Tomorrow Now Sans Art

After putting the book down a while ago, I just completed reading sci-fi author Bruce Sterling’s quite excellent Tomorrow Now : Envisioning the Next Fifty Years. It’s a very smart read about how the future could look for all of us. Alternating between a dystopia where governments are consistently challenged by terror and crime and the planet wastes away under its noxious gasses and a utopia in which medicine provides strange life-changing elixirs to the common man, Sterling hits many great futurist notes.
Interestingly as well, within its pages, Sterling praises doctors, lawyers, scientists, writers, industrial designers, corporate technocrats, government policy wonks, and political activists. But the book gives pretty short shrift to art, makers of culture, and the visionary potential of aesthetics. I don’t want to agree with him but I can’t help but wonder if his ellision is all too true. Perhaps art (e.g. film, painting, music, etc.), in the most traditional Western and Eastern senses of the word, can only envision a future of one (viewer, participant, extremist) at this point — it can no longer participate in true social patterns or partake in the biggest issues of our days. I don’t think Sterling is explicitly saying this. But I do wonder if this is what the book, by its omissions, implies.

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