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August 3, 2011 / Tobin Craig

Science fiction?

“In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.”

In saying yes to the transistor radio, to the cell phone, to the smart phone, were we saying yes to turning away from the common world and into our own private worlds?  Was this the hidden source of the appeal of these innovations?  Or an incidental consequence?  Bradbury’s remarks suggest we might be well served in attending to works of science fiction as we try and think through the broader social and human consequences of technological innovations.

 

 

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