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Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years Paperback – December 23, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Nobody knows better than Bruce Sterling how thin the membrane between science fiction and real life has become, a state he correctly depicts as both thrilling and terrifying in this frisky, literate, clear-eyed sketch of the next half-century. Like all of the most interesting futurists, Sterling isn't just talking about machines and biochemistry: what he really cares about are the interstices of technology with culture and human history." -Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century
Visionary author Bruce Sterling views the future like no other writer. In his first nonfiction book since his classic The Hacker Crackdown, Sterling describes the world our children might be living in over the next fifty years and what to expect next in culture, geopolitics, and business.
"Time calls Bruce Sterling "one of America's best-known science fiction writers and perhaps the sharpest observer of our media-choked culture working today in any genre." Tomorrow Now is, as Sterling wryly describes it, "an ambitious, sprawling effort in thundering futurist punditry, in the pulsing vein of the futurists I've read and admired over the years: H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, and Alvin Toffler; Lewis Mumford, Reyner Banham, Peter Drucker, and Michael Dertouzos. This book asks the future two questions: What does it mean? and How does it feel?"
Taking a cue from one of William Shakespeare's greatest soliloquies, Sterling devotes one chapter to each of the seven stages of humanity: birth, school, love, war, politics, business, and old age. As our children progress through Sterling's Shakespearean life cycle, they will encounter new products; new weapons; new crimes; new moral conundrums, such ascloning and genetic alteration; and new political movements, which will augur the way wars of the future will be fought.
Here are some of the author's predictions:
- Human clone babies will grow into the bitterest and surliest adolescents ever.
- Microbes will be more important than the family farm.
- Consumer items will look more and more like cuddly, squeezable pets.
- Tomorrow's kids will learn more from randomly clicking the Internet than they ever will from their textbooks.
- Enemy governments will be nice to you and will badly want your tourist money, but global outlaws will scheme to kill you, loudly and publicly, on their Jihad TVs.
- The future of politics is blandness punctuated with insanity.
The future of activism belongs to a sophisticated, urbane global network that can make money--the Disney World version of Al Qaeda.
Tomorrow Now will change the way you think about the future and our place in it.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

BRUCE STERLING is the author of nine novels, three of which were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. The Difference Engine, co-written with William Gibson, was a national bestseller. He has also published three short-story collections and one nonfiction book, The Hacker Crackdown. He edited the anthology Mirrorshades and has written for many magazines, including Newsweek, Fortune, Harper’s, Details, Whole Earth Review, and Wired, where he has been a contributing writer since its conception. In 1999, he won the Hugo Award in the short-story category. He lives in Austin, Texas.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (December 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Clan Lindsey VINE VOICE on June 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Tomorrow Now is essentially a long and brilliant essay by Bruce Sterling, a noted science fiction writer and futurist covering some of his ideas of what the future may hold. Sterling very cleverly breaks the book into seven parts based upon a soliloquoy from Shakespeare covering the ages of man from birth to death, and wittily prophesies what life may shape itself into in our near future.

Two things struck me about this book. The first is that it is not nearly as focused on the next fifty years as the title purports. There is a fair deal of what the future may hold, but there is also a great deal of the present thrown in (especially in the soldier section), and some futurism that is more than 50 years out. Surprisingly this didn't bother me at all because his analysis of the present, especially an exposition on three different terrorists warlords, was fascinating, absolutely fascinating. This book ranges far and wide, and colors outside the lines of the 50 years stated, but I was glad it did as I read.

The second thing that struck me was that this is one of the most amazingly well-written books I've ever read. I am not sure I have ever read something as engaging, fascinating, informative and so easy to read at the same time. I have always enjoyed Sterling's fiction work but, frankly, the quality of this non-fiction book trumps his fictional stories. His writing style is very chatty, more or less as if you are sitting across the table from him, and at first this threw me. It's not something you expect in a science book. Yet once I adjusted I realized that this may be one of the clearest pieces of writing I have ever had the pleasure to read. When I say "pleasure to read" I actually mean it.
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Reading a book about the future that was written a decade ago is an interesting exercise in time travel. It turns out that many of the trends that Sterling perceived in the early 2000s are alive and growing ten years on.

Bruce Sterling has a well-deserved reputation as a futurist whose imaginative grasp is more eclectic and far-reaching than most. In Tomorrow Now Sterling sets out to delineate the outline of how the world might look in the next 50 years.

What sets Tomorrow Now apart from many other similar efforts is Sterling's keen perception of the pitfalls and traps awaiting the unwary prophet. He resists the temptation to predict the specific or the obvious, instead he sets out to uncover trends, "Successful futurism assembles evidence of trends to aim at paradigms."

Sterling adopts Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man from As You Like It as the basis for his book. This proves to be a very successful map on which to base his exploration. Using these seven ages as a guide he continually returns to the related questions: "What does it mean? How does it feel?" as a lodestone to chart his progress.

What I enjoyed most about Tomorrow Now was the breadth of Sterling's vision across many different areas of human activity: biotech, IT, business, law, politics, even death put in an appearance. I felt that he managed to successfully avoid the monkey puzzle trap which he warned about in his Afterward whereby the unwary futurist allows themselves to become so dazzled by one particular area of advancement that they lose sight of the large trends turning into paradigms in the grand overview.

As he so often pointed out, today is yesterday's future and the clock keeps ticking. For Sterling's view of the future from ten years back, the clock has ticked kindly.
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Format: Paperback
The coming decades pose great promise and imminent peril, oracular sci-fi writer Bruce Sterling argues in this compelling critique of the state of the modern world. On the plus side, scientists someday might eliminate disease and allow people to live forever. In the debit column, people are burning so much fuel that humanity is setting itself up for extinction. Sterling combines the analytical acumen of a true visionary with the prose of a master craftsman in this fascinating work seasoned with first person anecdotes. As a futurist, Sterling is too savvy to make concrete predictions that soon might be proven wrong (though some of his U.S. political analysis is already losing topicality), so readers might find his approach a bit obtuse at times. But even Sterling's glancing blows connect. We recommend his intriguing analysis and conjectures to techies and to anyone else who seeks a literate look at what the future might hold.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Bruce Sterling writes well, and thinks well. Foremost, I recommend reading this book, if only for its explanation of How Publishing Works.

My complaints:
0.) He is overly pessimistic:
He holds that certain parts of the world will constitute what he refers to as The New World Disorder---failed states, mafiacracies, terrorist labour exchanges. In a week when Gaza is on fire, this is hard to dispute...but he offers no insight, be it ever so tentative, on how such places may transition out of that state, leaving this reader feeling like he's encountered y.a. American Calvinist separation of the unalterably Elect from the unflinchingly Preterite. Given his capacity for optimism (viz sub), this seems odd.

1.) He is overly optimistic: Especially in his consideration of biotech possibilities, his guesses are too full of bad possibilities which he dismissed on the basis of their being too unpleasant for the people involved, or less profitable than better alternatives. Once, I was arguing with a Southerner over the causes of the Late Civil Unpleasantness War Between the States of Northern Aggression; he brought out that old chestnut of slavery's being doomed because it made no economic sense, to which I retorted, "But it was so much fun, at least for the people with the money and power." He also fails to address certain possible contingencies---e.g., adult genetic reshaping's being impossible or too dangerous to be generally practicable---and the fact that in an entropic universe a biologic Gresham's Law might be in play: all it may take is one bad actor (say, someone who lets her experimental bacterial machine be _not_ barren) for everything to go very bad indeed.

2.
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