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Paul Birch and Mass Stream applications for the real world
To me, it's kind of a shame that society at large has- how should I say, not necessarily "given up" on all things space related, but put them far, far, far on the back burner. My guess is that it has to do with the same issues surrounding flying cars. Back in the "good old days" of sci fi, writers would assign a date, usually "the year 2000" (insert spooky music) when all of these wondrous inventions would be mainstream and in everyday use. People thought that by 2000, we would have Moon bases, manned Mars exploration, and flying cars. When none of these things happened, people did not just become disappointed, they completely threw the ideas out. Witness the de-funding of NASA and the space program by recent US administrations. I have to believe that not getting results in the timeframe that was predicted certainly played a part in the decision.

In my observations, the general thought pattern went something like : "Well since flying cars and Moon bases didn't happen by 2000, they will never happen… They're IMPOSSIBLE!" Surprisingly, it's not just the general public that says this, science writers and some scientists will say the same thing.

I blame the whole behavior on "prognosticators," people who assuredly assign specific dates for when certain breakthrough technologies are bound to happen, get everyone hyped up for their inevitable arrival…and then they don't happen. Of course, these prophets don't usually account for things like economic collapses, natural disasters, wars, new discoveries of tighter-than-expected physical limits, or any other monkey wench that can stall progress. Dalex and Rynn, both of you already mentioned this, but a lot of breakthrough tech that happened around 2000, like the Internet and mobile phones, were not expected at all, while most of the expected technologies did not come to pass. What saddens me is that because those techs didn't come to pass at that particular moment, most folks now think that they will never be, even though we don't really have a lot of reasons to doubt them otherwise.

This is why I get annoyed with people like Ray Kurzweil. Ray has become successful by, in my opinion, hyping up the general public with false promises of future technologies in a relatively short timeframe. My fear is that, come 2045 or so, when his mature Drexlerian nanotech, superhuman AI, and other things don't happen, most people will react the same way that they did in 2000, by giving up on trying to pursue these techs, even if no new scientific evidence exists to doubt them. Of course, it is completely possible that other new techs that we didn't even think about will arise. Still, it is upsetting to see things like space tech getting de-funded or thrown under the bus because they didn't come about at some specific point in time given by some hype-generating false prophets.

Whew! Getting off my soapbox now.

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RE: Paul Birch and Mass Stream applications for the real world - by omega_tyrant - 02-26-2014, 09:18 AM

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