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.
where Brin asks the biggest question: who's there?
where will we expand next? and how will we do it?
Brin recommends these books, articles & websites
David Brin's paper, "The Great Silence," remains the only scholarly review article about the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence. First published in 1983 in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (Vol. 24, No.3, P.283-309), it compares assumptions and theories, thus avoiding the tendency to adopt and argue in favor of one favorite.
"Those Eyes," (which appears in Otherness and is available to read for free here), takes you on a ride through the notion of UFOs following the tough gaze of a radio talk show host who challengess the nasty, skulking 'visitors' to come into the open and face us, eye to eye! Follow it with a more 'realistic' variation of this story: David Brin's "An Open letter to Alien Lurkers." Learn more about David Brin's other short stories.
David Brin's newest novel, Existence explores the ultimate question: Billions of planets may be ripe for life, even intelligence. So where is Everybody? Did planetary civilizations make the same fatal mistakes, over and over? Might we be the first to cross the mine-field, evading every trap? Can we learn the secret of EXISTENCE? Learn more about David Brin's other novels and books.
How do we envision the immensity of the universe? It's almost beyond our comprehension. Here is a list of just a few interactive sites that guide us through the vastness of the cosmos, scaling in from galaxies to planets to buildings to atoms and quarks — or explore the realm of Time... from the Big Bang through the evolution of life on Earth and the history of humanity.
Shall we begin "bootstrapping" our space technologies toward the goal of a Solar System Civilization? The idea is no longer science fiction's alone. "Right now, the mass we use in space all comes from the Earth. We need to break that paradigm so that the mass we use in space comes from space," said one NASA official. Pie-in-the-sky? Well, the potential methods for extracting space resources are looking more and more manageable.
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.
The early 1960s were pivotal for the field of "exobiology" (extraterrestrial biology) and especially the sub-branch that dealt with intelligent life, "xenology." For the first time it was legitimate for leading scientists to publicly consider the possibility of contact with intelligent species off of the planet Earth. No matter how daring, they were faced with one major limitation: a near total lack of data. The only known case of intelligent life is here on Earth. So what do they look for?
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.
Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in David Brin's PhD research (UCSD 1981) — a spinning icy mass insulated by carbonaceous dust, with sun-heated, geyser-jets spewing particles into space. That work inspired Brin's novel with Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet, just before the 1986 Giotto mission confirmed the model. See the Astrophysical Journal paper "Three Models of Dust Layers on Cometary Nuclei" or an abstract of David Brin's PhD dissertation: "Evolution of Cometary Nuclei as Influenced by a Dust Component."
It appears that a small cabal of the Good Billionaires — those who got rich through innovation and who feel loyal to the future — are about to to fund a new effort worth some excitement and attention. It aims at transforming not just our Earth — but the whole solar system. And, along the way, this endeavor may help bootstrap us back into our natural condition... a species, nation and civilization that believes (again) in can-do ambition. Can that be achieved — while making us all rich — through asteroid mining?
At Planetfest 2012, David Brin addresses the questions, "Will we see a new burst in planetary exploration?" and "With all the cameras, why don't we have better photos of the little green men?"
Where is everybody? And why can't we find them? Persistent null results from the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence do not invalidate continuing the search, but they do raise questions about long-held assumptions over how we search. The Great Silence — or "Fermi Paradox" — has joined the Drake Equation as a key metaphor in appraising both the possibility of Extra-Terrestrial Civilization and our own prospects to flourish as a progressive, outward-looking species.
Should the endeavor called SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) augment and transform itself into something new? Should 'Active SETI' depart from the traditional passive program — patiently listening and sifting for signs of advanced civilizations — and switch over to doing something new: Deliberately and vigorously transmitting into space, in order to draw attention our way?
SETI — the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence — has long occupied a unique niche in modern intellectual life, at the same time both widely popular and a bit obscure, combining serious and far-reaching science with a kind of gosh-wow zeal that seems (at times) to border on the mystical. Perhaps driven by frustration over the lack of SETI-gleaned signals, so far, a few dozen radio astronomers in this international community-of-interest now aim to provoke a response from the stars — by transmitting messages of their own.
In this video I discuss the economics of space exploration. Every decade since the 1940s, some scientific breakthrough (or several) enabled the U.S. to stay rich and vibrant enough to then spend it all in the Great Buying Spree that propelled world prosperity and created a world-majority Middle Class. That is, every decade except the first decade of the 21st Century, amid the calamitous War on Science.
