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Thread: Don't you just hate... {science fiction topics}

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    Don't you just hate... {science fiction topics}

    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    Last edited by Swift; 2018-Nov-26 at 06:21 PM. Reason: edited title
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    No, it pleases me. I love that stuff. Happy days. Why would you hate it?

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    I have to say, I'm very happy re-reading the X-Men storyline Days of Future Past to think that we made it to 2013 and beyond without giant robots enslaving North America.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    I have to say, I'm very happy re-reading the X-Men storyline Days of Future Past to think that we made it to 2013 and beyond without giant robots enslaving North America.
    I think that perhaps falls into the "relieved when reading overpessimistic projections" bin.
    But I think I actually prefer reading both optimistic and pessimistic near-future science fiction from a few decades ago than far-future speculation. Science fiction is (among other duties) supposed to act as both a warning and a beacon. It was never supposed to be an accurate prognostication. It's always good to be reminded of what we used to fear and anticipate, just so we remember what we should be aiming for.

    Grant Hutchison
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    During life, we all develop attitudes and strategies to make our interactions with others more pleasant and useful. If I mention mine here, those comments can apply only to myself, my experiences and my situation. Such remarks cannot and should not be construed as dismissing, denigrating, devaluing or criticizing any different attitudes and strategies that other people have evolved as a result of their different situation and different experiences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    No, it pleases me. I love that stuff. Happy days. Why would you hate it?

    Grant Hutchison
    One of my all-time favorite stories is Asimov's The Feeling of Power, published in 1958 and set in the "distant" future, which I first read in the early 1970's and contains a spot-on description of a 1970's pocket calculator, down to the glowing red numbers. And, of course, gets the miniaturization of computers completely wrong, depicting them as still being the size of buildings. I have a more powerful computer than that in my pocket right now.

    Some SF is underoptimistic!

    ETA: Asimov may not have been all that wrong about people forgetting how to do basic arithmetic without a computer, however.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    When my landlord decides to change the lock on the main door to the storage facility without informing anyone in our mobile home park. She always does this just before the weekend at the end of both her and the maintenance man's shift on a Friday so no one has a key to get until Monday morning, AFTER the predicted 10 inches of snow will have fallen with most snow shovels and snow blowers all locked up inside.

    Each time someone blows his stack and takes a ball bat to it, bashing the entire knob right out of the door. So she will have to do it again next Friday and get the same results. Why doesn't she notify us ahead of time and pass out new keys I will never know. I think she likes listening to people scream at her.
    Last edited by blueshift; 2018-Nov-25 at 05:14 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    I am afraid I am also going to disagree with you. I like re-reading old Science Fiction stories. Of course I can raise a smile at their projections that were inaccurate but it is the concepts and themes behind the story that count for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    ETA: Asimov may not have been all that wrong about people forgetting how to do basic arithmetic without a computer, however.
    I believe it was in the 1980s that I was dealing with someone who had the price for something, and needed to determine how much a 10% initial payment was. So he reached into his desk to pull out the calculator to perform this difficult calculation. He got the right answer.

    Even a calculator will not help some people. When they are convinced that 2.12 is more than 2.7, because, after all, 12 is more than 7, they need something more fundamental than a calculator.

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    Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    Reruns of "Space 1999" (a 1975ish series ) is on our local channel now and I get a chuckle watching it as it breaks every law in physics imaginable and not just being overly opitimystic on man's conquest of the moon. Sometimes I think they should do a series of what happened to the Earth after the moon left orbit.

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    And, of course, if the moon had been blasted out of orbit in 1999 it might just about have reached the orbit of Jupiter by now.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Tut. Don't exaggerate.
    Even with a minimum energy transfer orbit, it would be beyond Uranus.

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    Closed pending moderator discussion.

    Don't we already have a bunch of threads on things people dislike? Is this supposed to be just on science fiction - there are already a couple of posts on more general topics.

