Remembering the Future

Kirby Urner
15 min readApr 2, 2018

Probably a main reason I spend a lot of time trying to breathe some life into forgotten history, is I want to revive the idea of an attainable sustainable future. I’m no longer a young man, so this can’t be about me personally as much, although I do have a stake in the outcome. Yet I find myself driven to “keep the memes alive”.

The forgotten history is like a fading memory of a whole civilization, the one we might have built, the subjunctive future. My dad subscribed to The Futurist, a magazine, and I absorbed the notion that the future is something we plan for. Dad planned for a living.

After graduating from Princeton, having focused on philosophy, I was less sure how to implement any plans. I taught high school full time, in Jersey City. Some nights I would take the PATH train from Journal Square to Manhattan and participate in Area Center programs.

The Centers Network, as it was called, had a future facing orientation. Journalists claimed it was a cult. Maybe it was. Neil Mahoney, one of the est Trainers (right, same thing), said “cult” meant “large Irish family”.

I’d found out about est from Walter Kaufmann, then a professor of philosophy at Princeton with a lot of name recognition, and then got into conversations with David Raymond, a Princeton local, about enrolling in Werner Erhard’s program.

By the time I moved to Jersey City, with a group of friends, to share a group house, I was already volunteering around the trainings and seminars. I’d learned a lot about the adult world I was entering, as people tended to share from the heart during these meetings.

Erhard himself had discovered Richard Buckminster Fuller and made him a role model. Here’s someone who thinks for himself and fights for a better future for all humans. This is what an evolved human being looks like.

Fuller had also written a two volume philosophy called Synergetics which I now felt compelled to take a look at. What did Fuller think “success for humanity” might look like?

Jumping back to 8th grade, my last year in Rome, Italy, I recall how the future was perceived as dark. Are we Living in the Golden Age? asked the cover of The Futurist. That issue was about the Club of Rome, a computer modeling group trying to develop coherent models of the whole world, with predictive powers.

The general tone in those days, like today, was pretty dire. Overpopulation, war, pollution…

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