THE NATURE OF THE FUTURE: Dispatches from a Socialstructed World. By Marina Gorbis. Free Press. 256 pages. $26.
When you grow up in a house with a wall-mounted phone with a crank on the side, a book extolling the virtues of social media on the health of our future society is initially a bit hard to digest. This book managed to do it.
The author, Marina Gorbis, until her late teens, lived in a Russian society distinguished by the importance of barter and social currency. She has put together a book describing in convincing detail how our increased connectivity with each other will lead to dramatic changes in education, medicine, science and governance.
She cites current examples of governmental units using crowdsourcing of opinions as part of their decision making.
Showing up for your doctor’s appointment armed with a large supply of Internet-derived information about your affliction is no longer an uncommon occurrence.
But networking and comparing symptoms, treatments and outcomes with a large number of similarly afflicted sufferers is just beginning to happen in a systematic, large-scale and productive way.
The scale of online education is not only vast, but it also has gone mainstream with many major universities involved. Surely these trends are only going to evolve and expand into ways we cannot yet envision.
Gorbis, with example scenarios, leads us into understanding where the future might lie. She is properly called a “futurist.” She is the executive director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a nonprofit research and consulting organization in California.
The book is well structured and easy for the layman to read. After some introductory chapters, including an intriguing chapter on money, she has one chapter each on how this “socialstructed” society might play out.
They cover: education, governance, science and medicine. The penultimate chapter is called, “A World of Unthinkable Possibilities.” She concludes with some thoughts on managing the transition.
Gorbis, comfortable with the current vernacular, has created a smooth flowing text that permits an easy read of some difficult topics. This one is definitely worth reading.
Reviewer Frank L. Cloutier, from Hanahan, is currently camped on the mid-coast of Maine.