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Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age
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Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  524 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Combining the deft social analysis of Where Good Ideas Come From with the optimistic arguments of Everything Bad Is Good for You, New York Times bestselling author and one of the most inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture, Steven Johnson, maps the ways a connected world will be both different and better.

Steven Johnson proposes that a new model of political change i
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Riverhead (first published September 1st 2012)
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Andreas Jungherr
The first third of the book contains an interesting and highly readable popularisation of recent scientific texts on the role of networks in social organisation. Unfortunately the last two thirds of the book are filled with highly enthusiastic and uncritical examples of how these network structures might change various fields of society. Mainly these case studies fall short of valid analyses since they create false dichotomies between network structures, market structures and hierarchies. Instea ...more
Another good one from Steven Johnson, though better suited to someone who is relatively new to net culture and its politics. For someone like that, there is a lot here to think about, and (ideally) challenge one's assumptions. "Peer progressivism" is at least as good a name for the not-quite-yet political movement he discusses, and his explanation of that movement in the first part of the book is thoughtful and interesting.

The second and larger part covers several topics intended to show peer p
In Future Perfect, bestselling author Steven Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You) declares himself a member of the new revolutionary party, the peer progressives. For the most part, it’s a quiet movement, steady, not inherently violent. The recent uprisings in Bahrain, Egypt, the Occupy Wall Street protests, and other well-covered clashes between Net-enabled citizens and truncheon-wielding cops do not embody this phenomenon, but are instead merely a symptom. Make no mistake, however: A revol ...more
Pete Welter
Steven Johnson has been one of my authors for a while. Besides his topics, I think it's the fact that he is more than a writer - he goes beyond synthesizing information to forming clear and new theories and ideas.

In this book, he talks about a world-view called the "peer progressive" which I found resonated with me, because it described where I've moved in my point of view politically and culturally. The peer progressive is someone who believes that the free market is an incredible driver for in
Fernando del Alamo
El libro se centra en un tema: comparar las estructuras sociales que se basan en una jerarquía de arriba a abajo, en la que hay unos puntos o estructuras básicas (llamadas estrellas de Legrand) o en una red donde no hay una jerarquía definida (llamadas redes de Baran).

A partir de aquí, entra la historia de Internet gracias a la cual, la sociedad ha pasado mayoritariamente de ser una estrella de Legrand a una red de Baran y cómo podemos y debemos contribuir, cómo afecta a nuestro desarrollo como
Ryan Brinkworth
Despite Johnson never using the term 'New World Order', he highlights very well some of the scenarios where networking and social technologies have revolutionised how society has now learned to organise in the face of new challenges. He also sketches out an interesting future we could enter if we continue to embrace some of the best organising principles that he brings from fascinating success stories. 'Future Perfect' successfully shows that there is a large current of change possible if we emb ...more
Douglas Smith
I became interested in reading this book after hearing the author discuss it on NPR. I was interested in considering it for a class I'm teaching in the Spring on social change. On the whole, I found it an interesting read. His main thesis is that new technology has allowed for new network structure (in particular open, diffuse peer-to-peer networks) to provide a modern solution to issues faced by both governments and markets (which ofter are structure in hierarchical networks). It's a big idea b ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
If you want to get the feeling of an impending sense of doom read a polemical political tract (right or left) or something about the environment. If you want something more upbeat books about science and technology are usually pretty feel good. Steven Johnson writes about technology's effect on politics and culture. He responds to criticisms that the internet is destroying news coverage once provide by newspapers they replace. He states it is a new technology and as it matures functions like int ...more
Pete Wung
Future Perfect by Steven Johnson is a book about a big idea. And Johnson is a good person to guide you through the big idea, he has dealt with big ideas and he is quite adapt at presenting the cross coupled and complex ideas adroitly.
In this case, the idea has to do with peer-to-peer networks. While the name itself sound like it has something to do computer and communication technology, it is a very interesting concept which can be implemented without the help of technology, although it surely c
Elizabeth Schlatter
Despite the annoying cover design (I get it, kinda retro but also very Wired circa 1990s, but really, must you shout?), this is a very well written essay on peer progressives, which Johnson puts forth as a new type of political slant that is inspired by the peer-to-peer model of the internet while taking some elements from libertarians, democrats, republicans, and socialists. It's kind of a common-sense, egalitarian approach to problems both old and new (wealth distribution, education, communica ...more
Leonidas Kaplan
Future Positive

So people working together to make decisions. Democracy right? Not in this case.

