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Is William Gibson A Modern Day Oracle? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

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Published on Aug 29, 2012

The science fiction writer William Gibson has not only written some fantastic scifi novels, but in the process predicted the internet, Miku Hatsune, reality TV, and a crazy amount of other technological and societal developments that have come into being. His impressive rate of accuracy seems almost mystical. Sure, he's essentially just an entertainer, but he's got a better batting average than Nostradamus, who was actually TRYING to predict the future. We may not need oracles as much as we did in the past (what with science and all), but a look into the future can be exciting and an awesome preparation for what's to come.

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Comments • 825

Film Doctor Studios
Science fiction also has a massive part on what tech/ideas we attempt to develop in the first place. They imagine, we dream, tech advances, and imagination becomes reality.
ben carling
Gibson succeeds so well as a prophet not so much because he can predict technology, scientific advance or material things (seen anyone with augmented blade hands? anyone close to digitising human conscious or developing real AI?). He is, however, a master of predicting how people will behave around certain phenomena. Rapid information sharing? Re-mix counterculture. Cheap, non-instrumental digital music? Dubstep and the embrace of noise vs instrument. Locative tracking? Paranoia and surveillance. He predicts people, not things, and he predicts business and capitalism best of all. That's why he's so accurate, he knows the set pieces of the material future are modular and interchangeable, but people's reactions are not. This quality also marks his storytelling as stinking of reality despite being so clearly alien. His characters' reactions to the technology feel so in line with our own that it prickles the hair on the back of your neck. Gibson doesn't know the future, he knows people.  And hey, if you read this far, read M T Anderson's Feed for more soothsaying. 
shuan sown
Douglas Adams predicted touch pads and the kinect. He also predicted that the Kinect would be stupid. I'm serious, read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and see for yourself.
zoob m
cyberpunk becoming real is right around the corner. (2020s)
zoob m
well, we're clearly making progress towards a cyberpunk world, with all the tech that has come out in recent years or will come out soon.
T.J. McCallum
if only! it's all fake nostalgia craft beer and fauxlk muzak.
Derf565
ok that meme with Keanu reeves and the Air thing is true... Oxygen is actually a poison, when there was more of it we had a shorter lifespan... Coincidence?
MontyKensicle
19th Century? You mean during the industrial revolution when all sorts of new technology was being made?
View all 5 replies
Luca VASILE
+Silvertalon Yeah that, I was derping out sorry.
Joshua Turner
+Luca VASILE To continue Silvertalon's correction, I believe when you say 3rd millennium you mean the 2000s until year 3000, when you say 2nd millennium you mean the 1000s, etc. Century = 100 years, millennium = 1000.
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OsheantheHero
Stellar! AH I GET IT!
Hans Watts
Ray Kurzweil remains my useful oracle.
Cdubb1967
I disagree that we would think far future technology was "magic" in the way that someone 200 years ago may perceive ours. We might think it must be extraterrestrial perhaps but would understand it to be technology, even though it might be alarming.
leadfoot9x
Due to the acceleration of technological over the past few centuries, our generation is more culturally aware of the fact that technology is not stagnant and less prone to label things as magic. However, assuming our technological capabilities have no ceiling, one could definitely accomplish things that, to all but the most skeptical, would appear as magic. Especially because magic is still common in popular fiction and you're probably more psychologically open to the idea of magic than you might think.
Jrezky
Just want to state that SF writers are not oracles or future-predictors and rarely consider themselves as such and so probably shouldn't be looked upon as any better or worse for accuracies or inaccuracies. Gibson said that cyberspace or the 'matrix' as he sees it if something comparable were to exist, would likely not look like what he envisioned. The idea might be to take a concept or idea or technology to its logical conclusion and pose 'what-if' or 'could-be' based on some self-imposed assumptions like Asimov's I, Robot for example. They're a splitting of timelines, alternate histories in their own self-contained universes separate from our own. I think many SF writers see accuracies as coincidences.
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