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So…here is an idea. A science fiction idea? I will let you decide.
It is a fact that the processing power of computers is growing exponentially. And there is nothing to make us suppose that this will not continue to be the case. I still marvel at the things that can be done and continue to be done by computers.
I grew up watching Star Trek – in the early seventies I used to walk around the corner with my brother to my aunt’s house to watch it, she had that most wondrous of things; a colour television. Our TV was black and white and you had to get up from the sofa to change between one of the three (yes only three!) channels.
Anyway, my young self marvelled at the original series of Star Trek. It captured my imagination in many ways. Of course I loved the thought of travelling to distant alien worlds. I grew up thinking that if I ever got into a fight with an alien then the worst that could happen was that my shirt would get ripped and a small drop of blood would appear at the corner of my mouth, just like Captain Kirk. I loved the possibility of the Enterprise and all the technology contained within. Phasers and tricorders and replicators and communicators. All of that seemed so impossibly wonderful and distant to my young self.
And yet, here I sit, typing this on an iPad. Just like Star Trek. I can talk to my phone and it can talk back. Just like Star Trek. I can find vast amounts of information on the internet. Just like asking the computer on Star Trek. And some clever scientists and engineers are building machines now that might even mimic replicators (I will blog about that soon hopefully). I couldn’t have imagined those things would happen. And I can’t imagine the wonders of technology that my five year old daughter will experience in her life.
So, here’s the thing. The ‘Science Fiction’ idea. As I said, the capacity of computers grows ever larger as does the things they can do (compare the computers on Apollo 11 to an iPhone!). If this continues then it is conceivably possible that eventually computers will have the processing power to re-create everything within them. Yes, everything. A future computer could re-create our whole world for example, down to the molecular and sub-atomic level. Every animal, plant, human being and object re-created and modelled. And perhaps, the whole universe too.
Now I know this isn’t a new idea (I bet some of you are thinking about ‘The Matrix’). But here’s the part of this idea that gets me thinking; if that will be possible in the future (and we have no reason to suppose it won’t) then how do we know it hasn’t already happened…
I can envisage two scenarios:
1. An alien race has already done this, and our world and universe are part of some vast computer science project.
2. Humans develop computers in the future to do this and they re-create our world in order to study history.
In both scenarios I imagine that we are being watched and observed and studied.
If we are part of some vast computer project, then what will happen when we develop computers fast enough to create and re-create worlds? Worlds within worlds going on forever?
Some of you may think this idea is far-fetched and it probably is. Is this Science Fiction? The truth is that we have no way of knowing. You could be part of a computer generated world right now. And my question is this: what if someone pulls out the plug?
© 2012 Simon Poore
Where will things be in a hundred years? Or two hundred. I like to think about it even though I know I won’t be around to see it.
I watched the fifties film version of H.G. Wells ‘The Time Machine’ the other day. This is a story I have always loved, since I was a teenager. Wells was remarkably prescient in many of his stories, predicting things, and describing things that often came to pass. For example he foresaw nuclear weapons and men on the moon. And even predicted the global conflict of the second world war in 1933 (in ‘The Shape of things to come’). He predicted aerial warfare and tanks and all kinds of things.
In ‘The Time Machine’ the time traveller journeys to an amazing far flung future where the people are divided between those who live above ground and those below, evolved into strange new forms, by the aftermath of a long finished war. Mind you he also predicted invisibility and interplanetary war. Maybe these will come to pass. Eventually.
If you have never read any Wells then I urge you to do so. You can get classic stories like ‘The Time Machine’ or ‘War of the Worlds’ free as ebooks nowadays (click here to see the free selection of his work you can now get).
So I wonder what things will be like. When I was young I used to think that by now, in the 21st century we would be living on the moon, wearing shiny silver spacesuits and riding around in hover cars. I distinctly remember being a bit scared and in awe on New Years Eve 1983, simply because it was going to be 1984 (what would Orwell have thought?). Lots of things didn’t come to pass. some did (I sit here typing this on an IPad, didn’t they have those in Star Trek first?)
So now when I imagine the future I do it through a different, more post modern lens.
Amazing things will come to pass: -
I predict more space travel, some for ordinary people and some to planets in our solar system.
I predict faster global travel. The world will shrink further.
I predict unimaginable computers, amazingly powerful and ergonomic, all connected and doing things for us we don’t even know about, possibly implanted inside us, connected to us.
I predict medical breakthroughs, some that will enable the fortunate to live much longer lives.
I predict that ‘nano’ technology and ‘bio’ technology will change the world in ways we can’t imagine yet…could be bad and/or good.
Some terrible things will come to pass: -
I predict a continuation of terrible wars, conflict, starvation and disease, as the world population continues to grow and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ increases.
I predict horrendous natural disasters, some caused by global warming (and yes I do believe in that!).
I predict an increasing inability of national governments to cope with global problems, as we creep towards a truly multi-cultural global society.
