James D Scurlock is creating Future Thought Tank
2
patrons
It’s time to think about the future.
About me: a decade ago, Scribner published my book Maxed Out. Millions of people either read the book or saw the film on which it was based (or both, I guess) in no small part because on my birthday that year, Lehman Brothers unexpectedly declared bankruptcy, turbo-boosting the financial crisis I’d described as inevitable.
Elizabeth Warren, a major voice in Maxed Out, has shown how after decades of calm, financial “panics” have become both cyclical and more severe. Like hurricanes.
So last year I wrote a book that very few people read called Upside Down. It lays out the socio-economic conditions that led to Trump and that are leading to a looming crisis, worse than ‘08. Think of it this way: during Hurricane Katrina, the wealthy were largely able to protect themselves while the poor were left battered, but the next superstorm will affect everyone. Massive clouds, aka bubbles, are forming: student and auto loan defaults alone are dwarfing the mortgage mess of ‘08.
Having already lived in Asia, last year I moved to Mexico, still a cash economy and in many ways the inverse of the U.S.. For decades, Mexico has provided the fuel of our economic boom with cheap, reliable labor but like everything, that has come with a price: violent trafficking in drugs and human beings. Ergo calls for “the wall.”
We are deeply in debt and deeply divided. The issue of our time is the end of the American Empire. I’ve gathered ideas and data for a book but that’s not the right tool. Books are static tomes that must have a certain structure to keep the reader’s attention. A punchy voice helps, but at the expense of intellect and diversity. Same with conclusions and prescriptives. Telling people what to do or think is a mistake.
But what if the bookend to Maxed Out could be dynamic and open-ended instead? The possibilities become more exciting, something that Patreon makes possible.
Today I’m launching a think tank of sorts (but not an echo chamber!) called Future Thought Tank. Ultimately, the project will have three major components:
First is a fictional, serialized book based on five distinct stories of Americans living in the eye of the “big big one.” Because only in fiction can we imagine the unimaginable, predict the unintended and choose our own adventure.
Second will be a series of videos, featuring documentary-style interviews and travelogues from around Asia and North America. I hope to offer a moving picture of where people, resources and ideas are moving—Maxed Out but in real time.
Third is a “phantom” investment portfolio where our knowledge is synthesized into financial opportunity, wherever and whenever prudent.
The future is not just about money, however. The consequences of diminishing American hegemony are omnipresent: the failure of young people to “launch,” the worship of escapism (cosplay, binge TV), addiction and suicide, the substitution of stigma for human connection, the loss of mobility due to lifelong debt, the dislocation of workers/emergence of “helicopter money” and the tilt to China. But to be opportunistic we must also realize that it is often darkest before the dawn. The world will continue to spin, billions are entering a global middle class, creating awesome opportunity where parents sacrifice for their children and grandchildren.
So each FTT component will be guided by these principles: one, information is now the most valuable commodity; two, we should always look forward, not backward; three, context is as important as substance; four, we must avoid arbitrary biases and deadlines; five, discretion is more valuable than publicity; six, if it’s not worth doing, it’s not worth doing well. But most important: the pursuit of happiness is universal.
Each of us is already changing the world and investing our resources, every day. My professional life is dedicated to doing both more thoughtfully.
Tiers
Thinker
$5 or more per month
Let's think!
Investor
$10 or more per month
Let's Invest!
It’s time to think about the future.
About me: a decade ago, Scribner published my book Maxed Out. Millions of people either read the book or saw the film on which it was based (or both, I guess) in no small part because on my birthday that year, Lehman Brothers unexpectedly declared bankruptcy, turbo-boosting the financial crisis I’d described as inevitable.
Elizabeth Warren, a major voice in Maxed Out, has shown how after decades of calm, financial “panics” have become both cyclical and more severe. Like hurricanes.
So last year I wrote a book that very few people read called Upside Down. It lays out the socio-economic conditions that led to Trump and that are leading to a looming crisis, worse than ‘08. Think of it this way: during Hurricane Katrina, the wealthy were largely able to protect themselves while the poor were left battered, but the next superstorm will affect everyone. Massive clouds, aka bubbles, are forming: student and auto loan defaults alone are dwarfing the mortgage mess of ‘08.
Having already lived in Asia, last year I moved to Mexico, still a cash economy and in many ways the inverse of the U.S.. For decades, Mexico has provided the fuel of our economic boom with cheap, reliable labor but like everything, that has come with a price: violent trafficking in drugs and human beings. Ergo calls for “the wall.”
We are deeply in debt and deeply divided. The issue of our time is the end of the American Empire. I’ve gathered ideas and data for a book but that’s not the right tool. Books are static tomes that must have a certain structure to keep the reader’s attention. A punchy voice helps, but at the expense of intellect and diversity. Same with conclusions and prescriptives. Telling people what to do or think is a mistake.
But what if the bookend to Maxed Out could be dynamic and open-ended instead? The possibilities become more exciting, something that Patreon makes possible.
Today I’m launching a think tank of sorts (but not an echo chamber!) called Future Thought Tank. Ultimately, the project will have three major components:
First is a fictional, serialized book based on five distinct stories of Americans living in the eye of the “big big one.” Because only in fiction can we imagine the unimaginable, predict the unintended and choose our own adventure.
Second will be a series of videos, featuring documentary-style interviews and travelogues from around Asia and North America. I hope to offer a moving picture of where people, resources and ideas are moving—Maxed Out but in real time.
Third is a “phantom” investment portfolio where our knowledge is synthesized into financial opportunity, wherever and whenever prudent.
The future is not just about money, however. The consequences of diminishing American hegemony are omnipresent: the failure of young people to “launch,” the worship of escapism (cosplay, binge TV), addiction and suicide, the substitution of stigma for human connection, the loss of mobility due to lifelong debt, the dislocation of workers/emergence of “helicopter money” and the tilt to China. But to be opportunistic we must also realize that it is often darkest before the dawn. The world will continue to spin, billions are entering a global middle class, creating awesome opportunity where parents sacrifice for their children and grandchildren.
So each FTT component will be guided by these principles: one, information is now the most valuable commodity; two, we should always look forward, not backward; three, context is as important as substance; four, we must avoid arbitrary biases and deadlines; five, discretion is more valuable than publicity; six, if it’s not worth doing, it’s not worth doing well. But most important: the pursuit of happiness is universal.
Each of us is already changing the world and investing our resources, every day. My professional life is dedicated to doing both more thoughtfully.

Recent posts by James D Scurlock

Tiers
Thinker
$5 or more per month
Let's think!
Investor
$10 or more per month
Let's Invest!