The Future Is Now(topia)!

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if “work” meant doing what you really loved, without worrying about paying those ephemeral things called "bills"? Chances are, you’re already a part of that world, whether you realize it or not — a community California activist and historian Chris Carlsson calls Nowtopia. Just in time for May Day, I'm excited to recommend Carlsson’s book on that magical place: Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today (AK Press).

A thoughtful treatise on class composition and the division between the work we do to live and the work we do to love, Nowtopia is also an exploration of various DIY cultures and the proactive approach to living they exemplify. From backyard biodiesel mechanics to permaculturists to open source developers, Nowtopians of all talents are shown actively engaged in creating alternatives to the profit-driven bureaucracies and consumerism of the status quo. While many of those interviewed by Carlsson have yet to give up their day jobs, they've managed to channel those on-the-job talents into after-hours projects that promote their passions for self-sufficiency, intentional community and neighborly assistance. The book profiles the brains and brawn behind extracurricular enterprises that create impromptu public spaces, such as community gardens, DIY bike repair spaces, and the legions of salaried computer programmers who double as open-source software operatives and electronic freedom fighters by night.

The common thread binding all of the above is a natural curiosity, a desire to tinker and experiment, and a drive to demystify the technology of know-how. By redefining work as a pleasurable and potentially revolutionary expenditure of time and DIY as crucial autonomy, Carlsson highlights the foundations of a burgeoning underground which eschews economic class and social status. And, unlike the many wistful utopias and dissonant dystopias that have colored our collective vision of the future over generations, Nowtopia can and does exist in the present day, and is accessible to everyone.

It’s as easy as changing your own flat — and as far-reaching as changing your world.

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