Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

The future began 10k-12k years ago

From Monica Smith's A Prehistory of Ordinary People:

The transition to sedentism (and its frequent correlate, agriculture)…  requires significant changes at the individual cognitive level: attention to long-term planning, the acceptance of sunk costs as a daily event of work without immediate return, and the capacity to accumulate resources on a seasonal basis but distribute them on an incremental basis.

This makes me wonder if it's possible, pace Colin Renfrew and the cognitive archaeology school, to construct a prehistory of the future– in other words, to establish when humans began thinking about the future, and to trace what kind of thinking that was.

1 Comment

  1. From a different perspective, there is no human, or being-in-the-world, without that form of time consciousness – a line of argument you can trace through Heidegger, Simondon, Derrida and Stiegler. A good way of following this is David Couzens Hoy’s excellent “The Time of Our Lives: A critical history of temporality” (2009, MIT Press). Chapter 4 on the future is really good.

    However, its also (I’d argue) worth reading Bernard Stiegler’s work “Technics and Time” (3 vols). Dan Ross (a translator of Stiegler & philosopher himself) has written an excellent wikipedia page on the first book in the Technics & Time series:,_1

    “Technics and Time argues that “technics” forms the horizon of human existence. […] The thesis of the book is that the genesis of technics corresponds not only to the genesis of what is called “human” but of temporality as such, and that this is the clue toward understanding the future of the dynamic process in which the human and the technical consists.” (From the wikipedia page).

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