Future Stories Book Summary - Future Stories Book explained in key points
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Future Stories summary

David Christian

What's Next?

4.2 (377 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

'Future Stories' by David Christian is an exploration of the past, present and future of humanity. It offers a unique perspective on our evolving story, and how we can act in the present to shape a better future for ourselves and our planet.

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    Future Stories
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    The future paradox.

    Every day, every human being faces an incredible number of choices. That’s a lot of responsibility, and it can even feel overwhelming. Sound familiar? Well, here’s some good news: you don’t have as much free will as you think you do. But here’s the bad news: you’re still responsible for your choices.

    If you’re scratching your head about that little paradox – or if neither of those statements sound like good news – then you’re in the right place. But before we get into it, let’s be honest: historians can’t even agree on what “the future” actually is. This problem goes back to two ancient Greek philosophers with very different ways of thinking about time.

    The first, Heraclitus, believed that time flows into a future that is unpredictable, uncertain, and ever-changing – think of that raging river we were talking about a moment ago. Let’s call this A-series time. The other philosopher, Parmenides, believed that all creatures, objects, and events are fixed in time with no uncertainty and nothing new happening. We’ll call this B-series time.

    Now, both of these philosophies have problems. In A-series time, it’s unclear what time is when we only ever exist in the present. When does the future become the present? How long does now last?

    In B-series time, the ideas of choice, free will, and responsibility become null and void. This is called determinism. It basically means that you didn’t choose to read or listen to this Blink. This moment is fixed in time. Depending on where you’re standing, it either already happened, is happening, or will happen in the future.

    So how do we approach future thinking? We use a little something called compatibilism. Compatibilism is the idea that free will and determinism are compatible.

    According to compatibilism, certain things are fixed – think death and taxes. But it also says that within that framework, we have choice and free will. When we understand that – when we agree that we have free will and the ability to make choices – we start to ask ourselves how we make those choices. And that’s where future thinking comes in. Making a choice means taking action that will lead to an unknown circumstance. A choice comes with uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and insecurity.

    Future management can help alleviate some of those feelings and lead to better choices. It starts with recognizing the geography of the future. And while there are several ways to map out the foggy landscape of the future, it’s most useful to think of it in terms of preference and possibility.

    Future outcomes come in four categories: The probable, the plausible, the possible, and the preposterous. We make decisions based on our preferred future outcome combined with the likelihood of that outcome occurring. If our preferred outcome falls on the preposterous end of things, it makes sense to compromise when it comes to that  outcome. On the other hand, if our preferred outcome lands in the probable category, we may want to reach for something a little more challenging.

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    What is Future Stories about?

    Future Stories: What’s Next? (2022) explains the roots of how we make decisions about the future and illuminates the urgent responsibility on humanity’s shoulders today, with a multidisciplinary approach to time informed by biology, philosophy, and cosmology.

    Future Stories Review

    Future Stories (2022) by David Christian presents an intriguing exploration of humanity's future through a historical lens. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By examining the past, present, and emerging trends, the book offers a thought-provoking perspective on what lies ahead for our species.
    • It delves into scientific advancements, technological breakthroughs, and societal changes, painting a vivid picture of the potential future scenarios we might encounter.
    • With its accessible storytelling and well-researched content, the book ensures that readers stay engaged and never find the subject matter dull.

    Who should read Future Stories?

    • Historians – both amateur and professional
    • Anyone concerned about climate change
    • Those interested in being a better human

    About the Author

    David Christian is a professor of history at Macquarie University. He co-founded the Big History Project along with Bill Gates and is the author of Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

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    Future Stories FAQs 

    What is the main message of Future Stories?

    The main message of Future Stories is to explore the possibilities of the future and understand how our actions shape it.

    How long does it take to read Future Stories?

    The reading time for Future Stories varies depending on your reading speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Future Stories a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Future Stories is a thought-provoking and engaging read. It offers valuable insights into the future and is definitely worth your time.

    Who is the author of Future Stories?

    The author of Future Stories is David Christian.

    What to read after Future Stories?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Future Stories, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • 2030 by Mauro F. Guillén
    • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Grand Transitions by Vaclav Smil
    • MegaThreats by Nouriel Roubini
    • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Transcendence by Gaia Vince
    • Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
    • Bedtime Biography: Isaac Newton by James Gleick
    • Future Skills by Bernard Marr
    • The End of the World Is Just the Beginning by Peter Zeihan