I’ve often noted that within the first thirty seconds of a conversation about the future the past usually comes up to support a prediction.
This is how Gregory Benford opens his introduction to the splendid new volume The Wonderful Future that Never Was. The words
caught my eye because I have been saying just the same thing for the last few years. So I take their appearance in print as independent verification of the observation. As he goes on to say (and he’s definitely not the first here), all our knowledge is about the past, but all our decisions are about the future.
The book is recommended – a nice combination of lavish illustration and acute commentary, even though the emphasis on the occasional “correct” predictions is a little unpersuasive a times. It is a worthy addition to the growing genre of retro-future publications which has been highlighted here before. Its only limitation is that it is all culled from a single magazine, Popular Mechanics. That is a fab source, but a volume like Dregni and Dregni’s Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future, is worth tracking down for its rather wider coverage, and richer illustrative material.