Typical democracy elects one group of people to make all decisions. Thus, regardless of promises, you now have a group in power that does what it wants.

In Future positive, we have votes from citizens into what makes the most sense for them. So citizens vote whether they want a new playground, or a new business center. Citizens can either contribute a vote towards a decision, or money.

Similar to Kicksta
Erik Hanberg
This doesn't break as much ground as his great "Where Good Ideas Coem From" but is rather a manifesto for what he calls a "peer progressive" movement, a decentralized movement to change society, politics, and more. Good, but you have to already be invested in the idea, I think. Still recommend "Where Good Ideas Coem From."
Patrik Hallberg
So my first book by Steven Johnson and the first third of the book was brilliant how we in our society don't value progressive progress, and that negative news always trump positive. The first part about the history of the internet and the Baran web and how a distributed network is superior to a Legrand star (centralised structure) and the introduction of the concept of peer progressives (main thesis of the book). This is how Steven explains the concept "We believe in social progress, and we bel ...more
John Norman
This is not a good book.

The fundamental claim is that the world is "progressing," in large part because of new or emergent technological and social arrangements that are about distributed networks, or what the author beggingly wants us to accept under the slogan "peer progressivism." There is a crude and loose analogy here between distributed and non-centrally controlled social behavior and packet networking as on the Internet (which is itself a tendentious reading of what the Internet is all ab
Daniel Cremin
Really good. Read this over Christmas 2012. Couldn't put it down. He really brings to life the power of networks in driving progress. He employs an entertaining, storytelling style to tee up his arguments and there's no shortage of light relief. I was less convinced by his chapter on Liquid Democracies, but he is right to argue the merits of a 'peer society'. It's a book that thinkers on both the right and the left can take both encouragement from and issue with. I'd recommend it to those who ar ...more
Steven Johnson believes in progress— not the “progress” promised by shallow politicians offering quick fixes through “hope and change,” military surges, or fast-tracked powerful new legislation, but rather progress in the sense that human existence has been getting better bit-by-bit in slow, steady increments “since at least the dawn of industrialization.” (xxii) Progress defined, that is, to some extent as Burke, Hegel, and others have used it. His book "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in ...more
At it's worst, this book reads like a really long IBM commercial. You know, like the "we're using data from cows farting to reduce the amount of traffic on the road" kind of commercials, but with actual examples. At it's best, it's an optimistic description and look into what Johnson calls the "peer progressives". It's the idea that society needs to stop approaching its problems with the typical top down approach that's popular today in capitalist societies, and instead come up with solutions vi ...more
What started as an interesting book which talked about interesting developments in web based community projects that have come up in recent years eg. Kickstarter, it fizzles out well before it reaches midway. From there on, Author is trying hard to enforce a few decades old (probably a century old) belief in the role peer networking plays in progress of Human civilization.

I had no particular problem with idea of Peer Progressiveness that author was trying to promote but at times I felt that he
In Future Perfect author Steven Johnson describes in detail an emerging political movement or philosophical worldview he names peer progressive. According to Johnson, peer progressives are in favor of decentralized, distributed networks with no single command center—similar to the internet but not necessarily technology based, which makes sense. Peer networks have surely been around as long as there have been humans. As a political philosophy peer progressivism straddles the line between Republi ...more
John Stepper
A 5-star book. Provides the examples and the language to describe the possibilities created by the recent ease of publishing, sharing, and connecting.

So many great quotes on the power of being a "peer progressive".

“To be a peer progressive, then, is to believe that the key to continued progress lies in building peer networks in as many regions of modern life as possible: in education, health care, city neighborhoods, private corporations, and government agencies.

