[extropy-chat] Futures Past

Harvey Newstrom mail at harveynewstrom.com
Mon Oct 10 00:02:45 UTC 2005

On Oct 9, 2005, at 4:33 PM, Mike Lorrey wrote:

> --- 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.

Exactly.  This is what I am looking for.  Has reality ever beaten the 
optimists?  I would love to see real examples.

> a) discovery of exo-planets (as soon as they did).

Wrong.  The first such announcement was made in 1916.  (Not a typo!  
Nineteen hundred and sixteen!)  It was based on a wobble around 
Barnard's star that he interpretted to be an exoplanet.  Unfortunately, 
this later was proved incorrect.  But the method was sound.  
Astronomers have been using this method to search for exoplanets since 
then.  It took three quarters of a century for the findings to actually 
solidify into repeatable results that were generally accepted by 
astronomers.  In other words, the reality lagged very far behind the 
original prediction and actual claim of success.  This is not an 
example of an unpredicted development, nor a fast development.  (See 
<http://www.public.asu.edu/~sciref/exoplnt.htm#section2> for this 

> 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.

True Names came out in 1984.  Seti at home started recruiting participants 
in 1999.  Fifteen years for a computer product to go from idea to 
market is not fast or unprectible.  (And for the record, EFF was using 
this technique to crack encryption a couple of years before seti at home 
"invented" it.)

Harvey Newstrom <HarveyNewstrom.com>

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