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  • Would you like to know what's in our future?

  • What's going to happen tomorrow, next year, or even a millennium from now?

  • Well, you're not alone.

  • Everyone from governments to militaries to industry leaders do, as well,

  • and they all employ people called futurists

  • who attempt to forecast the future.

  • Some are able to do this with surprising accuracy.

  • In the middle of the 20th century,

  • a think tank known as the RAND Corporation

  • consulted dozens of scientists and futurists

  • who together forecast many of the technologies

  • we take for granted today,

  • including artificial organs,

  • the use of birth control pills,

  • and libraries able to look up research material for the reader.

  • One way futurists arrive at their predictions

  • is by analyzing movements and trends in society,

  • and charting the paths they are likely to follow into the future

  • with varying degrees of probability.

  • Their work informs the decisions of policymakers and world leaders,

  • enabling them to weigh options for the future

  • that otherwise could not have been imagined in such depth or detail.

  • Of course, there are obvious limits to how certain anyone can be about the future.

  • There are always unimaginable discoveries that arise

  • which would make no sense to anyone in the present.

  • Imagine, for example,

  • transporting a physicist from the middle of the 19th century

  • into the 21st.

  • You explain to him that a strange material exists, Uranium 235,

  • that of its own accord can produce enough energy to power an entire city

  • or destroy it in one fell swoop.

  • "How can such energy come from nowhere?" he would demand to know.

  • "That's not science, that's magic."

  • And for all intents and purposes, he would be right.

  • His 19th century grasp of science

  • includes no knowledge of radioactivity or nuclear physics.

  • In his day, no forecast of the future could have predicted X-rays,

  • or the atom bomb,

  • let alone the theory of relativity

  • or quantum mechanics.

  • As Arthur C. Clarke has said,

  • "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

  • How can we prepare, then, for a future that will be as magical to us

  • as our present would appear to someone from the 19th century?

  • We may think our modern technology and advanced data analysis techniques

  • might allow us to predict the future with much more accuracy

  • than our 19th century counterpart,

  • and rightly so

  • However, it's also true that our technological progress

  • has brought with it new increasingly complex and unpredictable challenges.

  • The stakes for future generations to be able to imagine the unimaginable

  • are higher than ever before.

  • So the question remains:

  • how do we do that?

  • One promising answer has actually been with us since the 19th century

  • and the Industrial Revolution

  • that laid the foundation for our modern world.

  • During this time of explosive development and invention,

  • a new form of literature, science fiction, also emerged.

  • Inspired by the innovations of the day, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells,

  • and other prolific thinkers explored fantastic scenarios,

  • depicting new frontiers of human endeavor.

  • And throughout the 20th century and into the 21st,

  • storytellers have continued to share their visions of the future

  • and correctly predicted many aspects of the world we inhabit decades later.

  • In "Brave New World,"

  • Aldous Huxley foretold the use of antidepressants in 1932,

  • long before such medication became popular.

  • In 1953, Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," forecast earbuds,

  • "thimble radios," in his words.

  • And in "2001: A Space Odyssey,"

  • Arthur C. Clarke described a portable, flat-screen news pad in 1968.

  • In works that often combine entertainment and social commentary,

  • we are invited to suspend our disbelief and consider the consequences

  • of radical shifts in familiar and deeply engrained institutions.

  • In this sense,

  • the best science fiction fulfils the words of philosopher Michel Foucault,

  • "I'm no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls."

  • Free from the constraints of the present and our assumptions of what's impossible,

  • science fiction serves as a useful tool for thinking outside of the box.

  • Many futurists recognize this,

  • and some are beginning to employ science fictions writers in their teams.

  • Just recently, a project called iKnow proposed scenarios

  • that look much like science fiction stories.

  • They include the discovery of an alien civilization,

  • development of a way for humans and animals to communicate flawlessly,

  • and radical life extension.

  • So, what does the future hold?

  • Of course, we can't know for certain,

  • but science fiction shows us many possibilities.

  • Ultimately, it is our responsibility

  • to determine which we will work towards making a reality.

Would you like to know what's in our future?

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B1 US TED-Ed science fiction forecast century unimaginable clarke

【TED-Ed】How science fiction can help predict the future - Roey Tzezana

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    吳D posted on 2016/04/17
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