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Odd Thoughts: Predictions gone wireless

Make up any future you wish, and eventually it will come to pass… sort of

By Bob Groeneveld

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Make a prediction.

Say something about the future.

Say anything, it doesn’t matter how outlandish it might seem today.

It’s going to happen.

Eventually.

Maybe it won’t come to pass exactly the way you’ve described it, but your future will be close enough to what actually unfolds that you will seem ominously prescient.

But don’t put a time limit on it. Keep it vague… and ten years from now, 50 years, 150 years now, or maybe even deep enough into the future to be synchronous with the Star Trek universe, your time will come.

Science fiction writers sometimes get it so right… sort of… that they can become shapers of the future they almost predicted.

Nearly half a century ago, Arthur C. Clarke earned his share of guffaws when he predicted that all humanity would be identified with individual numbers or coded addresses that could connect us to one another through portable personal computing devices small enough to stuff into a shirt pocket.

His predicted device initially wasn’t much more than a tiny satellite-linked telephone… although he upgraded it a few years later to include a kind of desktop connection allowing extensive video links.

And he got the size wrong. The pocket device itself, he said, would be about as big as a ballpoint pen (for those of you who don’t know what that is, look it up on your somewhat larger cell phone).

Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics, written three-quarters of a century ago, before anyone could have seriously considered building an autonomous, thinking robot with significantly human attributes, are now seriously considered a necessary safety feature for developing such a robot… by those who are still seriously trying to figure out how to develop one.

But real science has even those monumentally creative sci-fi writers beat.

The editors at Scientific American predicted more than 150 year ago that the telegraph – or something like it (naturally) – could be strung into every home in North America, and by implication, around the globe to feed news and other information directly to every citizen on the planet.

The telegraph wire could be used to communicate “to each family” the news of the day: “a fire, a murder, a riot, the result of an election.”

The telegraph wire could be connected to libraries, as well as homes.

Everyone would have access to all the news and information instantly and simultaneously.

“Of course, this would do away with newspapers, but what of that?” noted the magazine in an ironical commentary that predates online newspapers, magazines, and even television that they couldn’t even have dreamed about a century and a half ago. “All things have their day, and why should such ephemeral things as newspapers be an exception to the rule?”

How incredibly and totally wrong those silly fools were.

There are no wires.

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