Excruciatingly Large Things

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Alternate Histories and Projected Futures

→ by Danieru
Following recent blog trends to, often humourously, predict the coming events of 2006 I thought today was as good a day as any to revisit the visions of two of science fiction's greatest future builders. Both Arthur C. Clarke's (ACC) and Philip K. Dick's (PKD) projected futures were stunningly accurate at times, but a great deal more of their futures came to pass without any relevance to their fiction. Here is an alternate history and projected future compiled from both of their creative musings. The future already happened...

In 1980 PKD predicted:
  • 1983: The Soviet Union will develop an operational particle-beam accelerator, making missile attack against that country impossible. At the same time the USSR will deploy this weapon as a satellite killer.
  • 1985: By....this date there will be a titanic nuclear accident either in the USSR or in the United States, resulting in a shutting down of all nuclear power plants.
  • 1989: The United States and the Soviet Union will agree to set up one vast metacomputer as a central source for information available to the entire world; this will be essential due to the huge amount of information coming into existence.
  • 1993: An artificial life form will be created in a lab...thus reducing our interest in locating life forms on other planets.
  • 1995: Computer use by ordinary citizens will transform the public from passive viewers of TV into mentally alert, highly trained, information-processing experts.
  • 1997: The first closed-dome colonies will be successfully established on Luna and on Mars. Through DNA modification, quasi-mutant humans will be created who can survive under non-Terran conditions - alien environments.
  • 1998: The Soviet Union will test a propulsion drive that moves a starship at the velocity of light, a pilot ship will set out for Proxima Centaurus, soon to be followed by an American ship.
  • 2000: An alien virus, brought back by an interplanetary ship, will decimate the population of Earth but leave the colonies on Luna and Mars intact.
Extended PKD predictions...

In 2001 ACC predicted:

  • 2002: Clean low-power fuel involving a new energy source, possibly based on cold fusion.
  • 2003: The automobile industry is given five years to replace fossil fuels.
  • 2004: First publicly admitted human clone.
  • 2006: Last coal mine closed.
  • 2009: A city in a third world country is devastated by an atomic bomb explosion.
  • 2009: All nuclear weapons are destroyed.
  • 2011: Space flights become available for the public.
  • 2015: Complete control of matter at the atomic level is achieved.
  • 2020: Artificial Intelligence reaches human levels. There are now two intelligent species on Earth, one biological, and one nonbiological.
  • 2021: The first human landing on Mars is achieved. There is an unpleasant surprise.
  • 2023: Dinosaurs are cloned from fragments of DNA. A dinosaur zoo opens in Florida.
  • 2025: Brain research leads to an understanding of all human senses. Full immersion virtual reality becomes available. The user puts on a metal helmet and is then able to enter "new universes."
  • 2040: A universal replicator based on nanotechnology is now able to create any object from gourmet meals to diamonds. The only thing that has value is information.
  • 2061: Hunter gatherer societies are recreated.
  • 2061: The return of Haley's comet is visited by humans.
  • 2090: Large scale burning of fossil fuels is resumed to replace carbon dioxide.
  • 2095: A true "space drive" is developed. The first humans are sent out to nearby star systems already visited by robots.
  • 2100: History begins.
Extended ACC predictions...

We can forgive them for their broad reaching visions, for it is that which makes them such monolithic figures in their chosen genre. 2006 is the future as far as I'm concerned, and I'm deadly sure that if PKD were alive right now he'd be reeling in the presence that number has on the culturally accumulated human mind. So for the moment I ask you to forget the present and instead look forward thus: what are your predictions?

UPDATE: Boingboing has gone PKD crazy today, but they'll never be PKD crazier than The Huge Entity: Look Mum! I made the philipkdickfans.com front page...

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Blogger Danieru said...

Here's a few of mine to get the ball rolling:

* 2006 - 2008: Major terrorist attack takes place in a Western Country. Casualties dwarf that of 9/11. If the attack takes place on US soil American economy collapses.
* 2009: Cloning of human embryos goes into mass production.
* 2011: Attempts are made to clone Jesus from the turin shroud.
* 2016: Direct neural connection with computers available to the public. Internet addiction rates soar.
* 2017: First female and/or black President of the USA. Shortly after the election is over they shut down all major US nuclear weapon programs.

