The 1969 Science Fiction Novel Which Eerily Predicted Today

zanzibarJohn Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, written more than forty years ago but set in an imagined year 2010 in which ever more power is concentrated in the hands of a few global corporations, is eerily accurate about so much current reality. Via the The Millions, Ted Gioia writes:

Brunner’s vision of the year 2010 even includes a popular leader named President Obomi. Let me list some of the other correct predictions in Brunner’s book:

Random acts of violence by crazy individuals, often taking place at schools, plague society in Stand on Zanzibar.

The other major source of instability and violence comes from terrorists, who are now a major threat to U.S. interests, and even manage to attack buildings within the United States.

Prices have increased sixfold between 1960 and 2010 because of inflation. (The actual increase in U.S. prices during that period was sevenfold, but Brunner was close.)

The most powerful U.S. rival is no longer the Soviet Union, but China. However, much of the competition between the U.S. and Asia is played out in economics, trade, and technology instead of overt warfare.

Europeans have formed a union of nations to improve their economic prospects and influence on world affairs. In international issues, Britain tends to side with the U.S., but other countries in Europe are often critical of U.S. initiatives.

Africa still trails far behind the rest of the world in economic development, and Israel remains the epicenter of tensions in the Middle East.

Although some people still get married, many in the younger generation now prefer short-term hookups without long-term commitment.

Gay and bisexual lifestyles have gone mainstream, and pharmaceuticals to improve sexual performance are widely used (and even advertised in the media).

Many decades of affirmative action have brought blacks into positions of power, but racial tensions still simmer throughout society.

Motor vehicles increasingly run on electric fuel cells. Honda (primarily known as a motorcycle manufacturers when Brunner wrote his book) is a major supplier, along with General Motors.

Yet Detroit has not prospered, and is almost a ghost town because of all the shuttered factories. However. a new kind of music — with an uncanny resemblance to the actual Detroit techno movement of the 1990s — has sprung up in the city.

TV news channels have now gone global via satellite.

TiVo-type systems allow people to view TV programs according to their own schedule.

Inflight entertainment systems on planes now include video programs and news accessible on individual screens at each seat.

People rely on avatars to represent themselves on video screens — Brunner calls these images, which either can look like you or take on another appearance you select — “Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere.”

Computer documents are generated with laser printers.

(17) A social and political backlash has marginalized tobacco, but marijuana has been decriminalized.

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  • Dirrogate

    >>People rely on avatars to represent themselves on video screens — Brunner calls these images, which either can look like you or take on another appearance you select…“Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere.”

    That was an uncanny prediction for 1969 (as was president “Obomi”).

    In the novel: Memories with Maya, going forward, the next prediction is that humans will option “mind uploading” as a preferable way to tele-travel via “Dirrogates” (Digital Surrogates). People will then be free to inhabit bio/mechanical bodies as needed to accomplish tasks in work and pleasure.

    Another prediction is that Dirrogates will not only be for the living, but via quantum archeology, the dead will be brought to life and interact with people via augmented reality and improved future iterations of Google Glass like visors.

    The interesting question is not these new predictions themselves, or whether it will take 40 years more…but rather the question should be: Will Kurzweil’s (he’s now with Google) “law of accelerating returns” bring these predictions to fruition…sooner?

    • alizardx

      As to what vision of Kurzweil’s will get realized, ask yourself “which of his visions will increase google stock prices fastest?”

      • Dirrogate

        collateral damage that…
        his visions coming true would outweigh the latter.

  • Chaos_Dynamics

    Science Fiction throughout history in its purest nature is prescient and prognosticative.

    Creator/Creation. Predictor/Prediction. Conceptual/Concrete.

    Each of its own essence yet interconnected and interconnecting.

  • jk2001

    He also wrote Shockwave Rider.

    • alizardx

      also worth reading.

  • BuzzCoastin

    the reason his 1969 novel seems to predict the future
    is because all of these “predictions” were already starting to form or had already

    artists are some of the few who can actually see the present for what it is
    and the rest of us usually lag by about 40 to 100 years

  • alizardx

    Accurate predictions of social and technology futures are rooted in observation of the present and past.

    Why do Futurists foreshorten the past instead of looking into that past for insights that speak the trends of today? Why don’t they look around them for a world outside their precious techno-capitalist “alt”-culture hipster bubble? Why don’t they ask “normal people” why they don’t buy into Futurist belief systems? (recently saw the slide show accompanying a Transhumanist presentation at Stanford that asked that question, the answer in the presentation basically came down to ‘they’re all stupid’)

    Why do SF writers come off looking so good in this? Perhaps because they want to tell believable stories, not fit into a “Futurist” agenda that looks increasingly like a 1990s vision with bright, shiny gadgets. Perhaps its because their funding ultimately comes from readers, not techno-capitalists with an axe to grind?

    Who does the “official” Futurist vision serve? Ask guys like Theil whose official campaign contributions go to PACs that fund politicians whose vision seems limited to cutting back non-military government programs.

    Is money going to the Singularity and Transhumanism simply another way of buying political influence for government policy that will lower their taxes and increase their profits at our expense now and later, at the expense of any kind of future a sane person would want to live in? Is the funding labeled internally “political budget”? Is almost everyone connected with this either pawn or shill, in most cases without knowing it?

    Transhumanist proposals for bio-enhancement and life-extension are going to cost a shitload of money to get out to the masses. Nobody discusses how much, let alone who’s paying. If the goal is for human improvement for the superwealthy, what purpose can a movement serve? To make this happen for them only takes them opening their checkbooks, to pay for research, to buy politicians who will get research which will only help them personally funded. What agenda does public advocacy really serve?

    Why is what we see about the “future of government” from Futurists exclusively about new ways to deliver government services through technological means owned by techno-capitalists? Will “gamification” and government “transparency” matter if there aren’t enough resources for the government to allocate regardless of the political allocation process?

    Why is “critique” about the kinds of future techno-capitalism will give us from people like Morozov always about the sizzle, not the steak, much less about the smoke coming from the kitchen and the strange odor that smells just like rotting meat? Why is his court-jester brand of “contrarianism” so fashionable? Why do people pretend such horror that even the flavors of what are being served up to us are questioned? Does the debate about the future we need serve us if it’s restricted only to what’s entertaining?

    The technology of tomorrow comes from the basic science of today. As in the projects the sequester is defunding. This isn’t just self-identified “Futurist” billionaires, this is in general tax-avoidance by techno-capitalists. Google on:

    google “Irish Sandwich”

    for a good example.

  • Jin The Ninja

    i’d only be impressed if she made that writing sci fi short stories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/captain.oblivi0us Joshua Mark Voss

    That uncanny uprising music opposite of techo in the early 90′s would be a result of the Insane Clown Posse. Inner City Posse coming out of Detroit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/captain.oblivi0us Joshua Mark Voss

      Among other artists I’m sure, ex. Eminem. Eminem tried using ICP as a stepping stone though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.m.appleby Peter Michael Appleby

    Predictive Programming.

  • blackichan

    TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER FALLACY!!!

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