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Sci-Fi Entertainment

Sci-Fi Writers of the Past Predict Life In 2012 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-future dept.
cylonlover writes "As part of the L, Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future award in 1987, a group of science fiction luminaries put together a text 'time capsule' of their predictions about life in the far off year of 2012. Including such names as Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Algis Budrys and Frederik Pohl, it gives us an interesting glimpse into how those living in the age before smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi and on-demand streaming episodes of Community thought the future might turn out."
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Sci-Fi Writers of the Past Predict Life In 2012

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  • Amazing! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if this is any more accurate than their predictions of the years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2010

  • by bjoast (1310293) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:02AM (#40893727)
    In three years we will all have hoverboards!
    • And holographic billboards and self-drying clothes.

      (I just introduced my 9 year old son to Back To The Future. He was bored all through the initial setup and wanted to stop watching. Once Marty went back in time, though, he was hooked. Now he can't wait to see the next 2 movies.)

      • by arth1 (260657)

        (I just introduced my 9 year old son to Back To The Future. He was bored all through the initial setup and wanted to stop watching. Once Marty went back in time, though, he was hooked. Now he can't wait to see the next 2 movies.)

        Weird. I'd think that for him, it would be someone going from the past to the past. The 80s, the 50s -- it's all long before he was born. I'm not sure I'd be hooked on a movie of someone going from the 50s to the 20s.

        • by c4tp (526292)
          In 4 years, they should release a special "Back to the Past" edition since even the second movie will be history for the viewers.
        • by Cinder6 (894572)

          Weird. I'd think that for him, it would be someone going from the past to the past. The 80s, the 50s -- it's all long before he was born. I'm not sure I'd be hooked on a movie of someone going from the 50s to the 20s.

          Why? The world isn't that different from 1985--not in the ways that matter. Sure, the cars are dated, and Marty uses a Walkman, but he spends so little time in 1985 that it doesn't make much of a difference. (For the record, the movie is 3 years older than me, and it's always been one of my favorites.)

      • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday August 06, 2012 @09:23AM (#40894393)

        Now he can't wait to see the next 2 movies.

        Ahhh...it's good for kids to learn about crushing disappointment early.

      • I just introduced my 9 year old son to Back To The Future. He was bored all through the initial setup and wanted to stop watching. Once Marty went back in time, though, he was hooked. Now he can't wait to see the next 2 movies.

        Grandpa is cool but dad is an old fuddy-duddy.

      • by TheSync (5291)

        And holographic billboards

        Large scale 3D [youtube.com] lenticular billboards are possible, it just seems no one cares about them.

    • by sootman (158191)

      Years ago I had the idea to make a site or wiki to gather all the movies from the past once we reach that point. As you pointed out, BttF is just 3 years away. 2001 and 2010 have already passed. Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man* was supposed to take place in 1996 and Judgement Day in T2 was supposed to be in 1997.

      Inspiration came from one of my favorite books, Yesterday's Tomorrows [amazon.com] but I wanted to focus specifically on the future as predicted in movies and TV shows that were set in the "future".

      But, lik

  • Pr0n (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:02AM (#40893733)

    They all missed that scientists would build a worldwide, high speed network for the reliable transmission of pornography to all corners of the planet, from Communist China, to the Soviet Union to the Arab world.

    • Re:Pr0n (Score:4, Funny)

      by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:20AM (#40893865)

      Once again we learn that porn will trump all. Flying cars and moonbases are great and all, but are completely insignificant next to the power of the porn.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Mmmm, Soviet Chinese Arab Pr0n.

      Well, I'm not getting any work done today. Thanks AC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Murray Leinster predicted the internet in the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction in a story titled A Logic Named Joe [baen.com] (full text at the link).

