Ken Liu shares insight into futurism



Author Ken Liu visited the high school on Feb. 9 to share his ideas and teach students of Future World Literature more about futurism.

Science-fiction author Ken Liu gave a speech to students in Future World Literature in the Roberts-Dubbs auditorium on Feb. 9 at 10:30 a.m.

In Future World Literature, students read multiple of Liu’s works, including The Paper Menagerie And Other Stories, a collection of Liu’s most lauded short stories.

Aside from writing, Liu frequently gives presentations on cryptocurrency, futurism and the implications of new technology. In his presentation, Liu spoke about futurism, a philosophy that analyzes current trends and anticipates the future, highlighting the elements of randomness and unpredictability involved in general life and sharing insight on how he reflects this in his writing.

Liu said it’s best to prepare for every outcome in life.

“The best way to prepare for a future and to live a meaningful life is not to plan out every step in detail because things will happen that are completely unexpected and lead you to have to remake all your plans,” Liu said.

According to Liu, in trying to predict the future, people tend to search for patterns in the present. Liu said this approach isn’t realistic.

“Our history is far more random than we believe, and we humans have a very terrible tendency to turn everything into a story,” Liu said. “After something happens, you can always try to put together some sort of plot that explains why things happened, but that doesn’t work.”

Sophomore and Future World Literature student Matthew Nock said the presentation changed his understanding of his short stories.

Future World Literature teacher Emma Siver said she appreciated that Liu provided insight into the “mentality of a true futurist.” Liu’s emphasis on the actual nature of futurism being one of flexibility and adaptability was something she said students and teachers should “take note of.”

Sophomore and Future World Literature student Nate Hannaghan said while he agreed with Liu for the most part, he thought some parts sounded pessimistic.

“Going with the flow seems to be a little bit too passive, and plans can’t naturally all turn out the way you want them to, but the idea that there’s nothing you can do seems a bit pessimistic to me,” Hannaghan said.

Hannaghan said his greatest takeaway from the event is that taking a chance is okay as long as it aligns with one’s values and interests.

“There’s no way to predict the future and no way to tell what might work and what won’t, so taking chances is important, but at the same time, keeping options open and anticipating unexpected outcomes is equally important,” Hannaghan said.

Liu said it’s important for humans, especially futurists, to ask themselves what it means to live in a world that is subject to the whims of a few individuals.

“You can’t predict what’s gonna happen in the future, the best you can do is to make yourself open and safe and robust and graduate against those kinds of consequences,” Liu said. “Futurists warn people over and over again. Don’t be complacent. Don’t think that the future is particularly predictable.”