There are already lots of companies providing tools for modern living. From computers and home automation to solar panels, grid power tie-in systems, and fuel cells are coming soon. We don't need to reinvent many of these wheels, but we do need to help popularize them.
I'd like to see ways of popularizing many of these things we talk about on the various [Mailing Lists], and ways of living cleanly, lightly, and yet with a high standard of living and adequate supplies of renewable power, etc. This is in part what the WholeFuture Catalog is about. I'd also like to see outreach to schools (which is part of what the [future-studies] mailing list is about) and even a line of comic books to popularize some of the gee-whiz technologies we toss about, and show kids (and adults!) how they could be living RIGHT NOW, with existing technologies, for a cleaner, brighter future.
While I'm not in favor of spending a whole lot of good R&D money, or product production money, on advertising and trying to convince someone that they should "Buy Our Products!" (which is, really, all ads ever say), I do realize that word needs to spread about various technologies and things that are available now which let people live like they've always told us people in the 21st Century should live.
The funny thing is, if something is noteworthy, newsworthy, and novel, then word does spread about it, because people want to tell each other about it. Look at http://slashdot.org/ for a prime example of this. I don't spend hours of my day writing email to tell people about this great soft drink called Coca Cola. We all know about it already. (But Coca Cola ad execs do spend their working careers and millions of dollars to tell us about a product everyone's known the name of for a hundred years. Why is that?) Yet I will spend lots of time writing emails about new technologies in power, living systems, population studies, etc. I suspect that you, the person reading this, also don't devote much email time extolling the virtues of Coca Cola (unless you're one of those aforementioned ad execs) yet I'll bet you share news of cool things with your friends and family.
I think this is a critical point to focus on. We all intrinsically know when something is newsworthy, and almost uniformly, a paid advertisement finding some crafty, cute new way to say "Buy Our Products!" is not truly newsworthy. To this end, I feel that those of us working on popularizing the future should not concern ourselves overly with trying to hit that Magic Marketing Campaign. If we are doing Good Work, and it's easy to see that it's worthwhile and noteworthy, then other people will make it news for us.
Here's a verse from the TaoTeChing which I think sums up my attitude on this, and which I try to keep in mind when thinking about the dichotomy of doing work vs. advertising about doing work.
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.
To this end, I'd like to put together a page called something like AdsWeWouldRun (if we thought advertising was justifiable). This will be a place where we can exercise our creative genius and produce those catchy, witty ads, but not pay anyone millions of dollars for the privilege of showing them in their magazine or on their TV station. The web is a very wide publication medium, and if people come to our ads page, then they already know about us, and can also participate in the witty joke, rather than having it pushed upon them uninvited. Then they can tell their friends if they want, because they think it's cool, not because we're telling them that we think it's cool.