    • Re:Pr0n (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday August 06, 2012 @09:02AM (#40894217)
      They also missed out on predicting that a dangerous, violent cult would attack that network and its users in court when people dared to tell the truth about that cult. Then again, the contest is sponsored by a subsidiary of that same cult, so I guess we should not be surprised...
    • They all missed that scientists would build a worldwide, high speed network for the reliable transmission of pornography to all corners of the planet, from Communist China, to the Soviet Union to the Arab world.

      It's been said that porn has been responsible for ALL technological advancements. VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, all for porn. The internet, graphical displays, web browser, usenet, ftp, etc. I'm drawing a blank at the moment for other examples, I'm sure /. can fill in the blanks for more.

  • by tomknight (190939) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:03AM (#40893735) Homepage Journal
    So what does Gregory Benford like to drink then?
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:04AM (#40893749)

    This is vaguely interesting, but imo, near-term predictions of technological development aren't really what you go to sci-fi for. If you really want an accurate prediction 15 years out, there are more qualified but generally less exciting people to get it from than sci-fi authors: that's near enough that you really just need people with a good amount of historical knowledge, extensive information about current developments, and perhaps especially, accurate knowledge of current research progress, prospects, and bottlenecks. And a decent ability to synthesize and evaluate all those variables.

    Sci-fi's strengths are, instead, more about what-if than what-is-likely. One kind is technological what-ifs, imagining (at least in hard sci-fi) conceptually plausible but not anywhere near buildable technologies and their results and implications; and ethical/political/etc. what-ifs, analyzing how future societies might operate (often in either dystopian or utopian visions).

    At least, that's what I go to sci-fi for.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:07AM (#40893763)

    No serious science fiction writer in their right mind seriously thinks they can accurately predict the future. The good science fiction writers merely use the future to explore the issues of the present and their implications (and perhaps offer admonishment, with a glimpse of what could go wrong if a particular path is followed).

    • by jamesh (87723)

      No serious science fiction writer in their right mind seriously thinks they can accurately predict the future. The good science fiction writers merely use the future to explore the issues of the present and their implications (and perhaps offer admonishment, with a glimpse of what could go wrong if a particular path is followed).

      I didn't get the impression that any of them seriously thought their predictions might be correct, but it's still an interesting read.

      Curiously, in an article containing L. Ron Hubbard, your sig was the first mention of scientology!

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        Hubbard likely never thought he could predict the future, but his followers certainly thought he could do that and more. Of course, they believe that Scientology can make the gay go away too.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      some do, but they just don't predict stupid things if they want to sound like they're predicting actual future.

      for example, shouldn't it be obvious that it's easier to build a machine to win in chess than to write good books? yet that's what one of the guys(neverheard of him) predicted.

    • While nobody can accurately predict the future, it's sometimes fun to try extrapolating where society will go based on our past/present and then see just how wrong we were.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "While nobody can accurately predict the future,..."

        When I read the news I even doubt that most people can predict the past.

    • No serious science fiction writer in their right mind seriously thinks they can accurately predict the future

      I knew someone was gonna say that.

    • The good science fiction writers merely use the future to explore the issues of the present and their implications as a background to a story he hopes to sell so he can pay the rent and buy food.

      There, fixed that for you.

      Science fiction keeps getting put up on some kind of pedestal, and people keep forgetting that it's primary goal is to be entertaining enough to induce people to part with their hard earned cash. Science fiction authors are neither mystics nor prophets, they're entertainers.

      • people keep forgetting that it's primary goal is to be entertaining enough to induce people to part with their hard earned cash.

        So, you are saying that Picasso only ever painted pictures to make cash?
        That Michael Jackson only danced to make money?
        That Mary Shelly only wrote Frankenstein to make a few extra notes?

        I can assure you many people are driven by more than money......
        I mean, have you ever wondered why kids climb trees?

        Hmmmmm
        I don't suppose by any chance, you vote republican?

        • So, you are saying that Picasso only ever painted pictures to make cash?

          Had I mentioned Picasso, or any of the others, you'd have a point. But, in actuallity, you're just blowing ignorant bullshit.
           

