David Brin is best-known for shining light — plausibly and entertainingly — on technology, society, and countless challenges confronting our rambunctious civilization. His best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. Other novels are translated into 25+ languages. His short stories explore vividly speculative ideas.
Brin's nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
As a scientist, tech-consultant and world-known author, he speaks, advises, and writes widely on topics from national defense and homeland security to astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction, creativity, and philanthropy. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four Worlds Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications.
where Brin rants, probes, questions & studies
jettison the orthodoxies & ideologies of prior centuries
Brin predicted it in 2007: Just as Soviet commissars recited egalitarian nostrums while relentlessly quashing freedom in the USSR, many of our new clade of American Commissars mouth "pro-capitalism" lip service while doing everything they can to cheat and foil competitive markets. In "The Relevance of an Old Nemesis — as Even Older Ones Return," he reminds us: We always have to push uphill against a perilous slope of human nature.
Could a single scientific breakthrough help get us past today's rising mass frenzy of self-righteousness that has poisoned politics in the United States and some other countries? Brin has long corresponded with experts, trying to find out. The resulting essay, "Addicted to Self-Righteousness? An Open Letter to Researchers In the Fields of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology," led to papers in psychiatric journals and a speech at the National Institutes for Drugs and Addiction.
Here's an idea: Why don't all reasonable people break free of the left-right stranglehold imposed on us by less-reputable politicians and form an Alliance for a Modern World? One approach may be to form coalitions that agree to promote — boldly and openly — a dozen consensus agenda items, and refuse to be drawn into other fights. Is it possible to negotiate a list of desiderata that all modernist defenders of the Enlightenment might stand behind?
Fundamental to this calamitous presidency is not just the vulgarity or toddler tantrums, nor his rally-pleasing hatred of fact-professions. It is Donald Trump's essential inability to grasp what the word "negotiation" means, outside of his old worlds: real estate and reality shows.
Under conditions that are growing worse daily, millions of Americans who think they have a vote, do not actually have one. They assume they have voted because they weren't stopped or turned away on election day by one of the more overt voter suppression tactics, but when it comes to the elections that choose our legislative branches of government, most Americans have been denied any chance to choose their representatives. That is — if they are even allowed to cast a vote. There is a test that would nail down whether voter ID laws are, as their proponents say, merely ratcheting up accountability — or, whether they are blatant flagrant attempts to cheat and steal votes away from poor people, minorities, first-time voters, and women.
By quietly and gradually cranking up a process called gerrymandering, members of the Political Caste have managed to effectively deprive us of one of our most basic American birthrights — choosing our representatives. Gerrymandering 'cracks and packs' voters till each district is 'owned' by one party or another. Democratic voters in a Republican-owned district — or Republicans in a Democratic-owned district — will never cast a vote for the legislature in the only election that matters: the majority party’s primary. Unless... unless you hold your nose and re-register with whatever party owns your district.
David Brin frequently refers to the current era of American politics as the latest phase of the U.S. Civil War, in part because the political maps so blatantly copy a pattern that goes back almost 200 years. Furthermore, the social movement called the "confederacy" (and responsible for the American Civil War of 1861-1865) has been at this for a long time. Cyclically — through at least eight phases of a resurging confederacy — we find ourselves mired in dogma, instead of pragmatism, intransigent hatred instead of negotiation, and nostalgia and romanticism, instead of belief that we can craft a better tomorrow.
David Brin is devoutly loyal to the Enlightenment and — yes — patriotic toward a version of Pax Americana representing our best and smartest virtues. This passion can be roused by events to express vigorous partisanship toward or against a particular candidate in an election, not because of the simpleminded "left" or "right" solutions that candidate espouses, but because of the overwhelming evidence that civilization is in danger from a particular gang of manipulative rascals.
Americans tend to feel uncomfortable when asked to look at the vast sweep of world history. Part of this discomfort may arise from a sense — nurtured ever since the Revolution — that everything was supposed to change with the establishment of our "city on a hill." All those tedious cycles of imperial conquest and oppression, of civilizations rising only to collapse, had been rendered obsolete. Thus, history gets ignored, except as a source of isolated anecdotes. Because, if you take in its vast sweep, there is plenty of evidence to support both cynical and idealistic interpretations of America's role in the world, during the last 200 years.
Back in the 1990s, David Brin participated in a discussion at an (unnamed) Washington DC agency, where the question was raised: "What could our enemies do to bring down even a pre-eminent Pax Americana?" Even then, there were many foes desperately eager to find a way.
Let's consider this issue at a more abstract level. In a very general sense, what we are seeing is one party — claiming a slim electoral majority — asserting that they have a sweeping mandate to rule without negotiation or compromise. Either their sense of history is extremely myopic... or else they think they know something that we don't know, about the political shape of our future. (Ponder this paragraph at leisure, till that last remark makes sense. And shiver.)
This essay is for those of you out there who are actually involved in, or supportive of, endeavors to game or cheat the electoral process — the henchmen (because that really is the word) who plan to manipulate voting machine results, or who are purging voter rolls or arranging for "accidental" losses of ballots or biased disqualifications or any of the other shenanigens at issue here: Have you heard of that 'cousin' of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the Henchman's Dilemma?
Political metaphors, while purportedly about political philosophy, is actually about laziness... the way we frequently let ourselves accept other peoples' metaphors — their models of the world — without stopping to think or ask, 'Hey, what are we talking about?' Often, we hear exactly what we expected to hear, whether or not that was what the other person really meant. Thus we make strawmen of others, and deny ourselves the wisdom of complexity.
Anthropologists tell us that every culture has its core of central, commonly shared assumptions — some call them zeitgeists, others call them dogmas. These are beliefs that each individual in the tribe or community will maintain vigorously, almost like a reflex. We, too, have our zeitgeist. But contemporary America's dogma is very, very strange in one respect. It just may be the first society in which it is a major reflexive dogma that there must be no dogmas!
Suppose we get a Congress that's willing to push back against idiocracy. What item should be number one on its to-do list? How about ending the War on Facts, with legislation to restore access to useful and confirmable information for public officials, politicians and citizens. Likely effect? Congress-members will no longer be able to shrug off fact/scientific questions with "I’m not a scientist."
David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More
Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More
Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More
David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More
Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More
Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More
Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
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