The future is here, the future is now. It was, in-part, imagined some years ago in science fiction novels, and prophesized by psychics, gurus and thinkers of sorts. If our recent experience is any indication, our future may lie in the conceptual, fantastical and slightly implausible worlds created by figments of our imaginations. With so many possible outcomes, it’s easy to wonder if it will be possible for us to realize the truth and value in these imaginings, especially when the future they predict has already become reality.

Fiction writers hoping to deliver radical departures from our everyday interactions with the world, end up morphing our future world. The following enduring snippets hit close to home with what they thought would happen, and how things actually transpired.

 

 

The Eyes of Darkness, Dean Koontz“It was around then that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen defected to the United States, carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade. They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center.”

[The Eyes of Darkness, Dean Koontz (1981) pp.353.This was originally published in 1981 with details of a man-made virus called Gorki-400 from the Russian city of Gorki and changed to Wuhan when the book was released in hardback under Koontz’s own name in 1989 – at the end of the Cold War. It describes a killer virus that echoes the current Covid-19 virus outbreak that could have originated from Wuhan, Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only level- four bio safety laboratory.]

 

A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker“We had a large dry-erase board in the kitchen wall. On one side, roommates put notes about groceries needed and leftovers available and things like ‘Good luck on the interview, Jaspreet!’ On the other side, we kept a running list titled ‘Don’t Forget Normal.’……Leaving the highway for the country road, watching the county road roll into Jory’s Main Street, Rosemary was struck by the emptiness. She’d never noticed before, or else she’d assumed the mix of dead business and thriving ones was normal”.

[A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (2019). Chapter 12, p.112; Chapter 13, p. 117.  A speculative science fiction novel about Rosemary Laws, who spends her days helping customers order online in a near-future setting wrought by social distancing, the result of terrorist activity and a flu-like pandemic that swept the world.]

 

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner.“Minutes before, a car painted with a skull and crossbones had been illegally parked in front of the building, on 42nd Street. The driver – masked, of course, like everyone on the sidewalks – jumped out and ran toward a nearby drugstore. A patrolman across the street noticed, and thought little of it; Trainites were forever drawing skull-and-crossbones signs on cars, and not everyone could spare the time or money to clean them off straight away. Besides, if the guy had run into a drugstore he was likely in need of urgent medicine. So he just made a mental note to tell him off when he came back. Only he didn’t come back. He continued out the other door of the drugstore and doubled into the bowels of Grand Central Station, and was well out of reach when the fuse in the back of the car reached what they later estimated to be fifty sticks of dynamite.”

[The Sheep Look Up (1972), by John Brunner. This story deals with the killing of the environment with chemicals, drugs, indifference, stupidity and greed.]

Science fiction may very well possess the unique ability to shape our future. There is an overlap between imagination and perception that ultimately lead to predictive processing. Imagination is not one of the statistical techniques used to analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future or otherwise unknown events, but it is used in predictive processing models in neuroscience. Historical facts after the tragic Ebola outbreak in West Africa coupled to statistical extrapolation is what Bill Gates prophetically used in 2015, during his TED talk at the conference in Vancouver when he said:

“What I’ve learned is very sobering. As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic.”

End of Days, Sylvia BrowneOn the other side of the spectrum a psychic using nothing more than a series of cognitive biases, which dependant of the frequency of misses compared to hits can ultimately discredit any credibility. Case in point, the very popular, self-proclaimed psychic, Sylvia Browne, who faced criticism for making pronouncements that were later found to be false, came pretty close to predicting the COVID-19 pandemic:

 “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years late, and then disappear completely. [End of Days, Sylvia Browne (2008). Chapter 7, p. 210 ]

Many organizations already recognize that a glimpse into the future can mean staying ahead of the competition, be relevant in the future, instead of waiting for it to arrive. How do they hope to achieve that? They are investing heavily in talent with experience in data analytics, predictive modeling and machine learning. The most recent resource to be added to their arsenal: authors of speculative fiction.

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Bauhaus

Modernism in architecture grew from the Bauhaus, a German architecture and design school established in 1919, in Weimar, by German architect Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (18 May 1883 – 5 July 1969).  Paradoxically, Bauhaus, directly translated: “building house”, did not offer courses in architecture in its early years of operation despite a proclamation in its manifesto:  “…the aim of all creative activity is building.”  It was not until 1927, two years after moving to its new location in Dessau, that it began teaching architecture. Within six years of its founding, the Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist Architecture.

Gropius designed the new school and student dormitories at Dessau, in the new, purely functional, modernist style in which he was promoting. The school brought together modernists in all fields, featuring in its faculty, the modernist painters Vasily Kandinsky, Joseph Albers and Paul Klee, as well as the designer Marcel Breuer. Gropius served as the director of the school through the first year of its architectural operation. Under his direction, a very collectible magazine called Bauhaus was issued between the years 1926 and 1931, and a series of 14 books called “Bauhausbücher” were published 1925-1930.

