The Futurist: FM-2030

Two months ago I received word that an old and valued acquaintance had died. He was the futurist author, F.M. Esfandiary — who in the mid-1970’s– had legally changed his name to FM-2030. He was, he said, “a 21st Century person who was accidentally launched in the 20th.” He confessed to having “a deep nostalgia for the future.”

I’d sometimes felt vaguely the same, I told him, imagining that I was either a 19th century person (the poetry and philosophy I’d absorbed had come mostly from that century) or a 21st century one, inasmuch as I didn’t expect my own visions to seriously materialize at least until then.

I’d met FM early one evening in 1977 on Christopher Street after hearing him speak Persian (Farsi). We’d struck up a unique conversation and, as it turned out, he was related to a family—the Esfandiarys— with whom—in Washington, D.C.– I’d once lived for several months when I was only fifteen. The Esfandiarys had been diplomats and were the aunts and uncles of the later-deposed Iranian Shah. In their company I’d learned a profound respect for Persian culture which I continue to celebrate to this day.

I exchanged numbers with FM and we met later in the week. We exchanged books. Mine, titled Men’s Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity—jived, I discovered—with some of FMs ideas, especially when he was discussing relationships.

I told him how I’d regularly followed events in Iran. Today, I reflect hopefully while its overwhelmingly youthful citizenry prepares again to struggle on behalf of its own freedoms. I admire these Iranian youths for this willingness they have to demand that they be allowed to live their own lives. But it is also what I would have expected of them.

This Iran, a magical realm, FM-2030’s homeland, with 2,500 years of history in its wake, has always had a hidden part of its soul awaiting a glorious resurrection on some futuristic shore.

Only 20 years have now passed since the first waves of a national rebellion in Iran that were, in the history of revolutions, the largest mass non-violent uprisings in modern history. The Iranians waged a peaceful, direct-action struggle in the 1970s through a movement whose secular leaders were thereafter killed by a merciless clergy that installed its own fundamentalist ideologues as Iran’s leaders.

In 1966, FM-2030 had written a prophetic book titled Identity Card, a gripping Kafkaesque novel that prefigured 1970s revolutionary ferment in Iran. Iranians abroad, I think, uniformly love their native land, and they know, as I do, that the Iranian people on their home front today are itching to end all obsessive meddling in their personal lives by the mullahs’ obedient squads of killer-fundamentalist goons.

A prolific writer, FM-2030’s visionary powers—which were considerable— were focused ever on the world’s future development. And like other Iranian visionaries I’ve known, he was wonderfully at one with his ideas; so much so, in fact, that he never married because he was scornful of the idea that humans might belong to other humans. His visions were a far cry from those of Shiite mullahs, no doubt.

He believed that synthetic parts would some day make us immortal, and thus he arranged for his body’s current immersion in liquid nitrogen, housed in an Arizona thermos tank.

FM-2030’s vision, says transhumanist thinker, Natasha Vita-More, “continues to inspire even the most complacent of minds by revving-up the volume on imagination. His unique way of putting together ideas about the future has been a catalytic force.”

Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, said that FM-2030 has been “the exhilarating voice of a new, non-mystical consciousness …. FM dares us to step outside our encaged historical selves and leap to a new stage of evolution.”

The New York Times called FM “A prophet of Boom …who maintains ‘we are at the beginning of an age of limitless abundance … and an age of immortality,'” while The Washington Post labels him as “a dreamer, a visionary, a social critic, a futurist with ‘a hailstorm of ideas’.”

The Village Voice tells what I remember best about F.M. Esfandiary, describing him as “a man so rational, so articulately confident that he emanates the kind of ultimate optimism–the triumph over alienation and irrationality.”

His was a larger than life presence. I thought him to have been athletic, yes, but more impressive was his strong face, his quick stride and his ready smile, plus, an infectious kindliness coupled with an eagerness to discuss the various visionary ideas we each espoused.

He exuded good will and optimism, some of the best fruits of his native Iranian roots, I thought at the time, though that was before I’d read his predictions/tributes to the developments he foresaw in the future.

Here, overwhelmingly, he predicted a civilization that would be marked by calm, awareness, energy, ecstasy, and empathy. His foresight had a wise confidence that his vision need not be marked by pessimistic dread, inasmuch as there seemed to be so much good that he glimpsed on the horizon.

He reckoned, as a strategy, I suppose, that optimism wins converts who are naturally willing to work to mid-wife a vision into being. Pessimism, on the other hand, breeds apathy only.

Barbara Marx Hubbard of The Futurist praised FM-2030 as “one of the first thinkers in history to live, teach, plan and campaign for a future for mankind.”

FM has certainly been more conscious of a future of technological potentials than most, I’d say. Certainly more than I have. At the same time, he has been admirably willing to follow through (when he discusses the effect of the techno-future on human relationships, for example) to those upheavals he foresees, unafraid to hail the last days of the hallowed conventional nuclear family units to which so many still cling today.

Addressing students at UCLA (February 11, 1985) FM-2030 spoke about responsible singleness:

“Many of the support systems, social institutions and old values that have existed to sustain the mating process are beginning to collapse–including marriage, coupling, commitment, exclusivity, continuity. Half to two-thirds of all marriages break down. Texas, a fundamentalist state, has the highest divorce rate –double that of New York. One of the fastest growing types of household is that of the step- family.

“People are marrying later and later or not at all. The fastest growing relationship lifestyle in the West is singlehood; there are 55 million single adults in this country. The U.S. now has the lowest fertility rate in its history (1.8)…”We are at the beginning of a massive recontexting of our social life. We live in this new social environment, and yet we do not have any training or preparation to deal with it. We don’t even know where to go to get such training.”

As I read FM’s words, I wonder how they must appear to more conventional social activists, especially those immersed in a political status-quo-culture instead of envisioning it from some outer cultural vantage points.

In addition to his gripping novel, Identity Card, F.M. Esfandiary has also written:

Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto

Optimism One


Are You Transhuman?

Written by Jack Nichols and published by the Greenwich Village Gazette on September 15, 2000

A Tribute to FM-2030

The visions of the future held by FM-2030 were strong. So strong and so positive, perhaps, that they might have almost been paralyzing to most of those who read what he wrote and heard what he said. For decades, those who followed him saw the future unfolding just as he told them it might. Yet almost none of them elected to make the ar- rangements for cryotransport that he so vigorously advocated.

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Written by Fred Chamberlain and published by Cryonics

FM-2030, Futurist

He was so forward thinking in terms of the human potential that he changed his name to FM-2030 and fiercely proclaimed his belief that he would never, ever die.

But on Saturday night, the Miami futurist – who taught a course on “transhumanism'” at Florida International University, died at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan.

Aware that he had pancreatic cancer, the 69-year-old, Belgium-born author, philosopher, and consultant to corporations such as Lockheed and Rockwell International, was still thinking of what science and the human spirit were capable.

He arranged to have his body immersed in liquid nitrogen – or cryogenically preserved – at a foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., convinced that science will one day bring him and his legendary joie de vivre back to life.

FM-2030 was born F.M. Esfandiary in 1930. Planning to live to be at least 100, he legally changed his name in 1975, using the date he would have turned 100 as part of his new name. The son of an Iranian diplomat was fluent in French, English, Arabic and Hebrew and worked for a while at the United Nations. It was an experience, friends say, that gave him a visceral distaste for argument and discord.

His book, Are You Transhuman? was published by Warner Books in 1989 and won him correspondence with such thinkers as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

His other books about the future, which earned him the attention of companies exploring space technology and teaching assignments at the New School for Social Research in New York City and at UCLA, included Optimism One and Telespheres.

The Los Angeles performance artist Natasha Vita-More – described on a European philosophy website as one of the world’s 75 most original thinkers along with Albert Einstein – was FM-2030’s lover for more than a decade until he moved to Miami.

She said Tuesday that FM, as she called him, will be sorely missed by the community of futurists – those who like to imagine such things as androids, a space Olympics, time travel and immortality.

His many friends loved not only the intense philosophical discussions at FM-2030’s gourmet dinner parties, but the chance to dance with the handsome, urbane thinker at South Beach nightclubs and at Los Angeles-area bistros.

“He defied death,” Vita-More said. “He thought it was a complete waste of time. He thought one day the news that someone died would ring around the planet because death would be so rare. He thought there would be a whole prosthetic body and that we would be able to space or time travel to all kinds of places.'”

Friends in Los Angeles, she said, were mystified by his decision to move to Florida in 1997. Vita-More said he had a large following there and that as many as 200 students signed up to take his futurist course. But he raved about Miami, she said.

Coral Gables resident David Bourgoigne, whose small company is planning for interplanetary Internet service, said he met FM-2030 at the beach.

“Here was this man young people were in awe of,'” he said, “talking to teens about ‘space surfing.’ One kid said to me that FM was the coolest old guy that ever lived.”

Vita-More said FM-2030 told her “He had this feeling you should never live in the same place for 10 years,'” she said, “as well as you should never get married (he never did) because no one should belong to another.

“We talked on the phone a lot,'” she said. “He loved the Miami night life. He was a nocturnal person. He loved the tropics. He thought Florida was the sine qua non.'”

Written by Paul Brinkley-Rogers and published by the Miami Herald on July 12, 2000

Futurist Known as FM-2030 Is Dead at 69

A futurist who changed his given name to something a little more forward looking, FM-2030 to be specific, died Saturday night at a friend’s Manhattan apartment. An author, teacher and consultant to corporations, he was 69 and lived in Miami.

The FM might have stood for Future Man, Future Modular or Future Marvel, but he never said. He also did not like to answer questions about his nationality, because he considered himself a global person. He felt the same way about his age, because his latest artificial hip was only two years old, making the question, in his view, meaningless.

But he would have turned 100 in 2030. And, if his plans are realized, he might still.

FM-2030, who was known for his sunny optimism, had directed that his body be frozen by an Arizona foundation specializing in such things in the hope that doctors in the future will find a cure for pancreatic cancer, which his longtime friend Flora Schnall said was the cause of death.

Part of his futuristic vision is the idea that people will eventually become wholly made of synthetic parts, as their minds are transported vast distances through space. He predicted that humans would become ”post-biological organisms.”

He was ”launched,” his word for born, F. M. Esfandiary on Oct. 15, 1930, and legally changed his name in the mid-1970’s. Under both names, he thought very large thoughts, usually about an imaginary future that he described in great detail.

He said that someday a Santa Claus machine would produce three-dimensional objects in the manner of copying machines. This, combined with free energy from the sun, would produce limitless resources and eliminate competition.

Traditional families would be replaced by a Club Med morality, a good thing in the estimation of a man who never married because he resented the idea of humans belonging to other humans. Energy and other natural resources would be essentially limitless, he contended. Humans would become immortal.

”It’s just a matter of time before we reconstitute our bodies into something entirely different, something more space-adaptable, something that will be viable across the solar system and beyond,” he wrote in 1989.

”He thought that death was tyrannical,” said Ms. Schnall, a Manhattan lawyer. ”He wanted to do away with death.”

He saw himself as an anachronism. ”I am a 21st-century person who was accidentally born into the 20th,” he said. ”I have a deep nostalgia for the future.”

Many of his predictions were prescient. In a 1977 interview, he spoke of correcting genetic flaws and of fertilization and gestation outside the body. In 1980, he wrote of teleconferencing, telemedicine and teleshopping. He argued against the assumption that many more nursing homes would be needed in the 21st century, on the basis that health standards would improve, making nursing homes less necessary.

F. M. Esfandiary was the son of an Iranian diplomat. He was born in Belgium and lived in 17 countries in the first 11 years of his life. He said the experience influenced him to think of himself as a global citizen, and said there were no illegal immigrants, just irrelevant borders.

His looks and abilities helped him play citizen of the world. Courtly and handsome, he spoke Arabic, French, Hebrew and English. In the 1948 Olympics, he competed in basketball and wrestling for Iran. His novels were ”The Day of Sacrifice,” ”The Beggar” and ”Identity Card.”

At the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the novelist Anne Tyler wrote that ”Identity Card,” published in 1966, was ”the perfect way to find out why so many fists are raised in Iran today.”

His books about the future were ”Optimism One,” ”Telespheres” and ”Are You Transhuman?” He was revising two others, ”Countdown to Immortality” and ”The Coming Age of Abundance” when he fell ill.

He taught at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, the University of California at Los Angeles and Florida International University in Miami. He was a consultant for Lockheed, J. C. Penney and Rockwell International, Florida International University officials said.

He is survived by four sisters, Farideh Sadjadi of Baltimore, Fereshteh Jahanbani of New York, Forouzandeh Moghimi of Tehran, Iran, and Behjat Ghanbari of Bushehr, Iran; and a brother, Mohsen Esfandiary of Washington.

For now, his body is in Scottsdale, Ariz., immersed in liquid nitrogen in a thermos tank at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. The foundation noted in a news release that no frozen mammal had been successfully thawed. Though he acknowledged that he would have no money if he woke, he said he would not care.

”I’ll be so glad that I’m back,” he said in an interview in The Palm Beach Post.

Written by Douglas Martin and published by the New York Times on July 11, 2000

FM-2030 on All Things Considered

A futurist who changed his name to FM-2030 died last weekend of pancreatic cancer. FM-2030 was originally named F.M. Esfandiary. In 1977, he predicted scientists would one day correct people’s genetic flaws. In 1980, he predicted telecommunications technology would change the way people shop. Noah talks with Flora Schnall, an attorney and longtime friend of FM-2030. Listen to the interview online at NPR.org.

F.M. Esfandiary; Futurist Predicted Immortality

F.M. Esfandiary, who legally changed his name to FM2030 because of his confidence that he would live to 100 and beyond, has died at 69.

The “chronic optimist,” who believed age was irrelevant because a person might have artificial body parts of many different ages–he had a hip that was only 2 years old–died Saturday in New York City. Esfandiary, who said immortality could be achieved by replacing worn- out organs with synthetic substitutes, died of cancer of the pancreas–one body part for which no substitute has been created and which he recently denounced as “a stupid, dumb, wretched organ.”

In the event an artificial pancreas is ever invented, however, Esfandiary will be waiting. Flora Schnall, a longtime friend who announced the futurist’s death, said his body has been cryogenically preserved by the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

“He believed,” she said, “scientific advances would lead to the revival of his body–in the future.”

The tall, affable, soft-spoken philosopher, visionary educator, lecturer and writer had been convinced that a life expectancy of 100 would be commonplace by 1998 and that, by his centenary birthday in 2030, mankind would know how to prolong life into infinity.

Far from a crackpot, Esfandiary was respected by scientists, engineers, students who took his classes and intellectuals who read his books or attended his lectures.

A quarter-century ago he was predicting things that are now happening. What he called “teleshopping” and “tele-education” are now ordinary Internet activities. And he foresaw such medical and biological breakthroughs as fertilization and gestation outside the womb and the correcting of genetic flaws.

Esfandiary taught futurist philosophy at UCLA Extension for many years and wrote opinion pieces for The Times.

On the East Coast, he taught classes at New York’s New School for Social Research, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and Florida International University, and wrote opinion pieces for the New York Times.

After writing a series of critically praised satirical novels in the 1960s–“Day of Sacrifice,” “The Beggar” and “Identity Card”– Esfandiary turned in the 1970s to serious futurist nonfiction. Among his upbeat books were “Optimism One,” “Up-Wingers,” “Are You a Transhuman?” and “Telespheres.”

Schnall said he had been working on two other books, “Countdown to Immortality” and “The Coming Age of Abundance.”

Pessimism was not in the philosopher’s vocabulary.

“We are at the beginning of an age of limitless abundance,” he asserted repeatedly. “There is no scarcity; there is only the psychology of scarcity.”

Born in Belgium, the son of an Iranian diplomat, and educated in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, Esfandiary described his own citizenship as “Universal,” explaining, “I translive all over the planet.” He had lived in 11 countries by age 17, and spoke French, Arabic, Hebrew and English. Early in his career, from 1952 to 1954, he served as a member of the Conciliation Commission for Palestine.

He considered nationality anachronistic and often said, “There are no illegal immigrants, only irrelevant borders.” Nationality, he told The Times in 1989, “should be obsolete in a world of global telecommunications, global travel and global economy.”

Political election campaigns to choose presidents and other leaders were also obsolete, he said, advocating instead that issues be decided by frequent referendums submitted to the people and voted on electronically.

A concise writer himself, Esfandiary eschewed long books, plays or concerts as “hopelessly slow for a high-tech people who want interaction and feedback.”

Although he had competed on Iran’s Olympic fencing team in 1948, Esfandiary came to disdain all competitions, from the Olympics to the Academy Awards, as “a wasteful behavior . . . that is divisive and inefficient.”

Personally preferring romantic “linkups” to legal bonds, Esfandiary predicted the disappearance of both marriage and the nuclear family.

“Among the specifics in Esfandiary’s future world,” a Times reporter wrote of the futurist’s vision some years ago, “would be sperm and egg banks where geneticists would select the children to be born–all very computerized and scientific. Children would be raised in Child Center Homes (learning via television and computers) where adults who liked children would visit. There wouldn’t be any Mom and Dad; there would be hundreds of them.”

Esfandiary, known to his friends and fans as FM2030, is survived by one brother and four sisters.

Written by Myrna Oliver and published by the Los Angeles Times on July 11, 2000

Intimacy In A Fluid World

THE YEAR IS 1885, 100 years ago. You decide to leave the farm and move to the city with your wife and kids. Suddenly you are no longer part of an extended family; you’re a nuclear family. You think of the relatives you left behind, and wonder what happened to your commitment and loyalty.

Now, shift centuries: today, at the end of the 20th century, we are going through the same process, only this time it is not the extended family we are outgrowing – it is the nuclear family. You cannot commit yourself to one person; you don’t have a spouse, a home and kids. Again the same pressures: where the hell is your commitment? Your loyalty? Your attachment? Isn’t it time you settled down? After all, you are already 28 or 32 or 36, or whatever. The dynamics are essentially the same. Why are we outgrowing the nuclear family? What are the forces behind this evolution? What is replacing the nuclear family?

In today’s world, virtually all areas of our society are undergoing vast upheavals; the trend, especially in organizations, corporations, and businesses, is toward despecialization, decentralization, denationalization, and diversification. In the face of such significant change, it is crazy to think that the home will remain intact and somehow miraculously unchanged. Our homes, our social life and our interpersonal connections are undergoing precisely the same kind of evolution. In the 1950s, 75-80 percent of families in the U.S. were traditional (breadwinner husband, homemaker wife, two or more kids); today, that figure is less than 7 percent.

Many of the support systems, social institutions and old values that have existed to sustain the mating process are beginning to collapse – including marriage, coupling, commitment, exclusivity, continuity. Half to two-thirds of all marriages break down. Texas, a fundamentalist state, has the highest divorce rate – double that of New York. One of the fastest growing types of household is that of the step- family. People are marrying later and later or not at all. The fastest growing relationship lifestyle in the West is singlehood; there are 55 million single adults in this country. The U.S. now has the lowest fertility rate in its history (1.8). Childless marriages are increasing, and two out of five women have no children. People are aging more slowly; to be 82 years old and still erotic is just fine. The old lifestyles do not seem to operate. There is increasing sex without commitment, increasing sex without procreation, and increasing reproduction without sex.

We are at the beginning of a massive recontexting of our social life. We live in this new social environment, and yet we do not have any training or preparation to deal with it. We don’t even know where to go to get such training. Thirty or 40 years ago all we had to do was copy our parents (e.g., marry at the same age as they did, have the same number of kids, stick it out no matter what). But what worked for them no longer works for us – their programming, their conditioning is from another age. Just as it didn’t work to try and bring the extended family to the city in the 1890s, it does not work to carry the nuclear family with us as the major social structure in this new age. If we continue along the same old track, using the same values, the same pacing and the same rhythms as our parents, we’ll find ourselves with a lot of loneliness, a lot of pain, one breakdown or breakup after another, disenchantment with marriage and parenthood, bitterness, anxiety, guilt, confusion and so on – and all this at the very moment when we are about to lift off to glorious new worlds!

So, what guidelines can we follow for living and surviving in this new social environment so foreign to our upbringing?

First, we must begin by acknowledging the obvious inevitable fact that the context has changed. Trying desperately to fit yesterday’s behavior patterns into today’s world won’t work! 90 percent of all interpersonal problems and conflicts today arise from the fact that we have not switched contexts; many people are still living in the world of the 1950s or 60s, or even 70s. Existing therapies and value systems seem to encourage the old rhythms and old values. If traditional models (e.g., getting married, having kids) don’t work for you, do not blame yourself; instead, take a look around – the world has changed, the context has changed! You are holding onto a lot of invalid, anachronistic props that have lost their utility in this new world. You hear people say, “My marriage broke down; I failed miserably!” or “I’m 35 years old and still not married!” or “I’m 42 and I don’t have any kids. What’s wrong with me?” Instead of blaming yourself, try to find your way in this new environment creatively.

Second, under no circumstances should we set up our parents as models; our parents were wonderful, but their values and their worlds are not ours. You will find yourself in a lot of trouble if you keep using them as models.

Third, we need to break out of the cultural imperative of an addictive type of bonding or attachment that we can call imprinting. This bonding or imprinting was survival- efficient for thousands of years; it guaranteed the cohesion of the group, clan and family, and ensured that two people who had mated remained bonded or paired. But now we suddenly find it is survival-deficient. Today we go through one breakup, and then another, and another; if we imprinted on every person we connected with, we’d be in trouble. We cannot continue to imprint and then break up.

Once we have imprinted, it’s very difficult to disattach. Imprinting is the ultimate centralizer. The key to survival at all levels of our society today, and the key to avoiding imprinting, is to diversify, de-specialize, decentralize. Don’t spend all your time with one person. Pace yourself. Make sure you do different things, see different people, have different activities. Remember, we rarely imprint on friends. Imprinting works only within a sexual, romantic context where our vestigial, primal emotions – such as territoriality, possessiveness, paranoia, jealousy, rivalry, insecurity and anxiety – are aroused. The whole purpose of life used to be to ensnare the right man or woman. Not any longer. There was a time when it was common to say, “I am in love with this person, and we do everything together.” That was the ideal, and it may have worked well at one time, but today we do not have to do everything with the same person. Today networks of friends take the place of family and spouse. These networks are wonderful because they are free of imprinting and are chosen voluntarily. Friendships are now providing the constancy and the sense of continuity that families provided in the past.

Fourth, the duration of linkups is no longer a gauge of their success or failure. We live in a discontinuous world. The quality, the success and the profundity of our involvements no longer depend on their permanency or duration. Modern, fluid linkups, non-imprint linkups, are very rarely unsuccessful. It used to take a year or so just to court somebody, to get close enough to say, “I think I like you,” to develop trust. Today people are much more open, much more confident and trusting, and much less sexist; they connect quickly and far more profoundly than people did in the past. It doesn’t really matter how long it lasts – it could be a few hours, days, months, or forever – the duration is not important. In this environment a breakup is really unnecessary.

Last, we need not let ourselves be railroaded by old world pressures for commitment. “You really cannot commit yourself, can you?” “You really can’t hold onto someone, can you?” There was a time when we remained wedded to our jobs for a lifetime but that kind of commitment is neither desirable nor expected today. The person who remains committed to one specific job or profession is often a slow- growth person; the dynamic, growing individual changes jobs with the changing times. Why is it that in our interpersonal relationships we expect anachronistic commitments? Commitment for what? Commitment used to be necessary to ensure that a beneficial environment was created for your kids. If you don’t have kids, what are you committing for?

We must begin asking new questions. Instead of asking how we can save the nuclear family or how we can save marriage or exclusive parenting, let us ask:

* What options are available, beyond the nuclear family, beyond exclusivities?
* What kinds of environments make sense in today’s world to ensure the happy, healthy development of our kids?
* What kinds of social networks do we need to support our 80- and 90-year-old friends?
* How can we maximize intimacy and love and companionship and friendship and passion and fun in an increasingly discontinuous and fluid world?

Singlehood is one of the alternatives to the nuclear family already available to us. Many people are opting for the single, but fluid life, with its autonomy, freedom of movement, independence, spontaneity, and freedom from compromise with another person. There are many options available to the single person who does not want to live alone all the time. Shared housing is becoming very popular. One option that I have described in my book Up-Wingers is called a mobilia – a very fluid, mobile communality. A group of people linkup for a few days, or weeks, or months – then linkout. It is easy to switch from one lifestyle to another.

The single individual who is relatively free of imprinting can function with versatility, freedom and autonomy, and can begin to express a new kind of commitment – commitment not to a specific individual, not to an attachment figure, but to a much greater environment. If it is possible for us to identify with and be committed to a specific person or group, it ought to become possible for us to reprogram so that we can begin to identify with and be committed to ALL HUMANITY! If we can transcend imprinting, it is possible to empathize with everybody. The single individuals who are committed to their creative work, to causes, jobs and movements, are already moving in this direction of greater commitment. Ultimately, commitment to planet and all humanity will replace commitment to clan, family, or nation.

Published by In Context on June 29th, 2000

Back to the Future…

As the airplane flies over the ocean outside his high-rise apartment, the man who calls himself FM-2030 decides on a joke, a small, wistful sort of joke.

“Here is the Mars shuttle come to land,” he says. “Are you expecting anybody? I have a friend coming in.”

He smiles when he says it, but he doesn’t laugh, and there is longing in his voice, a longing not for the past, where most people go looking for nostalgia, but for the future, which is where FM-2030 has always found his.

And that’s not all he’s found there. The future is where a young man named F.M. Esfandiary, who in the mid-1960s worked for the United Nations as a mediator on Middle East issues, found his real calling.

“I am a 21st century person who was accidentally launched in the 20th,” he writes in his books about the future. When he’s not making a living writing about the future, he’s getting paid to make speeches about it. In his latest lecture series, set for takeoff early next century at the Wolfsonian at Florida International University, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, he will tell people to get ready for families based on the Club Med model, and genius machines that do our work for us, and space travel and immortality, too.

“I feel like I am finally arriving in the promised land, in some magical universe, in a wonder world,” he says. “I’ve waited so long. I’ve always started a New Year by saying we are now at T-minus 20 years and counting and the next year it was T-minus 19 years and counting.”

He was born the son of a diplomat and spent the first 17 years of his life living in 11 different countries, so while he has the dark skin and broad features of a man from the Middle East, he says he’s not really from any country at all. Rather, he is a global citizen, whose age, education and work history matter about as much as his nationality, which is to say they don’t matter at all.

“In the 21st century, no one will say I’m Egyptian, or Romanian, or American, but I’m global, or I’m moon-based, or part Martian,” he says.

It was about T-minus 35 years, 1965 or so, that he began to write about his notions of age, nationality and the inevitable and impending phase-out of families, schools and religion. That got him a job teaching a course called “Toward New Concepts of the Human” at New York University. Back then, the university had a reputation for being a bit radical, and his course was among the most radical on campus.

At first only 12 students signed up, and they weren’t sure what to think of this teacher who was telling them about space colonization and solar energy and body replication.

But Esfandiary’s ideas were so optimistic and so within reach, too. Make it to the next century, he preached, and you may just make it forever.

