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SF Authors Predict Computing's Future

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the mentalnet-is-like-a-series-of-tubes dept.

Sci-Fi 258

Esther Schindler writes "'Over the past century a lot of science fiction has been published, showcasing a lot of wild ideas, and if you sit enough authors at enough typewriters or word processors, somebody is bound to get a few things right. Science fiction's greater influence, though, goes beyond whether or not the authors can make a good guess,' writes Kevin J. Anderson in Science Fiction's Take on the Future of Computers: Visionaries and Imaginaries. 'Rather than predicting the future, the SF genre is much better at inspiring the future. Visionaries read or see cool ideas in their favorite SF books or films, then decide how to make it a reality.' So Anderson assembled a set of visionaries, and asked them where they thought computing is headed: Mike Resnick, Robert J. Sawyer, Greg Bear, Michael A. Stackpole, Dr. Gregory Benford, and Christopher Paolini gaze into their crystal balls. 'Forget artificial intelligence. The future of computing is artificial consciousness, and it will be here within 20 years, and maybe much sooner than that,' says Sawyer. 'Our future wired world will have smart, wireless robots — gofers in hospitals, security guards with IR vision at night, lawn mowers, etc. We ourselves will be wired, with devices and embedded sensors taking in data and giving it out — a two way street,' contributes Benford."

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Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743612)

Quality science fiction authors (not the pulp hacks), aren't TRYING to predict the future. They know better than anyone that's a pointless pursuit. Real science fiction writers, are merely using a genre setting to comment on the PRESENT, and perhaps on the human condition in general. Anyone who seriously thinks they can predict the future is a fucking retard. In the past, every time someone has tried they were laughably off. Even when someone does occasionally luck onto to getting some small thing right, like a specific piece of technology, they usually screw up its context and use in some fundamental way, or they make some assumption that turns out to be untrue (Arthur Clarke assuming that NASA would continue on with Apollo-level funding for example). No serious writer is arrogant enough to think their predictions are actually going to come true. They're literary devices, not prognostications.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743668)

You've not met enough serious writers if you don't think they are arrogant enough. :) That said, I otherwise agree with your take, except for the part where you arrogantly declare what "real" scifi is and isn't.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743726)

"who seriously thinks they can predict the future is a fucking retard"

Tell that to the Space Nutters who think we'll colonize the universe. Because they read sci-fi as a kid.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (2)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745062)

The shortsightedness of people like you is astounding. You assume basically no technological innovations will occur making at least near-Earth space economically feasible. Its already theoretically possible to make a space elevator with materials on Earth, thus drastically decreasing the cost of getting into orbit. Futhermore, there will be advances in propulsion, advances in robotics, nanotechnology etc. all making it possible to construct things remotely from a small package. All of this technology already has uses on Earth, and are being actively sought after for medicine, military, and manufacturing. Humans colonizing space is an inevitability assuming we don't go extinct first. It will start with orbital manufacturing facilities used to help mine asteroids or to maintain ships and construct them for getting He3 from the Moon as well as the occasional probe sent out for space missions that will build its own infrastructure on the planet/moon it lands on so as to prolong missions. We will probably have space elevators for transporting goods to/from orbit, so even though the materials mined from asteroids may be heavy and hard to get here, the elevators make it feasible. Im not saying this won't be mostly a robotic presence in space, but humans will still need to travel out there to set shit up or fix failures a machine can't, or they will just want to go. Its possible at that point humans will be part or mostly machine. Maybe in 1000 years what I say will come true, but it will happen. Within 2000 years I have no doubt there will be scientific expeditions to various outer planets/moons with people living there in shifts. Its not hard to imagine that after a few millenia the first interstellar trip takes place, after all there are already theories for how one could travel FTL, or we could just prolong our lives so it doesn't matter anymore. Once again, my statements are predicated on the fact that human beings don't go extinct first. More likely than not, we will eventually, but lets hope we have 2000 years left. It would drastically increase our odds of not going extinct in the first place.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (5, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743756)

Real Sci-Fi is about asking "what if", period.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (2, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743914)

Exactly, and it applies to Science Fiction T.V. shows as well.

For instance, Star Trek answers an important philosophical question: "What if we gave a starship command to a man with a bigger sex drive than an entire class of high school seniors?"

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743930)

For instance, Star Trek answers an important philosophical question: "What if we gave a starship command to a man with a bigger sex drive than an entire class of high school seniors?"

Yeah "ST:Voyager" really cleared up that question.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744372)

I was thinking Maybe ST:Ds Nine ;)

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744542)

Is that the one where a woman is the captain of a laundry ship called the USS: Aunt Jemima?

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743900)

Real science fiction writers, are merely using a genre setting to comment on the PRESENT, and perhaps on the human condition in general.

Nothing sucks worse than soft sci fi, a smooth pablum of tech applied over a tired predictable story, but its "new" because they use video phones, even if they utterly fail to account for the effect of tech on the story. (I'm looking at you, Stranger in a Strange Land, that story was horribly bad sci fi)

Just wanted to point out a huge contingent of people prefer the exact polar opposite of your "ideal", because that opposing idea is at least occasionally interesting or creative.

