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Friday, February 27, 2009

Gary Westfahl on the Sci-Fi's Pitfalls of Prophesy

Here is a terrific discussion by Gary Westfahl about why SF fails to predict the future. He framed his thoughts with seven fallacies, each with examples and explanations:
  1. The Fallacy of Universal Wealth: all governments and individuals in the future will be wealthy....
  2. The Fallacy of Replacement: once we develop an advanced scientific method to do something, we will immediately abandon all the old methods....
  3. The Fallacy of Inevitable Technology: if there emerges a new, technological way to do something, it will inevitably be adopted....
  4. The Fallacy of Extrapolation: an identified trend will always continue in the same manner, indefinitely into the future....
  5. The Fallacy of Analogy: a new technology will be adopted and employed in the same manner as a related form of previous technology.
  6. The Fallacy of Universal Stupidity: people in the future will be capable of making incredibly stupid mistakes....
  7. The Fallacy of Drama: major changes will occur in a quick and noticeable fashion, as a result of a single major event or of the actions of a single individual....

The fallacies thus outlined, Westfahl goes on to describe "current science fiction predictions about humanity's future and debunk them on the basis of the detectable fallacies that have engendered them." The predictions involve: the conquest of space, human cloning, asteroid impacts, a world controlled by multinational corporations, the depletion of all natural resources, the decline of marriage, and the tuned-in, virtual citizenry.

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