I could go on, but for now I'd love to hear what you think...

January 16, 2006 3:14 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jan 15, 2016: Scientists perfect flawless, multi-sensory virtual reality.
Feb 15, 2016: First "perfect VR" full-immersion porno movies are released.
Feb 22, 2016: Civilization collapses.

January 16, 2006 3:45 AM    

Blogger Jennyology said...

2017: First female and/or black President of the USA.

You mean OPRAH?
cuz really, she's the only one of either group with a chance there...

January 16, 2006 4:30 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

Yeah, I guess a black and female president is pushing it a little, but who knows what the next decade may bring. Strangely enough, I think if Oprah did run for President she'd have a mighty good chance.

January 16, 2006 5:36 AM    

Blogger James Aach said...

If you would like to see how a nuclear power plant accident would proceed in the United States, you might want to check out "Rad Decision", a techno-thriller novel written by a longtime US nuclear engineer. It is available at no cost to readers at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, noted futurist and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog.

January 16, 2006 5:54 PM    

Blogger Jennyology said...

then again, I am a little hopeful even for my homeland's political future when I see Chile and Africa (in Liberia) get their first female heads of state... (then again, maybe everyone just forgot about Nefertiti - but she might be considered an accidental exception of no huge consequence)

anywho, i have been thinking a lot about the future these past few days, and I think the world over will continue it's decline into fundamentalist religious politics (at least as a grand public facade), while technology will finally fulfill the most optimistic and dreadful hopes of eugenics...

on the other hand, i do think that some of the vague utopian ideals of neo-liberal economic strategies will be fulfilled when formerly enslaved/polluted/coerced nations gather the gumption and support to properly challenge western monopolies: I see worldwide unions, a cure for HIV (or at least a universally-affordable insulin-like solution), and a too-late third-world-organized environmental conservation agenda

rates of suicide, malaria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, depression, and cancer will soar as post-colonial nations eventually step down from their conservative trends (by way of bloody civil rights revolutions) and industrialization reaches its modern U.S. equivalent level the world over.

that's a lot... oops

January 17, 2006 1:40 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

i, for one, welcome eugenics...

(pause for dramatic effect)

basically i see eugenics as an inevitable natural progression. in the short term yes, we will try and mould humanity into a 'perfected' form, in a watered down sense exactly as Hitler tried to do, but in the long term our direct input into the process of evolution will be minimal.

technology is always built with one purpose in mind and quickly takes on forms of its own. the pressures of economy, geography and downright vanity will have only incredibly short term effects on the direction genetic manipulation will take us. spin 500-1000 years from now and, if we still have a civilisation, it will be one formed by forces as remote from its own purposes as those forces which culturally 'evolved' us in Henry the VIII's day.

i don't fear our control over the genome. i would feel fear if fundamentalist religion manages to stop it from ever occuring, another force driven by economy, vanity and geography. and fundamentally another force with short term effectibility (is that a word?).

the technological advance i would most like to have is the ability to store my memories and experiences digitally. i won't say store my 'consciousness' because to remove me from the body i grew in would be to destroy that wisp of reality i assume control over (i think). bring on the cyborgs

January 17, 2006 9:38 AM    

Blogger RedwinG said...

2020 El Español se convierte en la lengua de comunicacion mundial.

February 01, 2006 10:16 PM    

Anonymous Erik Carlson said...

2008: A super airborne virus will sweep a path of destruction across the globe the likes of which will be far beyond the scientist's of the world worst case scenario's.
2010: With the remnants of human population still trying to cope with the pandemic of unparalled devastation a 'Mad Max' type of society will begin to unfold but will not take hold because in December of 2012 the Earth with humans on the top of the food chain will end and our planet will shake it's back like a wet dog of us and start over once again.

February 04, 2006 9:49 AM    

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February 02, 2010 8:41 AM    

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