21st Century ideas and inspirations

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 World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications.

Here are net-accessible articles, interviews, and essays about how we confront and solve our 21st century challenges and opportunities.

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where Brin brainstorms contemporary problems & opportunities

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  • blog: Contrary Brin
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  • scoop.it!: enlightenment civilization 3.0
  • pinterest: Curating 21st Century Politics
  • scoop.it!: Politics in the 21st Century
  • scoop.it!: A Contrary Look at History: Past and Future
  • other great resources

    Brin recommends these books, articles & websites

  • Starship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon, ed. James & Gregory Benford (#AmazonCommissionsEarned)
  • "Freedom of the Press Now Concerns Us All," by Nick Cohen

  • which trends will help us sink or swim?

    the 21st century holds many challenges, only some of which we can see today


    our transparent society

    the role of the internet in shaping the 21st

    Following the publication of the The Transparent Society, David Brin became a prominent voice in the debates over information openness and the value of light in the modern world. Find more articles, books, and media about the central issue of our age.

    disputation arenas

    out disputation arenas

    can we crowdsource wisdom?

    Media advances don't always liberate, at first. The tracts that emerged from printing presses enflamed Europe's 16th Century religious hatreds, while the 1930s-era radio and loudspeakers helped consolidate the power of tyrants. Our new media — the Internet — has inspired its own peril: the rise of fake news and too-easy proliferation of alt-facts. Can ordinary citizens can separate truth from manipulation before the harm spreads? Brin's proposal, as outlined in "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competitiveness for Society's Benefit," could teach us how to out-run a lie.

    industrial age inventors

    our crowdsourcing innovations

    reality seems to be catching up with fiction

    In this essay Brin discusses reviving the "lost art" of forming special-interest clubs and organizations: As a teenager, growing up in Los Angeles, Brin participated in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), gathering mountains of data for professional astronomers" — one of countless such groups formed around a limitless range of interests. In Existence, he portrays this trend as it can become, as individuals and small groups become ever more agile at sleuthing, data collection and analysis & forming very very smart, ad-hoc, problem-solving 'smart mobs.'

    DAVID BRIN's articles about our challenging 21st Century

    The universe continues to amaze, but are we up to the challenge? What wonders (or nightmares) are we devising? What new technologies will we design?

    singularities and possibilities

    how will we chart our future?

    In one of the boldest and most popular essays about our destiny, "Singularities and Nightmares: Extremes of Optimism and Pessimism About the Human Future," David Brin explores a startling range of possible changes available to us — changes that could occur within the next twenty or so years, roughly a single human generation. It's an opportunity for humanity and the Earth to avoid dangers and inspire hopeful futures — if that's what we choose. Weigh the range of possibilities for yourself. This article is also available on the Lifeboat Foundation website.

    moon transiting earth

    2015: our best year in space yet!

    ... toward the vast, vast majority of all that's been achieved. And after decades of doldrums, after the obstacles thrown up against us, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration. Have you been keeping score? We are a people who are doing all these wondrous things, exploring our solar system with pennies out of each citizen's pocket. We are doing all this, and so much more! We are a mighty folk — a folk of legend who will be the subject of songs, in times to come. Problem-solvers who will go ahead and save the world, despite the doubters and skeptics. And go on to the stars.

    brain by design

    brain by design

    What will happen as we enter the era of human augmentation, artificial intelligence and government-by-algorithm? Those fretfully debating artificial intelligence might best start by appraising the half dozen general pathways under exploration in laboratories around the world. While they overlap, they offer distinct implications for what characteristics emerging, synthetic minds might display, including (for example) whether it will be easy or hard to instill human-style ethical values.

    the high cost of natural disasters

    disaster planning amid the rubble

    Rebuilding a region devastated by a natural disaster means not only recovery but also building infrastructure to ameliorate future occurrences. Money, combined with ingenuity and goodwill, can take care of the short-term solutions: Stop the dying and bury their dead; provide survivors with food, shelter and basic sanitation; help restore basic utilities; repair the ports and roads enough to get commerce flowing again. So far, no arguments. It's when we start talking about longer-term, preventive solutions that the discussion gets clouded by xenophobic preconceptions and anti-globalism dogma — 60 years after the Marshall Plan proved that foreign assistance can work, some of the time.

    costs more to ignore than fix the climate

    the costs of humoring denialism

    Here David Brin offers some rebuttals to those denying the possibilty of human-caused climate change — with links to the full climate science. It's extended, exhausting and somewhat repetitious. Print it out before your next crazy-uncle encounter. BONUS: Print too the latest report that details how denialism is beginning to harm the economy.

    myths about the Boston Tea Party protest

    a revolutionary rorschach test

    The motivation for the Boston Tea Party protest serves as a Rorschach test for each succeeding generation. The 1920s viewed the rebellion as a phase shift from monarchal domination to empowerment of the bourgeoisie. In the 1940s, literalists took the Founders at their word — that the Revolution was an idealistic exercise in limiting the scope of government. During the 1960s fashions changed again, viewing the rebellion as a manipulative putsch that allowed local gentry to displace others at the top of the heap. What these generations of scholars all seemed to agree about was that the colonists weren’t rebelling over the raw magnitude of taxes.

    advisors at work

    scientists give the best advice!

    Nothing could better indicate the turn in our national fortunes than to see science no longer dismissed as a realm of pointy-headed boffins, but viewed as part and parcel of our nation's future. If we want a resilent government and responsive politicians, perhaps it's time we restore independent science advisory agencies.

    a war on expertise

    so why is there a war on expertise?

    The schism over global climate change (GCC) has become an intellectual chasm, across which everyone perceives the other side as Koolaid-drinkers. Right now all the anecdotes and politics-drenched "questions" flying now aren't shedding light. They are, in fact, quite beside the point. That is because science itself is the main issue: its relevance and utility as a decision-making tool.

    all voices deserve a hearing

    do all voices deserve a hearing?

    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!

    a wall of ideas

    waging war on ideas

    I do not need 'liberal thought' to make me favor equality of opportunity (while opposing artificial equalizing of circumstance). All I need is the blatantly obvious fact that we were wasting staggering amounts of human creative potential when people were repressed because of presumptions having to do with race and gender and class. The fantastic success of pragmatic 'liberalism' at spurring us to take on these devils is so overwhelmingly more important than any other event of the last century that the burden of proof is on anyone who disses 'liberals.'

    getting it right or wrong

    is citizenship too difficult?

    A deep flaw — perhaps the most tragic in human nature — makes delusional hallucinators of us all, blinding our eyes to any evidence that runs counter to our favorite dogmas. (This applies in all directions, to all dogmas, left as well as right.) Even more urgent is the need to find excuses forour side, our team, our tribe. In the face of this core human trait, it takes an awfully big person to admit that cherished, idealistic plans went awry... even diametrically opposite to every fervent hope.

    fear-mongers are more dangerous than terrorists

    is the internet helping us evolve?

    Is the internet era empowering us to be better, smarter, more agile thinkers — or devolving us into distracted, manic scatterbrains? Is technology-improved discourse going to turn us all into avid, participatory problem solvers? Or will the Web’s centrifugal effects spin us all into little islands of shared conviction — midget Nuremberg rallies — where facts become irrelevant and any opinion-monger can be a memic god?

    Continue reading more articles about 21st Century ideas & inspirations.

    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    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

    shorter fiction

    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

    Contrary Brin blog

    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

    social media influencer

    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 scientist


    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

    transparency expert

    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

    speaker & consultant

    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

    future/tech advisor

    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

    Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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    pages about DAVID BRIN

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  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
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  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds