The science fiction section in my nearest Barnes & Noble is shrinking. I don’t know if the rest of it has disappeared into another dimension. I suspect the stuff just isn’t selling as well as it once did.
It’s fun to watch or read old science fiction because the people who created it used science that still hasn’t been achieved but didn’t pick up on stuff that was invented right afterwards. Either that or they got something right but how it happened completely wrong.
Example of the first is Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, flying around the planet Mongo and navigating his space ship by looking out the window. We still haven’t achieved manned, interstellar travel, but they came up with radar way less than ten years after those movies were made.
Example of the second is the novel “1984.” Orwell was right that we’d have no privacy, but wrong about how it would happen. It wasn’t government-operated surveillance cameras inside our homes that did us in. It was the Internet, tracking cookies and people willingly giving up their personal information so they could have a small discount at CVS or some other company with a customer reward program. These things led to interactive databases that track everything about almost all of us.
How much privacy does the average person have?
Earlier this month, I told you I don’t remember my first kiss with my first girlfriend, Barbara. I haven’t seen, spoken or written to Barbara in more years than I’d care to remember. I have no interest in rekindling that childhood romance. The childhood romance I still have with my wife is working out better than I had any right to expect, thank you.
But just to prove that I could do it, I’m now about 99.5 percent certain that Barbara lives in Missouri, and is married to a guy named Lem. I’m not going to call, write or visit her to be 100 percent sure, but I could. That’s frighteningly little privacy for someone who hasn’t gone out of her way to be known. And it took me about five minutes.