I predict that millennia old prejudices of race, religion and creed will continue to fuel suspicion and distrust between essentially well meaning peoples.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. It will be a post modern future because the amazing progress we make will not benefit everyone. Some people’s lives will be worse in the future than they are now.
Of course, I may be completely wrong, after all the only certainty is change. But one final thought, look back two hundred years and think about what that was like compared to now.
One way to do this is to visit the ‘Gapminder’ website – http://www.gapminder.org/ – click on ‘Gapminder World’ and watch the animated graph which shows how nations have faired over the last two hundred years. Please take a look and think about where we are all going….
As ever all comments, ideas and, in this case predictions are welcome…
© 2012 Simon Poore
Science Fiction has always been to tool for entertainment and prediction, escape and speculation. I wasn’t born to write, but enjoyment of this genre has been with me for what seems like all my life. I simply love to escape in it…
Now I wonder why it has captivated me since an early age. I have no idea when I first knew I liked it, or even when I first realised what it was. I am not one of those people who seem to be able to remember this or that exact moment from their childhood. I often wonder if these memories are actually fictions; do those who claim to remember such detail from the earliest age really remember such things?
There are huge chunks missing from my memory of my earliest years, as I am sure huge chunks are missing from my adult memory too. Maybe this is just how my individual mind works. It’s almost as if my mind is the proverbial ‘jug’ that once it is full then arbitrarily the memories slip and spill over the edge to be forgotten for ever. Maybe too many brains cells have been destroyed by beer and fast living…though sometimes right now I yearn for so much more of that!
Memory is a strange and fickle thing, sometimes it behaves like a hidden demon within our subconscious. We cannot control what we remember and it forever plays tricks on us. Sometimes it is a conjuror pulling rabbits out of a hat as we remember things we had no idea we knew in the first place. Other times it teases us; showing us a glimpse of stocking as if to say you can have this when you can’t; the countless moments when a memory lingers on the tip of your tongue, never to be released. More frustrating still, memory can put a wall around what you should know but still fail to know. In my everyday life for example I am constantly stumped when I try to remember people’s names. Often people I see every day. Now I know full well that I have a problem with this, and this knowledge makes the problem worse. I have a mental block and the names don’t come, as if I consciously build the wall.
When thinking about this problem I wonder if it is because somehow, within myself I am deciding to remember what my subconscious thinks is important and simply discarding everything else. I don’t remember people’s names sometimes because I don’t care about them. Can this be true? I have no idea, I am not even sure I believe in this shaky hidden spectre that we call the ‘subconscious’, it is a being that by it’s very nature we cannot know it or see it, and yet it can control us somehow. Like a convenient scapegoat puppet master we can blame our subconscious for all our failings. But, as usual, I digress…
Another frustrating thing with memory is it’s complete lack of accuracy. For example, some of my earliest memories are now memories of memories of memories ad infinitum. I can, at least I think I can, remember being weighed as a naked squirming baby in the cold tin bowl of a weighing machine. I have no idea if this is in any way a real memory. Maybe I remembered something like it when I was 3 or 4, and then remembered remembering it later!
So what has this got to do with Science Fiction? My memory obviously doesn’t serve me well, but I think that I was taken with puppet shows in the 1960s like Fireball XL5 and the Thunderbirds when I was pretty small. And I think the moon landings had a big effect on me; my memory tells me we watched the white clad astronauts bouncing in the moon dust on a flickery TV at school. Later still Wednesday night was always a thrill for my brother and I as we got to walk around the corner and watch Star Trek on my Aunt’s colour television. Our TV was a black and white set with no remote control. Imagine that now, only 3 channels and you had to get out of your seat to turn it over! Gosh how I show my age…
After this I was bowled by things on the big wide silver screen. The cinema gave the ultimate escapist thrill. I can still almost feel the shudder of seeing the first massive imperial space cruiser appear in the opening scene of Star Wars. I remember looking upwards because I actually believed the spaceship was flying over me. Did I actually do that as a teenage boy, or is that a distorted memory of a memory?
I think what I loved about it, apart from the obvious romance of it all, was that SciFi allowed for all possibilities and pointed to fantastic futures where astonishing things would and could happen. Yes there might be an apocalypse or two, or some horrifying aliens, or wars to contend with but humanity would win out. We would exist with amazing technology and be enriched by discovery.
Of course the reality of life and the world never quite lives up to the imagined romance of the fiction. I remember thinking that when I grew up I would probably have a hover car and go on trips to the moon. However the reality is often just as astonishing. Star Trek for example had communicators and amazing computers. I sit here typing this on an iPad and the new IPhone takes orders by you speaking to it. We live in a post modern world of huge contradictions. Wars, poverty, conflict and the sickening inequality of capitalism depress me hugely. But at the same time I am still overjoyed and hooked by the thrill of the new. Still captivated by the romance of new discoveries and the possibilities that are flung at us from all sides.
How will I remember this time? Well probably with memories of memories. And I will measure it against the thrill and experience of my young daughter. Who knows what wonders she will behold in her life? What do you think?
© 2011 Simon Poore