[extropy-chat] Futures Past

Mike Lorrey mlorrey at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 9 20:33:40 UTC 2005

--- Harvey Newstrom <mail at harveynewstrom.com> wrote:
> Have there really been any suprises or dramatic advances that were
> not  predicted or expected by science-fiction, computer-nerd futurist
> types?

It is important to consider timing. If something happens sooner than
expected. Science fiction and futurist types have predicted everything
under the sun to occur at some point in the future, the important thing
is whether reality beat even the optimists timelines. I am sure that if
you look far enough back, you can find an optimistic skiffie or
futurist predicting anything to have happened by now (even the
singularity). The problem, of course, is the skiffers who are smart
marketers: they write their timelines so that events of their novels
will happen in the future lifetimes of their present day readers, no
matter whether such timelines are reasonable or not (RAH was a great
example of this).

However, some unusual ones I don't recall having been predicted:

a) discovery of exo-planets (as soon as they did). most sf oddly
ignores much astronomy and expects interstellar missions to fly blindly
to new stars in search of habitable planets. The reality is coming to
be that when and if we ever launch interstellar probes, they will be
directed at star systems with planets that we pretty much know about,
and whether they are life-bearing or capable of being life-bearing.
Thus the likely primary cargo of any such probe will be some form of
FTL entanglement technology, either for communication or travel, if
such tech is ever developed.
b) Seti at Home and similar distributed computing projects giving huge
computational capacity for nano-pennies on the dollar compared to
commercial supercomputers. While Vinge predicted such with True Names,
I don't recall similar predictions before him.

Cross-pollenization is a problem. If we count Vinge as the first truly
transhumanist writer, then any other writer or futurist he inspired
must be counted as transhumanist-derived predictions. Writers before
him (and he started writing in the 70's) are complicated by the
marketing drive that I mentioned, of optimizing one's timelines to
appeal to young readers dreams of actually living the plot.

Mike Lorrey
Vice-Chair, 2nd District, Libertarian Party of NH
Founder, Constitution Park Foundation:
Personal/political blog: http://intlib.blogspot.com

Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005 

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