The great physicist Enrico Fermi sasked: "If it seems so likely the universe may host other life forms, how come we haven't seen any signs?" Not just of radio beacons, but of mighty structures that our own descendants might someday build out there in space. Or leakage from chatty commerce between civilizations. Or indeed, any trace that the Earth was visited during the 2 billion years that it was "prime real estate" with an oxygen atmosphere, but nothing higher than slime molds to defend it.
Why don’t more of today’s youth care about expanding into space? The easy answer would be to seize upon a simple nostrum — about each era rejecting the obsessions of the one before it. But then, in that case, why is the very opposite true about popular music? Back in the hippie era, music divided the generations! But today? Well, my kids adore classic 60s and 70s Rock. In a surf shop or bike store, all I have to do is mention a few of the concerts that I snuck into, long ago, and the brash young fellers are at my feet, saying “tell us more, gramps!”
... toward the vast, vast majority of all that's been acheived. 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.
Just after World War II, Enrico Fermi — exasperated by his students' zealous expectation of alien contact — asked: "Well, then? Where are they?" The question inspired me to publish a paper back in 1983, attempting to catalog all of the theories then floating around. Alas, in a scientific field that lacks any known subject matter, many otherwise bright participants tend to seize upon one "explanation" and deride all others.
Humanity has often looked outward beyond the tribe with a combination of sociability and paranoia for mates or insights or the next potential threat. Even now we scan the skies for extraterrestrial intelligences (and simultaneously crowding the theaters to watch such encounters go horribly awry), but so far all we have run across is a Great Silence, also known as the Fermi Paradox — the quandary that asks where all the alien civilizations are. If we cannot find aliens in the stars, might we create alien intelligences on Earth?
In this video Brin presents "The Near and Far Future in Space" at the Space Technology Innovations Conference at Google Headquarters.
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....
Brin is video-interviewed on Fast Forward: Why haven't we heard from aliens? What explains the Great Silence? And why we haven't found any extraterrestrial neighbors yet?
Guest-blogging on Sentient Developments, Brin notes: "These problems do not invalidate the notion that panspermia-seeding might have set life in motion on our planet. I find that general concept plausible in a very broad way — though not a leading candidate. Top position — until someone comes up with good reason to change — goes to the Standard Model consensus or life-from-nonlife in Earth's early seas."
In this interview with Astronomy Now, Brin argues for a core group of SETI scientists who forcefully argue that we should not be shouting into the jungle, that we shouldn’t be looking to strike up a conversation with strangers whose motivations and capabilities are completely unknown to us.
Brin participated in a conversation with Robert L. Forward and Jonathan Vos Post, moderated by NASA scientist (and Nebula Award winner) Geoff Landis, about the possibility of interstellar flight without faster than light travel. (This article originally appeared in the magazine Science Fiction Age.)
Slate Magazine interviews Brin after the debate about whether — and how — to broadcast reignited "at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in San Jose."
Should we beam messages to the cosmos? Science fiction author David Brin debates SETI and METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrials) on CBC Radio, with author and journalist Nick Pope. David Brin states, "My main concern as a scientist is the incredibly unprofessional way in which this has been proceeding."
On Star Talk Radio, the conversation delves into the SETI-METI debate — about whether to tell aliens where we live comes to StarTalk All-Stars, with host David Grinspoon, author David Brin and Chuck Nice.
What are the chances of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization? In this video interview with The Daily Galaxy, David Brin comments on the Great Silence, the Fermi Paradox, and intelligent life in the universe.
Taking the Libertarian perspective, David Brin criticizes the possibly reckless turn in recent SETI research. He also speculates on what the great silence may say about human societies. (Be sure to read the dissenting essays that follow Brin's.)
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 200 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 cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin
"The original Progenitors have long disappeared, and the intergalactic search for relics of their presence, along with the conflicts generated by humanity's asserted uniqueness, shapes much of the sequence, which Brin enlivens throughout with exceedingly clever depictions of a wide range of Alien species."
— John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
"David is one of the most thoughtful and provocative speakers I have run across. He has a remarkable talent for getting inside a concept and turning it into something completely new. Before his landmark book, The Transparent Society, was written, he engaged the Highlands Forum with these ideas in open conversation. What was at the time stunning now seems to be accepted by many around the world as the society we are coming to. An amazing mind."
"Extrapolation of the highest and most subtle order."
— Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
"Brin is a physicist of note who has been a NASA consultant, and he knows how to turn the abstractions of particle physics into high adventure.... He excels at the essential craft of the page-turner, 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."
— Thomas M. Disch, EW.com