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'Earth' may be the densest source of checkable David Brin predictions about what the future may hold for humanity.  Certainly, that novel deals extensively with the vivid near-future world we are now entering. This perspective gives us a chance to check on short term forecasts.


Still, Earth is hardly the only place where David Brin has put his credibility as a trends-prophet on the line.  


This section is where we put forecasts that can be judged for credibility, that Brin made in his Uplift Novels as well as other novels... and in nonfiction works like The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? 


So what's new? Fee free to weigh in and hold Brin accountable!  

(Append any general junk for this page at the bottom)




The notion that humanity might meddle in the genetics of higher life forms - like dolphins, dogs and apes - in order to increase their net intelligence and turn them into speaking, fully participating members of our civilization, has become more plausible with each passing year.


(supply refs____)




(Dolphins use a piece of sponge to coax fish out from under the sea floor, the first time material culture, or the use of tools, has been seen in cetaceans.http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1385091.htm


Sundiver (1980)

Sunghosts from SUNDIVER? They would seem pretty far-fetched.  And yet, new computer simulations since the 1990s suggest that in the gravity-free environment of space, the plasma particles will bead together to form string-like filaments that then twist into corkscrew shapes. The helical strands resemble and are themselves electrically charged and attracted to one another. The computer-modeled plasma particles can also divide to form two copies of the original structure and even "evolve" into more stable structures that are better able to survive in the plasma. "These complex, self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter," said study team member V.N. Tsytovich of the Russian Academy of Science.  Hence... might a self-replicating plasma structure resemble "life" well enough to enter into a process of evolution?  Still a reach, but looking a bit more plausible than before.



In SUNDIVER (1980) Brin forecast the use of eye-gaze tracking as a method for psychological diagnosis, personality profiling or even lie-detection, since the eye subconciously scans and reacts to a scene for many milliseconds before the person becomes consciously aware of what he or she is looking at -- a period when feigning is inherently impossible.


Almost thirty years later, the cover story of the September 2007 Scientific American says that saccades (tiny eye movements) not only allow us to see, but quantify on what we are focused when looking at a scene. Is Citizen-testing far behind? According to Brin: "This tool is either an empowerment for Big Brother, or for the masses. If we all get it, then there will be social problems to solve, but never will tyrants stand a chance, ever again."


Heart of the Comet (1984)

One of the characters, a physician aboard an expedition to Halley’s Comet, routinely dispenses infectious organisms like rhinoviruses, in order to “challenge” the immune systems of the one hundred astronauts and, thus keep them healthy. This concept, extremely obscure back in 1985, became hot in the 21st Century, leading some to forecast that such challenges might even spur immune system rejection of cancer tumors.



Halley's comet is depicted as having a thriving (and rather belligerent!) ecosystem. This speculation was drawn from Brin's doctoral thesis (which also predicted that comets would be covered in a black, tarry mass...) The radioactive decay of Al26 could have provided a heat source for melting the icy core. Trillions of such test tubes might have made... life?

Now recent research reports:

”Researchers at the University of Arizona, analyzed grains that the Stardust probe scooped up from Comet Wild 2's coma on a close flyby in 2004, sending the samples to Earth in a capsule two years later. After studying the comet dust using electron microscopy and X-ray analysis, the researchers found minerals that formed in the presence of liquid water.” Suggesting the comet’s nucleus underwent a period with liquid in its interior...


Tank Farm Dynamo

"A Japanese brewery Tuesday said it was planning the first "space beer," using offspring of barley once stored at the Space Station. Researchers said the project was part of efforts to prepare for a future in which humans spend extended periods of time in space -- and might like a cold beer after a space walk."


Well, it’s not exactly the “Slingshot” brew described in the Brin short story “Tank Farm Dynamo,” but still....



The Uplift War (1985)

Ezra Ekman wrote:

“However, your extraordinary literary skills were not the reason for my writing this message to you. Your talent for clairvoyance is. In THE UPLIFT WAR, you envisioned the concept of a network of vegetation through which chemical messages could be sent. Ah, if only we lived on an alien world... but wait! It has recently been discovered that a certain species of clovers can do that very thing! And not merely in an inert fashion; they also do so as a method for warning their neighbors of an eminent enemy attack, such as from caterpillars or other predators. A creationist might argue that it makes perfect sense. An evolutionist could say that it was bound to happen eventually. In either case, you sir, are a genius of foresight.”


(Acacias do a similar thing. Bruised leaves release chemicals which stimulate nearby plants to produce bitter tasting chemicals. The effect is sufficiently noticeable that grazing elephants habitually work their way *upwind*)




You can make predictions without wrapping them in airs of verissimilitude (aka 'stories')

Recently, Brin has been criticising the Just in Time production and supply model for its lack of resilience to disruption, as has recently been seen in the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.







Comments (1)

David Brin said

at 2:54 pm on Mar 16, 2009

"A quarter-century ago, American rocket scientists proposed the "Star Wars" defense system to knockout Soviet missiles with laser beams. They are now aiming their lasers at another airborne threat: the mosquito. In a Seattle lab, researchers watched a glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light. This particular test used a non-lethal laser. But the Cold War missile-defense strategy will soon be reborn as a WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction. [...] Technology might one day draw a laser barrier around a house or village that could kill or blind the bugs...." EXACTLY AS PORTRAYED IN "EARTH" (1989

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