A Futurist Gentleperson’s Club: Part 1


As of mid-June 2016, there is a homeless encampment under the freeway overpass at Brush and 5th in Oakland.  It’s a mess of tents, shopping carts, tarps, and miscellaneous junk.  A part of me is sad for the denizens of this mini shantytown, but another part of me wonders if these people haven’t found some sort of little tribe to be part of.  A tough tribe to be sure, but maybe a more authentic one than the forced, smiling faces surrounding those of us in a typical corporate office.

I confess that I feel the isolation of modernism.  We evolved on the savannas in little tribes, maybe the size that Dunbar suggested of around 150 people.  These groups would have been tight knit and had in-group loyalties and status seeking commensurate with their manageable size.  And then the agriculturists destroyed the hunter-gatherers, and the Industrial Age sucked the farmers into factories, and now this Information Age left my beloved Rust Belt in ruins.  So here I am, a high tech refugee on the West Coast of America, having left the smoking cinder of Buffalo behind.  I am shut away safe and sound in a little apartment with my girlfriend, isolated from tribe and family.  This is how we live now.

At least this is how liberals live, with our conditional obligations, we can go where the money is.  The conservatives in this country still recognize inherited obligations and they suffer the economic consequences.  There is something lost when we don’t know our place in the world, when we don’t have that satisfying certainly of our roles and obligations.  Yet I don’t wish to return to the parochial living of times past.  I don’t want to see the individual forced to submit to the expectations of small minded village jackasses, who will crush the spirit of the gifted and the nonconformist.

So we seek something else to satisfy our need for meaning, which Seligman calls the urge to be part of something greater than ourselves.  We see postmodernism tear apart the narratives of modernism, perhaps rightly calling it out as a white male hegemony.  And we move from the exploitive strategy to the explorative.  Now non-white, non-cisgender, non-heteronormative, (etc.) narratives are harvested by social justice.  Underrepresented voices are being heard in some circles now, and that should be a good thing.  I am just a white guy, so I can’t really say for sure, but I suspect that this intersectionality of social justice is going to draw more and more distinctions.  Your gender separates you from your race, which separates you from your class, and at some point you are just left alone in this world with no tribe to back you.  And that’s how the left looks now to me.  I agree with Haidt, today’s liberal does not value in-group loyalty.

You can hang out in postmodernism if you want to.  I don’t care.  But a lot of us are looking for post-postmodernism.  I see it in Kegan’s ideas, Integral Theory, the NrX, Scott Alexander on ecclesiology seems relevant.  Sarah Perry seems to be on a similar path.  Vassar says to try every paradigm.  Intentional communities are in there.  You might not agree that all of these are an attempt to find the post-postmodern.  But try to give me the benefit of the doubt here.

Still, I can’t see myself living in an intentional community, that is just too much.  I value my privacy and independence.  But I see an intentional community as a place for people to develop villages of their own choosing and to solve this problem of isolation.  I go among various scenes here and there, the Futurists, the Rationalists, the Hedonists, the Quantifiers, the Longevity Seekers, etc.  But these lack the permanence of a tribe.  Even my regular Futurist Meetup feels ephemeral.  

I find myself yearning for a 19th century English gentleperson’s club with pensioners snoozing in leather club chairs, dark wood wainscoting, a fire burning, copious books and booze, and maybe a butler around somewhere.  A place where one can have a meal or stay overnight in a pinch.  A physical place where one might seek the better sort of conversation or camaraderie at any time of day or night.  But I want to see a club based not on class or connections, but on thoughtfulness about the future and whatever shared values futurists might lay claim to.  

EDIT 7/3/2016:
If you are interested in joining such a club in the Bay Area, please take this poll: http://goo.gl/forms/Qdj0mvyhgknUgazr1.

Continued in Part 2.

9 thoughts on “A Futurist Gentleperson’s Club: Part 1

  1. Unfortunately that place you wish for was intentionally designed for male rxclusivity and represents ruling class comforts- a butler? Why dark leather? Not my vision of progress nor future possibility.
    Seems to me a futurist safe congregating space should incorporate utilizing sustainable materials and cradle to cradle designed furniture that is arranged in a way that stimulates creative thinking, openness, inclusive collaboration and uplifting relaxation. A life affirming, inspirational place celebrating future potential and human evolution and emotional growth. A future of promise, opportunity and innovative human communication- where members interact authentically…not one setting us back to the stifling constraints of the Victorian era.

    • Let us not forget the good things about this age. The victorian era gave us Darwin and Marx, it was a time of social and political reform and even birthed feminism.

  2. Pingback: A Futurist Gentleperson's Club: Part 2 - The Oakland FuturistThe Oakland Futurist

  3. Perhaps I have more of a vulgar and functional engineers’ mind. I would be quite delighted with a reasonably clean but not so stylish space where 10 – 100 people could meet, mingle, do presentations, have discussions. At least one wall of floor to ceiling whiteboard space. A large screen TV or two for presentations, demos and viewing things of mutual interest.

    More of the sort of semi open informal being together space of a valley tech company modified to be more comfy with perhaps libations and occasional food brought in.

    The most important part of course are the ranges of things we share and discuss and what sorts of rules of the road we have around that without being too tight.

      • Scott, This is an open invitation to continue this conversation in person in a space designed to inspire innovation and collaboration. Come check out the coworking space where I’m a member in downtown Oakland at The Port Workspaces at Kaiser Mall, 344 20th Street. There are ample meeting and lounge areas on 3 floors, [including an area with dark leather chairs], free beer on tap (in addition to coffee & tea). I’m also getting involved with creating a makers/hacker member area on the 2nd floor.

        Come over on an upcoming Friday for lunch and music. I’ll give you a tour! http://kaisercenterroofgarden.com/ Here are directions: http://startupproduct.com/port

        As a member, I can hook you up for day passes and special rates, reserve meeting rooms, event space, and have access on weekends for a meetup. I’m currently conducting Product Therapy on Monday nights. http://prodport.eventbrite.com

  4. Pingback: A Futurist Gentleperson's Club: Part 3 - The Oakland FuturistThe Oakland Futurist

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