 

scans complements of IADDB.org

 

1. Walter Gropius (ed.), Internationale Architektur, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 111 pp.
2. Paul Klee, Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 50 pp.
3. Adolf Meyer (ed.), Ein Versuchshaus des Bauhauses in Weimar, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 78 pp.
4. Die Bühne am Bauhaus, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 84 pp.
5. Piet Mondrian, Neue Gestaltung, Neoplastizimus, Nieuwe Beelding, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 66 pp.
6. Theo van Doesburg, Grundbegriffe der neuen gestaltenden Kunst, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 66 pp.
7. Walter Gropius (ed.), Neue Arbeiten der Bauhauswerkstäffen, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 115 pp.
8. L. Moholy-Nagy, Malerei, Fotografie, Film, Munich: Albert Langen, 1925, 115 pp.
9. Kandinsky, Punkt und Linie zu Fläche: Beitrag zur Analyse der malerischen Elemente, Munich: Albert Langen, 1926, 190 pp.
10. J.J.P. Oud, Holländische Architektur, Munich: Albert Langen, 1926, 107 pp.
11. Kasimir Malewitsch, Die gegenstandslose Welt, Munich: Albert Langen, 1927, 104 pp.
12. Walter Gropius, Bauhausbauten Dessau, Munich: Albert Langen, 1930, 221 pp.
13. Albert Gleizes, Kubismus, Munich: Albert Langen, 1928, 101 pp.
14. László Moholy-Nagy, Von Material zu Architektur, Munich: Albert Langen, 1929, 241 pp.

An incomplete set of the “Bauhausbücher” sold for 15,000 Euro at the Christie’s auction: “Les Collections du Château de Gourdon,” held in Paris in 2011. The “Bauhausbücher” editions numbered 1, 2,4,5,8 and 14 have been re-issued in 2019 on the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Bauhaus.

Gropius became an important theorist of modernism. He was an advocate of standardization in architecture, which developed into the mass construction of rationally designed apartment blocks for factory workers. His famous Bauhaus Manifesto, “Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar, 1919-1923,” Weimar and Munich: Bauhausverlag, 1923, 225 pp.,” issued in an edition of 2000 copies on the occasion of the Bauhaus exhibition, was re-released last year on the 100th anniversary of the school’s formation. When he left the school in 1928, he was commissioned by the Siemens Company to build apartments for workers in the suburbs of Berlin.

Swiss architect, Hannes Meyer became director when Gropius resigned in February of 1928, and brought the Bauhaus on a new track with a focus on reducing costs and becoming profitable. His two most significant building commissions, of which both still exist, are: the five apartment buildings in the city of Dessau, and the Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundes (ADGB Trade Union School) in Bernau bei Berlin. These projects helped the school turn profitable for the first time in 1929. The change however, may have come at the expense of the school’s innovation and advancement in architecture, with a new functionalist approach considered by many political views to have leaned towards Communism. Under political pressure, Meyer was forced to resign in 1930.

Starting in 1930, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, served as the last director of the faltering Bauhaus, at the request of Walter Gropius. In 1932, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, they viewed the Bauhaus as a training ground for communists and closed the state-supported school.  Mies decided to move operations from the campus in Dessau, to an abandoned telephone factory in Berlin and carry out a commission for Philip Johnson’s New York apartment. By 1933, however, the continued operation of the school was untenable and in July of that year, Mies and the faculty voted to close the Bauhaus amid Nazi rejections about the lack of “German” character.

Gropius left Germany and went to England, then to the United States, where he and Marcel Breuer both joined the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and became the teachers of a generation of American postwar architects. In 1937 Mies van der Rohe also moved to the United States and became one of the most famous designers of postwar American skyscrapers.

 

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Infectious Diseases: A Groundbreaking Book (1546) – Some resemblance between Didier Raoult and Girolamo Fracastoro (?)

March 29, 2020
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As the world is struggling with Coronavirus-19, it may be interesting to look at the history of pandemics, long seen as God’s punishment of our sins, and/or as something provoked by the witches. The History of Science Collection in Cornell’s RMC has the first edition of Girolamo Fracastoro’s De contagione et contagiosis morbis (Venice: Giunti, 1546; […]

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The Most Expensive “Candy”

March 9, 2020
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The unison of three greatly provocative and time-changing minds were responsible for the bestseller Candy, which on one hand greatly influenced popular culture of the 1960’s,  and on the other, caused furor for its vulgar take on contemporary culture. The work of writer Terry Southern, poet Mason Hoffenberg and publisher Maurice Girodias, was originally pseudonymously […]

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The First Ethnic Cook Books of America

February 8, 2020
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Up until twenty years after the political upheaval of the American Revolution in 1776, the Thirteen Colonies had been using British cookbooks reprinted in America. The first such cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, by William Parks in 1742, titled “The Compleat Housewife.” The book was in fact, a London bestseller, published fifteen years earlier in […]

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Women author scarcity

November 12, 2019
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The women’s liberation movement during the 1960’s propelled feminist intellectualism which brought us wonderful modern women writers, such as J.K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.  The boys’ club definitely was broken, and is even more apparent when looking back!  Critic Sarah Weinman, argues in an essay published by the Library […]

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Jean-Michel Basquiat is “PYRO” hot

September 30, 2019
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Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which will take place in London on the 3rd of October 2019, will offer a Jean-Michel Basquiat acrylic, silkscreen ink and oil stick on canvas titled “PYRO”, signed and dated 1984 on the reverse. This is the highlight of the event and is estimated to sell for …….., “Estimate upon […]

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Photographing Paris

September 4, 2019
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Two rare photography books portray two separate images of the beautiful city of Paris.  The books represent the improbable encounter of two Parisian worlds: the surrealistic vision of Brassaï, and the documentary view of Atget. Eugene Atget (1857-1927), documented much of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization. Most of […]

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Where American History and Christian Religion Crossed

July 18, 2019
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In the month of August 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and with a crowd of over a quarter of a million people, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” In that same month, King’s first printing of a collection of his sermons titled, “Strength […]

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Extreme Femininity

May 1, 2019
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Times have changed and so have women, but not their innate ability to charm. Women possess the power to please or attract with their personality or beauty. Imagine living in another time, and, if it were to be the twentieth century, you would perhaps choose the hay-day of the 1920’s. It was a time for women […]

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