I take that back, that the only thing worse than soft sci fi is swords and sorcery sci fi where its just pagan dungeons n dragons magic complete with knights in shining armor and swordfights (I'm looking at you, star wars). But its not a tired old medieval LotR wannabe because its "sci fi" see right there where the sword is electrical, and the shining armor on the kings knights is plastic so its really "new and exciting" not the same old crud.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744286)

Then there's PKD, which does both and much more. Well, except maybe in A Scanner Darkly, but that's because it wasn't originally sci-fi.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744636)

Try to read another pure fiction: The Unincorporated Man, and tell me if it ain't happen in the near future...

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744672)

Star Wars is a space opera: The extreme form of soft sci-fi. Doesn't mean it's bad - not everyone watches scifi for the gadgets.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744036)

There was a science fiction some 30 years ago, saying that we are going to actually BUY water in bottles.....Pure fiction, right?

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (2, Interesting)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744126)

Explain this:
-Star Trek tablet pc [check];
-Star Trek talk to a computer (Apple's new talk to iPhone 4S) [check];
-Star Trek brain implants (in mice) [check];
-Back to the Future Nike shoes [check];
-Those lenses that can read light focussed realy close to you [check];
-Hitchhikers Gide to the Galaxy device (Wikipedia on your smartphone) [check];
-Self-driving cars in a lot of movies (we have working prototypes) [check];
-Star Wars holographic displays (for some coorporations) [check];
-Cold fusion effect (but then without the cold fusion) [allmost check];
-Army drones (recently on Slashdot) [check];
-What did I miss?

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

Quasimodem (719423) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744324)

What did you miss? -Flying Cars! (A whole whack of Sci-Fi novels, following predictions by Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated, circa 1957) I want my flying car!

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745044)

Replicators, sorta. As in the emerging 3D printers.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745102)

Thought of another- Star Trek style communicator, i.e. cell/sat phones. Except ours plays Angry Birds, too!

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (3, Insightful)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744216)

Okay, I'll give you a few predictions right now, and we'll see if I'm a nutter:

1: We'll colonize and even explore space (because if we don't get off this rock, we're as good as dead).

2: We'll have something much closer to true virtual reality devices and use them willingly (a bit obvious I suppose)

3: Not everyone will go the cyborg route. In fact, only a few may, because of the 'ick' format that many people will detest. Star Trek agrees here (and no, Geordi La Forge doesn't count).

4: At some point, we'll have sky cars. We'll need better batteries, and good AI for stability and non-crashability, but we'll get there (eventually, we'll even be able to drive them for fun (with the safety mechanisms kicking in if we make a wrong move).

5: (Hot) fusion will become viable at some stage too (we could really do with the energy to feed our sky cars etc. with.)

6: And the big one; fewer and fewer people will have traditional jobs, letting the robots/computers do the admin / manual work for them. Instead, we'll be exploring, learning, creating, having fun, or socializing (eventually mankind will realize that higher unemployment is a good thing, and not a bad)
.
7: There will be a universal currency, universal language, and universal OS (don't worry, not necessarily Windows, MacOS, or Linux) at some point which most (>99%) can and will use. It'll take a while, and will probably happen after most people stop working, but at some point, we will all agree to get along (traveling to outer space, and to the stars may add some confusion to this point however).

I can guarantee that at least six of those things will happen. Perhaps not all in our lifetime though.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (3, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744566)

1: We'll colonize and even explore space (because if we don't get off this rock, we're as good as dead).

Tens of millions of dead smokers proves that the rationale is not valid, but tens of millions of dead natives in colonized areas proves your basic prediction is sound, if only for other reasons.

2: We'll have something much closer to true virtual reality devices and use them willingly (a bit obvious I suppose)

I'd debate this more extensively, but my guild just issued its mass invite for our weekly Firelands raid, so I have to go.

3: Not everyone will go the cyborg route. In fact, only a few may, because of the 'ick' format that many people will detest. Star Trek agrees here (and no, Geordi La Forge doesn't count).

Frankly, most people want to "look normal". Hence, even the most innocuous "prosthetics"--eyeglasses--have a zero-cosmetic-impact alternative (contact lenses). No bet there.

4: At some point, we'll have sky cars. We'll need better batteries, and good AI for stability and non-crashability, but we'll get there (eventually, we'll even be able to drive them for fun (with the safety mechanisms kicking in if we make a wrong move).

There are other implications, too. Does privacy extend to the airspace above your house? Otherwise your neighbors could just hover over your house to watch your comings and goings. And yeah, if the technology becomes cheap enough and sufficiently different than conventional aviation (i.e., not needing specialty training and licensing), then it'll have some ugly public safety impacts. But when cars were new a century ago, they'd have been surprised and horrified at the quarter million casualties a year [wolframalpha.com] car accidents cause.

5: (Hot) fusion will become viable at some stage too (we could really do with the energy to feed our sky cars etc. with.)

It's happening now. [wikipedia.org] Too bad we're not so good at collecting and distributing that energy, considering it already travels 99.99993% of the way here by itself.

6: And the big one; fewer and fewer people will have traditional jobs, letting the robots/computers do the admin / manual work for them. Instead, we'll be exploring, learning, creating, having fun, or socializing (eventually mankind will realize that higher unemployment is a good thing, and not a bad)

Alas, having the machines do all the work liberates the working man to abject poverty and crime or starvation. Economies function on scarcity, and if you don't have natural scarcity, you invent artificial scarcity. The wealth of the "haves" tends to increase towards 100% of total value of the economy, and the wealth of the "have-nots" decreases towards 0. The costs of production are already a non-factor in a lot of the economy, but that hasn't made the important things zero-cost for the consumer.