What peer progressives want to
Not as good as "Everything Bad is Good for You," which makes the case that art has become more complex over the last few decades despite seeming ever more venal. In "Future Perfect," Johnson tries to convince us that "peer progressives"--people who advocate massively crowd-sourced approaches to problem-solving--are the hope for the future. What he's really saying is that sometimes government has the answers, sometimes the private sector has the answers, and sometimes lone crackpots have the answ ...more
David Luna
Finally someone who gets it. I thought I was taking crazy pills for the past 5 or so years. Steven Johnson lays out what it means to be a "Peer Progressive". This is something I believe I am. Johnson tells us "...we underestimate the amount of steady progress that continues around us, and we misunderstand where that progress comes from" Amen.

Johnson goes on to say that progress "is not just a question of choosing between individuals and the state. Increasingly, we are choosing another path, one
This book is an update and extension of Johnson's Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software in which he first explored the power of decentralized networks. As always Johnson provides great insights on how such networks have worked in the past (the establishment of the Longitude Prize), how they are currently working (New York City's 311 system, an excellent section on my new favorite hobby and time sink Kickstarter), and how they could be implemented in the future to s ...more
The rarity, these days, of finding social commentary avowedly unaffiliated with the left or right is alone reason to read Future Perfect. After reading author Steven Johnson's introduction about peer-to-peer networks, I was worried that I would be trapped in a utopian screed. Instead, I was immersed in a common sense exploration of contemporary social organizations. Johnson spears both the top-down governance of the left and a libertarian right that denies the underlying need for social infrastr ...more
William Mooney
This is the third Steven Johnson book that I have read. In Future Perfect, he takes many of the underlying ideas that I saw in Ghost Map and Where Good Ideas Come From and applies them to a new political worldview, dubbed Peer-Progressive. Overall, the book tries to depart from sensationalist and negative media that usually spell doom and gloom. Instead, Johnson finds optimism with how far our society has already advanced and sees a bright future for further progress. To Johnson, this progress d ...more
Stephen Johnson is increasingly becoming a must-read author for me. In Future Perfect, his eighth book, he makes a convincing case for what he calls "peer-progressivism," which he pitches as a new approach to capitalism, an end to partisan gridlock, and a way of thinking conceptually about life lived in modern society — all at the same time.

Peer-progressivism argues neither for greedy yet market-driven capitalism, nor does it argue for well-intentioned but authoritarian socialism. Instead, Johns
Jonathan Wichmann
Jun 24, 2013 Jonathan Wichmann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Alpha Lo
Interesting — offers a lot of quotable examples of how flexible peer networks ("Baran Webs") can be more effective than centralized control structures ("Legrand Stars", and incentives better than mandates. I love the idea of "liquid democracy," where you can allow trusted friends or experts to cast your votes for particular issues or offices. The account of radical grassroots democracy in a Brazil city was fascinating, too.

I appreciated his clear, pithy outline of the basic dichotomy of the Legr
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Future Perfect is an optimistic book about technology, society, and the future. That’s remarkable in itself, since pessimistic (or at least cautionary) books tend to outnumber optimistic ones, but what’s even more remarkable is the care and precision with which Johnson makes his case. The new communications technologies, he argues, are significant less for what they do than for what their capabilities enable us to do, if we choose to do it.

The first of the book’s two sections lays out its centra
Alan Kercinik
I've read a number of Steven Johnson's essays and pieces over the years. This was the first of his books I've tackled. I'll be back. He's thoughtful and does his best to provide multiple sides to arguments and examples. In this case, his argument is that peer-to-peer networks and ideologies can improve basically every facet of human existence.

It's an argument not without merit. But reading the book, I had the feeling I often do while watching a Michael Moore documentary: while it's a provocative
I'll probably be recommending this book to several people, but with some reservations. Johnson obviously has good democratic impulses, and his ability to take that and try to analytically push a way between the current unproductive binary of political choices is great, as is his ease in taking technological concepts and explaining some of their theoretical aspects and their political consequences. I'll be using some of his metaphors in conversation, for sure.

But, it's hard for me to make peace w
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Steven Johnson is the author of the bestsellers Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, Everything Bad Is Good For You, and Mind Wide Open, as well as Emergence and Interface Culture. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites—most recently,—and writes for Time, Wi
More about Steven Johnson...
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation Everything Bad is Good for You Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

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