    Tom Mazanec, please Report your original post with some sort of explanation.
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    After discussion, I've edited the title to make the topic a little more clear and moved the thread from OTB to SMAL. Let's confine the discussion to science fiction stories, and not life in general.
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    When I read something like "In the 21st century there may be as many as a hundred computers in the world." I feel like I got something extra than what was expected.
    But when I see a RPG from the 1980s depicting computers today as neural implants, I feel cheated out of something I was "promised".
    Yeah, I don't think that way, but that's how I feel.
    Last edited by Tom Mazanec; 2018-Nov-26 at 07:32 PM.
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    Pretty much, no. First, I don't expect people to get predictions right 100% of the time and, second, very few, if any, sf writers -- even those writing "hard" sf -- are intimately involved in the development of technology, so they don't know how difficult some of these predictions would be to realize. Even Clarke, in 2001, was wildly optimistic about what could be achieved in the thirty years or so from when he was writing the movie and book. Realistically, it would take far longer than that time to get a significant base on the Moon, a Stanford torus in orbit, and commercial HOTOL shuttles in service.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2018-Nov-26 at 09:22 PM.

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    I find sf falls into two streams. Either exploring what would happen if a new technology becomes available like time travel or faster than light or improved/modified human and so on, or examining the human response to new situations like living on mars or very long space flight or interacting with robots. It is all what if? The predictive element is a tool to open up a new avenue rather than a real prediction. It’s necessary to suspend disbelief. I like for example the dune trilogy, very imginative but i don’t expect it to be a prediction, it has metaphorical references, wild what ifs and some very human psychology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    No.
    There are a billion different projections of the future in science fiction, most of them will be entirely wrong, and none 100% right. SF is a many branched set of paths, not a linear one.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    When I read something like "In the 21st century there may be as many as a hundred computers in the world." I feel like I got something extra than what was expected.
    But when I see a RPG from the 1980s depicting computers today as neural implants, I feel cheated out of something I was "promised".
    Yeah, I don't think that way, but that's how I feel.
    I can't imagine why you would feel like that. These are works of fiction, after all. But presumably you have the compensation of huge relief at (so far) having dodged all those post-apocalyptic futures everyone enjoyed reading about during the Cold War.

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    I find it equally amusing what science fiction has generally overestimated, versus what it has underestimated. Though there are many exceptions, science fiction has generally overestimated advances in rocketry, weapons, and energy sources, and underestimated computing and communications.

    There are lots of stories from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s that predicted that by 2018 we would have easy rocket transport to Earth orbit, the Moon, and even other planets, fusion power, and hand held laser weapons. But there are very few that predicted we would all be walking around with a computer in our pocket, with a built-in digital still and video camera, and communication systems that would allow us to talk with almost anyone on the planet, and connect to a global information system that could find virtually any information we want (and that this information system would be so common place, that we would use it to share funny cat videos)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    But there are very few that predicted we would all be walking around with a computer in our pocket, with a built-in digital still and video camera, and communication systems that would allow us to talk with almost anyone on the planet, and connect to a global information system that could find virtually any information we want
    Well, Space: 1999 did!

    And they went further: they open and close doors with their commlocks.

    (Not sure what brilliant mind decided to put the display screen on the smallest surface of the gadget though. I guess advances in eye-sight were a technology the show was hugely over-optimistic about!)

    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2018-Nov-26 at 11:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    and connect to a global information system that could find virtually any information we want (and that this information system would be so common place, that we would use it to share funny cat videos)
    Nor would most have predicted that despite having near limitless information a mere keystroke or two away a persistent percentage of the human population still believes the Earth is flat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronin View Post
    Nor would most have predicted that despite having near limitless information a mere keystroke or two away a persistent percentage of the human population still believes the Earth is flat.
    If they'd put that in a TV show we would have laughed and laughed at such a ridiculous prediction. Unless it were some postapocalyptic Zardoz or something where we're also all wearing sackcloth diapers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I find it equally amusing what science fiction has generally overestimated, versus what it has underestimated. Though there are many exceptions, science fiction has generally overestimated advances in rocketry, weapons, and energy sources, and underestimated computing and communications.