          I don't suppose by any chance, you vote republican?

          Sometimes. Other times Democrat or Independent. Never Libertarian and only rarely for fringe one plank parties.

  • by mister2au (1707664) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:14AM (#40893817)

    Counting through the predictions I'd say 10-20% of those accurate with maybe 50% pointing to trends that may happen (and probably where started before 1987 anyway like credit cards leading the way for cashless society).

    Pretty crappy performance really - and generally over-estimating the rate of progress. But I think that is well known phenomenon where people over-estimate progress over 10-30 years but substantially fall short on predictions for 50-100 years. Interesting paradox !!!

    • Re:Awful accuracy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:26AM (#40893917)

      Even when they're get something right, they usually miss the real use or significance of it, or they characterize it in some bizarre way. A lot of people predicted, for example, that people would one day all have computers in their homes, but they almost all botched how they would actually be USED.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        Most science-fiction authors like to think of a society with a focus on science (they are sci-fi authors after all!), where people have the same thirst for knowledge and creation that they have.

        Rarely is it factored in that people would rather sit in their couch watching the dumbest shows on Earth or click the cow for days on and find it interesting.

        Plus, I don't think anybody wants to be the one predicting that the human race will be ravaged by something as simple as laziness and stupidity, instead of ther

        • by ethanms (319039)

          Plus, I don't think anybody wants to be the one predicting that the human race will be ravaged by something as simple as laziness and stupidity, instead of thermonuclear war or worldwide hunger.

          Mike Judge has already made these predictions... see Idiocracy.

          • by Dusty101 (765661)

            To some extent, see also "WALL-E".

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Don't forget Lucas's first movie, THX-1138. The people there watch TV, and it's just a show about people mindlessly beating each other. It was a pretty good prediction for today's "reality TV".

          • by crazyjj (2598719) *

            Funny, when I read the parent post, "Idiocracy" the first thing that came to my mind too. A society of dumbasses seems a far more likely future scenario than some Star Trek socialist/intellectual utopia.

    • Our future predictions are largely based on extrapolated endpoints which are at least somewhat reliably based on understanding the potentials of known science and technology. However, we are much worse at predicting RATES of progress, i.e. how long it might take to get to these endpoints, because the rates are not based on known fact, but on things like politics, social trends, economics, etc, that in the best of cases are themselves rates, and therefore you are trying to guess about rates based on rates --
  • With a straight face?

    Money trying to buy a reputation does not turn a crappy SF writer into a good one.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:27AM (#40893925)

      Come on, Battlefield Earth was pretty good (though the movie was a lot better than the book).

      • by fallen1 (230220)

        Please, please, please tell me you are joking... I am an avid reader of science fiction from William Gibson/Neal Stephenson to Robert Heinlein/Isaac Asimov and around to John Varley and Spider Robinson. In my much younger years (call it late teens), I tried to read Battlefield Earth and then the Mission Earth series (I had the first 5 volumes in hard cover for some reason). I quit reading Battlefield after 60 or so pages. I quit reading the first book in the Mission Earth after 20 pages or so. I do not mind

        • by Quirkz (1206400)
          I think I got maybe a quarter through the first Mission Earth book before dropping it. All I can remember was a desperate and dishonest main character doing increasingly desperate and dishonest things and digging himself deeper into a hole while trying and failing to get the better of the "good guy". The only thing I found vaguely interesting was wondering whether the good guy was completely dumb and oblivious as he foiled the MC's plots, or just played dumb and oblivious while being superior to the plots.
    • Well, he is pretty popular -- his sci fi series has a devoted fan base who keep trying to introduce others to his prose...
    • One has to admit that going by the fanaticism of his fandom, he beats out every modern writer.

