Getting Out the Vote
So everyone's saying that the election is basically down to Ohio. How much longer until the incessant jockeying-for-position of our vaunted two party system leaves a single county, suburb or cul-de-sac as the swing vote?
In 1955, Issac Asimov published a short story called "Franchise" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchise_(short_story)
if you like) in which a world was envisioned where computer analysis of statistical data enabled representative democracy by just asking a single, carefully selected voter a few questions.
He envisioned this dystopian future to be 2008.
If you take a look back at 1987's "Max Headroom", they foresaw many aspects of the Internet today - not necessarily in full technical detail, but the social issues raised by a transformative global network, including the huge quasi-political power wielded by firms with mountains of data (Google, Facebook), the societal outcast status of those cut off from networks (3 strikes laws), 10,000 channels with nothing on (Youtube), DRM run wild (can't shorten the list enough to fit a parenthetical comment), and more.
Max Headroom was set "20 minutes into the future", though cues from the series put it at about 2007.
Star Trek portrayed handheld tablets with touchscreens and natural language database queries in 1967. It was set in the 23rd century, and we're still working on getting computers to really understand what we meant rather than what we said, but I wouldn't trade my Nexus tablet for a dilithium crystal. So we'll split the difference on that one.
Science fiction gets a lot of things eerily right. The orbit which allows communications satellites to appear to be parked over a single spot on earth (and thus enabling communication from inexpensive fixed dishes without mechanical tracking gear) was calculated by Arthur C. Clarke in 1942, decades before we built the rockets which could get anything up that far.
The funny thing is, mention science fiction to most people and they'll think of the usual tropes - silver jumpsuits, food in pill form, meeting with aliens, and of course jet packs - none of which have come to pass.
So it's fair to say that like any other forward-looking activity, some things turn out to be right and others, not so much. But I'm curious why the ideas most commonly associated with science fiction - faster-than-light travel, robot butlers, laser sidearms, and people of all creeds and colors coming together as one planet to fight those evil mauve bastards from Procyon - remain fantasy, while the things SF gets strikingly right are relatively obscure and overlooked.
Well, we do have automatic vacuum cleaners, but they don't offer up sassy wisecracks when you complain about them.
- I reserve the right to repost this elsewhere if I ever get a real blog someday