    There are lots of stories from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s that predicted that by 2018 we would have easy rocket transport to Earth orbit, the Moon, and even other planets, fusion power, and hand held laser weapons. But there are very few that predicted we would all be walking around with a computer in our pocket, with a built-in digital still and video camera, and communication systems that would allow us to talk with almost anyone on the planet, and connect to a global information system that could find virtually any information we want (and that this information system would be so common place, that we would use it to share funny cat videos)
    Exactly what I was going to say. I vaguely recall some Niven story in which transfer booths were a thing, but if you wanted to talk to someone you had to go into a phone booth and drop a "chocolate dollar" into the slot.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Exactly what I was going to say. I vaguely recall some Niven story in which transfer booths were a thing, but if you wanted to talk to someone you had to go into a phone booth and drop a "chocolate dollar" into the slot.
    Interesting. I've read every Niven book there is several times, and never came across that bit of incongruity.

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    Don't you just hate... {science fiction topics}

    Transfer booths were a big part of Nivenís future universe. Interestingly he sort of invented the flash mob - but instead of people showing up via social media / texting / viral methods at a prescribed time, the transfer booths added the element that everyone could show up almost at once and when the event (whatever it might be) was happening at that moment. He even had a story specifically called Flash Crowd.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_Crowd?wprov=sfti1



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    The chocolate dollar was the charge for the transfer booth, in "Flash Crowd".
    The booths were all identical. He might have been in a full-vision theater, watching scenes flick
    around him. He was used to the way things jerked about. He flicked west on Wilshire, waiting for
    something to happen.
    It was a cheap, effective way to gather news. At a chocolate dollar per jump per man, C. B. A.
    could afford to support a score of wandering newstapers in addition to the regular staff. They earned low
    salaries, plus a bonus for each news item, plus a higher bonus per item used. The turnover was high. It
    had been higher before C.B.A. learned not to jumble the numbers at random. An orderly progression
    down a single street was easier on the mind and nerves.
    But Niven is clear you put a credit card in the slot. Presumably you're debited a chocolate dollar for each jump.

    ETA: Niven's protagonist uses a credit card. But elsewhere in the story someone says "you just drop your chocolate dollars in and dial".

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2018-Nov-27 at 02:10 AM. Reason: Last line
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    It doesn't bother me at all either. I'm more interested in the plots than the technological advances.

    One aside, though. When I started watching Star Trek as a kid (the original series), I was really impressed by a couple of technologies. Two in particular seemed really cool, and while one (teleportation) is absurd, the other (door that open automatically when you walk through!) is totally commonplace. And then on the other hand, there was an incredible bit of technology (the artificial gravity) that I took totally for granted and didn't realize it was anything special.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    to read an old near-future science fiction story with an overoptimistic projection of technology?
    I'm actually more disappointed when the obvious social ramifications of technology aren't mentioned.

    In Ringworld, they start off with a party with the guests teleporting around the world to make the party last "all night/day". The idea sort of fizzles and the characters get bored/tired with the obviously gag. We got a social component of the use of high tech gadgets. As mentioned before, they still have phones which is another social convention, communication without contact. Perhaps like many people texting over calling today.

    In Star Trek, exactly zero people are "prank transported to Tibet". They missed an obvious problem with the tech. Pranksters will always exist and gravitate towards the most horrible and dangerous stunts with easy access. Apparently, you don't even need a license to operate a transporter.

    They did circle back and showed that it was nearly impossible for people to get homesick. Jake in DS9 gets "homesick" all the time and transports home a ridiculous amount of times. His family tries to put him off doing it, perhaps as good parenting, but allows it anyway. A good catch on a social convention because of the same technology. The problem wasn't the technology, the problem was a child accessing it at will just because they can.

    They also lampshaded the fact that money is nearly valueless in the series. They kept stating the exorbitant costs of Jake transporting home, but then really couldn't say much about it because money was meaningless. I'm not exactly sure how that works, but they were trying to drive a point. Someone was keeping tabs on Jake, on a couple of different levels and scales.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I'm actually more disappointed when the obvious social ramifications of technology aren't mentioned.
    You might really enjoy the Netflix series Black Mirror.
    It's all about the social ramifications of technology. Speculative fiction at its finest.

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