Saturday, December 28, 2013

What does fiction do? Sci fi?(also on predictive abilities thereof)

Let's assume the job of fiction isn't merely to provide entertainment (not that there isn't a place for such books), that rather it's to bring into focus or to light an aspect of humanity that we wouldn't normally think on (or ever think on). Well in this vein let's think on Sci-fi. This genre tends to be overlooked by some, but it can provide a great vehicle to ask questions about today by making the reader suspend their belief in a new world and draw parallels to the real world.

But then what of the those predictions made in sci fi? Those made concerning the politics and the technologies? The interaction between the characters and the new world usually makes for interesting outcomes (and the answers are revealing)... But don't these predictions usually take the form, at best, of linear extrapolation of a system that needs complex models? Is there any other way to do it? Wouldn't anything else be more complex than readers would care to read? And if it does make for good reading, shouldn't there be a program to help with these complex interactions? I see something else that computers will possibly be better at some day.

Update 12 May 2015: Well, it would appear that asking Science Fiction writers to predict the future is still something we do. They, of course can only speculate, which is fine, but we do expect some level of intelligence and "propheteering" from them. Nevertheless, I'm trying to think of a science fiction book with amazing predictive properties, and I can only think on my favorite ones which did not really predict a future (or did so from the past, like We) but rather pointed out issues from today and extrapolated. Or it merely looked at the past and did the same into the future. The question has usually been how clear of a view/connection that has given one from the fictional universe versus what one sees in real life (or will see in the future). Furthermore, there's the matter of sci-fi merely being a good way to represent what has happened in the past as well as the present (albeit with a futuristic setting).

Update 02JUL2015: As it would be, there was someone before me who thought on this subject matter. Several people, actually. Not exactly with regard to sci-fi but with regard to predicting the future. Marx, I believe (and this is a horrid paraphrase), said that intellectuals tend to get thrown off the train of history when it makes a sudden turn. This seems to be an ode to people simply conjecturing into the future in a linear manner. History, of course, rarely does so. Orwell too speaks of this, though he seems to think that it's a weakness in certain intellectual classes to predict that certain powers (and whatever strengths they have) will forever move in a linear manner (usually when it increases, in this case). He attributes this to a cowardly need to kowtow to power, whichever one is ascendent. One wonders, don't they?

Some other things for you to read:
A scifi novel, by me, about the darkness in man: When Gods Fail

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