A Brief History of Tomorrow,Malthus, Vocabulary Ellen Spertus MCS 123/223 September 12, 2002
A Brief History of Tomorrow • Published in 2000 • Great Britain • Jonathan Margolis
Influence of present on SF • “[V]isions of the distant future tend to be shaped and coloured by the experiences and prejudices of the present.” • Science fiction examples • Jetsons (1962-1963)
Current institutions • Margolis: Starbucks • Businesswomen • Globalization
The arrogance of the present • Claim: “the arrogance of the present” (p. 22) influences “95 per cent of what is routinely spouted in the mass media and politics about the future”. • Examples
Predictions about equality • “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” – W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), The Souls of Black Folks,1903.
Comparing human beings to machines Why in the 1930s?
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) • An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798/1803) • Population growth is exponential • Food growth is linear • Human demand for food willoutstrip supply.
Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects, The 1998 Revision; and estimates by the Population Reference Bureau. Population growth Malthus • 1798: 950 million • Double every 25 years • 2000: 242 billion (actual: 6.1 billion)
Food production http://www.sprl.umich.edu/GCL/Notes-1999-Winter/food.html
Vocabulary: knight’s move http://www.princeton.edu/~jedwards/cif/chess.html
Vocabulary: extrapolation • To infer or estimate by extending or projecting known information. • Examples • Moore’s Law • Population growth • Sports records • River length
Mississippi River • “In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. – Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1884)
Vocabulary: intractable • General definition: Not easily remedied or dealt with • Computer science definition:A problem that can only be solved in exponential time
Vocabulary: lateral thinking • “A way of thinking that seeks a solution to an intractable problem through unorthodox methods or elements that would normally be ignored by logical thinking.” – Edward de Bono • Thinking outside the box
Puzzle: swimmer in forest • Deep in the forest was found the body of a man who was wearing only swimming trunks, snorkel and facemask. The nearest lake was 8 miles away and the sea was 100 miles away. How had he died?
Vocabulary: anachronism • Definitions • An item that belongs to another period of time • A word that has transcended its original referent • Examples • carbon copy • dial
Vocabulary: Victorian • Of, relating to, or belonging to the period of the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). • Relating to or displaying the standards or ideals of morality regarded as characteristic of the time of Queen Victoria.