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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I LOVE futurism. It is my life and I constantly am looking to read about new ideas and concepts. However, their are many times I reach “dead ends” where all the ideas are the same and repetitive. I’m curious. Is their a limited amount of concepts for future science and tech?

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maximum77 View Post
    I LOVE futurism. It is my life and I constantly am looking to read about new ideas and concepts. However, their are many times I reach “dead ends” where all the ideas are the same and repetitive. I’m curious. Is their a limited amount of concepts for future science and tech?
    Nah, it's just limited to development chains humans can see. For instance you could do a futuristic sci-fi story about how mini-dirigibles change city life, but you and the reader would struggle to connect with inventions that would only exist in that world and not on some other development chain.

    Perfect example: Tesla's air-transmitted energy would have led to entirely different chains of development then ours. It kills off radio, TV and a good chance of stopping the Internet or even complex computers due to interfering with transmitted messages and fragile circuits. Instead you get transmission stations everywhere and much earlier electric vehicles, etc.

    The same thing happens all of the time, we just can't see where the jumps are except in retrospect. So it is harder but not impossible to write fiction more then a few steps ahead.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    We don't know the real answer yet. There are solid arguments for and against. You can go read articles about technological singularity to see them. On one hand, it may be that advanced computing will accelerate technological progress beyond human predictive ability; on the other, the more ideas humans as a collective have produced, the harder it is for humans to come up with new ones, and number of patents per population has been decreasing.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    In my experience, futurism is mostly aging men still holding out that the fantasies of their childhood become true in their lifetime.

    I've seen "The Singularity" described as "rapture for nerds", and it seems pretty spot on.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I suppose the limit is when you go beyond things that are relatable to what we know how to be motivated by, to find positive or negative. I don't think that has to be a hard limit, but it seems to be a practical soft limit for most authors. It's a lot more common to find super-tech but with the same sources of narrative drama as fantasy or modern fiction, versus things that actually remove or fundamentally replace a lot of the sources of tension and reference points to how we currently live and still manage to make something that hangs together and that we can see ourselves in.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    In my experience, futurism is mostly aging men still holding out that the fantasies of their childhood become true in their lifetime.

    I've seen "The Singularity" described as "rapture for nerds", and it seems pretty spot on.
    Look, I will become a perfect golden cybernetic god any day now. It's perfectly scientific.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Look, I will become a perfect golden cybernetic god any day now. It's perfectly scientific.
    Yes, and any day now I'm going to wake up and be an eldritch dragon with the power to fly at FTL speeds under my own power and singlehandedly wipe out the biospheres of whole planets.

    As to the original question: There is nothing original under the sun. Idea's are like matter, everything that looks like a complete thing is, in fact, just a bunch of little things that are themselves even more little things and go down until they're just one of a handful of individual subatomic things.

    All ideas are ultimately the result of the combination and reimaging of smaller ideas.

    And oftentimes, something needs to be discovered before it can be used to make 'new' ideas.

    You'll see new ideas in futurism when there's a major discovery or breakthrough that changes how the common man views things and people start speculating about where that breakthrough goes in the future.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Now that I think about it, even the ancient Greeks had even older stories about building jetpacks and androids. And isn't a flying carpet like a flying car?
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    There is some more exotic stuff than jetpacks and flying cars, but as much of it is from 20 or 40 or 60 years ago as recent fiction... You have utopian stuff like Star Trek TNG, things where people experiment with becoming gestalt entities and blending parts or all of their personalities or thought processes together, things where people slow themselves down so that they can actually perceive and interact with processes with natural timescales of thousands of years, people forming self-consistent time-loops with themselves (a famous story involves a much more thorough version of being one's own grandpa as a prerequisite for joining a temporal agency), people using programmable matter to instantiate and delete/fuse copies of themselves for regular things (Collapsium series), doing planetary-scale engineering in order to alter fundamental constants by stabilizing otherwise unstable vacua in order to change the fundamental bounds of computing (there's a sci-fi short story 'Planck Zero' about this, but also Zelazny did it in a fantasy context with Ghostwheel in the Amber series), societies based on all sorts of different concepts either gone runaway or designed in as experiments, etc.

