Tuesday, April 6, 2010

History of the Future

In high school, I was on the debate team, where we read evidence from Credible Academics employed at Prestigious Universities that the climate change would cause massive famine by 2018, or that an increase (or decrease) in Bill Clinton's popularity would lead to nuclear war. We were are very skeptical of the claims of most of what we used in arguments, but I was also unsatisfied with the apparent lack of desire to find the truth - the one academic so brilliant and well funded and far seeing that he or she could accurately tell me just how afraid to be of global warming, or whether the nuclear non-proliferation would in fact lead to our demise by way of biological weapons or terrorist attack.

First semester in college, I took a class called History of the Future, whose most obvious take home point was that people have been predicting the future for a long time (see, The Book of Revelation) and they are usually wrong. The value of the class was seeing how the way in which they were wrong tells us about what was actually going on at the time, but anyways. Here is a case when these 'futurologists' were pretty much absolutely right.

One possibility is that someone was very brilliant and far seeing. Another is that there were so many predictions about the future that one of them had to be more or less correct, but it is dumb luck. Another is that this is a hoax. Maybe some combination of the first and the second, but I enjoy this enough that I hope it is not the third.