There’s about of a month or two left of the summer and that’s ample time to get through what might honestly be the most important book I’ve read in my life and easily the most important book I’ve read this year. Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist compose a futurist telling of the world and the hegemonic structures, philosophical dispositions and economic tendencies of it’s budding new upperclass–The Netocrats– in our now post-industrial/ internet dominated society. Since I seem to be the only person on the internet that’s read the ENTIRE trilogy with comprehension (the second book especially is pretty complicated given that it makes references to tons of continental and enlightenment philosophy, which I imagine is daunting for those not familiar with how to read philosophy), I guess I’m going to have to be the one to write a detailed review.
For the Futurica Trilogy to truly be understood, it needs to be taken less as a prediction of the future and more as a recontextualization of the past. By doing so, you find yourself with ample evidence of patterns that can be applied to the world we’re living in currently. There’s nothing inherently mind-bending as far as the predictions are concerned, the so-called predictions made in the series are the natural consequences of pulling the carpet out from under civilization; what the Internet functionally did.
The way history is currently explained is based around production. That’s because production is the vernacular that makes sense to Industrial Society. Bard claims philosophy is invented and history is rewritten during each paradigm to justify the monopoly of power held by the ruling class. There was the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and then Industrial Society which contained capitalism, and the so-called height of human civilization. As the ruling elite, you have the clout necessary to tell the story of civilization and how your line had come to rule the world. So, it functionally ends up sounding like, “Congratulations, you’re alive during the pinnacle of human history!” What makes this book so brilliant is that it takes this understanding of history and flips it on its head.
It’s commonly known that the era we live in is referred to as The Information Age. The means of production with which we operate in are no longer wholly tangible, we construct products via information. So what happens if you recontextualize the entirety of human history as different ages of Information Society? Every paradigm of civilization up until this point becomes a rung on the ladder to where we stand currently, the budding of the next era of Information Society.
So when civilization began, the most advanced form of information was spoken language (what we previously referred to as the Stone Age). Society can only grow to the extent that language can travel. So you have tribes each with their own language, and the most important person in the tribe is the old woman who knows everything because she’s lived the longest. When she died it was a tragedy because all the information left in her head is now gone. The major paradigm shift from this form of society occurred not when we began using bronze tools, but when we created systems of written language. Before the old lady died, someone who could write could ask the old lady everything they ever wanted to know and can put it in a book somewhere and all of the information was saved and could be passed down to future generations. This allowed the information in society to explode. We had a foundation for information that could be added onto with every successive generation, not completely wiped away. This threw the current power structures out of wack and society had to be reorganized. We shifted from tribal gods to feudal gods (monotheism), and changed from cheiftons to monarchs, and from shamans to priests. Now, imagine this in our society.
When the internet was created it called for the death of Industrial society. Mass media (analog and digital printing presses) were replaced with interconnectivity. Like in the first transition, this allowed for an explosion of information, and similarly, society is at a tipping point that is calling for reorganization. What this book does, is take the properties of the internet and postulates what kind of society would need to be present in order for the information technology to flourish. A very simple concept with incredible implications.
With all futurist writings you have to come into them with a grain of salt and there’s usually a two step evaluation necessary before you even listen to anything they have to say. The first step is usually, “is this person crazy or brillaint?” and the second step is “is any of this going to affect me?”. In this particularly case, the authors are delightfully crazy, but that leads to incredibly creative insight. As far as the second question is concerned, I don’t really see how the restructuring of society couldn’t affect you. This however brings us to the first issue. This book/trilogy can be incredibly challenging to read. The Netocrats (part 1) is fairly basic as far as philosophy is concerned, but if you’re not keen to pick up the terminology he created (mainly due to lack of practice reading philosophy), you’re going to feel like he’s obfuscating his message; however, the first book doesn’t face this problem until the very end. You will not have as much luck with The Global Empire. The second book, by design, is made to explain the philosophical dispositions of the netocrats, and this requires academic philosophy. He pulls concepts from Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Delueze, Derrida, Foucalt, etc. and tries to piece together “transrationalism” and the so-called “dialectic between eternalism and mobilism”, as well as “affirmative nihilism” (a Nietzschean kind of thing–who Bard refers to as “the first transrationalist philosopher”) and how this plays into the values of the netocratic elite. The last book, The Body Machines is about the death of the Cartestian Subject/Humanism and how this will cause Netocrats and their children to experience a true chemical liberation (akin to the sexual liberation but with drugs more or less) and to become true “dividuals” (as opposed a fully formed ‘individual’, the dividual is sort of a schizoid person with multiple personalities they play with online, e.g. myself with this blog in contrast to myself on fb chat with my school friends).
I’m not going to bullshit you, it’s challenging. But like most philosophy, once it clicks, it clicks. It truly is not as complicated of a concept as it seems, but it does take a level of abstraction that’s difficult to talk about without referencing other philosophers that have done so as well. He does his best to explain the concepts from these philosophers, but there’s really only so much time he can dedicate to explicating their ideas. This is probably why I seem to be the only person who’s completed it (I can’t find much information on the series).
Something To Get Your Feet Wet
If this little blurb has gotten you a bit interested, there’s a 30 minute talk that Alexander Bard did at a tech conferences that explains the above ideas in slightly better detail and might give you the motivation to pick up the book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRqvd2bo_OI
For everyone else who’s sold and would like to give this madman a chance to change the way you look at things, here’s a link to the Kindle Edition of the trilogy for only $7.69 http://www.amazon.com/The-Futurica-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B007FZPFFI