What would happen if everyone you ever met, everyone who ever knew you, everyone you ever worked with and everyone you ever slept with rated you and your performance? This future isn’t far off. Should we embrace this or should we reject it? Seriously, what happens in a world where everything and everyone is measured and the data openly published? (I don’t know, I’m just asking the question).
I’ve just finished the new book and have almost nothing to do except the science and fiction map. As a result I’ve started on a digital clean up of 3 computers. Just found this. No idea where it came from, but slightly too good to throw away.
When people notice that others have violated the social norm of keeping a common work area neat, they become much more likely to litter that space, according to João Ramos of PwC Australia and Benno Torgler of Queensland University of Technology. In their study of professors, postgraduate students, and a departmental common room at a university, the researchers found that 59% of people littered when the room was already disordered, as compared with 18% when it was neat. The findings suggest that eliminating signs of disorder may be an effective method of maintaining workplace compliance.
Just playing around with an idea, which is whether there’s anything interesting to be said about speculations in science fiction versus science fact. Seems like quite a bit of what gets written about in fiction tends to become fact given enough time. This could be chance or it could be that if it gets written about, it gets thought about.
1657, Savien de Cyrano de Bergerac, A Voyage to the Moon – Apollo 8, 1969.
1888, Edward Bellamy, Looking Backwards (Credit cards) – Diners Club, 1950.
1964, Star Terk, The Cage, (mobile phones) – Motorola, 1973.
One issue is a lack of data. I have about fifty examples of things that got thought about and then happened, mostly from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but that’s not many. There’s also the infinite monkeys argument – given enough predictions something will eventually be correct. But are these really predictions?
There’s also the issue of which writer is right. Many musings are vague in terms of how things might work out and often there are numerous examples of people ‘predicting’ the same thing. For example, the internet, as an idea, can be traced back to Mark Twain, Douglas Adams, Geoffret Hoyle, William Gibson and many others.
What interests me most, apart from who is influencing what, is the time difference between speculation and appearance or invention. It does seem to getting shorter.
It strikes me that if you want to spot trends or engage with the zeitgeist a good way to start is to look at what people are reading, watching or listening to. A good example is the recent US best seller book list. Top of a recent list were a biography of Elon Musk and the story of the Wright brothers. What can we make of this? Possibly that the US is thinking about invention and new technology, but also that it is looking backwards to an era of great achievement and invention.
More interesting though is a book about wood (not in the list, but I’d predict a Christmas best-seller for 2015). I’m no Rorschach test expert, but I think this book might possibly tap into or illustrate a general mood. The book in question is Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Norwegian Way by Lars Mytting. Huh?
I think the reason this book is being picked up is twofold. Most fundamentally, this book is a reaction to a crisis of masculinity. Same with beards – are there any beard books? Second, it is symbolic of a human need to disconnect and engage with nature using our hands. That’s what I think anyway.
How Ideas Happen
Here’s a perfect example of how random events combine to create ideas and insights. I’ve been writing something about whether or not forecasting the future is futile or functional. It’s been a disaster. It jumps around, it doesn’t flow and I’m not really sure what the key thought is. I’ll persist for a while, but my prediction is that it’s heading for the wastebasket.
At about the same time as writing this piece I was at Imperial College and visited the science fiction library. Nothing dramatic, although the experience sparked off a thought about the extent to which science fiction influences invention. If you took a long enough time period would sci-fi writers prove to be better than futurologists at predicting the future? This didn’t really go anywhere initially, although a couple of lines in my piece did reference this thought and I had the idea of a call-out box (above) showing a couple of ideas in science fiction that became science fact.
A week later I’m at Imperial again and it suddenly hit me that you could create a rather wonderful graphic showing the connections between imagination and invention. With enough examples (50?, 100?) you could possibly make an interesting point about the time lag between speculation and appearance. For example, is the time between these two points getting shorter?
Very rough pencil sketch to come….
I hear that Heston Blumenthal, he of TV and supermarket fame, is re—opening his Fat Duck restaurant with a twist. A team of assistants will research customers when they book so that diners are served individually tailored food. It’s not clear how this will be done – Google searches perhaps? – but leaves a slightly odd taste in the mouth. It’s simultaneously rather fun and monumentally creepy. Links with personalisation trend.
Here’s some possible evidence to support the idea that the change argument can be a bit of a myth. Around 90% of the US workforce is employed in occupations that existed 100 years go.
The Observer, 06.09.15 (P20).
“The more you put your life in the public domain, the smaller your life becomes. ”
Kevin McCloud. (Daily Telegraph, 30 October 2015, P29)