    Very little of it is hard sci-fi that could feasibly become reality, but at least in terms of ideas or aspirations about what future ways of being could be, there's at least a little more diverse than a few toys, self-uploading, and godlike AIs...

    But even that fiction generally works by making contact with fairly normal human baseline expectations. For example, Fred Pohl had a story with sentient stars, but it was still sort of experienced from the point of view of a basic human cast of characters who sort of got in the middle and through the magic of time dilation actually got to see more than just a snapshot of what was going on.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I feel western society as a whole doesn't really have a vision of the future since the end of the Cold War. Beating the Soviets in technology and science was both a short and long term goal. But since that's no longer a concern, society isn't really looking forward with any goals other than having the same but with less pollution. (Which actually might not be a bad goal.)
    Fantasy action in space remains a somewhat popular genre, but it's not about exploring possible futures we might one day live in.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I disagree. The West has plenty of visions for future - they're just mostly apocalyptic. Cold War may be over, but the Doomsday Clock is still ticking strong in the imaginations of westerners. Singularity or "Rapture for nerds" is itself a flipside of that coin.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    But you would agree that this is not a goal for society.

    At least outside the prepper crowd.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    You may see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, but you are still limited by the horizon. Science may be able to come up with genetically grown organs which give you super-strength, but unless there is a clear path for it, then futurists can't really talk about it.... you have to be able to get from here to there to make it a decent road for a futurist to talk about.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    I disagree. The West has plenty of visions for future - they're just mostly apocalyptic. Cold War may be over, but the Doomsday Clock is still ticking strong in the imaginations of westerners. Singularity or "Rapture for nerds" is itself a flipside of that coin.
    It's not that they're necessarily apocalyptic, there are plenty of optimistic non-singularity futuristic visions out there, it's just that if you're writing a near to medium term futuristic speculation at this time you have grapple with Climate Change somehow. It, and other major environmental issues, represent an existential aspect of the future that simply cannot be ignored. This applies a set of constraints to futurist narratives not present for someone working in 1900 or even 1950.

    Now, for those futurists inclined towards pessimism, environmental catastrophe is a nice, convenient scenario to explore, in the same way that pessimistic futures in the 50s, 60s, and 70s loved thermonuclear exchange narratives. So it shows up a lot.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Hm. Well, recently in the at least semi-exploratory future fiction departments, we have at least The Expanse and Altered Carbon. Not that I'd call either particularly hopeful. The Expanse is more of the same, just in space, and Altered Carbon is a pretty brutal dystopia.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Though again, the future of The Expanse, at least up to the point where the story starts, does not seem very desirable for anyone but some billionaires.
    I think there was a shift in the 80s with Cyberpunk towards the realization that technology will not save us. The belief of "this will no longer be an issue for society because well have a technological solution" in earlier science fiction is pretty much gone. The same technologies that can help people to get a more prosperous and healthy life can also be used to exploit them even more.
    In Cyberpunk, living conditions for the masses just get horribly worse very quickly. (30 years into the future seems to have been the usual time frame.) In The Expanse, we seem to have a society that has been dragging its feet for centuries, getting new gadgets but letting all the problems of society continue unadressed because it didn't look like disaster was immenent at any point.

