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 appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications.

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

more articles about our challenging 21st Century

bright ideas

our 'alternative' 21st century

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?

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

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.)

facts in hand

let's legalize facts!

Suppose we get a Congress that's willing to push back against idiocracy. What item should be number one on its to-do list? How about ending the War on Facts, with legislation to restore access to useful and confirmable information for public officials, politicians and citizens. Likely effect? Congress-members will no longer be able to shrug off fact/scientific questions with "I’m not a scientist."

designing futures

our ideological mirages

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 ...?

connected earth

a whole vastly more competent than the sum of its parts

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.

citizen science

crowd-sourcing citizen science

Whatever your level of involvement, you can have the satisfaction of participating in humanity's greatest endeavor. In an era when political factions and media empires are waging relentless "war on science" this trend toward active participation — supporting a climate or other pro-science campaign, volunteering for a school's STEM program, or providing some financial support for orgs and start-ups — is the surest way to support an active, vigorous, future-hungry and scientific civilization.

children learning to code

why kids can't code

BASIC used to be on every computer a child touched — but today there's no easy way for kids to get hooked on programming. Very few young people are learning those deeper patterns. Indeed, they seem to be forbidden any access to that world at all. This is not just a matter of cheating a generation, telling them to simply be consumers of software, instead of the innovators that their uncles were. No, this goes way beyond that. In medical school, professors insist that students have some knowledge of chemistry and DNA before they are allowed to cut open folks. In architecture, you are at least exposed to some physics.

winning the reality

let's rebuild everything!

Imagine a "reality" TV show with a more elevated aim and loads of attractive content for the mind... but also heaps of tension and drama. Picture "Survivor" meets "The 1900 House" meets "Junkyard Wars," then add a sensation that viewers are actually learning something of value, becoming a little more capable and knowledgeable about their own culture. In the ultimate challenge, competitive teams race each other, starting from scratch, to rebuild civilization!

climate change of mind

is it culture war or climate war?

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. Originally published in Skeptic Magazine, "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

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

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.

preparing for emergencies

are we prepared for 21st century's crises?

The monotonic trend all across the 20th Century was a steady "professionalization of everything." Since Vietnam, this High Dogma seemed to have very good reasons (e.g., unpopularity of the draft and a need to train extensively for use of high-tech weaponry). Within a single generation, our focus shifted from utilizing large numbers of "Cincinnatus" citizen volunteers, to the kind of super-elite mobile forces that the Roman Empire relied upon, during its final century of existence. Has history served this methodology well?

the art of propaganda

let's uplift ourselves first!

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.

stand against ignorance

our most serious national security threat?

The worst aspect of this century's polarization has been the devolution of politics into clichés, outright lies and a relentless disdain toward scientists and every other “smartypants” profession, from medical doctors and teachers to journalists, economists, civil servants, skilled labor and law professionals. All are now targets of trumped-up hatred. Isaac Asimov once commented: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

don't play the zero-sum game!

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

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?

1900 prediction of spy-cams

a nightmare scenario that came true?

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.

Continue reading even more articles about 21st Century ideas & inspirations.

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'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


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 300 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 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

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 at mail@davidbrin.com


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