John 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.