Communion Of Dreams

A thought experiment.
April 18, 2010, 8:45 am
Filed under: General Musings, Science, Science Fiction, Society, tech, Writing stuff

This morning, as I was listening to the latest news about the impact of the Iceland volcano on European air travel, I had that classic science fiction notion: what if what we’re seeing in Europe currently were a simple fact of life all around the globe? And what if it had always been the case?

Think about how the history of flight would have changed if there was a functional barrier to flight at say 12,000 feet. Think about how the history of the 20th century would have changed – perhaps impacting WWII. Yeah, sure, you can fly a jet at 10,000 feet, but it consumes a lot more energy to do so – just that much of a technological challenge could have made a difference in the geopolitical structure of the world. Most cargo is transported by ship or trains, so that wouldn’t change too much, but would the world now rely on ships and trains for most passenger transport? Would we have developed high-speed trains earlier and more completely, perhaps even introducing trans-oceanic train technology?

Or what if something happened now to impose such a limit on jet transport worldwide as we’re seeing in Europe? How would that change our world in the present and going forward? Again, we’d probably find work-arounds – that’s what we do in this technological age – but how would those changes and challenges shape our reality?

There’s an awful lot of interesting fiction waiting to be written with just this one change . . .

Jim Downey

2 Comments so far
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There’s an interesting moment at the end of either the first or second of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, in which her father, who is able to travel through time and to parallel universes. In one universe,he tells her, the people fly through the air to go to different continents. She finds this completely unbelievable, because it’s obvious that the best way to get to the other side of the world is they way they do, through high-speed tunnels. It’s a beautiful moment that allows us to realize how much of what we take for granted is often rooted in assumptions that we don’t even know we hold. (I think it’s at the end of the second book, Lost In a Good Book.)

Comment by Frank Moorman

Ah, very good – I’m not familiar with those books. Something new to add to the list! Thanks!

And thanks for stopping by – good to hear from an old UTI friend. I do miss that place, sometimes.

Cheers –

Jim D.

Comment by James Downey

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