Thursday, May 11, 2017

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences

--- William Isaac Thomas and Dorothy Swaine Thomas, the "Thomas theorem" per wikipedia

Cited by Mireille Hildebrandt in David Runciman's Talking Politics podcast episode on Power in the Digital Age, 6 April 2017, around timecode 13:29

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Meaningful prediction does not lie in serving up the present larded with startling improvements or revelations in lieu of the future.

--- Stanisław Lem, quoted by Simon Ings in a profile "Stanisław Lem: The man with the future inside him, " New Scientist, 19 November 2016

In context
Writing in the 1950s, Ray Bradbury predicted earbud headphones and elevator muzak, and foresaw the creeping eeriness of today's media-saturated shopping mall culture. But even Bradbury's guesses – almost everyone's guesses, in fact – tended to exaggerate the contemporary moment. More TV! More suburbia! Videophones and cars with no need of roads. The powerful, topical visions of writers like Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke are visions of what the world would be like if the 1950s (the 1960s, the 1970s...) went on forever.
And that is why Stanisław Lem, the Polish satirist, essayist, science fiction writer and futurologist, had no time for them. "Meaningful prediction," he wrote, "does not lie in serving up the present larded with startling improvements or revelations in lieu of the future." He wanted more: to grasp the human adventure in all its promise, tragedy and grandeur. He devised whole new chapters to the human story, not happy endings.

More from the piece

Twenty years before the term "virtual reality" appeared, Lem was already writing about its likely educational and cultural effects.

His abiding concern was the way people use reason as a white stick as they steer blindly through a world dominated by chance and accident. This perspective was acquired early, while he was being pressed up against a wall by the muzzle of a Nazi machine gun – just one of several narrow escapes.