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The Way The Future Was

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  • The Way The Future Was

    Apologies to Fred Pohl for borrowing the title of his autobiography for this thread title, but I wondered what people here think of the future that was imagined in the 40s/50s/60s etc?

    I have a Belmont edition of Phil Dick's The Penultimate Truth, published in 1964. This is set in 1982, as it proclaims on the cover, which is of course the year Dick died. 1982 must have seemed a long way off then, just as 2020 seems a long way off now, but although we have made great technological strides in the intervening years society hasn't really changed. We don't live in domed cities, have spaceships rocketing back and forth between the worlds, robot slaves or any of the other contrivances of much sf. And yet Heinlein, for example, foresaw mobile phones, and much technology that was once the realm of sf is now taken for granted - music and films on small shiny discs, the internet.

    Mike (and anyone else who cares to contribute), back in the 60s, did you think the 21st century would look like this..? :?
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

  • #2
    I think you can anticipate improvements on your own technology -- Dick Tracey's and Dan Dare's two-way wrist-radio/TVs, for instance -- but sometimes a basic change, as in nano-technology, changes much of the rest of the technology. By and large people like Dick, Bester and Ballard have been more accurate about social and political developments in the future, as were Pohl and Kornbluth. I don't think the clunky computers of our 1960s futures were much anticipated, but that's in my view not the most important kind of prediction. I'm not the first to comment that we're essentially living now in the future Pohl&Kornbluth, Bester, Dick and others visualised.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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    • #3
      Im still waiting for my George Jetson car.

      Comment


      • #4
        To answer your question directly, Aral. I don't think I did anticipate our present. I was always too much of an optimist. Funny, really, since those who didn't like New Worlds used to call us 'pessimistic'. :)

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
          To answer your question directly, Aral. I don't think I did anticipate our present. I was always too much of an optimist. Funny, really, since those who didn't like New Worlds used to call us 'pessimistic'. :)
          Interesting that people would call New Worlds pessimistic, especially when its editor often wrote novels at breakneck speed to finance it. People who believe they can support a magazine have to be optimists :D

          Seriously, though, I always thought human centered ideas in much of the New Worlds stuff would have to seem optimistic, especially in comparison to the conventional ideas (and stories) it challenged.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
            ... I'm not the first to comment that we're essentially living now in the future Pohl&Kornbluth, Bester, Dick and others visualised.
            I tried to get an advanced English course, for the Dutch equivalent of 'night school,' off the ground a few years back, based around post WWII, American SF. Exploring how some writers in the Fifties and Sixties had extrapolated the future in their work.

            The set books for discussion were supposed to have been:

            Tiger! Tiger!, Alfred Bester
            The Space Merchants, Paul & Kornbluth
            Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, PK Dick
            Camp Concentration, Thomas M Disch

            The course was supposed to have started in September 2001. Unfortunately, only two people actually signed up, so it didn't go ahead.

            :(

            Comment


            • #7
              For an author who really does something with nanotech, I highly reccomend Kathleen Ann Goonan http://www.goonan.com I'm unfortunately desperately waiting for her to write a new book, and she's seemed to slow down. It wouldn't even surprise me if she was the rare SF author that Michael might appreciate as she draws from all of literature, has strong female characters, avoids pretty much all of the genre cliches, and delves deeply into the social consequences of this new technology run amuck.

              To answer Aral's original question, I have a severe fondness for the future of the past, and am thoroughly disgusted with Disneyland for remodeling Tomorrowland. Having grown up in Seattle that whole 1962 World's Fair thing was always in the background, though that too has been ruined by gross "modernization" (ironic that in the 70's they painted the Space Needle white because orange was suddenly too garish, and now there is that god awful ugly Paul Allen monstrosity the EMP right next to it!) At least as a child I got to ride in the bubblevator before the fools had it removed and put in a mallish stairway!
              My Facebook; My Band; My Radio Show; My Flickr Page; Science Fiction Message Board

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              • #8
                Thanks. I'll check her out. I should say on my own behalf that Barry Bayley and I had a seriously miniaturesed computer system in a story we wrote together (never published) and that some of that was included as DUEL in The Final Programme and other bits went into THE SUNDERED WORLDS. We actually came up with an entirely different means of miniaturising computers!
                Yes, changing Tomorrowland is like those remakes of Buck Rogers. Somehow the remakes lacked the authority of the originals.

