[extropy-chat] Futures Past

Mike Lorrey mlorrey at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 10 00:43:50 UTC 2005

--- Harvey Newstrom <mail at harveynewstrom.com> wrote:

> 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.

Well, as I said, you'd need to discount sf writers predictions as,
well, fiction. They purposely present accelerated timelines for
marketing purposes. They are not required to base their timelines on
any facts (such as Moore's Law generations, etc), unless they choose to
'invent' some unobtanium technology that provides for their accelerated
timelines, such as Niven and Pournelle do in their joint timeline in
which an interstellar space drive was invented in 1998 and test flown
in 2001, which in their timeline allows for the Superpowers of the
Co-Dominium (US and Russia) to ethnically cleanse much of the Earth in
a peaceful manner by transporting undesirables to other worlds.

> > 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. 

Ah but it wasn't true! Try a real discovery of exoplanets. Although,
your example proves my point: even with the Barnards star wobble
method, virtually no SF writers from 1916 onward ever used the method
in a story to detect planets around other stars.

> 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 
> history.)

Hold on, the first claim of success preceded SF writers by a long shot.
Show me some SF from before 1916 that used the method....

All this is fine, but I wouldn't actually use any SF as a reputable
"prediction". SF writers are not in the business of accurately
predicting future events accurately by date, they are in the business
of selling words to publishers, who are in the business of selling them
to people and making them want to buy more of them.

I would prefer to look at the non-fiction published by SF writers. Even
there, though, their motive is to motivate the reader to have a
positive outlook on the future (so as to buy more sf), or to have a
negative outlook on a technology (like organ legging (Niven), AI
(Terminator), euthanasia (Soylent Green), etc) for political purposes.
Popular non-fiction futurism rarely is produced that has an objective outlook.

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

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