Fiction | How does futurology?




Fiction | How does futurology?

Myths, pseudo-scientific literature, horoscopes – all of them are based on sources that are far from science. Therefore, these investigations often referred to as pseudo-or pseudo-science. Even science fiction that tries to create a semblance of science, often relies on the time-tested concepts such as mental energy and time travel.

Let us remember Gary Seldon, oracle and a key character Azimov series of “Reason”. Seldon is studying the dark ages of the galaxy, using the “psychohistory” – mathematical sociology, which is able to predict human behavior on a large scale.

Futurology is also trying to identify and evaluate the potential of things to come. As Seldon psychohistory, it includes science, but is vulnerable to random events. Unlike psychohistory, futurology relies more on skill and instinct than on science.

We often write about what will happen in the future , or about how people imagined the future of the past . Predictions – fine thing, because we do not have crystal balls and magic time machine. All of the conclusions that we can do will be based on past trends and current events.

We – the people, and our expectations – a product of our time. Exuberant optimism of the Golden Age inspired people for more predictions than paranoia and cynicism of the Cold War.

Even when we broadly paint the future of technology, we often ignore public opinion. For example, some forecasters have predicted that the cars will open a new freedom of movement, but only a few were talking about sleeping societies suburban residential areas and boring suburbs. No one foresaw the urban sprawl of the American southwest, crimes of John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, or the prosperity of sexual minorities.

Future technologies are hidden in modern everyday life, like a cell phone was tucked away in the Telegraph, developed from drum negotiations and smoke signal lights. The fact that human nature is faced with the laws of physics, greatly confuses the futurists. Scientists reveal possible inventors embody the dream a reality, engineers are building and marketing invite us to buy more and more. With all this human nature, in all its complexity flexible, is the last word, which decides what stays and what goes into the dustbin of history.

Thus, the best predictions will be based on technological, economic and political factors, as well as carried out systematically. Futurologists cope with it with a bang.
The history of futurology


The first signs of the emergence of futurology emerged at the dawn of science fiction and utopian literature. Strengthened it, but only at the end of the Second World War, when the armies of different countries had to deal with the military forecasting. The technology of warfare is changing faster than ever before, requiring new strategies, but which ones are best? Then it was a terra incognita, uncharted territory, and any approach needed to attract huge investment, both financial and time. The margin for error was not.

Technological Forecasting achieved its first success in 1945, when the aeronautical engineer Theodore von Karman led a team of scientists who predicted the emergence of supersonic aircraft, unmanned aerial devices, homing missiles and new systems on-board communications. The team also predicted that the long-range nuclear weapons destruction will forever change the rules of war in the air.

The roots of futurology and lead to the corporation RAND, which grew out of a joint venture the U.S. Air Force and Douglas Aircraft in 1946. Among other achievements, RAND achieved incredible success by developing the Delphi method and system for analysis and generation of the best scripts. The development of computers and game theory have erected these two approaches to unprecedented heights.

As long as the Cold War, nuclear strategists like Herman Kahn of the same RAND, became something of a celebrity. In 1961, after the publication of his major book “On Thermonuclear War,” Kahn left RAND, to form the Hudson Institute, where he engaged in social forecasting and public policy. His work culminated in the climax in 1967, when the book was published “The Year 2000: a framework for discussion on the next 33 years”, which has caused great controversy and inspired by such influential and controversial futuristic works as “The Limits to Growth” and “Humanity is at a turning point.”

“Limits to Growth”, published in 1972, an environmental scientist Donella H. Meadows and her colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, run the script and futurology in the ranks of the masses. Based on computer models describing the interaction of global socio-economic trends, the book is decorated with apocalyptic images of the global collapse associated with population growth, industrial development, increased pollution, lack of food and the depletion of natural resources.

Meanwhile, two of his colleagues at Cana RAND, Olaf Helmer and TJ Gordon founded the Institute for the Future. Fueled by resentment over the books Cana, they, along with members of the Stanford Research Institute and Caltech, were pioneers in the use of scenarios in the prediction of future events.

Gradually the company, starting with Royal Dutch Shell, seen the value scenarios. Futurology gradually emerged from military tanks on the market of ideas.
Predicting future trends

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Futurologists predict the future, using the same pre-defined and systematic methods that we use every day:

view of the situation (games, scenario building);
collection of opinions (polls);
future trends (scanning, trend analysis and monitoring);
image of the desired future (visionary).

