Michael Glaser, director of the product design program and assistant professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, was recently browsing through the design section in a New York City bookstore and came upon After the Future by Franco Berardi. Although he purchased the book with relatively low expectations, he now considers is a “lucky find” and is looking forward to finishing it.
Why did you choose this book? What is it about?
The book was sort of a lucky, random pick up. It was in the design section, which is weird because it’s more of a philosophical book. What’s really weird about it is that I had sort of been thinking about the book’s topic for a while, so it really resonated with me. The topic deals with how humankind thrives and has always grown on this concept of having frontiers—humans have, throughout the eons, driven themselves forward trying to understand frontiers.
Berardi says that we are getting to a point in our evolution where we are not going to have any more frontiers. Humankind has started to see the virtual world as a frontier, but it’s contrived, it’s made up and artificial, so it’s not really a frontier.
The really interesting thing is that I grew up in a utopic era where we were taught that the future was better. But, the promise of the future has let us down. I feel that the promises that were made back when I was growing up never really materialized. My son’s future is not necessarily going to be better and brighter than the one I had. It’s not a very upbeat kind of book but it’s also kind of exciting.
What is it about this book/topic that you find important or enjoyable?
What I find enjoyable is that it’s confirming some of the things that I feel intuitively—when that happens, it just makes you feel more convicted toward the things you’d been thinking. I think the book is important and I would love people to read it because it creates discourse, it creates a dialogue around our myths and capitalism and technology.
What’s also very interesting about this book, and the reason I chose it, is that it deals with one of my favorite eras in design—the Italian futurist movement of the 1970s. The best way to describe that era is to mention two movies that came out at that time—Star Wars and Bladerunner. Star Wars shows this gleaming white, clean, good-and-evil sort of world, where you know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, a sort of naive myth about the future. The Italian futurist movement was more like Bladerunner, where instead of everything being gleaming and clean, everything is a little more gritty.
So far, has the book lived up to your expectations?
This book has far exceeded my expectations. The way you can tell that it exceeded them is because I actually read the whole book. When a book doesn’t interest me, I usually don’t continue.
Is there a passage or a quote you find particularly interesting?
This quote pretty much sums up the entire book:
"The future becomes a threat when the collective imagination becomes incapable of seeing possible alternatives to trends leading to devastation, increased poverty and violence."