He was part of a new field called “Future Studies,” and he was what would become known as a “Futurist,” someone who forecasts change for corporations, governments and just regular people who want to know how to plan for the next decade.

In 1973, he put his ideas in a book called Up-Wingers. Critics praised it for the boldness of its vision, and soon he was writing commentaries for The New York Times and publishing two more books.

He moved to Los Angeles to lecture at UCLA, and it was there that he changed his name to FM — for Future Modular, or Future Man, or Future Marvel — 2030, which is about the time he says we humans will evolve into transhumans with enough synthetic body parts and downloaded memories to last pretty much forever.

FM-2030 wears a silver medical bracelet just in case he dies before then. It instructs doctors to dial an 800 number in Arizona where a cryogenic lab will arrange to take his carbon-based remains and freeze them until the day when he can be revived.

“Some people have a sense of the future, just as some people have a sense of the past,” he says, sitting in a white chair on the white tile of his almost all-white apartment overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Tile, walls, curtains, couch, all of white, which, he says, is such an uncluttered color and clutter slows you down, like too much baggage.

Three years ago, he made “a soft landing” here in South Florida, where things are always changing, though still not fast enough for FM- 2030, whose fast-paced ideas and predictions have always angered some people.

Some want to know why he is so against religion and the family. Others have railed against him in the editorial pages of some of the nation’s largest newspapers for ignoring social problems that might detract from his rosy vision of the future.

And FM-2030 has misfired on some of his predictions. In the late 1970s, he forecast the advent of new microcomputers that would do away with the need for housework within just a few years.

But, he says, his ideas have turned out to be right more often than wrong.

“If the predictions I make are persistently off-target, I just don’t get invited back,” he says, taking time to do something he almost never does, looking to the past to retrieve some of his early forecasts.

It was 30 years ago, for instance, that he foretold of the demise of the traditional family. And here it is, he says, a national survey out just this month that finds that two-parents-plus-kids-under-one- roof is indeed becoming a bit of an anachronism. The majority of Americans now live in single-parent homes or homes with no children.

And look at this, he says, picking up the newspaper, here’s an article about a spaceship about to attempt to land on Mars. And just outside, another rumbling of another machine flying over the bay.

FM-2030 tilts his head to listen. It’s an airplane, again. But then, it’s still the 20th century, isn’t it?

Written by Robert George and published by the Sun Sentinel on December 13, 1999

Commentary; The Future Demands Attitude Adjustment; Trends: The new technology and the new social revolution are part of the same continuum.

“How prepared are you for the future?” I asked at a recent business seminar.

“I surf the Net and hang out on the Web,” someone volunteered.

“Splendid. How else are you preparing for the coming years?”

“I use a videophone and have a satellite dish,” someone else joined in.

“This is encouraging. What else?” I asked.

“I have a wrist organizer and one of these new palm-size computers.”

“Haven’t you forgotten something else?” I asked.

Everyone looked around puzzled.

“Do you mean virtual reality?”

“You have told us about the tools you have acquired,” I said, “but you have left out some equally important items. What about your lifestyles and values, your work modes and eating habits and civic activities? What good is tinkering with 21st century machines if you are still parked in mid-20th century lives?”

There is a simplistic assumption around these days that to blaze forward, all you have to do is switch on a computer, surf the Net, engage in some trendy cybertalk and then, presto, you are magically teleported to the future. You are with it.

The fact is that deploying new technology is only one of the steps needed to soft-land in the future. Smart machines do not automatically catalyze us to smarter lives. Switching on the future entails more effort. For example, what good is going global on the Internet if your real-time allegiances remain nationalistic and ethnocentric? You can gloat over your portable equipment, but if you continue to run in place in unportable lifestyles, marinating for decades in the same apartment, the same city, the same country, the same profession, the same social ties, how portable are you?

You can be hyperteched with smart labor-saving machines, but if you are still toiling long hours, you are operating at the archaic level of dumb mechanical machines.

How much are you really benefiting from your futuristic gizmos if you embrace anti-future public policies?

The unbalanced focus on technology pervades all areas of today’s society. Every day across the United States, thousands of people flock to electronic trade shows and convention centers to make contact with the latest Tomorrowland technology. On national television “Future This” and “Future That” programs abound, each striving to outgadget the other. Where are the conventions and the national TV programs highlighting the equally important social transformations?

The fact is that some of the most spectacular advances of our times are unfolding in our values and in our emotional and social lives. The accelerating phase-out of patriarchy and puritanism, the proliferation of fluid lifestyles and flex work schedules, the increasing expectation of a vigorous long life, the shift from command decision-making to power-sharing, the leapfrog from national loyalties to a global consciousness.