    Which I think is not implausible for the next 50 to 100 years, it all depends on if the younger people still want to change things once the movers and shakers who were born in the mid 20th century have all died off.
    But futurism isn't just predictions about the future. It's about visions for how the world can be made better with new technologies. And as I said earlier, the only technologies that people anticipate to have a positive impact on the world are lower polution energy sources. But I have not seen any visions of how cleaner energy will transform society. Perhaps it has something to do with it having become obvious to everyone 10 years ago that nobody is trying to prevent climate change, but only hoping that it won't be as bad as it could be if we keep making it worse.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I think there's definitely space for some kind of fiction where human labor becomes a net liability on average rather than a resource, and how people philosophically deal with the transition to living lives in which being able to say 'I am needed' or 'I am necessary' is something that is either a luxury or takes explicit effort to construct. Not necessarily an AI/automation sort of thing, but even just economy of scale vs population growth types of things. There's lots of opportunity in very-near-term fiction to look at people e.g. creating sources of meaning for themselves or moving those things into intentionally constructed spaces, societies changing their attitudes about work, etc. I think there's something interesting if you figure that without some kind of grounding everyone on average needs to see some number of people to care about what they do in order to be psychologically stable, and they also need to provide that to others, and how the balance of those things works out when 'I'm important, I grow the food people eat', 'I'm important, I support my family', etc kinds of things actually become unaffordable or inaccessible ways of life.

    I don't think it would need to be apocalyptic or dystopian necessarily either. You could probably have a range of stories exploring societies or groups which successfully adapt to that kind of shift and find new joys in it or escape from unbearable circumstances because of it, alongside ones that struggle to adapt, and explore the tensions between those interests.

    Another thing which should be showing up in our semi-near-term futurism fiction is ideas like 'skill capture'. The idea of getting so good at data collection, labeling, and imitation that anyone with any kind of training, artistic ability, manual skills, etc could go, work for 6 months in a 'skill transfer center', and then basically live off of tiny royalties generated by deployment of a model trained to copy whatever their expertise was. Even if you play the royalties straight (which is itself pretty optimistic given things like Mechanical Turk), there'd still be a sort of race to the bottom as one musician selling out their musical skill could put 100 out of work, lots of interesting social forces to explore in opposition to that process or trying to find new places to exist, people training to pick up obscure things in the hope that they can still be part of that first wave of people who can actually obtain sustainable income sources selling their skills before that market dries up and skills in general become valueless, etc. There'd be lots of implications of what other stuff gets captured along-side a skill transfer, especially with language skills - would someone's passwords, personal information, views, etc leak through in things like the timings of their muscle memory when typing, in a way that could be discovered 10, 30, 100 years later?

    If you want to go in the direction of more exotic (but still near-term) stuff, you could have stories about 'cults of emulation' which try to basically brainwash each-other into collectively being an accurate re-creation of particular historical people, using decentralized consensus algorithms and all of that kind of thing the crypto community loves to regulate their emulation. An eccentric billionaire lobbies to have these cults be able to sustain the legal status as the person they emulate after that person's death in some cases in place of the usual trust structures, 'programs' a paid cult to continue to advance their interests even after they die, and you have a story of what happens within that cult with the individual-level awareness of the power the group collectively wields, up against the escalating pressures imposed by the consensus algorithm, etc, with a side story about a romance-by-mail with a 'person' whose existence is existentially questionable.

    Though, I guess all of these are also fairly familiar themes and not really as out there as one could go...

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    One thing about science fiction novels as 'futurism' - advanced technology has a tendency to preclude many traditional storytelling formats if applied in even a modestly egalitarian or just decently managed bureaucratic, never mind utopian, fashion. The turn towards dark, dystopian approaches is therefore necessary to allow the story to happen in the first place. This applies heavily to something like Altered Carbon, which is a noir thriller at heart, and whose story simply would not work if the technologies were managed in a more benign fashion. This applies to even more optimistic narratives. For example, Cory Doctorow's Walkaway - which is a deliberately futurist novel that is far, far more about his ideas than any characters - involves the gradual collapse of the late-stage capitalist hierarchy that serves as the last real impediment to the nanofabricated utopia he believes is coming. But the story ends at the moment of triumph, because that's it for the narrative.

    Creating drama in a post-scarcity scenario is challenging, especially if the transhumanist scenario is embraced and everyone is living as immortal digital people all the time. For example, in order to produce an actual, consequential threat in his novel Diaspora Greg Egan had to literally detonate the super-massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. And the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks - probably the most famous and notable post-scarcity productions of recent decades - are largely dependent upon the titular Culture meddling with other, less advanced civilizations that have not yet achieve post-scarcity status.