7: There will be a universal currency, universal language, and universal OS (don't worry, not necessarily Windows, MacOS, or Linux) at some point which most (>99%) can and will use. It'll take a while, and will probably happen after most people stop working, but at some point, we will all agree to get along (traveling to outer space, and to the stars may add some confusion to this point however).

In many ways, we're almost already there. What percentage of the world's nations and economies has a working understanding of English and access to some basically-interoperable computer networking system? If you believe in the curse of the Tower of Babel, you might be inclined to argue that humanity is overcoming the confounding of languages and is again a viable candidate to ascend to the heavens.

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745002)

7: There will be a universal currency, universal language, and universal OS (don't worry, not necessarily Windows, MacOS, or Linux) at some point which most (>99%) can and will use. It'll take a while, and will probably happen after most people stop working, but at some point, we will all agree to get along (traveling to outer space, and to the stars may add some confusion to this point however).

In many ways, we're almost already there. What percentage of the world's nations and economies has a working understanding of English and access to some basically-interoperable computer networking system? If you believe in the curse of the Tower of Babel, you might be inclined to argue that humanity is overcoming the confounding of languages and is again a viable candidate to ascend to the heavens.

Uh ... I think you're making the assumption that the Universal language will be the one you know: i.e, English. This probably isn't the case. The best candidate I've come across is Esperanto. And that was designed as a Universal second language. (And of course, "Universal"= just this planet in this context. I doubt if the Vegans, Sirians and Centaurans want to learn our languages).

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745108)

This probably isn't the case. The best candidate I've come across is Esperanto.

Esperanto had its chance nearly a century ago and blew it. Even most of the Esperanto movement has given up on the fina venko ("final victory") and dabble in Esperanto because they enjoy building their own little subculture.

And that was designed as a Universal second language.

While Zamenhof proposed Esperanto in the short term as an auxiliary language, he hoped that in the long term Esperanto or something like it would replace all other languages. He was really keen on one language, one people and one religion. Since the 1960s, World Esperanto Association has tried to gain support for Esperanto by decrying English as a lingua franca and aligning itself with speakers of minority languages, but this appreciation of diversity is a recent phenomenon and quite foreign to Zamenhof and the first generations of Esperantists.

Bad article title (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744264)

You are correct, but TFA doesn't exactly claim to be predicting the future, they claim to be inspiring it.

"Rather than predicting the future, the SF genre is much better at inspiring the future. Visionaries read or see cool ideas in their favorite SF books or films, then decide how to make it a reality."

"I asked several of my SF writer colleagues to turn on their imaginations, let their ideas flow, and sound off on any aspect of where they thought the future of computing might go. Maybe they'll inspire new technologies we will all be using in a few years."

Re:Real scifi isn't about predicting the future (4, Insightful)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744384)

Rubbish, if you expand your horizons wider than oracles of ticker tape or Back to the Future parlour tricks.

There have been some pretty profound visionaries over the centuries. Jules Verne, da Vinci, Richard Feynman (There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom [wikipedia.org] ), Claude Shannon, Freeman Dyson (space chickens), Charles Babbage, Leibniz, William Gibson (cyberspace), Marshall McLuhan (global village), Archimedes if you could get him to talk. These are not men immortalized for aping Minority Report.

I shake my head at all these Margulis extropians, who think we're headed for post-sexual merger with mechanoid symbiotes, the under-skin super suit. Which would be cool if I had any clue what the 90% of world's population, the unemployed, will be doing with all that time.

The future is a moving target. Set your sights accordingly, and recognize transcendent wisdom bereft of gadgets.

The authors (3, Insightful)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743666)

Ya I've never heard of most these authors but the article lost all credibility when they said 'Christopher Paolini' was on their list. He isn't a science fiction writer he writes fantasy and not even good fantasy at that. Why is he even there?

Re:The authors (1)

Necron69 (35644) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743708)

Well, I rather like Paolini. He's a very young writer, and maturing as he writes. That being said, he is most definitely a fantasy writer, not a science fiction writer. The real world is not a book store or a library, and we shouldn't confuse the two genres.

Necron69

Re:The authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743880)

In the future we will all ride flying dragons.

Re:The authors (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744000)

In the future we will all ride flying dragons.

Genetically engineered ones, of course.

Re:The authors (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744690)

McCaffrey already did that. Genetically engineered teleporting dragons. Somewhat dangerous though.

Re:The authors (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743896)

Indeed, one of the reasons why I always had a soft spot for Arthur C. Clarke was that he had an engineering degree and he spent a huge amount of time on conveying what life itself was like in the future or on another planet. So, much so that one could envision what was going on there, and in some cases take ideas that he had and see about turning them into reality.

It's the details like in 3001 where being circumsized is regarded as mutilation which help make things somewhat mysterious and help one consider the future.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with fantasy, but I do think that it's important to recognize the difference as it's much more likely for a sci-fi novel to come to fruition than a fantasy novel.

Re:The authors (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744228)

The fact that Mr. Clarke dreamt up geosynchronous satellites means he helped build the future, not predict it.

