In an article presented at SCIFI-IT®’2018, and International Conference on Science Fiction Prototyping, Liane Gabora speculates with the idea that a balance between individuals focused on the past, present, and future would be expected to yield adaptive benefits.
The idea is quite similar to, for example, Mark Pagel’s idea discussed in this blog that social evolution may have sculpted most of us to be copiers instead of creators and innovators, because the social learning process allows us to do so.
Gabore uses an agent based model approach (EVOC, for EVOlution of Culture) to test quite a few interesting ideas and one of her conclusions is that well before the earliest known works that could be called science fiction in second Century AD, but after 100,000 years ago, and concurrent with the evolution of a division of labour between creators and imitators, there arose a division of labour between past, present, and future thinkers.
this paper suggested that individual differences in the tendency to focus one’s thoughts on the past, present, or future, became magnified over time. This in turn paved the way for forward-thinking science fiction writers and their often uncanny powers to envision technological advances before they become reality.Gabora, L. (2018). Evolution of the Science Fiction Writer’s Capacity to Imagine the Future. ArXiv Preprint ArXiv:1802.02930.
That would be quite consistent with the reactions we are seeing today in relation to the possibility to have anticipated the current pandemics, and therefore be much better prepared to properly face it. My own hypothesis, for the time being based only on observation, is that there are people completely incapable to accept that some other people are constantly anticipating and speculating about the future, and that this future modelling is crucial for risk analysis, something, again in my humble opinion, that current governments and leadership have proved to be not very qualified at.
If Gabore is right, one interesting question is how the share of future, present and past looking people influences our collective attitude in relation to progress, and if that proportion is ideal and consistent with the kind of “exponential” messages we are used to, and more importantly what will be needed in an after covid world.
What it’s clear is that Liane Gabore is a versatile scholar, and her artistic inclinations are what definitely convinced me to post about her paper 😉