Re: L5 and science fiction memes

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 06 Jul 2004 - 02:38:24 GMT

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    At 06:01 PM 05/07/04 -0500, Gene Doty wrote:
    >These postings suggest the following to me:
    >It's common for people to say that "science fiction writers predict the
    >future." (For some people, this seems the only justification for sf.)
    >Arthur C. Clarke's imagining geosynchronous communication satilletes is a
    >commonly cited example, although there are others.

    That's probably not the best example since I don't think Clarke wrote about them in the context of a SF story.

    Robert Heinlein "invented" several things such as water beds by mentioning them in a science fiction story (_Beyond this Horizon_ for water beds).

    >My point: rather than "predicting the future," a writer like Clarke is
    >creating a meme and sending it out. If it finds appropriate vectors for
    >replication it becomes a reality in the non-fictional world.

    That's certainly true, there is a meme for geosynchronous communication satellites same as there is for hand axes. The major difference is that the meme for geosynchronous communication satellites existed for a number of decades as pure information before anything was done to implement it.

    >I think the difference is that the common attitude attributes a kind of
    >prophetic ability to the sf writer, whereas a memetic view sees the writer
    >as a vector for memes that may or may not develop beyond the bounds of the

    To a very high degree this depends on the meme being something that can be done in the real world. Memes flow both ways too. I have mentioned before that the idea of the skyhook was out there for 13 years before Charles Sheffield and Arthur Clarke simultaneously wrote stories about it.

    >I was infected with the space travel and immigration off-earth memes at
    >about 12 years old. They're still strong in me, although I've not acted on
    >them as Keith has. Anybody have any ideas about how the information coming
    >back from Saturn (the Cassini-Huygens probe) will affect the whole
    >space-exploration memeplex?

    As a guess, and based on previous probes, not much, mostly because there is no possibility of going there.

    However, nanotechnology is a different matter. Given replicating industrial "stuff" that doubles in a few hours, and will keep you healthy for millions of years, we can explore or settle the entire galaxy. (Look up "Far Edge Committee.")

    Keith Henson

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