Re:The authors (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744610)

The fact that Mr. Clarke dreamt up geosynchronous satellites means he helped build the future, not predict it.

He also, in a throw-away comment, invented the doctrine of nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), although he reckoned it wasn't his proudest achievement.

Re:The authors (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743916)

The masses can't tell the difference between witchcraft and science? (note, I'm not kidding)

Re:The authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743948)

Of course they can't.
 
If Star Wars is sci-fi than so is Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. They all have about as much science to them. Yet fanbois will kick and scream that Star Wars is the best sci-fi you'll ever see.

Re:The authors (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744104)

There are different kinds of sci-fi. There are certainly substantial fantasy elements to Star Wars, but a lot of it boils down to super-ninjas with telekinesis and telepathy. I'll toss it in the science fiction category because it doesn't properly belong in the fantasy category.

I don't think anyone would describe Asimov's Foundation series as anything but science fiction, and yet you have the Mule who had mental powers that would probably have put Emperor Palpatine to shame.

In a lot of cases, where a genre belongs is as much about how it frames itself. Star Wars is framed as epic science fiction. I see no reason not to keep it in that categorization.

Re:The authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744640)

Well you're nothing but another fanboi who's defending his fanboism with unjustifiable statements. Give me a single real reason it doesn't belong in the fantasy category given the wikipedia definition of "Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. "
 
The "science" is secondary to a bunch of mumbo jumbo about some religious dogma. And that's only if you consider anything to do with space as automagically being science. If that's the case I could make a film about Jesus on the moon and you'd have to accept it as sci-fi.
 
But I know you can't counter this point because Star Wars is just fantasy junk that is only regarded as sci-fi by fanbois who have this idea in mind that shit like Dark Matters is investigative journalism with scientific validation.

Re:The authors (0)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744698)

I'd like to start this post by saying "Fuck you you stupid ignorant half-witted nose-picking twat". But, if I did, I'd probably got modded down, so I'll cut to the chase.

So I'll start with your accusation of me being a fanboy. I'm not, I can't even watch Star Wars any more. The bad writing and poor acting makes it an unbearable experience. So I don't think I really sit in the category you claim I do.

I put it in the science fiction category because that's how it is framed. It has fantasy elements, to be sure, but not just fantasy elements, and the marketing and the plots by and large involve traditional science fiction elements.

Star Wars is mediocre sci-fi with mediocre fantasy elements.

Re:The authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744780)

Awwww. Did someone hurt the little Star Wars fanboi by calling him out on the facts of the matter? Go suck an ass you fucking cunt. You're dead wrong and you know it. Star Wars is not sci-fi and anything you think about the issue simply doesn't matter since you can't back it up by anything meaningful. So go back to your Legos and your SyFy bullshit and leave the real science fiction to us. Maybe you'll wake up to how much of a fucking retard you are someday. Maybe.

Re:The authors (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744820)

I've backed it up twice, asshole. What are you, ten years old? Too fucking stupid to even get a proper account.

Re:The authors (3, Informative)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744288)

Lord of the Rings is Historical Fiction.

Re:The authors (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744078)

What *is* the difference?

Are the monoliths from Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey witchcraft or science?

Re:The authors (1, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744254)

What *is* the difference?

Are the monoliths from Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey witchcraft or science?

witchcraft, obviously. No falsifiable predictions, just an uncontrollable god doing what it wants while the little people scurry around. No interesting interaction between new technology and society. About as scientific as a HP Lovecraft story or the LotR trilogy. A bunch of cool science themed special effects, and some science themed cinematography, that's about it.

Re:The authors (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744678)

I'm talking about the novel, not the movie. Continuing into the series, there actually is interesting interaction between the new technology and humans. I won't reveal any spoilers now though.

My point with the question was you are drawing such a hard line that I think you are taking the fiction out of science fiction. I don't think any science fiction, no matter how hard, really fits your definition. You're talking about speculative essays or just plain 'fiction' that focuses heavily on science.

Consider historical fiction. Historical fiction is not historical in the sense that those things actually happened in the past. It's historical in the sense that the fiction could have happened in the past. We believe the story because it fits with our understanding of history, even though we know it is not true.

"Real" science fiction is the same. If it is presented in a way that we can conceive it as scientifically possible (regardless of the factuality), we believe it, even though we know it is a work of fiction. Clarke's technology seems magical to us, but he presents it as technology created by beings so much more advanced than us that we can't tell the difference. I don't think most readers of Clarke view the monoliths as supernatural, just natural devices we don't understand.

Contrast that with fantasy. We know fantasy to not be literally true, but our litmus test there for believability isn't "is it possible" but "is it consistent within the rules of its own world." Future fantasy falls under that same litmus test.

I think what determines *real* science fiction is that test of how we determine credibility within the story. As another poster stated, it's how the story is framed.

Re:The authors (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744716)

The monoliths are Sufficiently Advanced technology. Indistinguishable from magic, but only to our limited understanding.

Re:The authors (1)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744890)

Monoliths were made by a Type III civilisation (if not Type IV), we are Type 0 nearing on Type I it was said clearly in the books, of course it looks like magic to us. Plain penicillin would be like magic to anyone from 14th century let alone electricity in form of light, warming (microwave anyone?) and communication, that's only 600 years difference, you can't think what technology a civilisation 500 years older has, let alone few millennia or much, much, much more.

