Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Postmodernist Futurist

More common in the last sixty years, but still a minority in our set of problematic types are postmodernist futurists, mentioned earlier in this chapter. These folks prize subjectivity, freedom, mental fluidity, or creativity so highly that they often reject science as a privileged way of knowing, and they often also see no meaningful predictability and probability in human social systems. As with the other types listed here, they may hold this belief dogmatically, not willing to see evidence to the contrary. Several postmodernists claim science is entirely a social construct (it is always partially so in its evolutionary sense, but never fundamentally so, in a developmental sense). Others misinterpret chaos theory or quantum physics to imagine that science tells us the future is unpredictable (it doesn’t, and it isn’t).

Postmodernists are occasionally found in the business world, but are more often in government and academia, places where their perspective is seen as harmless cognitive diversity. Unfortunately it usually isn’t harmless, but rather a block to seeing the world as it truly is, as are many of these problematic types.

Today, postmodern cultural relativists have become perhaps the most problematic class of academic futurists, as Marxists are long in decline. Like Marxists before them, postmodernists live off of the exponentiating leisure, wealth and productivity of science and technology harnessed primarily via a capitalist social democratic world system, yet refuse to recognize that these are uniquely privileged and very likely universal ways of constructing knowledge and adaptation, for their place and time. The postmodernist view must be gently but firmly challenged wherever we find it, as it fails to see or acknowledge universal development.

Sometime postmodernists occasionally use the term “posthumanist”, a term with no less than seven conflicting definitions, so it’s effectively meaningless in common use. Clearly, we humans don’t want to be dehumanized by our technologies. Enlightened designers are also continually seeking to humanize our increasingly intelligent machines. Developmentalists are also seeking to understand universal human qualities in all intelligent species. So if anything, the word is becoming more universally humanist, not posthumanist, and we are using our science and technology to empower and distribute our higher human qualities to all species. Some “posthumanists” acknowledge these trends, but others do not, and their muddled language allows them to remain confused and ambivalent on far too many issues relating to global futures.