[FoRK] Annihilation from within...

Jeff Bone < jbone at place.org > on > Wed Dec 6 16:47:58 PST 2006

On Dec 6, 2006, at 4:27 PM, Karl Anderson wrote:

> It's easy to find examples in hindsight.  Read Dick, Clarke, or many
> of the other visionary sci-fi writers of the cold war.  They wrote
> about things like private or commercial flights to the Moon in the
> 1990s, where communication back to Earth was done by televising the
> image of a typed sheet of paper.  At the time, this was a very
> reasonable extrapolation for the rates of technological change in
> space, computing, and communication technology.

Believe me, I've read those guys...  one of these days I'm going to  
get around to posting my personal card catalog online;  I've recently  
completed inputing my entire library in an excellent and recommended  
Mac OS X librarian program, Bookpedia:


The point you bring up about how sci-fi predictions can look both  
anachronistic and wildly optimistic at the same time is a good one.   
It's an interesting phenomenon.  Even if you assume that the authors  
were making serious attempts at prediction (which, for the most part,  
I do not --- even the "hard sci-fi" guys) their job is a lot more  
formidable than, say, extrapolating the trend on a single technology,  
or relative to two different technologies (say, timing of flying cars  
vs. brain-chi.)  They are, after all, trying to invent a whole,  
consistent universe in parallel.  To get anything right, they have to  
extrapolate *every* trend that has any impact on the milieu of their  

> Now we have Kurzweil plotting graphs of technological change from the
> stone age to 2001, and saying that this allows him to predict the rate
> of change for computing and communication technology from 2001 to
> 2100.  He might be right, but this is not as safe an extrapolation as
> the more general one.

I do agree that Kurzweil's predictions are specific enough that  
they're not particularly "safe."  We'll see in 10, 20, 50, 100 years  
how well he did with that.  I would hope, though, that you would  
agree with me that what he and other futurists are attempting to do  
is fundamentally, quantitatively and qualitatively different from  
what (most) sci-fi authors are striving for --- using different tools  
and methods to entirely different ends.


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