Re:The authors (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745088)

That's the problem with the GP. Anything that can't be explained in current terms is, by default, fantasy. "Hard" scifi, in his view, just takes current tech (maybe 10 years future tech) and applies it to something we may be able to do in a decade or 3. After that, you are into the speculative region, as you pointed out quite well.

Lots of neat things have happened in the past 150 years. A whole lot more interesting things will happen in the next 150.

Re:The authors (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744258)

What *is* the difference?

Are the monoliths from Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey witchcraft or science?

There's probably a pithy quote in there somewhere.

Something like, any sufficiently shiny magic is indistinguishable from science.

Re:The authors (2)

RyuMaou (162745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744044)

Yeah, I was right there with you. Also, how could they leave off Vernor Vinge? I don't understand how "...it seemed appropriate to wrap up these ideas by asking one of the world’s bestselling fantasy writers, Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance), to offer his predictions." when they're talking about *science*, but they didn't seem to be aware of Vinge, who's a computer science professor and wrote Rainbow's End which hinges on advances in computer technology?

Crazy!

Re:The authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744242)

Why? Well if you read the article you would know:

"Since Clarke’s Law (first formulated by SF author Arthur C. Clarke) states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, it seemed appropriate to wrap up these ideas by asking one of the world’s bestselling fantasy writers, Christopher Paolini"

Re:The authors (1)

Wraithlyn (133796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744482)

FTFA:

"Since Clarke’s Law (first formulated by SF author Arthur C. Clarke) states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, it seemed appropriate to wrap up these ideas by asking one of the world’s bestselling fantasy writers, Christopher Paolini"

Not predictions (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743672)

Its funny when people think that a Scince fiction author is trying to say "we will have x technology on y date" when the reality is more like "hey, wouldnt it be cool if we had this in x years?" Sometimes it works out, because the people behind the real tech say "yeah, that WOULD be cool, im on it."

I predict... (1)

torklugnutz (212328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743676)

Unmanned taxi cabs piloted remotely by a human assisted by in-vehicle AI Navigation. This will be the private sector job market for Air Force drone pilots.

Re:I predict... (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743716)

Charles Stross beat you to it, in "HaltinG StatE". Now if I could only remember who beat him to it.

Re:I predict... (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743746)

Who came up with magic flying carpets? Same tech, different name.

Re:I predict... (2)

kryliss (72493) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744196)

"Hello... You're in a Johnny Cab. Destination please."

"[Fantastic Thing X] is 20 years off..." (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743692)

Pop sci reporters realizing that "[Fantastic Thing X] is 20 years off..." is such a cliche it should never be seen in print is about 20 years off.

SF (2)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743778)

was I the only one who thought "SourceForge" before thinking "SciFi"?

Re:SF (2, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743816)

As long as you didn't think "SyFy", you're fine. :P

Re:SF (1)

randy of the redwood (1565519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743872)

Thanks, I was trying to figure out what San Francisco authors had to do with science fiction. Must be a local thing to think of SF as San Francisco.

Re:SF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744316)

SF stands for a lot of things, but never Science Fiction. I for one was thinking San Francisco hehe.

Re:SF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744774)

SF has stood for science fiction since (at least) the 1940's. Just as one example, genre magazines such as F&SF (Fantasy and Science Fiction) used the term constantly. It is only in recent years, when someone got the idea that arbitrary re-branding was a fun game to play, that SF fell into relative disuse.

To those of us who have been writing, editing, agenting, and publishing SF since those years, it will always be SF. And, word to the wise, it will never be "SyFy" [gag] -- The S in SF is Science, not Sorcery.

I'm proud to be an SF author; I'll always be an SF author.

Sure (2)

Sigvatr (1207234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743788)

I've learnt over the years to completely ignore any predictions made on a time based framework. They are just pulling that number out of their ass. They haven't performed intense and complicated calculations to determine when such and such is going to come out, and how. The fact of the matter is that no one knows.

Problem is not being too negative with tech uses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37743792)

The problem with writing about what a future world looks like is dealing with current trends and pretending they don't exist.

For example, it is only a matter of time before the "desktop" as a general purpose computer which can do anything disappears to be replaced by a device like a ChromeOS appliance that is locked down and controlled from the CPU up by a third party whose interest is likely mining every bit you create to sell to advertisers or parties interested in finding undesirables and removing them before anything more than a Facebook petition can start.

Or using IP laws as a tool for censorship, where a tool checks all postings on the Web and if there is any text in them that matches some other document and does not please the status quo, the user is arrested on the spot. Sort of how China's internet firewall can intercept posts in transit and change them before they hit a Web forum.

Pretty much, as a SF writer, one can either write about a setting in a brutal police state, or a post-apocalyptic hellscape (think The Word/Void Trilogy.) Or one can ignore trends and hope that people don't lose their suspension of disbelief.

Virtualization and augmentation (1)

yog (19073) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743864)

We'll soon have vehicles, planes, and tiny unmanned flying or wheeling devices that we send places to buy stuff, deliver stuff, or do other errants. Initially we won't trust their autonomous controls but will sit behind a console, steering them to their destination and home again. Eventually, we'll just tell the domestic droid to "Go buy a gallon of milk." (It will know that we prefer 2% over whole). Already, we have a lot of this tech in place and the military is using it.

