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"You Really Need to Write a Book"

Reason for no posts over the last week: busy & blogger-blocked.

Reason for blogger-block (possible): trying to figure out just what I should write a book about. I've been told yet again this past week that I really need to write a book. I agree. I just can't quite figure out what to write about.

  • A book on meal footprints? I'm pretty tired of the cheeseburger meme, but it's far and away the most visible idea I've come up with. It would probably be an easy sell to a publisher, and clearly the idea has some popular appeal. However, I suspect that my being tired of the topic would show through.

  • A book on futurism, in general?

  • A book on dealing with this century's likely challenges, especially human-caused? It would be essentially a book-length version of the Apocalypse Scale. This is the one that I think would be the most interesting, but is probably the one that would be the hardest to sell to a publisher.

    Anyone have a better idea?

  • Comments

    If you do the cheeseburger meme, you can do it with all LOL pix for extra notoriety.

    How about something to do with the participatory panopticon?

    Or if you could somehow root futurism in the here-and-now, looking at the futurist community, techniques, and so forth, that'd probably be quite interesting.

    Out of the 3 ideas mentioned, the Apocalypse Scale seems the best bet to me.

    I had the same idea as Justin above - something on the Participatory Panopticon and related ideas like "total history" would be cool.

    Lots of interesting real world examples like that recent protest in Ottawa are starting to appear now.

    Just thinking out loud:

    A new profiles of the future book (ala Arthur C Clark), would be welcome - say ten emerging trends that will change how we live - or ten things your kids need to know. How things like the panopticon will change behaviours & laws, urban planet, CMOs, cyborgism, etc. I suspect short term more immediate trends like 5 to 20 years may be easier to push than further out stuff.

    The carbon economy. Including lesser known sinks of the average family/person, but also other aspects. So you can put in the CB footprint, but you get to look at carbon from all angles, personal, political, economical. (How the west fiddled while the world burned)

    How the balance is changing? Rise of the East and the drivers. (How the west was lost)

    I also like the ideas of the book on futurism and the apocalypse scale. Though these feel less "immediate" so I suspect harder to push.

    Why even bother trying to figure out what the book should be about before the fact? It seems that there are a number of different topics that you can and may want to explore.. but the most important thing is that your passion comes through the text.

    My advice is to just start writing. On what? All the things you're thinking about! All the things that people are suggesting that resonate with you! Pull out all of your favorite pieces from the past and use them as a starting point.

    I personally would like to see a "general book on futurism", but you're not going to get there by sitting down to write it from that perspective. Writing a book is a personal journey, and you may not even be aware of what form the narrative will take until a sufficient portion of the text is already in front of you.

    What I am most interested in reading these days is:

    How the rippling awareness of the worldwide credit crunch is going to affect the funding of the utility power markets. With the real prospect of tighter money for an extended period of time, there is a double-whammy for utilities of reduced energy usage by strapped home and business owners and the lack of financing for mega-projects from the credit markets.

    With the DJ utilities coming off of record highs and electricity prices still high and rising in most areas, the effect of this credit crash has a "Black Swan" benefit for the environmentalists. I think that our protests over nuclear and global warming are small noises compared to a credit tightening that takes the investment banks out of the picture. No IB is going to want to lend billions for a multi-year power plant bridge loan. The utilities are going to have to learn to make money without the new plants to provide rate cover.

    Credit tightening also has the effect of encouraging new sustainable policies that can reduce GW emissions like demand-based pricing.

    So, when the IBs can't fund big deals, they'll need to look around for small micropower renewable deals to make their fees...great for local solar/wind/biomass etc. projects with local, bankable customers.

    Where pundits are talking about the need for a big grid with fictitious baseload growth charts out 30 years into the future, this new reality in utility power funding will give renewed interest to distributed generation methods.

    Good luck!

    Start with the Apocalypse Scale and backcast to how it all starts and can finish with a meal footprint. Along the way, you can weave in the principles of futurism in general.

    What we need, more than anything else, is a positive vision of an attainable future, a future that we can work towards today, clearly. We need a unifying vision. "An Inconvenient Truth" spent about five minutes on solutions. "The Eleventh Hour" may spend as much as 20 minutes on solutions but it's still sketchy and not brought down to individual or collective actions.

    Without a vision, we die.

    You should do a book!

    But I think trying to write a book when you're not excited about it going into the process is a really bad idea. It seems to me that the idea you've been most excited about for the longest time is the participatory panopticon -- and it's also a place where what you say won't have much competition and will thus stand out.

    For the same reason, I think you might want to reconsider the Apocalypse Scale book, not because what you'd say in it wouldn't be original, but because it would be perceived by the media to be saying much the same thing as many other competing titles, making it more likely that your book would just sink beneath the waves and not get the hearing it deserves.

    I'd love to see something on post-humanist ethics, not to mention the ethics of "doing futurism." Moreover, there's also a crying need for a sober examination -- as part of looking at post-humanist ethics -- into how existing religious communities "deal with" (for lack of a better term) the world of the future.

    Write a book of essays, of which you have many - in assembling them, you'll discover the red thread connecting your work. That will become the overarching theme of the book.

    What I like most about you as a futurist is that you seem to understand the subject from all angles and don't over-stress any single one. You also write in an inviting and accessible manor, and genuinely want to make the future better for all.

    With that said, I would like to see a book encouraging people to become active participants in creating the future. It would be from a futurist perspective, but written for everyone. It would show us how we are already living and creating the future (participatory panopticon). It would present many new technologies and their effects, while showing us how we can participate with and without technology. It would have a positive tone without ignoring coming dangers. It would not stress the author's view of what is good for the future except that active participation in the process is good.

    Whatever you choose, I wish you well.

    For a second idea, if you wanted to do a more hardcore futurism book, I suggest rather than just introducing technologies and trends as is commonly done, you focus on their interrelatedness. How might one future technology preempt another? How does the use of a given technology depend on certain actions or memes of society? How might technology bring about a change in people's habits which influence current trends?

    I think you could make a good (if small) book on the topic you proposed as a talk a little while ago - "The Future is You". Sort of a how-to guide for using the tools of futurism on the smallest scale. It should be a fairly easy pitch to the self-help market, and you can throw in some stuff about carbon footprints and the participatory panopticon as nice background material for people framing their futures...

    Jamais, a "book"? Well, as a long-form writing vehicle, it will do for now.

    I think putting some extended time and effort into the issue of social/governance design would produce a welcomed contribution to an area of critical importance. How are we to govern for today and tomorrow's global problems with systems designed for a Newtonian/Patriarchal/Agrarian world? What new designs are needed (or have been attempted) to address the unprecedented problems we face today? You are one of the few people I know who could synthesize core design principles and fundamental governance issues, and suggest innovative solutions in a responsibility-based, future(s)-oriented framework.

    Thanks for the suggestions, folks. Some very good ones here. I've had an agent contact me now, so this might end up being a very real possibility.

    (And thanks, btw, for the compliments about my skill as a futurist/writer. It's much appreciated.)

    Resilience is becoming a fairly popular buzzword as well as a necessity as we remember New Orleans and Katrina two years after the fact. John Robb may be considering the topic for his next book and it would be good to have others nosing around the ground looking for more truffles or resilience.

    The title that came to mind as something you could really nail:

    "Rational Optimism: A DYI Manual."

    Really looking forward to whatever you end up doing...


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