Re: Why Are Our Imaginations...
The year 2001 was our beacon. Based on Clark's work and others, the media caught on to the perception that the future begins there, at that date. Well 2001 has come and gone, and it was rather anti-climatic. All the "George Jetson" visions of personal flying cars, floating cities and robot housekeepers named Rosie are not here. The robots are getting tantalizingly close though, as seen in the Sony Aibo dogs and the Honda Asimo walking robot:
Now the world desperately needs a new vision of the future. William Gibson discusses this in the award winning documentary, "No Maps for These Territories":
What is the future? We have no guidelines for what happens next. And we have no visionary such as R. Buckminister Fuller to show the potential of that future.
The fear of offending others, the fear of liability, and the fear of someone getting hurt has frozen many industries, especially the aviation and space industry. Even the computer industry is worried it is going to hit a wall soon.
I spoke with some of my computer geek friends in Silicon Valley, and they are worried. They do not see enough long term basic research going on that will help industry and society in the next 30 years. We have profited from the basic research from the last 50 years, but have put very little into preparing for the next 50. Granted, the next "big thing" is in wetware: biotech, DNA genesplicing, and nanotech, which requires us all to get new degrees to catch up.
As for space travel? I hate to say it, but we may be the last bastions of that goal. Where is the next generation of space enthusiasts? I ran the last two Yuri's Night Parties in San FRancisco, and space was cool only as a retro idea. Mixing retro ideas from different eras are very popular now. Only a dramatic event like an X Prize winner or an asteroid coming close to Earth with make people look up at the stars again.
Space Tourism still has great potential. But it may need to be viewed in the larger context of true space settlement, which once again requires a catalyst, such as a cosmic collision or dramatic new space vehicle.
On Tuesday, September 9, 2003, at 02:23 PM, G B Leatherwood wrote:
This is the most lively and revealing discussion we've had in some time--thanks, Mark!Samuel Coniglio
I think the reason for the decline in interest is largely due to reality having caught up in large part with the sci-fi of the 50s and 60s. The fact that we're having this discussion sitting at our computers all over the world is one example. No, many of the things predicted by the futurists of my childhood have not come to pass, but many that were not envisioned have. (BTW, I used to ride my bicycle past Robert Heinlein's house, and I even had a letter signed by Asimov, so that tells you a little about where I started.)
Right now, and I'm going to get in trouble here, there is no compelling demand for the human presence in space.
There are enormous possibilities--tourist travel and solar power being two, but the costs and time to make them profitable are still too far away for most to accept.
We live in a world driven by instant gratification. Someone said "The definition of a statesman is one who is concerned with the next generation, a politician is concerned with the next election." Investors do not want to wait years for a profit--quarterly is acceptable, daily or hourly is better.
"The people," however defined, could care less about the exploration of space, so there's little point in trying to create the kind of general interest that took us to the moon. We had a charismatic and dynamic leader, we were still basking in the glory of winning WW II, the economy was great, and we had an enemy that was ahead of us--none of which we have today. We've been to the moon (Funny sign advertising the cheese industry: "We went to the moon and found it wasn't made of green cheese, so we haven't been back!"), and all the latest research seems to be saying that we are the only life forms of any kind between the sun and Pluto. So are the kids going to be energized by dreams of going to a bunch of lifeless rocks?
It will take a small bunch of dedicated visionaries, some of whom actually do something besides talk, to get us off our own rock. Governments will not do it. It seems unlikely that the people of the world in the times of Marco Polo, Columbus, even Lewis and Clark even knew they were going, much less approved of their adventures and were willing to help pay for them. We cannot expect "the public" to support the exploration of space, we must do it ourselves in small groups or individuals, and that will take a great deal of courage.
Where does sci-fi fit into this? Well, the future is still out there, and we can still put our dreams on paper--or on the Internet. Let's keep our eyes on the stars and not worry about whether anyone else is keeping us company.
G B Leatherwood