Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Logic Named Joe

Some time ago, I read this good short story in an anthology.  It is set in a future world with personal computers that act very much like ours.  I assumed that it had been written in the 70's or 80's, and that the author was intelligently extrapolating the trends of the time.

I just learned that it was actually written in 1946, before anyone was selling anything that resembled a modern computer.  They did not even have transistors in 1946.

You might be tempted to call it 'prescient' but that would be a mistake.  There were thousands of science fiction stories written in that time period.  Most of them were amazingly wrong about what the future would be like, especially where computers were involved.

There is a lesson here: prediction is incredibly difficult. But often, people will only remember the good predictions, and forget the bad ones.  This leads to hindsight bias, where people think that the things that did happen were obvious before the fact.

There is probably a story out there that accurately describes what the world will be like 50 years from now.  But we will not know which story is the accurate one until much later.

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