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The book that changed my life: Usborne's cult classic The Book of the Future
Is there a book that has changed your life? For me, it was the Usborne Book of the Future. It set me on the path to the career as a futurist that I have today. For that I will be forever grateful. So you can imagine my excitement about it being reissued. And to be in it? Well, if only time travel were real and I could go back and show my younger self a copy (though we know from science fiction that would be a terrible idea).
How this reissue came about, and how I came to write a foreword for it, is a story that starts when I was just three years old.
The 1980s was all about robots and rocket ships for me. It was a golden age of sci-fi, from Star Wars to Terrahawks and Metal Mickey. There was an endless supply of films, TV shows, toys, books and comics to feed my childhood fantasies.
Amongst all these stories, one book stood out. One book that wasn’t set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But in the future. My future.
The Book of the Future arrived in my life via a visit to a book fair in a church hall in Ealing, West London, around 1981. I was three years old and was immediately attracted to the cover, showing giant ships battling in space. Splayed across the top was the title: THE USBORNE BOOK OF THE FUTURE, A TRIP IN TIME TO THE YEAR 2000 AND BEYOND. Irresistible.
What this book showed me was possibility. That far from being the stuff of pure fantasy, with the application of science we could make these things real. Though aimed at children it offered enough detail to make outlandish ideas plausible. I learned how nuclear fusion works, about fish farming, hybrid cars, and artificial gravity.
From there my path was set. I studied Mechatronic engineering, then went into the tech industry. And in 2006, I started a blog called ‘Book of the Future’ in homage to the original. Six years later I left my tech start-up and decided to make writing and speaking about the future my business.
Around this time I wrote to Usborne. I told them of my love for the Book of the Future. And I suggested they do a new one - and of course, that I should be the one to write it. They said ‘no’ then. But years later, the team got back in touch. And here we are. With a re-issue of the Book of the Future, and a new series of books about the future to come.
I know that there are many people like me with very fond memories of the Book of the Future. People whose lives and careers were also shaped by it. This is for all of us. The nerds of the 1980s who made our sci-fi dreams real.