U.S. Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich calls himself a futurist, and never tires of prognosticating. Beloved of Future Shock author Alvin Toffler, who coined the term "futurist," Gingrich co-authored a "conservative futurist" book in 2006 called The Art of Transformation (available in paperback for $70.00 on Amazon). He's also a fan of alternate history, and has written a number of bestselling alt.history novels. (We reviewed his novel 1945 here.)
Sean Mulligan of the American Humanist Association recently explained why Gingrich's ideas remind him of the corporate-run world of Neuromancer:
When Newt says, as he did at the Conservative Political Action Conference last February outlining his plan for a new environmental policy, that he is a futurist, my ears perk up a bit. But Newt's futurism is . . . more like the "high-tech, low life" world that William Gibson imagined in his masterful novel Neuromancer . . . Gingrich announced his support for a Tenth Amendment Implementation Act, which would affirm the rights of the states to do pretty much whatever they like free of federal intervention. This is the sort of secessionist mindset that America last examined seriously in 1865 . . . Without federal intervention, schools would remain segregated; indeed, the South would be an impoverished region at the foot of a prosperous industrial North. This is the future dreamt of by Dr. Gingrich and supporters of his school: one where a state would be at the mercy of corporations, one where a helpless citizenry would have no real recourse to corporate abuse, a world devoid of welfare, universal health care, and state-run education.
I think Mulligan's point here, which he delivers in fairly partisan terms, is that Gingrich's policy suggestions will lead to a world where absence of government programs could leave people at the mercy of corporate power. Which, if you read Neuromancer, is a troubling idea — though not without its charms if you're a mercenary hacker who is strung out on drugs and hangs around with ghosts.
As for what Gingrich thinks, he's pretty firmly in the "utopian" camp - though his politics are definitely cyberpunk. He comes across sounding like Ray Kurzweil in a recent interview with The Futurist.
Gingrich tells The Futurist:
In my book, Implementing the Art of Transformation, I provide a point of reference for considering what the decades ahead may look like. There will be more growth in scientific knowledge in the next 25 years than occurred during the past one hundred years. We are exceeding, by four to seven times, the rate of change of the past twenty-five years. This means that, by even the most conservative estimate, in the next twenty-five years, we will experience the scale of change experienced between 1909 and 2009.
He also says that one of the big issues of the future is "cyber-security," adding:
As we continue to integrate computers into every single aspect of our lives, we are creating a significant vulnerability to our very livelihood. What we need today is a cyber-think tank staffed by the generation today that lives and breathes in the electronic world. The institution would be set up much like the RAND Corporation was, with the exclusive purpose of ensuring the survivability of our networks and data.
Make of that what you will.
Image via Planet Damage.