change culture war. Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who research the atmospheres of 8 planets or who propelled spectacular advances in weather forecasting, Brin tends toward listening to expert advice on this one — especially since we're only being asked to do things we should be doing anyway. In 2007 he posted an essay dealing with some logical flaws in the denial-movement, going after those who claim: "I'm not denying science, just asking questions!"

    resilience is people power

    is the age of amateurs upon us?

    wanted: flexibility and resiliency

    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.

    don't play the zero-sum game!

    we're losing our opportunity for a positive-sum society

    the rise of the American Commissar

    Brin predicted it in 2007: Just as Soviet commissars recited egalitarian nostrums while relentlessly quashing freedom in the USSR, many of our new clade of American Commissars mouth "pro-capitalism" lip service while doing everything they can to cheat and foil competitive markets. In "The Relevance of an Old Nemesis — as Even Older Ones Return," he reminds us: We always have to push uphill against a perilous slope of human nature.

    an alliance for enlightenment

    an alliance for all

    losing the illusion of ideology

    Here's an idea for the 21st Century: Why don't all reasonable people break free of the left-right stranglehold imposed on us by less-reputable politicians and form an Alliance for a Modern World? One approach may be to form coalitions that agree to promote — boldly and openly — a dozen consensus agenda items, and refuse to be drawn into other fights. Is it possible to negotiate a list of desiderata that all modernist defenders of the Enlightenment might stand behind?

    detail from Existence

    the nightmare scenario that came true

    a look back at a warning from 1999

    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.

    our 21st century culture war

    disaster preparedness

    through the eyes of a scientist

    In the aftermath of two major 21st century disasters — the Asian tsunami and the preventable destruction of New Orleans — David Brin posted a political essay about how such crises are worsened when experts and citizens turn on each other. A second, more philanthropic, essay discusses proxy activism, a convenient way modern folks can hire others to save the world for them. Finally, there's a science-oriented notion (cribbed from my novel Earth) about how it might be time to let the Mississippi forge its natural path to the sea.

    the readiness matrix

    what's the status of our readiness?

    what to do in an emergency or three

    Can anyone honestly claim to know if we're prepared to deal with an emergency? Are we still preparing for war by building machines designed to win World War II? Can a readiness system designed to deal with a single natural emergency handle multiple simultaneous-yet-different 21st Century emergencies — super storms and mega-wildfires and fracking earthquakes? For answers, take a look back at our last readiness crisis. After the Iraq War debacle, Brin asked: Is it prudent to overstretch our military reserves waging wars that are, at-best, elective? A second article, written after the Hurricane Katrina debacle, suggesting how the Guard and Reserves could be returned to a healthy readiness state.

    glorifying the serial killer

    can we end mass murder sprees?

    a counterintuitive approach

    After every mass murder journalists, shrinks and the public fret over each killer's declared motivation, perhaps hoping that knowing what sparked that particular killing frenzy might prevent the next one. Yet, when we stop and look for common threads, a pattern emerges: these seem to be less about the killers' specific hatreds than a frenzied, bloody tantrum staged by a string of losers with one common goal: immediate, global fame. In "Names of Infamy: Deny Killers the Notoriety they Seek" Brin proposes a solution that spree killers are sure to hate.

    prevent and prepare for the future

    can we catch our own mistakes?

    how a well-spun dystopia prevented itself

    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.

    an Existence future

    will we need smartglasses?

    fad, trend, or work necessity?

    Three times David Brin has been asked to talk about this invention: First, as science fiction (see Existence). Then as a future possibility (see speaking and consulting topics). Now? See his article in Variety magazine, "Google Glass Pros: In the Long Run, the Benefits Outweigh the Drawbacks," about the real-world pros and cons of these wearable devices.

    some ways to achieve immortality

    have we reached "peak lifespan"?

    are we wise enough to achieve longevity?

    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?

    philanthropy's future ambitions

    investing in the 21st century

    encouraging billionaires

    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.


    DAVID BRIN's interviews and discussions

    Let's talk about the 'testing ground' we call the 21st Century — our sucesses and failures, challenges and opportunities.

    ReInvent the exploration of space

    On ReInvent, SciFi author David Brin and an amazing roundtable of space entrepreneurs, experts and NASA scientists rough out some of the ambitious new goals that could drive the next Barnstorming Era in space, goals ranging from mining asteroids to exploring to....

    4 authors + 1 singularity = ?

    Brin participated in a panel discussion (with science fiction authors Vernor Vinge and Phil Osborn, and technology journalist Mitch Wagner) about the Technologigical Singularity at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Convention (LosCon 39).

    where will we be?

    In this video, two renowned futurists, David Brin and John Smart, discuss what inventions and adventures await us in the next 40 years.


    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

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  • pages about 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 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
  • 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
  • an ornery, contrary blog, and other insightful rants!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's community pokes at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate and infuriate.

    wormholes

    A few spacetime anomalies and side-trips, for your entertainment.

    Questions? Concerns? Email Me

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    references and recommendations

    See more references and recommendations for Brin's public speaking and consulting and his novels and books.

    praise for Insistence of Vision

    "David Brin excels at the essential craft of the page turning, which is to devise an elegantly knotted plot that yields a richly variegated succession of high-impact adventures undergone by an array of believably heroic characters."
    — Entertainment Weekly

    Stewart Blandón

    "Brin has lectured worldwide on topics as diverse as Ecology, Information Technology, Twenty-first Century extrapolation, Spaceflight, and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent Life. He serves on government and non-government advisory committees dealing with the future 'information age.'"

    Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community

    "David Brin is one of the few people thinking and writing about the social problems we are going to face in the near future as the result of new electronic media. The Transparent Society raises the questions we need to ask now, before the universal surveillance infrastructure is in place. Be prepared to have your assumptions challenged."

    praise for Kiln People

    "Brin deftly explores the issues of identity, privacy and work in a world where everyone is supported with a living wage and has ready access to duplication technology. The book features the author's usual style, with a lighter touch and punnish humor abounding amid the hard SF speculation. The duplication of the 'ditective' makes for a challenging twist on the standard private eye narrative, allowing Morris to simultaneously lead the reader through three separate (and interacting) plot lines."
    — Publisher's Weekly

    final thoughts ...

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

    3 looks at our confounding century

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