Of course, they look at things more widely used and more sophisticated tools, such as computer models of the economy, but the principles, most of them are the same.

Some futurists are promoted in academia, others use their “futurology” in business or politics, and others – are simply interested in this hobby.

Forecasts are generally likely to collapse because of a few key reasons. Most often, the futurists escapes context, as they often relate their experiences with the predictions of the present and recent past, and can not account for changes in social relations, economic, military or political realities that have yet to occur. There are also inventions that can not be predicted: they break the chain of cause and effect and breaks off predictions of futurologists.

Take even the aforementioned “Limits to Growth”, the authors of which significantly overestimated the depletion of oil, natural gas, silver, uranium, aluminum, copper, lead and zinc. The book continues the glorious tradition of the doom and gloom scenarios of Thomas Malthus. In 1798, he predicted that the exponential growth of the population will pass a more gradual increase in the production of food. Similarly, the British economist William Stanley Jevons made his fame on “Coal Question” (1865), predicting that the UK will run out of coal reserves in a few short years. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the United States in 1939 – and again in 1951 – announced that America only enough oil for 13 years.

And although this is wrong – often underestimated or ignored changes in proved reserves, economic forces or technology – many of these ideas and the main arguments are still cited experts, environmentalists and teachers of secondary school.

But Moore’s Law, which predicted that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years, only strengthened over time, partly because it involves technological innovation – and because Moore himself has revised its terms.

Society of 70-80 years has seen the flourishing of popular books futurists, “Coming of Post-Industrial Society” (1973) Daniel Bell, “The Fate of the Earth” (1982) J. Schell and “Green Machine” (1986) N. Calder. Some include “Future Shock,” Alvin Toffler in this group, but it only applies to sociology.

Today, many of the technological forecasters have a fiduciary interest in their predictions. One of them, Paul Saffo of the investment research company Discern from Silicon Valley, based its forecast on four points: the contradiction, inversion, oddities and coincidences. Others use a different strategy.
Futurology in the literature

While some practitioners recognize that future studies rely more on art than a science, many do not believe that science-fiction writers – the prophets of technology. They argue that science fiction, be it historical or futuristic, it’s just a comment about your life and your time.

Maybe yes, maybe no. If science fiction writers do not have enough solid understanding of indicators used by futurists, but they are not limited to the need to accurately measure the data or scientific rationale for an expected event. In the end, the famous futurist Herman Kahn in his book “The coming things» (Things to Come, 1972) did not guess that the energy crisis is imminent.

Besides, who predicts the future, not thinking about the time, which now lives? Just do not futurologists.

Science fiction writers are likely to believe that the future will bring more harm than good ( as indicated by the Ray Kurzweil ), but unlike the futurists, think freely, and more importantly – pay attention to such an important factor as the human desire. They may promise a future that is difficult to believe, and have every right to. They can consider arbitrarily complex ideas and do not look for excuses. In the words of Ray Bradbury, “I do not try to describe the future, I’m trying to prevent it.”

In any case, some science fiction writers credited with the gift of prophecy. In demand anecdote says that history is a history not yet come to pass – and then it becomes a prophecy.

Questioning the impact of such authors is to ignore the prediction of Arthur C. Clarke telecommunication satellites or influence of Jules Verne, or rather his “shot the moon” described in the mid 19th century. This is to ignore the predicted HG Wells tanks (1903), aerial bombardment (1908) or the atomic bomb (1908). It also means forgetting Czech author Karel Capek and his prediction of something such as the atomic bomb or the name of “robot”, created in 1921.

Edwin Balmer invented the lie detector, based on the “involuntary reactions in the blood and iron”, and described the detective in 1910. Hugo Gernsback, the great advocate of science fiction (Hugo Award anything to you?) Foresaw many achievements in his book 1911 «Ralph 124C 41 +”, including televisions, fluorescent lighting, plastic, tape, stainless steel, synthetic cloth, jukeboxes, foil and speakers.

Were the authors of the visionaries who saw the inevitable? Or are they just inspired future generations to create all of these things? If so, it may be their inspiration more powerful thing than the predictions of futurists?

“The best way to predict the future – to create it,” – said the American computer scientist Alan Kay November 1, 1982.

Maybe he’s right. Why predict something that necessarily move from cause to the effect, if you can just do, inspired fantasies?
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