6
Jan

Years People! In Science Fiction!

    It has always been a pet peeve of mine to see the year in which science fiction authors and screen writers place their sci-fi books and movies in. They are usually way off by many decades. Centuries even.

    It was 1949 when Brit George Orwell published his big book -1984. Orwell's first choice for the book title was The Last Man in Europe. Orwell originally placed the story in 1980, later shifting it to 1982, and then finally to 1984. Back in the mid-1940s the world still smoldered from the WW II. Communist Russia loomed. Stalin was killing millions of people. And I guess Orwell and his readers all thought that 35 years was plenty of time for our species to collapse and be smothered into the Stalin-on-steriods, Big Brother, Doublethink of Thoughtcrime, Newspeak and Memory Holes. In the 1960s I had to read 1984 for a high school assignment. Then 1984 came rolling along in real life, and while we suffer from the germs of these political concepts, we aren't drowning under Orwellian/Stalin waters. Yet.

    I was surprised to note that the movie " Blade Runner" was set in 2019. Written back In the mid 1960s, Philip K. Dick wrote the original "Electric Sheep" book plot, published in 1968 for the 1982 "Blade Runner" movie. He gave himself a good 50 years for us to get into the murky, wet, polluted world of massively, cross-bred humanity and language AND robots and with macho outer space colonization, etc. Now, that we are entering 2015, we can almost taste the upcoming year of 2019 ahead, and it would be hard to imagine the Blade Runner universe imploding around us by then.

 martianchronices    Earth-men reach Mars to colonize it in 1999 according to Ray Brabury's The Martian Chronicles, which he wrote in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Missed that one too, and anyway Mars is a little too toasty for bipeds. The cover of the book show here had our hero with a small, semi-auto pistol to peck away at any pesky Martians that might pop up. And those ancient binoculars! But a wicked, pointy spaceship in the background! "Single file now men! Stay connected with our walkie-talkies!"

    We really don't know what future year Ray's 1940's book-burning, Fahrenheit 451 takes place. Sometime in the mysterious future? But, Ray also failed to predict the invention of the Kindle and Nook and so forth – which could be stomped on rather than burned by government firemen. Four hundred and fifty one degrees is the ignition point of paper. With E-Book player stomping, his story could well have been called "Size 12, Triple X Width.”

 

    2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel by Arthur C, Clarke, missing the mark of it's casual, airline-like, outer space travel and moon, mining exploration by 2001, least of all the Invasion of the Creeping Monoliths. Maybe 3001 would have been a better choice? Then we had in the 1980s, the book and movie 2010 - the sequel. Nope. Wrong again. We may have cell phones in every pocket, but we are still not zipping around the planets. In the sequel, 2010, we are nosing around Jupiter. Have you noticed how the computer screens in 2001 and 2010 movies looked? They looked like the 1980s ping-pong, console game. The movie production could envision fantastic spaceships, but didn't predict that HAL could be the size of a laptop, or the computer screens might be in 3-D by then?  

    I guess we could go on and on about the failed predictions of androids, planetary colonization and totalitarianism. At least Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" pitched his stories so far into the future by so many hundreds of years that we probably won't be having this conversation…at least not you and I, that is about that story.

     The Mayan December, 2012 end of the world prediction was off by who knows how many years. Followers of Mormon cult leader, Warren Jeffs, who is currently behind bars for sexually assaulting young girls, prepared for the end of the world again 1 January, 2013 after their former genius leader Jeffs warned of Armageddon before midnight. They are apparently working off of different tablets than the Mayans. Not enough sacrificial hearts I guess.

     In fact, we have a steady stream of wackos with all kinds of apocalyptic dates that have came and went. Actor Ted Dansen proclaimed about 17 years ago that the world's oceans would dry up in 10 years. He also failed to predict he'd be the star of TV's CSI. About eleven years ago, Al Gore, acting all Frankensteinian and pounding a podium, declared that the world would burn up in 10 years, another deadline passed. And we all know that financial experts are no better than monkeys throwing darts.

Signal-Noise    Darts are flying everywhere! Look out! Predictions big and small, predicating this or that. The new book, The Signal and the Noise, Why So many Predictions Fail – But Some Don't, is a great new book on this subject. Excerpt of a review follows –

    “Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Nate Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and lay people mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.”

    I myself predict right here and right now that I will finish reading this predictions book in 2016. Or, well, (am I being Or-wellian) maybe 2017?

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