Giving demos from the future


The problem with talking about the future is that it hasn’t happened yet.

Sure, you can extrapolate from current trends, make predictions, follow patterns to their logical (or illogical) conclusions. But you don’t actually have that crystal ball, all polished up and ready for the gazing.

So you’re sort of winging it. And the people you are talking to know this. Like you, they have all grown up in a world of logical causality, where one foot comes after the other and time progresses in a respectfully straight path.

Still, they want to know about the future, and you might be in a reasonably good position to discuss the subject. So how to proceed?

I find a good strategy is to give live demos from the future. Of course that isn’t literally possible, so you need to cheat a bit.

As with any form of theater, you must ask your audience to indulge in a little make-believe, in the service of truth. After all, we all know that Hamlet isn’t a real prince. Yet we weep at his tragedy, and by the end of the play we know that we are in the presence of Truth.

There is a contract with the audience, and that contract starts with the presence of a live human being up there on that stage, acting his heart out for our enlightenment. Hamlet is a live demo of the human condition.

And so you need to ask your audience to take that leap of faith. This stick I am holding in my hand is a futuristic pen which lets me make drawings that come to life. These glasses I’m wearing are windows into a vast virtual world. Robots have personalities, and can feel our pain.

None of these things are literally true, but they may be true one day. We all know this, and it is important for us to think about both the possibilities and the perils.

But if you’re going to talk about this stuff, and you want your audience to care, you’d better show some live demos.

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