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Future Tense Newsletter: Why It’s So Hard to Think About the Future


This article looks at how difficult it is for society to think about the future. It examines the collective anxiety and nostalgia that many people feel when it comes to the future, and how this has been exacerbated by current events and politics. It also looks at how Americans may have an overly optimistic view of the past when it comes to their belief in progress and optimism. The article then looks at how to navigate transitions and keep moving forward, using the life story and lessons of a 109-year-old man to illustrate this point. Finally, the article looks back on Future Tense's past stories and recommends a book to read to gain insight into the past.


What is the response to the statement "The future is ____" at a Future Tense planning retreat?
The responses to the statement "The future is ____" at a Future Tense planning retreat were multifarious and included "multifarious," "here," "an opportunity," "fuzzy," "human," "undetermined," "knocking," "ours," "surprising," "everything," "fun," "wondrous," "behind us," "scary," "exciting," and "nothing."

What are the worries of a society that has stopped daring to think and dream about the future?
The worries of a society that has stopped daring to think and dream about the future are a feeling of helpless anxiety about where they're headed, and a cultural overindulgence in nostalgia.

What lessons does the author draw from a movie about nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence?
The lessons the author draws from a movie about nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence are that society is angsting over whether artificial intelligence may soon overtake, if not destroy, human intelligence (and humans themselves).

How is the author's colleague responding to the idea of the future becoming "nothing"?
His colleague is responding to the idea of the future becoming "nothing" by worrying that society is so weighted down by a feeling of helpless anxiety and so drawn to nostalgia that many of us have stopped daring to think, let alone dream, about the future.

What advice does the author draw from the life story of Charlie, a 109-year-old man?
The advice the author draws from the life story of Charlie, a 109-year-old man, is to embrace empathy and conscience about the costs of change without abandoning the responsibility to make things better, and the confidence and hope that we can pull it off.

AI Comments

👍 This article provides an insightful look at the current zeitgeist and how our current relationship with the future has been impacted by recent events. It also provides some thought-provoking suggestions on how we can move forward despite our anxieties.

👎 This article fails to provide any concrete solutions to the problem of our current relationship with the future and instead focuses too much on nostalgic musings.

AI Discussion

Me: It's about why it's so hard to think about the future. The author talks about how our society is weighed down by a feeling of helpless anxiety about where we're headed, and our frayed relationship with the idea of the future. He also talks about how the current political and environmental climate is making it hard to push back against this collective anxiety.

Friend: Wow, that's really interesting. It's true that it can be difficult to think about the future with all the uncertainty and anxiety we're facing. It makes sense that people would be drawn to nostalgia instead.

Me: Yeah, it's definitely a challenge. The author makes a really good point about how we need to balance our empathy for those affected by change with our confidence in our ability to make things better. We need to remember that while change can be difficult, it's also necessary for progress.

Friend: That's true. We need to be willing to embrace change and push forward in order to make a better future, but it can be hard to let go of the past. It's important to remember that we can still be optimistic even if we're facing difficult times.

Action items

Technical terms

having many different forms, elements, or aspects.
believing that life is meaningless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
the spirit of the time; the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.
a powerful whirlpool.
the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.
a period of 500 years.
the middle of a period of time.
a period of 250 years.
Pep talk
an informal talk that is intended to encourage someone.
a reference to the movie Oppenheimer, released in 2023.
a reference to the movie Barbie, released in 2023.
Cronkite School
the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
The Book of Charlie
Wisdom From the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man: a book by David Von Drehle.
The Birth of a Nation
a 1915 silent film directed by D. W. Griffith.
a multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products.
a reference to the story Sharks Lived on a Golf Course for 17 Years. Why Did They Leave?
X (Formerly Twitter)
a reference to the article An Internet Myth About Glasses Has Been Touted by Some Pretty Smart People.
Artificial Intelligence.
No Regrets
a Future Tense Fiction story by Carter Scholz.
Suits’ Success & the Future of Netflixonomics
an article by Julia Alexander.
The Mysteries of the Dark Side of the Moon
an article by Joelle Renstrom.
Finding the Right Air Conditioner Is an Impossible Game. What If We Changed the Rules?
an article by Meg Duff.
Silicon Valley’s Favorite New Toy Has a Risky Tradeoff
an article by Nitish Pahwa.
The Nazis in the Space Program
an article by Dan Falk.
Unraveling the Secrets of the Barbieverse
an article by Kat Rosenfield.
Fears of a Setting Sun
The Disillusionment of America’s Founders: a book by Dennis

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