So I'm not the kind of person who likes reading stuff on line--my online activity is usually restricted to refreshing the Quest Blog every thirty seconds--but nevertheless, I am enjoying and wish to encourage you to read the daily installments of The Future: A Retrospective. So apparently there was some book called Future Stuff published in 1989 that presented new consumer products to be available, alledgedly, in the next decade; this guy Leonard who I might as well admit I know has taken these products and researched their eventual fates, whether they ever got made, how that worked out for them, etc. What's most interesting is how wrong eighteen years in the past could be about ten years in their future (if that makes sense), and the strange world it posited: with dozens of little household gizmos each doing a little part of what a computer now does (which I admit is pretty much how I pictured the future at one point, just more and more specialized gizmos, like a bourgeois kitchen counter) and "smart cards" (of various kinds) that store information on the cards themselves (which I admit is how I always pictured those "credits" chits future people always used to carry). As Leonard says, "Future Stuff had a tragic faith in the ability of people to keep their data under their control." Anyway, you should just go read the site, it's fascinating.
And so then it got me thinking about how the past is wrong about the future, or rather how it's often half right. For example, George Orwell correctly predicted that the future would be "a boot stomping on a human face forever," but he failed to perceive that in the real future the face and the boot would belong to the same person. Less abstrusely, I wanted to mention some of my favorite gaffes from the annals of SF, such as:
( AsimovCollapse )
( Pohl/WilliamsonCollapse )
( Pohl againCollapse )