New Perspectives Quarterly: The Scientific Imagination - An overflowing cornucopia of food for thought.
November 28, 2004 10:57 PM   Subscribe

From Between Being and Becoming by Ilya Prigogine, The Future Won’t Look Like the Present by Stephen Hawking to The Fate of the Religious Imagination by Czeslaw Milosz, to mention but a few, finds New Perspectives Quarterly: The Scientific Imagination presenting an overflowing cornucopia of food for thought. And that's just this issue--Check out the archives, too. Essays--by an impressive cohort of authors--abound on a myriad of topics.
posted by y2karl (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Very cool. Brief readable essays from great minds with interesting ideas and perspectives. Thanks.
posted by stbalbach at 11:23 PM on November 28, 2004

"Readable" is the exact word I was about to use- extremely interesting and very, very readable. great post.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:42 PM on November 28, 2004

But by the end of the next millennium, if we get there, the change will be fundamental. (from the Stephen Hawking essay)

If we get there? Uh oh...
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:01 AM on November 29, 2004

Excellent. Thanks. I enjoyed the Mexico-US essay by Octavio Paz which even though 17 years old rings true and perceptive today. Thanks again y2karl.
posted by Rumple at 12:14 AM on November 29, 2004

Several observations about the Hawking essay:

I don't think Hawking has really read all that much science fiction. Most SF futures from the New Wave onward (at least, the ones that I'm familiar with) do not propose a static future -- though often they deal directly with the interest that corporate actors have in encouraging a somewhat static society. (Delaney's "Time Considered as a Helix..." and Tiptree's [Sheldon's] "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" spring to mind.) Most of cyberpunk (and its antecedents, like Delaney, Ballard, Dick, Disch, Tiptree, etc.) is all about change, really. Similarly, the great "static futures" I'm familiar with are often nightmare-visions or future-myths, rather than predictions (Williamson's Humanoids as an example of the former, Clarke's Childhood's End as an example of the latter).

Also, I think he misunderstands the basic intent of SF. It's not to predict, as such; purely predictive SF is seldom very interesting. Good SF is a thought-experiment, and the appearance of static conditions probably serves to constrain the conditions, more than to say anything in particular about the static nature of society and innovation.

I, personally, am much more struck by how much things remain the same, than by how much they change. After all, there is a constant in all human futures: Humans. Culture is much more resistent to change, I think, than Dr. Hawking realizes.
posted by lodurr at 4:57 AM on November 29, 2004

matt! someone hacked y2karl's account! the impostor is posting without the <small> tag!

seriously, good stuff y2karl - thanks.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:48 AM on November 29, 2004

Lodurr - interesting (to me) what you said in the last paragraph, regarding Humans as the constant.

Peter F. Hamilton's work, though grand-scale epic sci-fi in many cases, is often rooted in the theme that no matter how much technology humanity has to better itself, we seem to be re-creating the same problems everywhere we go, mostly rooted in economics. The static future is just that, though it's a little harder to identify from here.

The Night's Dawn Trilogy, which begins with The Reality Dysfunction sets up the basic issues and then continues through 5 more books (trilogy, though - 2 parts to each volume) and is one of the more thought-provoking SF books I've read in a while.

You might be interested in that.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:07 AM on November 29, 2004

I, personally, am much more struck by how much things remain the same, than by how much they change. After all, there is a constant in all human futures: Humans.

I think that is precisely what Hawking (together with many others) is proposing will cease to apply in the relatively near future.
posted by rushmc at 7:28 AM on November 29, 2004

The link to The Fate of the Religious Imagination is missing. The link is here.
posted by Healing One at 8:45 AM on November 29, 2004

time of arrow the ,thing mysterious A .post Good

Reversing the arrow of time is fundamentally different from forgetting. When you forget, there’s still a dent in your brain to tell you where the thought was. If time ran backwards, consciousness would be impossible. Imagine every instant having a total experience, then having it disappear without leaving a dent. Maybe we live in a static universe of infinite possibilities and we construct time in our heads by jumping on small bits of floating cause and effect as we cross the River Chaos. Quantum physics gives us a glimpse into the parts of the river we cannot step into--the dark matter, where time can run backwards.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:10 AM on November 29, 2004

Wow! Thanks!
posted by SB at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2004

"I believe that what we do today depends on our image of the future, rather than the future depending on what we do today." -ilya prigogine

reminds me of alex golub's essay on prolepsis (similar to treatments of subjunctive thinking, counterfactual reasoning and nonmonotonic logic :)

what's interesting i think is whether "counterfactual truths" count as information in bayesian probability. cuz if new evidence or information can be made available and admissible by going through hypothetical situations, then i think that'd make the world (or the interpretation of it :) more bayesian, as opposed to frequentist! (deductive v. inductive) i.e. by raising hypotheticals to update background knowledge or frames of reference, must the process inherently act within the realm of belief?

or perhaps one doesn't have to reserve a frequentist interpretation of probability--holding for a class or population--if the principle of (belief in!) maximum entropy is adhered to: "When one has only partial information about the possible outcomes one should choose the probabilities so as to maximize the uncertainty about the missing information."

anyways :D thanks! since feedmag and missingmatter went away, i've been looking for subs in lieu, even if it's just one issue on science and society. so far i've found an admixture well as usual suspects (wired, nature, sciam, discover, eurekalert, IEEE spectrum, physicsweb, physorg, science news, newscientist, scitech daily, the economist's TQ...) suitably adequate replacements :D

posted by kliuless at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2004

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