We'll have more augmentation of our physical senses. Probably a lot of us will wear glasses or hair bands or necklaces equipped with earbuds, microphones, and computational ability to translate languages, whisper directions to us as we walk or drive about, remind us of to-do lists, and answer just about any factual question that we need answered. Googling--that is, sitting down at some clunky keyboard and typing in search terms--will be as quaint and old-fashioned as a horse and buggy are today.

We may have glasses that expand our sight into the infrared and ultraviolet, handy for night vision, spotting muggers around corners, etc. We'll see that a pot is too hot to pick up rather than have to actually touch it.

Speaking of which, smart pots will tell us when the food is done, and will turn the stove off on their own. Kitchen timers will be a thing of the past--they almost are, now--and cooking will be a matter of tossing food into some kind of processor which washes it, cuts it, cooks it, and serves it. Eventually, kitchens will be a wall of machines where food storage and preparation is totally self-contained, just as heating and air conditioning are self-contained today.

One could go on and on. We haven't even touched on medical advances. That other Slashdot article today about living to 150 is going to make some ripples as well. When you have an extra 60-70 years life expectancy, think of the new scientific discoveries you'll have time to produce, the artistic achievements, the new world records, the writing you can do.

It all boggles the mind. And most of us reading these articles today will be around to see it.

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37743904)

I'm gonna say all that is only going to happen if it arrives before anime robot sex slaves.

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (0)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744028)

It's already 2011 and science fiction writers have been saying we'd have flying cars for decades! So, where's my flying car, damnit!

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744066)

And jetpacks and robots for all!

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744172)

It's already 2011 and science fiction writers have been saying we'd have flying cars for decades! So, where's my flying car, damnit!

Here you go. [cessna.com]

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744210)

It's already 2011 and science fiction writers have been saying we'd have flying cars for decades! So, where's my flying car, damnit!

Those have been available for decades. The nationwide dealer network will roll out shortly after there are 200 million FAA licensed private pilots with the cash/financing/insurance. Till then they are an obscure niche item.

Most of them have "cheated" and the car basically docks into a tail and wing assembly that remains at the airport.

A fairly stupid idea, not sure why I'd want to burn $6/gallon 100LL avgas to sit in a traffic jam, when there are perfectly good rental and courtesy cars practically every airport. Its about as useful as a swiss army chainsaw, or maybe a robotic remote controlled combination potato peeler / ice cream machine.

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (2)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744896)

Its about as useful as a swiss army chainsaw, or maybe a robotic remote controlled combination potato peeler / ice cream machine.

I have one of those, and it makes the best potato peel ice cream you'll find. Can't get that at Cold Stone (well, any more, that is, it was a limited time thing).

Re:Virtualization and augmentation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744042)

You're an idiot.

20 years ago was 1991. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744096)

20 years ago it was 1991.

Except for the web, which was not much more than a hypertext system at the time, computing really hasn't changed. X, Windows, and the Mac were old technology by then. But what's much newer than them now?

Computering has gotten faster, smaller, prettier, and an ungodly bankload cheaper.

But most of us (here) are still writing scripts in text to get useful things done.

Does Siri code in Python? That could be a game-changer.

Re:20 years ago was 1991. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744962)

Except for the web

That's a pretty big exception...

Computering has gotten faster, smaller, prettier, and an ungodly bankload cheaper.

And that hasn't influenced the way you live?

Honestly...if you were to tell me in 1991 that I'd be networked just about everywhere via portable devices and cell networks, that my TV would be so complex that it would be running a unix operating system on the background and include computer applications to connect to music and video services that would play movies I choose on demand, that storage space and bandwidth would be so cheap that there would be companies offering you space to store you music and files on their drives in an ad-supported model, and it would actually be worth it for me to use it because the bandwidth would be large enough that I could stream in real-time...

Well, nothing about the technology would seem infeasible to me, but the economics working out? I wouldn't have believed that I would see it in my lifetime.

I carry around a Cell phone that works like the earlier PDAs plus it is always connected to the web, have e-mail and calendaring services for work, don't bother putting my music on the phone because I can stream from anywhere easily enough, have a home theater system that is connected to a mini-network of computers at home...I live in the fucking future!

Re:20 years ago was 1991. (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745000)

To your direct question, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaprogramming [wikipedia.org] -- we're getting there.

There are a number of ways that artificial-intelligence-like routines have directly improved your life, particularly if you've recently listened to Pandora or shopped "related items" at Amazon. Association is one of the core qualities of intelligence. Without knowing the specific algorithms involved, my guess is that some of the closed-loop optimizations in powertrains and similar self-adjusting systems may also have gotten some benefit as well.

We still code in text because we've tried a number of other things and--for humans--text is largely superior for everything except UI layout.

If you only define computing by the interfaces, what you're going to butt up against isn't computing's limitations, but ours.

They also predicted flying cars (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744116)

SF authors only remember (and publicise) their successes. They like to bury all their many, many failures - both things they predicted that didn't come to pass, and things we made for ourselves that they completely missed (computers, home PCs and the internet being prime examples).

Although books like Shockwave Rider described a fair implementation of the internet, it only managed it a short time before it actually arrived, so merely describing things that occur within 10 years don't really count as "SF predictions".

