DeFlip Side #124: A Time of Surprises and Miracles

DS124.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

When you come down to it, Science Fiction authors are little more than professional prognosticators, spinning possible futures out of present-day realities. And back in 1987, the assembled authors and luminaries at L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future conference were asked to provide their own predictions for the world 25 years on—fast-forwarding a quarter century to the distant year of 2012. Well, here we are, and that time capsule has been unsealed. And, not surprisingly, quite a few predictions uncannily describe the 2012 that has come to be.

Take this from that year’s Writer’s of the Future winner Dave Wolverton, who wrote: “The economic cycles caused by rises in technological levels will begin to level out – countries that have a falsely inflated economy will be forced to export their technologies to third-world countries where people are willing to work for less money. This will lead to a situation where knowledge, the key to our technological success, will be spread across the world.” Sounds familiar, huh?

So does this snippet from the late author and scientist Gerald Feinberg: “With nanotechnology,” he wrote, “it becomes possible to create structures in which every atom has a specific place and function. Such structures could… contain immense densities of information, rivaling and surpassing that of the human brain… be they made of carbon or silicon.” In other words, microprocessers. Intel inside indeed!

Writer Orson Scott Card was also dead on when he wrote: “In 2012 Americans will see the collapse of Imperial America. Worldwide economic collapse will have cost America its dominant world role… If America is to recover, we must stop pretending to be what we were in 1950, and reorder our values away from pursuit of privilege.”

Meanwhile Jack Williamson nailed the rise and transformative power of social media when he wrote: “We trust that you will use your computers and all your new electronic media to inform and liberate, not to dominate and oppress.” The Arab Spring is keeping the faith on that front.

Larry Niven took a more tongue-in-cheek approach, but was fairly accurate nonetheless when he wrote: “Standing close enough for you to shout at, is a person whose brain is directly linked to a computer. He’s a superman, and he knows it. Computer programmers train themselves and each other; and they only do that in a free society, whose government is not afraid that the populace will talk to each other.” Think about that the next time the guy in the bathroom stall next to you is blathering away into his cell phone.

More prescient humor comes from Gregory Benford, who predicted, “World population stands at 8 billion.” Check! “Oil is running out, but shale-extracted oil is getting cheaper.” Actually, it’s shale-extracted natural gas, which is becoming so plentiful that companies are running out of places to store it. But we’ll give it to you! “Most Americans are barely literate,” he continues, “think in images rather than symbols…” Video games anyone? He also predicted  “A fresh period of inward-directed values, perhaps even indulgence.” Now how could he have know about the Kardashians? And the legions of present-day morons who think they deserve to live vapid, materialistic lives? Too weird. Benford finished up by saying, “I will be old but not dead. Come by to see me, and bring a bottle.” It’s a deal, Mr. Benford!

But not all predicted change was political or technological. Carolyn Ives Gilman foresaw a “thought” revolution similar to the 18th Century: “Our generation’s responsibility is to create a new thought template for a post-industrial world… consonant with spirituality; decentralized ; non-hierarchical; ecologically viable. We will create the metaphor; the next generation must take care of the revolution.” Am I crazy or is this the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Meanwhile, author Gene Wolfe wrote: “…dramas are performed by computer-generated images indistinguishable (on screen) from living people. Scenery is provided by the same method. Although science fiction and fantasy characterize the majority of these dramas, they are not so identified.”

Right on! SF&F continues to be ghettoized, though it is the inarguable wellspring of just about all of our popular culture. He finishes up: “In my time too, the age was dark. But we are summoning the sun.”

Author Robert Silverberg espoused a similar philosophy: “We’re coming out of a time of troubles into a time of risks and promise—as we have been doing since the beginning of history. I think the 21st Century will be a time of terror, surprises, miracles and glory—with the emphasis on surprises and miracles.”

A time of terror, surprises, miracles and glory–a perdiction made all the more poignant when you consider that the time capsule from which it came from was sealed atop the World Trade Center all those years ago. And the sentiment perfectly illustrates Science Fiction’s ability to look beyond the current calamities and warning signs and find hope. They’re two sides of the same coin. And 25 years from now, Silverberg’s prediction will be just as timely.

And if it is, odds are you’ll be hearing about it here on Destinies, the Voice of Science Fiction, which celebrates its 29th year on the air tonight. Congratulations to host Howard Margolin for his doing his part to ensure that the voice of Science Fiction is heard now and in whatever future may come.

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Visit L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future site!