FTP024: David Brin – Building Future Societies with Transparency and Freedom

Today’s podcast guest David Brin is an American scientist, futurist, and award winning science fiction author, whose books have been New York Times bestsellers. He also consults and speaks for various future-focused entities like Google and the CIA; and is a fellow at the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies. David Brin started his career as a scientist (he has a PhD in space science), and science is still a big part of his life – although now he has a lot more freedom to speculate through science fiction.

Transparency and Freedom

Brin’s classic non-fiction book, the Transparent Society, is concerned with the issues of privacy and transparency. Most people want privacy for themselves, yet demand transparency from others – namely, their leaders. Transparency and privacy often end up on the opposite sides of political debates, where we are forced to choose a side. But do we really have to choose? The truth is, the average citizens of most Western countries have more transparency AND more freedom today than at any other time in human history. And in many developing countries, things are also improving quickly. Many of the recent years were the best ever for civil liberties. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make as entertaining news as terrorism or twerking, so few news agencies are talking about it.

Don’t Get Cynical – Be Grateful

People have a tendency to get used to the things they have, especially if everyone else has them too. We have a tendency to get cynical and complain about the things that are going wrong with the world. Not to say that there aren’t issues worth talking about, but we also have to consider how far we’ve come in such a short time. A sub-saharan tribeswoman today has better access to information via the Internet than world leaders did just a few decades ago. That’s huge.

It’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and be grateful for what we have. And then get back to work in creating an even better future for all of humanity.

In This Episode, We Talk to David Brin About:

  • His new short story collection, Insistence of Vision
  • Transparency and privacy: can we have both?
  • The pyramidal vs. diamond-shaped social structure and cultural renaissances
  • Why reciprocal accountability and criticism are necessary for self-improvement
  • Is suspicion of authority ingrained in us by the media?
  • The decentralized society: is it really better than what we have now?
  • The role of science fiction in inspiring our future
  • The importance of gratitude, and why cynicism isn’t helpful
  • Why it’s important not to get attached to any particular idea or group
  • The difference in attitudes between baby boomers and millennials
  • Why we need to watch out for dichotomies
  • Positive sum game, and why this concept in central to healthy societies
  • Should we be sending out METI – messages to extraterrestrial life?
  • The Fermi paradox, and David’s favourite solutions to it

Mentions and Resources:

  • David Brin’s blog and website
  • Davis Brin’s article on cop cams
  • Future Thinkers featured in Brin’s list of future looking websites
  • A prediction wiki of David Brin’s book Earth
  • Network (movie) clip

Mentioned & Recommended Books:

By David Brin:


More From Future Thinkers:



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