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Four Futures: Life after Capitalism by Peter…
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Four Futures: Life after Capitalism

by Peter Frase

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I really enjoyed this book - it was a fairly quick read, and provided a lot of great jumping-off points to think about. The language in the beginning can make it seem like a fairly technical read, but sticking with it proved to be the right thing - it was both entertaining and informative.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Cadence64 | Jan 17, 2017 |
The truth about the future is that none of us really know what it holds.

The above, indisputable fact, makes most of this type of book almost not worth reading. Peter Frase has tried to overcome this problem by projecting four different perspectives: communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism. He also accepts that the 'real' future is unlikely to be a pure version of any of these alternatives but, a mixture of several.

It is easy, as I appeared to do, in the first sentence of this review, to dismiss prediction but, the alternative is to go blindly where ever life may lead. We need some form of planning and, to mash up and misuse a well known phrase, a one eyed man is a better guide than a blind one.

This book is only 150 pages long and has been written in a style accessible to the common reader (and I should know: there's few commoner). As with any book of this type, one doesn't read it for all the answers, but to obtain a better grasp of all the questions and, Mr Frase does a very good job of that. Well worth a read. ( )
1 vote the.ken.petersen | Jan 2, 2017 |
This was very good, and whoo boy do recent events seem to verify the 'Mad Max' version. Fight to the last because we fear the worst. ( )
  kcshankd | Dec 23, 2016 |
One thing about the future – it is universally grim. I have yet to see a book where it is bright, inviting or even comfortable. But Peter Frase’s is the fairest assessment I have yet encountered. He has created a matrix of possible outcomes, and examines the four of them as chapters in Four Futures. They are all plausible, all arguable, and all to be avoided.

The four scenarios include aspects of socialism, communism and extermism, in which the rich annihilate the poor in a society where the poor are no longer necessary for anything. Machines do all the labor, from picking fruit to guarding fortress homes. If the planet has been destroyed environmentally, the rich will escape to orbiting luxury space stations. But the most frightening one to me was also the most possible – the rentier future. In this scenario, there are no more factories, no more developments or mines. Instead, the rich own all the intellectual property, and rent it out. No one actually owns anything; they must pay continuously to license and operate it. We already see this in software, music, TV, games, phones, in agricultural seeds, and of course in living quarters. Everything in Western life is being converted to subscription, with payment removed directly from bank accounts. John Deere claims you never own your tractor – you merely license it while you use it, despite having paid to own it. So tampering with the motor or the electronics makes you a criminal. That is a horrifying future to me. It is well underway and is every startup’s dream business model.

The only thing certain is that we can’t go back to an industrial revolution civilization. Factories are going away. The gig economy keeps the 99% on the prowl to scratch together a living. 3-D printing is on its way in (though you won’t own the printer or the product codes, and there will severe restrictions on what you can produce with one), providing a kind of Star-Trek “Replicator” future. So depending on how we occupy our plentiful time, how much abundance there is versus scarcity, and how powerful the rich become, one of Frase’s scenarios is likely.

Naturally, these are not prescriptive choices; there is no pure vision or outcome. They can and will have elements of each other, and Frase points out several crossovers along the way. Mostly, Four Futures is an intellectual challenge. It is a very fast read, couched in the pop culture visions of sci-fi writers and dystopian-future films, things that are very easy to relate to. It is a pleasure to be so challenged, even if the result is less than heartwarming.

David Wineberg ( )
2 vote DavidWineberg | Jul 18, 2016 |
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