Huffington Post asked 10 science fiction writers to predict what will happen in the next 10 years, and the most striking answer came from Robert Charles Wilson, author of the new book The Affinities. Wilson predicts a huge change in our understanding of human nature, which in turn will transform our politics.
I’m tempted to repeat the old adage that science fiction doesn’t predict, it speculates. But science fiction does make one prediction that always comes true, and it’s the deep Heraclitian truth at the heart of the genre: change happens. Change is inevitable. It devours everything familiar and builds strange new structures on the quicksand of contingency. Step in the same river twice? Kid, we don’t even have that river anymore. We paved it over back when the rain stopped falling.
So what might be new and different in the next 10 years? We can start by asking what’s already beginning to feel old. And what feels old (to me) is our political and economic discourse. Here we stand, on the brink of a global climate catastrophe and embedded in an emerging oligarchy armed with a surveillance apparatus of unprecedented reach and power, discussing politics in terms Victorian philosophers would have recognized. There is a tinderbox of unmet expectations and frustrated idealism out there, and a genuinely captivating new political or economic idea — good or bad — could start a global conflagration.
How might such an idea arise? I would point at recent progress in cognitive science. We’re standing on the verge of a profound new understanding of the one subject Enlightenment philosophy could never really get a grip on: human nature. As we come to know ourselves better, we’ll begin to understand our political and social behavior differently — and, inevitably, we’ll find ways of manipulating and modifying that behavior. And how will that play out? Beats me. I’m just a science-fiction writer. But it invites some interesting speculation.
Read the other nine future predictions, including robot marriage and George Clooney going into politics, at the link. [Huffington Post]
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