The future is a relic, and industry and a myth. For all our scientific prognostications, do we know any more about it than the average Zoroastrian?
…After Louis Sebastien Mercier passed into the dustbin of history, a new breed of researcher appeared, the pioneering sociologist cum historian , who began demonstrating that everything from the forms of law to the shapes of forks had a history, and was the product of change in time. Then came philosophers of history who sought to discover the overall patterns and the pre-eminent forces in man’s history- Condorcet with his ten stages of progress. Auguste Comte with his law of the “three stages” in the evolution of everything, Marx with his dialectics of economic change.
The result of such labors is the modern conception of the future, the root assumption being that everything human must change perpetually, that no human can transcend the processes of time. A conception at once so comprehensive and so deeply ingrained in people’s minds inevitably has its effects. That society is changing so rapidly in our time is perhaps not entirely due to circumstance. It may be because, in part at least, we have accepted all too willingly what the modern conception of the future teaches: that the very desire for permanence s inherently futile and, and, as we would now say, “backward.”
As for Louis-Sebastien Mercier, the world’s first futurologist, he looked 670 years ahead in time and described a happy France, peopled by enlightened deists and ruled over by a Bourbon monarch.
(see link at end)…For Mercier, science and technology are static. Once the errors of antiquity have been corrected, science is largely ornamental, an edifying Wunderkammer of exotic animals and pretty optical effects. Technology has apparently already reached its zenith in 1770; seven hundred years later, Parisians are still getting around town on foot and in horse-drawn carriages. What must change is the human heart: the Parisians of the year 2440 have learned to keep to the right in two-way traffic, to cede the right of way to others, and to drive slowly. Everyone walks, including the king; only the old and infirm command carriages. Problems are solved through sound city planning and good citizenship.
For Verne, in contrast, it is science, technology, and commerce that drive change and remake society – at least at the superficial level of transportation and communication networks. But human nature is static, tragically so. The author of Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days was hardly a luddite; he described the new technologies of silent, whizzing trains in detail and with gusto – and also with remarkable prescience, extrapolating from inventions already known to him. Problems are solved through science and engineering. Yet his Paris in 1960 is an unhappy place, bustling but soulless. Read More:http://www.einsteinforum.de/fileadmin/einsteinforum/downloads/Winter08-09/Hyderabad_Daston_fin.pdf