Getting ready for the future: Big Brother or Webmind?

Robert J. Sawyer

Thinking of the future offers us a choice.  Will it be a dystopian one, a la 1984, George Orwell and Big Brother, or will it be one of abundance, and positive potential? It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In his World Wide Web (WWW) trilogy (Wake , Watch , Wonder), science fiction author, par excellence, Robert J. Sawyer, weighs in on the abundance side, with Webmind, a sentient web presence (beyond human design) that emerges out of the WWW/Internet.

I’ve read a half dozen of Sawyer’s books. He is my current, favorite, science fiction writer.

His latest, the WWW trilogy (published 2009-11), is inspirational; thoroughly researched, touching on cognitive theory, information theory, psychology, computer science; imbedded with memorable characters, human and non-human; fascinating storylines that explore the boundaries of relationships, human/human, human/machine, and machine/animal; connecting today’s social networking culture (the Twitter tweets/references are a hoot) with an exciting (abundant, remember!) future, so close at-hand?!

Oh, I should also mention he’s Canadian, lives near Toronto, and a number of his storylines take place (in part) in old stomping grounds of mine.


WWW trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer

A future orientation is something all mediators, collaborators, bridge builders must have, and work with.


What’s in our future orientation toolkit? Here are a few tools for talking about the future, all of which are featured, in Sawyer’s Trilogy:


  • Abundance; value creation, yes, and.., positive potential, options
  • Paradox; the duality of things, order/chaos, half full/empty, a future of hope/despair
  • Reframing; changing the game, how we describe the situation, the conflict
  • Emergence; out of complexity, things that weren’t expected come into existence
  • Reflection; pausing to reflect, self-awareness, what do I/we really want?
  • Storytelling; connecting the dots, my/your ways
  • Iteration; learning our way forward, integrating the thinking and doing
  • Ownership; being accountable, choosing to decide your future vs. letting someone else have control over it
  • Relationships; between people, between all things
  • Collaboration; together, we can produce something greater, 1 + 1 > 2

Nora Young, CBC Radio technology reporter, recently interviewed Sawyer about his WWW trilogy and ideas, in this 10 minute audio clip. Fascinating stuff, well worth a listen.


So what does the future hold? Will it feature malevolence or abundance? How are you getting ready for it?

Me? I’m looking forward to Sawyer’s next book, for a few answers and questions.

Image credits: Robert J. Sawyer website.

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