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think the only halt to technological development will be when the imaginations of the fictioneers in (our or any future) society pack up. As we don't yet fully understand the thought processes, 'belief systems' and paradigms of relatively recent civilisations, I'd say there's still a lot of scope. We are, as a species, still (inevitably, perhaps) viewing 'Science' from a single-species viewpoint, and largely from a fixed temporal and spatial position. If you add our limited historical depth-perception to the narrowness of our 'current' spectrum of viewpoints, it is clear that we are working on fairly narrow lines of investigation. The fact that we use scientific 'proofs' as the Gold Standard in contemporary technology does not mean this is the only valid system (Forteans take note). If we do limit ourselves to the hypothesis-controlled experiment-statistical significance of results-repeatability dogma, we are still encumbered by our anthropoid perspective. To cite a hot topic: consider cephalopods (squid, etc): How would technological development progress if they were a 'constructive' species like us? The keys to future progress lies in our ability to think literally 'outside the box' - the 'box' being the one we keep our brains in.
                  This is a desperately juicy subject! But to summarise my point: the future of the future lies in the fiction-writer's ability to process current scientific and social facts, and extrapolate them using that mysterious engine of transformation that lies somewhere within us, the secret of which may be the ultimate human mystery.
                  In the meantime, talk to some cuttlefish.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Distributed computing looks very promising to me.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm beginning to think that Country Joe's view of things to come is not too far off the mark:

                      Country Joe In Space (A Virtual Album)

                      http://www.countryjoe.com/space.htm

                      "Reaching for the stars", indeed!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Many people who study technological development are coming to the conclusion that it has been steadily accelerating over time, in an exponential fashion, and that most intriguingly it seems to be continuing to accelerate currently. Simply reading all the tons of science and tech news coming out every week gives a good feel for the increasing speed... just in the past few months I've seen very good news regarding cancer cures, diabetes cures, computers in 10 years that might be 10,000 times faster, and even interesting new work on anti-aging seems to be appearing a lot lately.

                        The real debate is just how far will things go - continue to accelerate or eventually slow down? If you're interested in following the news, here are some good sites:

                        Accelerating Times newsletter: http://accelerating.org/newsletters.html

                        Innovation Watch newsletter: http://www.innovationwatch.com/scan.htm

                        KurzweilAI.net newsletter: http://www.kurzweilai.net/

                        Longevity Meme newsletter: http://www.longevitymeme.org/newsletter/

                        Better Humans newsletter: http://www.betterhumans.com/

                        TranshumanTech news mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/transhumantech/

                        New Scientist site: http://www.newscientist.com/home.ns

                        Imminst forum (for chatting): http://imminst.org/

                        -Brian (looking forward to the Elric movie someday)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Anyone remember Bester's future in Tiger! Tiger! ?
                          Those rich enough would display their wealth by travelling in archaic transport. I suspect that most technologies don't die, but they do become the department of hobbyists or other enthusiasts, the way many people prefer to play vinyl records, for instance, or sail wind-powered boats and ships. Or fly old planes. Nostalgie du technologie would it be ? I must ask my French agent. He's currently putting an early Bristol back together again from scratch.

                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                          The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                          Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                          The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                          Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Nice link AndroMan. I'm listening as I post. I had the pleasure last year of seeing Country Joe live at the Bath Festival. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to avoid the ignominy of being ejected because the friend I had gone with became obnoxiously drunk. Ruined it, he did, the bastard!
                            You see, it's... it's no good, Montag. We've all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                              Anyone remember Bester's future in Tiger! Tiger! ?
                              Those rich enough would display their wealth by travelling in archaic transport. I suspect that most technologies don't die, but they do become the department of hobbyists or other enthusiasts, the way many people prefer to play vinyl records, for instance, or sail wind-powered boats and ships. Or fly old planes. Nostalgie du technologie would it be ? I must ask my French agent. He's currently putting an early Bristol back together again from scratch.
                              Almost everybody could 'jaunt' instantaneously around the World, except Gully Foyle. Travelling by conventional transport was the height of decadence.

                              Travelling by sail still makes practical sense, though. You can get a long way with little more than a good breeze. :)

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