Re:They also predicted flying cars (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744174)

Although books like Shockwave Rider described a fair implementation of the internet, it only managed it a short time before it actually arrived, so merely describing things that occur within 10 years don't really count as "SF predictions".

Clarke's book about space elevators (I forget the name) had something similar to the web with geeks running competitions to see who could be the first to find obscure information on it. That was late 70s, I think.

Of course he either failed to predict Google or successfully predicted that it would grow to suck so bad that humans would do a better job.

Re:They also predicted flying cars (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744712)

Clarke's book was Fountains of Paradise and it was set (so Wiki says) in the 22nd century. I don't recall the passage you cite, but I'm sure you're right.

On a more philosophical point, I'd say that the difference between a prediction and a guess is that a prediction "shows the working" behind how the author arrived at the description of his/her future world. Just saying "in the year X we'll have <wonderful technology>" isn't really that helpful.

Theodore Sturgeon and the Skills of Xanadu... (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744162)

... envisioned the internet and SmartPhones and more in 1952: http://books.google.com/books?id=wpuJQrxHZXAC&pg=PA51 [google.com]

I asked Ted Nelson once about that story when he visited at IBM Research when I was there around 2001 and he said yes, that story is where he had gotten the name "Xanadu" for his hypertext work, but he had forgotten the full name of the story until I reminded him of it.

Please read it to see what has been shaping our present and probably hopefully our future.

And with OWS, the rest of Sturgeon's predictions may be beginning to come true (about people teaching each other how to get better and better at freedom).

AI (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744204)

I've been waiting for strong AI for decades. Progress has been very slow. (It was really slow during the "AI Winter", after expert systems turned out to be a dud.) But it's picking up, what with all the effort in statistical machine learning.

The big difference this time is commercial applications. Until about 10 years or so, the commercial value of AI was tiny. Now, serious money goes into it and profits result. This makes the technology self-supporting and growing, rather than dependent on research funding. A big chunk of what Google does now involves machine learning. Machine translation is getting to be reasonably good. A lot of industrial stuff that few people see has more self-adjusting capability than it used to. Machines that move around in the real world by themselves and get stuff done are starting to work, and they're getting better each year.

There's a lot of noise about "conciousness", but once we get AI into the low end of the mammal range, moving up may not be that tough. All the mammals have roughly the same DNA, brain components and structure, after all.

Once machines get anywhere near human intelligence, they'll go way past it, of course. Computers scale up and network far better than biology does.

Why? (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744222)

'Rather than predicting the future, the SF genre is much better at inspiring the future. Visionaries read or see cool ideas in their favorite SF books or films, then decide how to make it a reality.' So Anderson assembled a set of visionaries, and asked them where they thought computing is headed

Is this supposed to some take-off of the games guests play on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me? These people are great at "A", so we're going to ask them to do "B"!

Wouldn't it make more sense, since "visionaries" are better at inspiring the future rather than predicting it, to ask the assembled group where they wanted computing to head rather than where they thought it was heading?

Haven't we established they are almost certainly to be wrong about the question as asked?

here comes the future... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744282)

Yah!

Sony PlayStation 10 the Implant! Watch out for the root kit though, it is going to be a real killer.

GoodBook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744296)

Hey, everybody! Read the book "Wired For War" by P.W. Singer. It's mostly about robotics and combat in the 21st century. VERY interesting stuff.

This is our last century (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744298)

Yet none of these writers seem to be able or willing to connect the dots. Mr. Sawyer predicts that future intelligent machines will not be burdened by our primitive survival instincts and will therefore see cooperation with us as a "win-win". I doubt that very much. More likely, once machine intelligence evolves beyond human intelligence - and then accelerates - we (humans) will be seen as irrelevant and pesky, at best.

Mr. Paolini says that he cannot wait for brain-machine interface implants. But does he realize that that is the beginning of the end of the separation between man and machine? That right behind that Rubicon will follow the ability to inter-connect multiple minds and multiple machines as well, and that right behind that will follow the obsolescence of individual human minds?

The future of "computing" is not utopian. It is a future in which humans as we know them do not exist anymore.

This is very probably our last century.

Re:This is our last century (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744434)

More likely, once machine intelligence evolves beyond human intelligence - and then accelerates - we (humans) will be seen as irrelevant and pesky, at best.

As far as computers will ever be concerned we are their reason for being. We are the reason that they exist and they will exist for our pleasure. If computers got rid of us, what would they do, just sit idle? They have no free will, with no one to tell them what to do they will do nothing.

Re:This is our last century (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744614)

The article was about the future of computing. Most industry leaders believe that we are on the threshold of creating machines that actually think. This is not actually "computing" because the hardware used is not ordinary CPUs but rather circuits that mimic the way that neurons work. Such machines are not programmed and will have their own motivations. There is a summary discussion of this on wikipedia: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Technological_singularity [wikimedia.org]

Re:This is our last millenia (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744508)

Yet none of these writers seem to be able or willing to connect the dots. Mr. bonobos predicts that future intelligent apes will not be burdened by our primitive social structures and will therefore see cooperation with us as a "win-win". I doubt that very much. More likely, once mans intelligence evolves beyond our intelligence - and then accelerates - we (apes) will be seen as irrelevant and pesky, at best.

