Category Reading
The Future Starts Here -Book of the Month, November 2019

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2019

John Higgs is highly entertaining and seriously engaging as both writer and presenter. His thesis in “The Future Starts Here” is that we are fabricating and consenting to a concocted story of a dystopian future which, by definition, cannot be examined through not yet having happened. For Higgs, this speculative future too often is presented through exaggerated headlines, sloppy reasoning and doom-mongering scenarios. 

He suggests that “At some point in the 1980s we gave up on the Future. Before then, we imagined wonderful days to come, free from disease, work and want…Our vision has changed. When we look ahead now, we tell dystopian stories of environmental collapse, zombie plagues and the end of civilisation.”

He disputes, very knowledgeably, many of the popular certainties predicted for the future of humankind and proposes that they preclude a more empathetic reading of where we might all be headed. 

Higgs’s eclectic range of topics is remarkable and engrossing. To mention but a few, I know a lot more about Octopi sensitivities, Elon Musk’s genius, Virtual Reality, AI, and the quest to conquer Mars than ever before. I am highly sympathetic to the underlying thesis that, as human beings, we need stories to make meaning of our existence. 

Clearly, it lies with the reader, listener, YouTube searcher and participants at the forthcoming Wordfest event to cogitate and come to their own decision as to where the future is taking us. I certainly am hedging my bets more cheerfully since engaging with John Higgs’s erudite and optimistic manifesto to the future, although I retain an interrogative edge.

In my view, how we can learn and teach from history and ongoing world affairs across the planet should warn us, daily, of our human capacity for the end of the story to be tragedy rather than comedy.

Quote by goodreads

'The future hasn't happened yet. The idea that our civilisation is doomed is not established fact. It is a story we tell ourselves.'

  • Imprint: W&N
  • Published: 16/05/2019
  • ISBN: 9781474609395
  • Length: 400  Pages
  • RRP: £13.99

Review by Morag Charlwood, Editor Shoreham Wordfest Book Reviews.

Biographical Notes: John Higgs

John Higgs is a writer who specialises in finding previously unsuspected narratives, hidden in obscure corners of our history and culture, which can change the way we see the world. In the words of MOJO magazine, “Reading John Higgs is like being shot with a diamond. Suddenly everything becomes terrifyingly clear”.

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