    This kind of thinking drives singularity narratives too. It's far more interesting, if you're a novelist, for the Singularity/Hard Takeoff to go badly rather than go well. Or even if it does go well, it's usually only possible to write about the people left behind (the approach taken in the actual novel The Rapture of the Nerds by Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow) because it's barely even possibly to imagine what life in the digital consciousness hypercloud would actually be like.

    Even in narratives set in the modern day, tales of ordinary contented life are rare, and popular fiction focuses on people who have lives that are somehow more dangerous, or consequential, or momentous than those of the everyday worker. That's why so many stories focus on cops, lawyers, doctors, struggling artists, and politicians. And stories that do focus on everyday people are usually about their hidden brutal struggles with things like financial difficulties or mental health crises (the ideal example of this is probably Ordinary People).

    At the end of the day, the needs of storytelling remain stacked against utopianism.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    So if we want that kind of utopian fiction we need to recruit from all the people who write coffeeshop AUs...

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    I guess that was the problem with especially the later books in The Long Earth. Great exploratory Sci Fi concept, but one that by its nature eliminates a lot of conflict, not creates it. After the initial idea was presented and explored, the books just kind of got boring.

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    The basic conceit that everything is based on in these books is that someone discovers a relatively simple machine that allows you to shift to a paralell Earth that is almost the same as ours, except there's no humans or human artefacts of any kind. And from that to another world. And another. They slowly become more different from Earth the further you go, but most seem very habitable even hundreds of thousands of worlds away. Some expeditions have gone millions of worlds "up" or "down". There's some problems with taking advanced technology away from Earth, as iron, especially, doesn't seem to travel well, but other than that, the worlds are for the most part near perfect.

    So, there's stories about explorers and some interpersonal conflict, and later on they bring in some fantastical elements like other humanoids from paralell worlds called Elves and Trolls, but fundamentally, it's about how society changes. There's some conflicts, of course, some industries nearly collapse on Earth since only very few remain to be sweatshop workers if they can just buy electronics for a few dozen dollars and go find a world with moderate climate and abundant food, and there's a lot of security worries about people shifting into secure installations from paralell worlds (crimes and terrorism get interesting). Later on, there's a kind of war about the idea of national sovereignty. Like, are people who were born in America and live in a paralell America 20'000 worlds (and a few days of travel) away still citizens, and do they have to pay taxes/have the right to vote, but fundamentally, people just spread out and it solves a lot of resource pressures.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    If you really made things about characterizations and personalities and things like that, and the utopian elements were sort of... not set dressing exactly, but used to purify and concentrate the importance of character, I think that'd be a recipe that'd preserve conflict/drama while still exploring those things. If you've got a romance between an AI that is headstrong and has a short attention span, always prioritizing Explore over Exploit, and an AI obsessed over satisfying social norms and constraints over actually getting stuff done, then it doesn't really matter if the fate of the world is on the line - that could still be a story.

    You can also look at paradoxical conflict - things which would not be considered conflict when there are more severe modes of interaction available, but which become conflict in societies that are more utopian and which have suppressed those others kind of conflict. Consider e.g. a story about an uploaded/zero-scarcity/etc society where someone or some group of personalities in the society is obsessed with the idea of death and permanent endings or corruption of information the way some people get obsessed about medieval lifestyles or paleo diets or things like that. Then you have a situation where, by construction, no one is actually capable of killing anyone else by force, but persuasion and manipulation is still possible. What happens when there are a rash of suicides (perhaps aided by other-emulation technology allowing the attacker to basically simulate trillions of conversations with a target to figure out the conversation that will get them to self-destruct), how is that investigated, and when it's finally understood, how does the society deal with it?

