Protect Yourself From the Future

By John Dilworth · July 4, 2008

A manifesto and practical advice to help you maintain your humanity in an age where everything is going to try to take it away.

Last year, after spending much of my time studying and working on computers, I stumbled across Neil Postman’s book, “Technopoly.” This book confirmed and brought to light many of the feelings that I’ve had about technology. These thoughts manifested themselves in the form of a short, handmade book titled “Protect Yourself From the Future.” I carry this book around with me as a reminder to not get sucked away in the “next cool thing” from technology. To learn to do things with my hands, and to remember that just as it is OK to turn on the computer once in a while, it is just as OK to turn the damn thing off.

The book containing this text is available for purchase. If you are interested in a copy of the handmade book, please let me know, I’d be happy to make one for you for the cost of materials and labor.

Things You Should Fear About the Future

The future brings with it many things which we should be afraid of. If we are not careful—we may find ourselves with a future void of those things which make it desirable

What should we fear?

The future provides us with some of the greatest human qualities. It offers us hope, change, and opportunity. It allows us to dream, and assures us that when things are grim, they can get better. At the same time, if we invest too much in the future and forget the present and past in the process, we may find ourselves with a future void of those things which make it desirable. We shouldn’t fear the future, but we should fear the things it offers that are not compatible with our humanity.

Fear the Machine

For centuries, the machine of industry has promised to solve our problems. It has promised to make life easier for us by doing all things that we hate to do. It has claimed to make life better, yet history has already proven that it has done none of these things. We think that we control it, but ultimately, it aims to control us.

Are we really happier with a polluted our environment? Are we happier with the seemingly endless hours we must work to continually feed and nourish the machine? Are we satisfied limiting our humanity to only the daylight hours when we are not at work?

Fear the Numbers

In today’s society nearly everything must be able to prove its worth with numbers—everything must be calculated with precision and accuracy. The power of numbers is being used to argue every point imaginable. If you cannot make an opposing argument with numbers of your own, you have little chance to sway an opinion.

In his book, Technopoly, Neil Postman tells us that we “should never allow a calculation to become a substitute for judgement, nor precision a synonym for truth.”

Fear Efficiency

One vision of the future is that everything will be a model of efficiency. To some the ultimate aim of any creation is absolute efficiency, the ability to get things done faster, with less work, an with less friction. It certainly sounds important, but you must remember that there are many things where efficiency is not important.

Most often, efficiency only provides you with more time to do more things that you don’t love to do.

Fear Technology

Technology is one of the future’s brightest children. We all are enamored and amazed by the idea of invention. Many of these inventions are marvelous, they enable us to do things which were not even dreamed of by our grandparents. These inventions bring us together, they amplify and enhance human attributes, they even have the capacity to heal our ailments.

Technology also takes away. It gives power to those who shouldn’t have it. It kills with merciless force. It can be used to promote and deliver filth to our doorsteps, it can destroy the things most important to us.

It’s light is as bright as its darkness is dark.

Fear Ignorance

Some would believe that in order for the future to offer us its greatest gifts, we must let go of the past completely. The past is what gives the future the ability to offer hope, change and opportunity. If we remove the past from the equation, the future will no longer be able to offer us those things.

Without the past, the future cannot exist, we cannot afford to ignore it.

Advice to Help You Not Fear the Future

Take a stand for you humanity. Don’t, give it away & don’t allow it to be taken from you.

You must confront the things you fear.

Fight Ignorance

Learn everything you can about history. A deep knowledge of human history will better equip you to take on the future.

Don’t ignore the great narratives of religion, Let the stories, mythologies, & the philosophies of times past educate you and give you a solid footing in the present.

Read good books, and lots of them.

Fight Technology

When technologies impact core human characteristics (like communication) adopt them slowly and carefully.

Try to understand all the consequences that may come when you embrace a technology.

Monitor the effects of that technology carefully, and have an escape plan for when that technology takes you down a path you don’t want to go.

Only accept technologies that enhance the best human attributes. Reject those that amplify the worst.

Always remember that it is possible to live without.

Fight Efficiency

Don’t believe that efficiency is the ultimate answer to every problem.

Don’t confuse efficiency with speed.

Find something to do where you can take all the time you need to do it right.

When someone talks about “efficiency,” start talking twice as fast to more efficiently end the conversation.

Remember that some things are worth spending more time and more money on.

Fight the Numbers

Cast suspicion on everything and anything based on numbers.

Use numbers as facts to help you make informed decisions, don’t let the numbers make the decision for you.

Realize that as powerful as numbers are, they are only a snapshot of the whole picture. Your emotions, intuition, and knowledge are as important as numbers.

Be prepared to fight misleading numbers with accurate and convincing numbers of your own.

Fight the Machine

If a mechanization doesn’t enhance a human trait or ability, stay away from it.

Don’t allow destructive machines to persist, and do everything in your power to keep them out of the hands of those who would use them to enslave you.

Resist anything that makes you more machine like.

Learn how to do things without complicated machines, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you have the power, not the machine.

Embrace the Future Without Fear

The future is a source of hope, change, and opportunity.

If we’ve left room in the future for our humanity, there is nothing to fear.