These and other social revolutions are just as powerful, just as glamorous and futuristic as the new technology and they demand just as much attention and adaptation as does the new hardware.

In fact the new technology and the new social revolution are part of the same continuum. Sooner or later, each reinforces the other. Without the new technology, social progress would not unfold so quickly and without the new values, technology can be all too often used as a weapon to spread bigotries or monopolize power.

To free-fall into the future takes more than simply acquiring more gadgets. We need the self-assembling interface of new technology and new values so we can surge ahead to the marvels of the new century.

Published by the Los Angeles Time on February 16, 1998

Beyond 2000: Three Views of What’s Ahead

Cloning, brain transplants, laser-guided cybersoldiers, gene-altered cucumbers; in the past two weeks alone, these future-shock topics have made newspaper headlines around the world.

Suddenly, it seems, the future is rushing at us. And we can’t tell whether to cheer or huddle deeper into our mental caves.

For good reason. Top futurists’ current theories of how Century 21 might play out range from:

* A cataclysm of World War II proportions, arriving inexorably as soon as the year 2005. . .

*. . .to household robots vacuuming our living rooms, changing our babies’ diapers, by the turn of the century.

* New “smart” weapons so hideous they can spur future racial wars by honing in on the gene structures of minorities. . .

* . . .to a coming New Eden of limitless energy, abundant food, security, freedom and pleasure.

Utopia or dystopia. Take your pick.

Until recently, we could react to such sci-fi scenarios with show-me skepticism. But, given what’s come to pass just so far this year, what dare we disbelieve today?
In that spirit, here are the brave new worlds conjured up by some of America’s top futurists:

“We’re at T-minus-three and counting to the year 2000, on a whole new trajectory propelling us into things we can only dimly perceive,” says an academic futurist who’s just moved to Miami and lectures tonight at Florida International University. “I’m always afraid I’ll freak people out with all these new ideas.”
His name freaks out some. He calls himself FM 2030, having discarded his birth name because it spoke only to the past; the year 2030 speaks to the future.
2030 has lectured at universities from Harvard to UCLA, where he has taught courses in future studies for the past 10 years; written books and articles for major publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Science Digest; and served as a consultant for companies like Lockheed, J.C. Penney and Rockwell International, according to an FIU spokesperson.

“I see entirely new, more exciting, more intimate, more empowering systems and institutions,” he says.

He sees, in a generation, healthy life-spans of 120 years, the result of improving our own bodies. And, not long afterward, something like immortality when computers can scan our thoughts, memories, emotions, dump them onto silicone chips and insert them into the “brains” of “total body prostheses.”

The cause? The inexorable march of history.

The agrarian society that existed for centuries required feudal systems, extended families and hard, muscular work, he says. The industrial age of 250 years ago, in which humans invented machines to extend their muscles, required nuclear families, with mothers staying home with children, fathers going off to work.


The new, post-industrial age just now under way, in which humans have invented machines to extend their brains, creates a whole new decentralization — not just of the family, but of all aspects of life, from the economy to politics to the most intimate details of our lives.

A major key to the coming abundance, says 2030, is the arrival just over the horizon of cheap, limitless energy from solar power, geothermal heat, nuclear fusion and other sources.

“We’re at the beginning of limitless wealth that is decentralized, that can’t be monopolized as it was in the industrial age. Fossil fuels are manipulable. Nobody can control the sun.” Robots could do your housework, and, in your body, computers the size of a grain of salt could monitor your health.

Governments will decentralize, too, as global communications, economies and cultures make national borders irrelevant. Global peace will be encouraged by the end of nationalism. The U.S. presidency will wither into a ceremonial post, with societal decisions taken by monthly national electronic referenda.

In that diffuse world, 2030 says, the greatest human virtue will be to be “fluid.” Tomorrow’s successful human will change homes, jobs, names, partners, ideologies, even body parts with ease to adapt to an ever-more-rapidly changing environment.

Values change

“New technologies change values. The Saudis have spent $700 billion on new technology in the past 20 years, and they try to say, `Do not tamper with our orthodoxies.’ And where are the Saudi women? On the French Riviera swimming topless.”

What replaces nuclear families? “I see Club Med as an excellent example of the values of the emerging age. People go there and meet total strangers, and within hours they’re close friends, sometimes lovers. After a couple of weeks they disconnect, and may never see each other again.”

What about kids? “We already have latch-key kids, single-parent families. I feel the nuclear family is no longer able to provide the secure, continuous environment for raising children. I suggest a new framework. Nothing binding. Voluntary, based on the pace and values of our times.”

Again: Utopia or dystopia? Take your pick.

Dangerous times

Written by Fred Tasker and published by the Miami Herald on March 11, 1997