Television

Team Sigma Says We Should Start Preparing to Fight a Villageful of Fair-Haired Psychic Kids

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USA Today reports:

Looking to prevent the next terrorist attack, the Homeland Security Department is tapping into the wild imaginations of a group of self-described "deviant" thinkers: science-fiction writers….

The writers make up a group called Sigma, which Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials….Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government's latest top mission of combating terrorism.

Although some sci-fi writers' futuristic ideas might sound crazy now, scientists know that they often have what seems to be an uncanny ability to see into the future.

"Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator," says Christopher Kelly, spokesman for Homeland Security's Science and Technology division. "Although flying cars haven't evolved, cellphones today are a way of life…."

Not exactly a stellar predictive record. It's a truism that science fiction says more about the present than the future; for just one piece of evidence, check out Joey deVilla's entertaining comparison between the "cyberwar" described in Neuromancer and the actual cyberwar transpiring in Estonia. Or check out any entry on the Paleo-Future blog, a wonderful website devoted to archaic forecasts. Greg Bear, Larry Niven, and the other Sigma members are smart folks, and they may well have some intelligent suggestions to make, but I sure hope Homeland Security won't try to work out the next Al Qaeda plot by reading their novels.

On the other hand, the department might want to hire the people who wrote The Lone Gunmen.

NEXT: By Lou Dobbs' Math, He's Only 6 Years Old

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  1. I thought the conventional wisdom was that sci-fi writers influence children who grow up to be engineers and scientists who then create some of the stuff they wanted as kids. I’m not sure this works with was Homeland Security is trying to do.

  2. “Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator…”

    Like those science fiction writers who scripted World War II movies. Who would think that those “walkie-talkies” would one day be reality!

  3. If we preemptively assault the Ringworld the Protectors are going to have us using our ass for a hat

  4. Stephen King’s “Cell”

  5. Maybe Homeland Secutiry’s on to something here. After all, the whole 9/11 thing was just a rip off of Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders.

  6. hier is a humorous list of “famously wrong predictions” (warning: cannot vouch for truth of these – intended for humor only)

  7. I posted this at Grylliade, but I’ll throw it up here-

    R. Crumb’s “City of the Future”, scanned from Creative Computing magazine in 1975.

    The pages don’t seem to show up in order, but mousing over tells which picture is which page.

  8. Imagine if PKD could be there to advise the gov’t.

    I’m not going to flesh that out for you. Just think about it.

  9. Jesse Walker,

    Given the money put into “remote viewing” research for so many years this isn’t surprising.

  10. “The writers make up a group called Sigma, which Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials….Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government’s latest top mission of combating terrorism.”

    I thought they were called “neocons”.

  11. I always thought cyberwar was a funny concept. Oh noes, the internet is slightly slower than usual while surfing at work!

  12. Wasn’t there a Robert Redford movie about this once?

  13. Isn’t there a book about something like this?

  14. Jesse Walker,

    If I recall correctly James Randi on a TV show (I can’t recall which one it was) stated that (and here I paraphrase) he could have told them that “remote viewing” was junk for a $1.75.

  15. More on “remote viewing” here.

    Given the lack of a link for us non-psychics to use, I regard this as a very sly joke by Grotius.

  16. R.C. Dean,

    You’re supposed to quiet your mind and think about the URL I have put into memory. 😉

  17. There’s never a Kzin around when you need one.

  18. Perhaps folks would like to comment on this bigfoot footage? Is this actual footage of a bigfoot attack?

  19. Grotius: the footage looks real, but it has to be a hoax because monsters never attack attractive women. They know that police officers believe the stories of hot women more than those of snaggle-toothed men.

  20. Great vid, Grotius! You’re really on to something there.

  21. Isn’t there some TV show on this week, hosted by Capt. Kirk, about this very topic? The founder of Motorola was saying he never would have gotten the idea for a cell phone if he hadn’t seen Star Trek communicators.

    I was trying to explain to my mom that communicators were more like walkie-talkies than cell phones anyway, and that such devices had been conceivable ever since Marconi invented the radio, but small minds are impressed by this nonsense.

  22. Nueromancer had no cell phones and the “Internet” was something only used by multinational corporations and the military…not a place to buy silver surfer coins on ebay….and even though it had Jamaican cosmonauts it had no Mexican-Americans even though most of it was set in the continental US.

  23. Your TV broadcasts confuse me. I think I need to smell you to know for sure.

  24. highnumber,

    Check out this Mothman video.

    Does your vacuum speak to you?

  25. highnumber,

    I’ve added more footage to my blogpost.

  26. Thought I smelled something. Just checking in.

  27. Didn’t they call some similar group up about 5 years ago? Fiction screen writers and such, to imagine ways the US could be attacked?

    This is starting to sound like one of those retread-myth stories, or perhaps a groundhog day real story.

  28. What’s funnier: it’s been done, apparently back during WWII. A “committee” of scifi guys was put together to try to brainstorm ways to prevent Navy losses from kamikaze pilots. Among the notables: Asimov, Heinlein, and none other than L. Ron Hubbard.

    See: http://www.clambake.org/archive/books/bfm/bfm06.htm (scroll down to page 110)

    JMJ

  29. In their defense, what’s really wrong with listening to creative people brainstorm? Perhaps there is a military mentality at Homeland, and the people in charge want to hear ideas outside of that experience.

  30. Didn’t they call some similar group up about 5 years ago?

    According to the article I linked to: “The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like.”

  31. Isn’t there some TV show on this week, hosted by Capt. Kirk, about this very topic? The founder of Motorola was saying he never would have gotten the idea for a cell phone if he hadn’t seen Star Trek communicators.

    I believe it’s called “How William Shatner Changed the World” and it was on the History Channel. IIRC the guy at Motorola who invented the cell phone said he thought the communicator was a nice idea but he was motivated to invent the cell phone because he was tired of having to get up from his chair on the patio and walking back inside to answer the phone. So basically he was inspired by “Star Trek” and motivated by laziness.

  32. Jesse,

    According to the article I linked to: “The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like.”

    Yea, this particular group of folks, but I was remembering (probably a different group) not real long after 9/11/01.

    John M. Joy,

    Thank you! I remember an Azimov essay where he mentioned that he was drafted as a Field Artillery Officer (and got the nickname “Isaac Azimuth”) but did not remember hearing of his brainstorm group.

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