    Or for something less dark, it could be a conflict over privacy with radical transparency set against the right to be forgotten, and new kinds of doxxing and anti-doxxing emerging from the increasingly virtual and interconnected nature of things.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    That just reminds me of the quantum thief, though there's plenty violence there.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Saw this completely at random and it turns out to exactly on topic.
    The Fake Futurism of Elon Musk (Goes much broader than the title.)
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Each individual has a limited number of ideas. Therefore any finite group of individuals has a limited number of ideas.

    This is not a limit on futurism. It's a limit on the people you associate with.

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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism"

    - Either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Žižek

    The limit on what "futurism" can imagine is the set of axioms in the mind of the imaginer. All of us hold certain things to simply be fundamentally immutably true, and so our minds won't imagine things outside of them.

    All a "futurist" can do is project their own context into the future, unconsciously assuming their axioms will always remain true because those axioms are so fundamental to their understanding of how the world works they don't even think about them as assumptions. They think about them, if they examine them at all, as if they are laws as fundamental as thermodynamics.
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism"

    - Either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Žižek

    The limit on what "futurism" can imagine is the set of axioms in the mind of the imaginer. All of us hold certain things to simply be fundamentally immutably true, and so our minds won't imagine things outside of them.

    All a "futurist" can do is project their own context into the future, unconsciously assuming their axioms will always remain true because those axioms are so fundamental to their understanding of how the world works they don't even think about them as assumptions. They think about them, if they examine them at all, as if they are laws as fundamental as thermodynamics.
    That's a very ungenerous viewpoint, especially considering how many current futurist works are very heavily engaged with the end of capitalism as we know it.

    The difficult is rather that, in moving to a non-capitalist (or even more fundamentally a post-scarcity) form of socioeconomic structure the futurist risks losing the audience. Many of the common tropes of storytelling are dependent upon society functioning in a certain way, with widespread scarcity right up there at the top. In order to bring an audience into a world where things are fundamentally different a tremendous amount of work is required to provide sufficient context to keep the story comprehensible.

    The stories of the Culture Universe, for example, are fundamentally very simple at their core (except Use of Weapons, but that one's incredibly avant garde) and spend a huge amount of their doorstopper-sized lengths just talking about the Culture and bringing the audience up to speed on what's going on. This is hard to do well, and has a tendency to limit the agency of characters in their own stories - often because in order to serve as a bridge for the audience the leading characters have to be functionally outcast from their own hyperadvanced societies (this is also common in fantasy, for similar reasons).
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    Default Re: Does futurism have a limited amount of ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    That's a very ungenerous viewpoint, especially considering how many current futurist works are very heavily engaged with the end of capitalism as we know it.

    The difficult is rather that, in moving to a non-capitalist (or even more fundamentally a post-scarcity) form of socioeconomic structure the futurist risks losing the audience. Many of the common tropes of storytelling are dependent upon society functioning in a certain way, with widespread scarcity right up there at the top. In order to bring an audience into a world where things are fundamentally different a tremendous amount of work is required to provide sufficient context to keep the story comprehensible.

    The stories of the Culture Universe, for example, are fundamentally very simple at their core (except Use of Weapons, but that one's incredibly avant garde) and spend a huge amount of their doorstopper-sized lengths just talking about the Culture and bringing the audience up to speed on what's going on. This is hard to do well, and has a tendency to limit the agency of characters in their own stories - often because in order to serve as a bridge for the audience the leading characters have to be functionally outcast from their own hyperadvanced societies (this is also common in fantasy, for similar reasons).
    Okay, I think we need to define Futurism here.

    Science Fiction is not Futurism. Futurism is a vision of a reachable future for real world society, within the grasp of the now-living people in that society. That's why, as previously noted in Yora's video link, Elon Musk is frequently cited as a Futurist. He is not imagining a fictional world of electric cars and mars colonies, he is imagining the real world changed in certain ways and expects to see and create that within his own lifetime (and monopolise it).

    Futurism isn't just imagining a scenario, it's drawing a map to get there.

    And really, watch that video Yora linked.

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