|Donnelly's Caesar's Column|
A recent post mentioned the futuristic novel published by Ignatius Donnelly in 1890, describing a world war in 1988 in which workers, debased and paid barely enough for survival, revolt against the wealthy, who control everything and live luxuriously. Written during the Populist Movement, Caesar's Column, used the populist's political anger against Wall Street, Railroads, and Corporations to fictionalize a world in which the power of the wealthy is carried to such excess that laborers revolt with apocalyptic violence that destroys the entire social structure. Caesar's Column was in Isaac Beckley Werner's library.
However, Isaac's library also included the futuristic novel of Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, published in 1880. In contrast to Donnelly's novel, Bellamy imagines a happier world, in which socialist ideals have been implemented to share the nation's wealth in a more equitable way. Women are regarded as equals of men, in fact, having been given the equal right to propose marriage. The novel describes a young narrator who is hypnotized in 1887 and awakens in 2000 to a changed world, which he initially dislikes but eventually accepts as better than the old world in which he had lived. The ideas in Bellamy's book were so popular that Bellamy Clubs to discuss and propagate those social changes were established around the world in the late 1800s, including 162 such clubs in the United States.
Obviously, novels projecting the future are nothing new, whether they describe the violent social destruction of Donnelly or the utopian social fiction of Bellamy. Recently I read the bold predictions for our future discussed at a conference in Europe. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast some of those predictions for the future with the late 1800s when Isaac B. Werner kept his journal.
Most of the predictions are related to the growing capacity for Artificial Intelligence to assist or replace human input in many ways, some that we will find welcome and others we may find to be a frightening displacement of human intelligence and a major disruption of social traditions.
Prediction: AI is already helping nurses in diagnosing cancer and it is 4xs more accurate.
Isaac: Isaac died of an undiagnosed illness that I was able to identify more than a century later from his symptoms and activities described in his diary that were medically unknown at that time.
Prediction: AI legal advice for basic legal questions now available offers 90% accuracy as compared to 70% accuracy of a sampling of human lawyers, and it is predicted that in the future only specialists in the law will remain in practice.
Isaac: Isaac had a friendly relationship with local attorneys, but Populists generally grouped lawyers with the rich and powerful men they distrusted.
Prediction: Traditional automobile companies will go out of business and cars will become, basically, computers on wheels.
Isaac: Isaac first went into debt to buy a horse, implements, and a wagon, the transportation of his time.
Prediction: Because people can either work from home or work as they commute in their quieter electric cars, people will move away from cities for more pleasant surroundings, and cities will be quieter.
Isaac: In Isaac's time, many people homesteaded to escape crowded, unsanitary conditions in the cities.
Prediction: Desalination of salt water will make fresh drinking water readily available in many places now without fresh water.
Isaac: Wells on the prairie were dug by hand, and Isaac was often hired for that chore, using the wench he owned. Because wells frequently became "crickety," (fouled by crickets) they often had to be abandoned.
Prediction: A medical devise that works with your phone will take retina scans,, blood samples, and measure your breath to identify nearly any disease, giving access to medical analysis in remote places.
Isaac: As a druggist in Rossville, IL before coming to Kansas, Isaac often dispensed medicine, including liquor for 'medical' purposes.
Prediction: 3-D scanning devices on phones will allow shoes to be produced precisely for each individual's feet and printed at home.
Isaac: At Isaac's estate sale, a man named Hainline bought all of Isaac's shoes and boots, apparently a size that fit him perfectly.
Prediction: Robots will replace humans in fields, and a $100 robot will be available for even farmers in third-world countries.
Isaac: In the beginning, before Isaac went into debt for a horse of his own to break more sod, he walked his fields with a hand planter, and after acquiring a horse to pull implements, he was still plowing and planting one row at a time.
Several of these predictions are already tested, and the issue is not whether they are possible, but rather, whether they will actually be implemented and when. Predictions are nothing new, and they do not always come true. But, it is certain that Artificial Intelligence has already changed the world and will continue to do so.
These predictions were posted by Udo Gollub from Berlin, Germany from a summit he referenced.