Monday, October 10, 2005

Predicting the Future

Science fiction writers have been notoriously bad at predicting the future. This is an observation, not a criticism, since the point of science fiction is not to predict the future. It is at its best when it illuminates and explores contemporary issues. Science fiction of the past often seems irrelevant or odd, not just because its vision of the future has already been shown to be wrong, but also because the issues it engages with are outdated.

But sometimes past visions of the future still resonate:

"Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual and auditory images, which will appear and disappear at the simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.... I don't know if a philosopher has ever dreamed of a company engged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality."

Paul Valery, 'La Conquete de l'ubiquite", first published in De La Musique avant toute chose (Paris: Editions du Tambourinaire 1928); 'The Conquest of Ubiquity', Aesthetics, trans. Ralph Mannheim (New York: Pantheon Books, 1964); cited in Dan Harries (ed), The New Media Book (London: British Film Institute), p.37.


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