You Don’t Need a Crystal Ball to See the Phuture


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Phuture: (n) (fyoo-cher) an alternate parallel universe branching off from the present moment in time, one of many possible futures…

How would you like to wake up in the morning and read tomorrow’s headlines, today? Would you want to know who the 52nd President of the U.S. will be (Justin Bieber), the price of oil in 2025, or who will win the first Martian Olympics? Sure, we all would. — a joint venture lead by sci-fi author Matthew Mather — aims to bring you the future, now, through the use of crowdsourced news articles predicting the future, which readers can then vote up or down.

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Humans have always tried to pierce the misty veil of time to peer into the the future — with varying degrees of success. Whether it is astrologists or meteorologists, we want to know not just what is happening but will be happening, and, as far as we can tell, humans are unique in that trait. Science fiction is one of the most obvious ways we try to tell our own future stories, and some writers have been particularly prescient over the years. Books like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Robert Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer, and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, made predictions about our future, some of which have more or less come true.

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Mather is himself a science-fiction author, enthusiastic about the wonder of the future and distressed by the pessimistic attitude about our future in popular culture. So, he decided to do something to try to change those attitudes. In his new novel Phuture Dawn, he introduces the concept of “futuring” technology, used to predict the future. The web site is the foundation of this technology in the book, and — in a wonderfully Meta act — Mather set up an actual working PhutureNews site. He is taking story submissions now: “I am getting 20-30 new future headlines a week right now from some great thinkers all over the world.”

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As a reader, you can vote stories up or down if you think they are likely or unlikely to happen, and as people vote on how likely they think the headlines are, the future timelines will evolve. According to Mather, “crowd-sourced wisdom like this is amazingly good at predicting how thing will turn out, so this is an experiment in the making.”

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And what happens when one of the predictions comes true? “Well, we will see. Some predictions are for stuff very close in time — in this year even —so we will begin to see if they actually happen or not, and yes, I will be keeping a tally! It is very exciting!”

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