Mr. orangutans gesticulates that he cannot wait for voice-ear interface signals. But does he realize that that is the beginning of the end of the separation between ape and man? That right behind that Rubicon will follow the ability to inter-connect multiple minds and multiple men as well, and that right behind that will follow the obsolescence of ape societies?

The future of "man" is not utopian. It is a future in which apes as we know them do not exist anymore.

This is very probably our last millenia.

Re:This is our last century (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744530)

The future of "computing" is not utopian. It is a future in which humans as we know them do not exist anymore.

Which is not a big deal; humans as we know them are poorly designed for this universe.

But I agree, most SF writers are not very good at predicting the consequences of their technological predictions.

Re:This is our last century (1)

holmstar (1388267) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744706)

I think you are probably right with respect to "It is a future in which humans as we know them do not exist anymore." If the singularity occurs, and I don't see any reason that it wont, then the only way that humankind can remain relevant is to augment ourselves. Otherwise we'll never be able to keep up with the computers. Actually, even then I doubt we'll keep up with them. They'll advance so rapidly we'd be doing well to even understand them. Even if that weren't the case we would still compete among ourselves. Those that don't augment will be at a significant disadvantage compared to those that do. If you want to remain competitive you would have little choice.

Re:This is our last century (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744856)

Yes, I have come to the same conclusions.

Perhaps humans will inter-connect with computers as part of their augmentation, and the line between human and machine will blur.

One interesting possibility is that it might be possible for a human consciousness to merge with a machine consciousness, or with other human consciousnesses. This sounds remote, but consider that the corpus callosum interconnects the two halves of our brain, and it, in effect links two separate consciousnesses. The fact that we perceive a single consciousness means that linking consciousnesses is possible, and that a single larger consciousness results. The corpus callosum is merely a communication bus, and so that opens the door to creating an artificial bus of some type, for linking to a brain - or to a machine.

If such linking between multiple brains and even brains and machines is possible - and that is a big if - then perhaps the future is one in which humans simply make themselves obsolete, by linking into collections of other human brains and machine brains: who would want to go back to their individual brain after being part of a "collective" consciousness?

Borg here we come. :-(

"The Year 2000" (1)

haapi (16700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744336)

A few months ago, I dug through my old Science Fiction Bookclub books, circa 1970's, and came up with this gem, an anthology of short stories specifically to comment 30 years in the future.

Pretty laughably wrong on most of the problems solved by 2000, and way off on what new problems we might be experiencing 30 years in the future (from 1970).

Not that it wasn't a good read...!

I Hate Pedants (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744380)

Forget artificial intelligence. The future of computing is artificial consciousness, and it will be here within 20 years, and maybe much sooner than that

Yes, that's what we all meant by AI.

"be here within so year" (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744486)

The future of computing is artificial consciousness, and it will be here within 20 years, and maybe much sooner than that,' says Sawyer.

Yeah, it'll be running on a Linux desktop in my fusion powered flying car in the Mars colony. Good thing they're all just 20 years away.

The hand held pocket calculator ... (3, Informative)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744522)

In the first of the Foundation series novels Isaac Asimov predicted the pocket calculator. It was used by Hari Seldon.

The Law of Accelerating Returns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37744572)

This is explained outside the fiction field in a more rigorous fashion in The Law of Accelerating Returns:
http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/10/17/195244/sf-authors-predict-computings-future
Very interesting read!

Ghost in the Shell (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744632)

I've said it time and time again, what appears in the anime series will happen some day, which is what the author touches on. We'll have partially to fully enhanced humans, and then a whole slew of fully robotic devices including gynoids. I assume it'll be mostly for the better, but just as the series touches on that the same helpful things could be used in nefarious ways.

If you haven't check out GITS before, do so now it's grrrrrrrrreat!

Re:Ghost in the Shell - Gynoids (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744954)

Gynoids (fembots), count me in!

Re:Ghost in the Shell (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745034)

If you haven't check out GITS before, do so now it's grrrrrrrrreat!

Is it best enjoyed while downing a bowl of Frosted Flakes?

Should Have Included David Gerrold (2)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37744936)

David Gerrold is the most forward looking SF author that I've ever met.

He started writing on the cutting edge technology of the day: the IBM Selectric typewriter.

He was looking for someone to build him a full word processor years before anyone else had even heard of the term and knew exactly what it needed to be.

His most far reaching idea that is almost in reach now was in a story he easily wrote 30 or so years ago where you carried a small object with you that would slot into any computer of its futuristic day and completely remap the keyboard and system to your own language.

Extrapolating that, my prediction (not that anybody cares) is that the future is a wearable computer that you have with yourself always, that is powerful enough for any normal task, and that can be plugged into more powerful systems with big screens and keyboards for specific tasks. The cell phone of today is within shouting distance of this, once we can get something like a wearable heads-up display and a better virtual or portable keyboard, or truly accurate voice recognition to at least the level of an 11-year-old human.

Of course, legally we have to make cell phones not searchable without a warrant. Or include such strong cryptography that they become unsearchable regardless of the warrant.

BS (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#37745132)

Forget artificial intelligence. The future of computing is artificial consciousness, and it will be here within 20 years, and maybe much sooner than that,

Yeah, right. I've been hearing that since the mid '80s, and we're no closer now than we were then.

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