18 May 2004

Sakharov's Predictions

Moscow News has a short article looking at some predictions Russian Nobel Peace Prize-winner Andrei Sakharov made thirty years ago. Considering that he essentially predicted the Internet, I'll take Sakharov over Nostradamus any day.

The judgment at the end of the article is sobering, though:
Some of Sakharov’s ideas seem far-fetched and others realistic and yet others started out and then progressed in a direction he did not at all anticipate; this is the way with all predictions. The only problem is the contrast between the vision and the reality. George Orwell’s 1984 painted a bleak picture of the world that came out somewhat true; yet it was a huge relief when 1984 came and went and the hole humans had been digging themselves into wasn’t anywhere as bad. Sakharov’s predictions inspire sadness -- unlike Orwell, he had obviously thought of humans too well.
(Actually, I have to quibble a bit with that judgment -- Orwell was not "predicting" anything for the actual year 1984. Only lunatics were sitting around on December 31, 1983 in abject terror of Big Brother suddenly appearing at midnight like some Dick Clark gone wrong. Orwell was, like many a good science fiction writer, extrapolating from tendencies he saw in the world he lived in, and he was writing as much about his own contemporary reality as he was speculating about the decades to come. Somebody writing for a Moscow newspaper should be able to understand this.)