It's not often I read something that has me screaming and thrashing around in annoyance and disgust, but Rudy Rucker's "Psipunk" thing did it for me. Go read it and then come back here.
Okay, we're back.
Let's leave off the fact that the whole n-punk thing has been wrung through more permutations than there have been cover versions of "Louie, Louie". That's bad enough. What's worse is the way the whole thing is pure, unreconstructed Nerd Rapture, without a hint of irony or skepticism. It's today's version of SF from the Fifties, wherein were solemnly predicted food pills and world government — and how silly and quaint does most of that stuff seem today? Swap "quantum" for "atomic" and a few other buzzwords, and it's the same thing: In The Future, All Of Us Will Drive Standing Up!
Even the stuff in part 4 — the short-term predictions — are annoying in varying measures. The reason we still don't put everything into network links is because even in this day and age network links are notoriously slow and flaky. A home file-sharing system is one thing; leaving all your music on the other side of the country and accessing it through the same pipe through which is also being shoved your phone, wireless, NetFlix streaming and god knows what else ... that's another. (I'm not suggesting that this is impossible, just that most people need only to experience a couple of network outages [as I have] to find out why this is nowhere nearly as dependable as just caching things locally.) And the bit about tapping into the quantum energy of rocks as a computational system made me want to shove Rucker headfirst into the LHC. Sorry, gang, but quantum computing is not the Xanadu Technology it's been made out to be. Better people than Your Humble Narrator have explained why.
[Addendum: Right guy, wrong link. Most of what he talks about there is a refutation of the idea that quantum computing is impossible. Scott believes it is possible, but does not believe it will be as earth-shattering as the conventional wisdom has claimed. I'll find a better link.]
I do give him credit for provoking some thought, even if not as he intended. E.g., telepathy. I wonder if it might not be such a great idea, for one reason. Does it suddenly become that much easier to spoon-feed people predigested concepts that they never question, never grapple with, never test with their own skeptical viewing equipment? I suspect it will be possible to award people knowledge, but I doubt it is possible to do the same with wisdom and perspective. I don't think he was deliberately trying to conflate knowledge with thought, but that's part of the problem right there. Ideas are cheap. Perspective is priceless, and I doubt it can be boiled down into a Brain Pill that can be passed from one person to another.
I don't say any of this because I think SF or fantasy has a duty to predict anything, which is a misleading concept. I think it is the duty of such work to envision possible futures, and as a way of building a degree of skepticism about them — to allow us to keep guard against the worst of it so that we can have a future in the first place. The biggest problem I have with essays like this is the complete lack of a sense that the implications of anything they bring up are anything but "Hey, man, awesome toys!"
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