Sunday, September 28, 2008

Story Idea #4

Well, I missed my self-imposed Thursday deadline for updating my "What I'm Reading List" for the first time. There wasn't much to report as my reading time took a dip this week. I'll get caught up next Thursday.

Here is another idea I have for a story. There are two reasons I haven't actually tried to write this one. The first is I need to go back and find the two books one tape that gave me the ideas, and the second is that I could never exactly figure the ending. The story would be called "The History of the Future" or "The History of Time Travel" or something along those lines. Neither one of them gets it exactly right though.

One of the books I listened to (I have no idea what it was) had to do with the history of science. There I learned that business men were among the first to make good use of Galileo's telescope. Ships coming back to port would raise different colored flags to indicate what kind of cargo they were carrying. They were so far from shore that these flags could only been through a telescope. So these business men would know a day or two ahead of time what commodities were about to be plentiful and they would make money on this information. Apparently that was the equivalent of knowing the final score of a football game before it started.

I'm think the other book I listened to was Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick. The book talked about chaos theory and how with computers scientists are beginning to predict the future; just not exactly in real time. For example they would record data about cloud formations and movements and be able to predict what the clouds would do next. The problem is that it took several days to predict what the clouds would do over the next couple of minutes. So while they were getting accurate results, "predicting" something that happened two days ago isn't very useful.

So my idea for a story would start with cavemen and show an example of one of them realizing that the animals always came to same place to get water, so they could wait for them there instead of always chasing them. Then I'd come up with some examples of people predicting something about the near future before most of the people around them figured it out. Then jump to the telescope, then a few more examples, then onto chaos theory. With chaos theory I look at the impact of faster computers and additional data and how predicting the future of seemingly random things gets faster and more accurate. Then projecting that forward to a time in the future when our brains are all directly connected to the internet and essentially all the information in the world is available. And the computing power gets greater and greater and faster and faster until one day someone runs a program across the internet to predict the future and ...

Not really sure what happens next. Does time lose its meaning if everyone can see any point in the future? And of course knowing the future would have an impact on the future, so perhaps after a few brilliant seconds of clarity it crashes. But if so what crashes, just the program or the internet itself? And what impact does this have on our minds after its shut off?

I guess I've gone into more detail in this outline because I'm probably never going to write this one so I don't care if someone steals it. Then again, I had this idea over five years ago so chances are someone has already written something similar.

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