February 29 2008 / by Venessa Posavec
Category: Space Year: 2008 Rating: 6
“A futurist is someone who can take a look at a strip-mall and experience instinctual fear.”
Exemplifying that role is Mac Tonnies, a futurist and sci-fi author who enjoys exploring everything from post-humanity to the paranormal. Armed with zingers like the quote at top and a keen sense of wit, Mac enjoys walking the line between reality and science fiction, much like contemporary Vernor Vinge (who also happens to be featured on the site today).
“A futurist’s job is to live in the future, to experience it,” points out Mac, “That can sometimes make the present a lonely place, but it can also make it exhilarating.”
Tonnies’ imagination stretches far indeed, frequently frolicking into the realm of outer space:
“We’re already seeing some exciting new thinking about democratized space travel,” say Tonnies, “for example: this could lead to a large-scale colonization of space and, ultimately, the effective end of the nation-state. As William Burroughs said, ‘we’re here to go.’ I’d personally like to see humanity become a space-faring species.”
Tonnies’ most recent book, After the Martian Apocalypse , focuses on intelligence on Mars. So, I asked him, “Where are all the extra terrestrials?”
“It’s politically fashionable to assume we’re not being visited and that the only way we can hope to make contact is through transmitting signals,” replied Tonnies, “Of course, that’s assuming they’re out there manning their radio telescopes and not uploaded into hedonistic virtual realities or choking on their own pollution.
On the other hand, there’s evidence to suggest some form of extraterrestrial presence here right now. So we might not be as alone as it seems.”
When asked to make some related predictions for the next 5 years, Mac offered up this doozie:
“I’ll go out on a limb with this one. I predict we’ll find “smoking gun” evidence for life on Mars, discover at least one extrasolar biosphere, and possibly even detect some EM chatter from an ET civilization.”
His predictions for the next 10 years are rather bold as well.
“We’ll have created androids that can pass for the real thing, if only briefly,” asserts Tonnies, “We’ll probably be growing cloned organs in vats. The US will have a base on the Moon and the Chinese will be nipping at our heels. The mean global temperature will be hottest on record. Large chance of regional nuclear conflicts.”
“Duck and cover, kids. It’s about to get really weird.”
If Mac’s fearless future spirit has got you wanting more he highly recommends you pick up, “Anything by J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.”
Mac, in particular, cites Gibson as a big inspiration:
“Of all the would-be shamans of our time, I think novelist William Gibson understands this most of all.”
Also be sure to check out our full-length interview with Tonnies .