    • by gemtech (645045)
      Yes, believe it or not, L.Ron Hubbard could write science fiction, or at least fiction. Just look at all of the $cientologists that have bought into his sceme.
  • by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:16AM (#40893829)
    Arthur C. Clark's 2001 A Space Odyssey predicted the iPad in 1968. He called it a "Newspad" and it connected to all major newspapers over the "ether". In the book, Heywood Floyd reads it on his way to the space station. In the movie, you can see Bowman and Poole watching the news on them during the first scenes on Discovery.
    • Alan Kay also came up with the Dynabook concept in 1968, although I don't know if at that time it was a tablet concept, or a laptop.

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday August 06, 2012 @09:22AM (#40894377)

      You mean Arthur C Clark stole it after Steve Jobs invented it.

  • Wi-Fi Users of The Past - Get A Life In 2102

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0zt4opqL18 [youtube.com]

    So, why read Sci-Fi when real-life in early 21st Century nearly beats the fiction?

    Nah, I still like Sci-Fi, but these authors, Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Algis Budrys or Frederik Pohl did NOT predict the clueless.

    • The difference between Sci Fi and Wi Fi is that they're both poor designations for differing reasons. Oft, the former contains more events based on actual facts and mathematics than your average (Auto)Biography... If you're talking the station itself, it comes in over wireless signal (WiFi? no Microwave -- Like the oven? No. The radar? Yeah, something like that) and has been dumbed down and renamed to Sy Fy (with plans to complete the naming conversion to Syphie -- slang for one having syphilis). The la
  • by mooingyak (720677) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:58AM (#40894187)

    "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

    My usual answer is "I used to have a great answer for this, and then five years went by."

  • ...is where is my motherfucking flying car?
  • I suspect the article is wrong about hunger. Compared to the 80's, the world has fewer famines. The absolute number of hungry people may be up, but as a percentage of the global population, it's probably lower than in the 80's.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      The absolute number of hungry people may be up, but as a percentage of the global population, it's probably lower than in the 80's.

      Indeed. The UN says [worldhunger.org] there are 925 million hungry people in 2010, around 13.1% of global population.

      Around 1980 there were 850 million, although the global population was much smaller (4.5 billion versus 7 million), so the percent hungry then was around 19%.

      Most hungry people are in Asia and Africa. India [indiatimes.com] alone has 230 million hungry people. Other countries with large absolut

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:12PM (#40896413) Homepage

    In Heinlein's Future History series from the 1950s, there is a time line chart. This chart shows a "false dawn" in space travel - initial success around 1970, then a long hiatus.

    In Heinlein's "The Man who Sold The Moon", the problem is made clear - fuel. A chemically powered rocket can just barely make it to the moon, with severe weight restrictions. Nuclear rockets are too dangerous. And so, the first lunar landing is a publicity stunt.

    Heinlein could do the math. Space travel with chemical rockets is just barely feasible and hugely expensive. Nuclear rocket engines were built and successfully tested in the 1950s, but are too dangerous to use. Fusion isn't even close to working. So we're stuck.

  • David Brin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    David Brin is not included in these predictions, but he started writing a book called "Earth" in 1987 that had some interesting predictions of its own for the near future (2038, in his case).

    -Networked computing connects all the people on the globe, and becomes the dominant way people access news and information.
    -Computers shrink to the point where they become wearable, and people carry them around with them at all time.
    -It becomes common for people to carry around small personal video cameras so they can

  • However, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which even the CIA missed predicting, made the whole U.N. running the world to avoid nuclear war thing moot. Meanwhile, the current situation in Syria and the ineffectiveness of the U.N. in dealing with it only illustrates how far off the mark he was in predicting a world at peace.

    Au contraire, with India and Pakistan in possession of nukes, and the technology in increasing danger of falling into the wrong hands, I would say that international bodies like the UN are needed more than ever. The UN was never intended to "run the world" anyway, that's just redneck paranoia. The UN is about providing a forum and framework in which nations can discuss their concerns and make them known without resorting to conflict as the first option. There's nothing "moot" about the threat of nuclear an

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

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