Ignoring the present is best accomplished by filling one’s day with fulfilling work building something that does not yet exist largely in the public consciousness. Then simply tune out the news. It is a habit of mind that is best sustained when one has colleagues with similar orientations.
The nature of that work can be of any creative sort, and if one is particularly imaginative and self-confident, tuning out the present is not so difficult.
I cannot stress how important taking in long periods of study and reading and writing are crucial to the process, but also play. In my time at Xerox I was always two degrees from PARC, through the decentralized and office systems business units. So I was continually hearing stories and occasionally getting my hands on hacks. What was true then is true now. Get some idea about the technology’s ability and then imagine a future where everybody can do it.
For example, back in the mid 80s the CD format was just emerging. But scientists at PARC and engineers in the business units were already thinking about how storage density and transfer speeds in such portable media could be extended. This was in a world where there were probably only 10 CD pressing factories on the planet. So my friends and I were into bartering, buying , selling and trading them. That was the first business model - back in the days when (dig this), video stores only had VHS tapes AND their databases were not networked across stores. But it was easy for us to imagine what is basically the current video on demand business a good two decades before Netflix went online.
I also particularly remember a story about PARC staffers having ‘smart badges’. These were ID tags that announced personal ring tones that let a person know who was entering their office without looking up from their work. We were certainly able to to write musical (but not MIDI) code that personalized our email inbox alerts. So yeah basically we were thinking about ringtones in ‘86.
It’s not so difficult to live in your own imaginative private Idaho. The incredibly difficult part is to get what is obvious to forward thinking geeks, to get financed and organized into a successful enterprise. I think that has always been the case.
I believe PARC was the last ‘PARC’ because the age of monolithic top down government and corporate funding really receded in the era of Venture Capital. With the research and development that is going on now with blockchain accounting and token economies, I think financial thinkers are going to make the biggest changes in the world in the next 20 years.
There’s a dude named Clay Shirky whom I haven’t read in a while, but has a very good handle on economies of attention and the monetization of surplus human ‘time’. Think about it this way. Cellphones have monetized human talk. That’s massive. So the world economy has expanded because you think you’re only working 8 hours a day, but actually you are working for attention aggregators almost every moment you are awake. So the trick is to figure out what interesting and compelling things people do take place outside of work and what kind of devices and economies could spring from that.
Oh by the way, also check out the Long Now Foundation. And for what it’s worth, I’ve been thinking about how people might avoid the plague of ‘fake news’. It’s the same as it ever was. Cloister yourself and read only the most advanced thinking you can understand.
You know what’s funny? When I was a freshman in computer science, I thought I’d never be able to write essays with footnotes. Now this software generates them for me. Thanks Ted Nelson.