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Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Ageby Steven Johnson
Fascinating, insightful, and deliciously readable, Future Perfect is at once a deep social analysis and a sharp forecast of how things can, should, and might soon be done. Consider: the news media like big events, and there's always room for complaint, but what if these biases are hiding the fact that things are really getting better, just incrementally? That's where Johnson begins his investigation, but the book is... bigger. After all, this is the writer who wrote Where Good Ideas Come From, and he's packed this book with solutions that are a tier above. Johnson unites the best of libertarian aspirations and progressive values, giving us a window into America's underground political reality with his depiction of the peer progressive, which is probably what you are, whether you've known it or not.
Synopses & Reviews
Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good For You, New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect makes the case that a new model of political change is on the rise, transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Johnson paints a compelling portrait of this new political worldview — influenced by the success and interconnectedness of the Internet, but not dependent on high-tech solutions — that breaks with the conventional categories of liberal or conservative thinking.
With his acclaimed gift for multi-disciplinary storytelling and big ideas, Johnson explores this new vision of progress through a series of fascinating narratives: from the “miracle on the Hudson” to the planning of the French railway system; from the battle against malnutrition in Vietnam to a mysterious outbreak of strange smells in downtown Manhattan; from underground music video artists to the invention of the Internet itself.
At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that new solutions are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture.
"From the drop in the crime rate to the increase in airline safety, the media tends often to focus its attention on large areas of social progress rather than on incremental progress in various areas of social and political change. As journalist Johnson points out in this fascinating and compelling book, as the character of our society changes and embraces social networking to a greater degree, the ways that we foster and measure progress are beginning to change dramatically. For example, the progress in reducing teen smoking didn't arise out of larger economic, market, or political forces; the decline in teen smoking came from doctors, regulators, parents, and peers sharing vital information about the health risks of smoking. In the future, progress will not arise primarily out of government directives or policies but out of peer networks. A peer network builds tools that lets a network of neighbors identify problems or unmet needs in a community, while other networks propose and fund solutions to those problems. The decision-making process governing the spending of funds would be less hierarchical, and the task of identifying and solving community problems would be pushed out to the edges of the network, away from the central planners. Johnson points to Wikipedia as a prime example of a successful peer-to-peer network, for it has built itself progressively into a network of information that the community carefully monitors and administers. Stimulating and challenging, Johnson's thought-provoking ideas steer us steadily into the future. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A vision of innovation and ideas that is resolutely social, dynamic, and material....Fluidly written, entertaining, and smart without being arcane." Los Angeles Times
"Brilliant...Johnson is an exemplar of the post-categorical age....The 'long zoom' approach gives Johnson's book power, makes it a tool for understanding where we stand today, and makes it satisfying." New York Times Book Review
"Essential reading for anyone trying to understand this culture." New York Times
"Johnson is a polymath....[It's] exhilarating to follow his unpredictable trains of thought. To explain why some ideas upend the world, he draws upon many disciplines: chemistry, social history, geography, even ecosystem science." Los Angeles Times
"Steven Johnson is the Darwin of technology. Through fascinating observations and insights, he enlightens us about the origin of ideas. How do you create environments and networks that promote innovation? Johnson discovers patterns that help clarify that critical question." Walter Isaacson, author of the bestselling Steve Jobs
"Stimulating, iconoclastic, and strikingly original." The Atlantic Monthly
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the author of seven bestsellers, including Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You, and is the editor of the anthology The Innovator’s Cookbook. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites — most recently, outside.in — and writes for Time, Wired, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Marin County, California, with his wife and three sons.
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