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History of the Future The Future in the 1950s. This Session WWII –role of science and technology Introduction to 1950s –Cold War, Atomic Bomb & Sputnik.

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Presentation on theme: "History of the Future The Future in the 1950s. This Session WWII –role of science and technology Introduction to 1950s –Cold War, Atomic Bomb & Sputnik."— Presentation transcript:

1 History of the Future The Future in the 1950s

2 This Session WWII –role of science and technology Introduction to 1950s –Cold War, Atomic Bomb & Sputnik to follow –Also discussion of political climate Overview of 1950s SF

3 World War II National organization on huge scale –systems, experts, industrial production –Experts of all kinds enlisted in national effort Key role of science and technology –RADAR –Atomic bomb –Jet engines –V2 rockets –Computer (not widely known at time)

4 Government & Science Pre-1945 fairly limited –Agriculture, geology, etc. –Private foundations, industry important Vannevar Bush –Mobilized American science, 1941 onward –Science – The Endless Frontier, 1945 –Call for Federal support answer 1950, NSF –“Pipeline” – Basic -> Applied -> Technology

5 Physics Very Prestigious Einstein as celebrity Emergence of Big Science –reactors –particle accelerators –massive research teams, millions of dollars Most science funding is military Social sciences want to be more like physics –Economics, sociology, psychology etc.

6 Automation New term in 1950s –Popularized by young consultant –Some basis in continuous flow (oil, etc.) Fully automatic factories expected soon –Cybernetics Social issues much discussed –Widespread unemployment? –End of work?

7 Age of Affluence Prosperity for first time in 20 years –Enormous pent-up demand for consumer goods –Rapid growth in corporate profits, output Television –First networks grow up in 1950s –Largely displaces cinema

8 Social Conservatism Women are –Working outside the home less –Having more children, younger Also tied to cold war, defense of America –Unions become respectable Focus on pay and conditions –Continuing faith in large corporations –Virtues of American way of life

9 Suburbanization Trend frozen since 1920s Large scale construction across US –Modern, spacious –Safe, affordable Suits large scale raising of baby boomers –Whites flee cities –Lifestyle celebrated on sitcoms

10 UFO Flying Saucer, coined 1947 –UFO craze throughout 1950s –Popular willingness to believe in aliens

11 Science Fiction in 1950s Quality of writing picks up New magazines –Galaxy –Fantasy & Science Fiction Spread of “soft” SF –Sociology –Psychology, etc.

12 PSI Key theme of 1950s SF –Earlier use (1890s onward) –Transcendental overtones –Evolution of super man (Stapledon) Major theme in Bester novel Often linked to cold-war paranoia –Mutants –No way of knowing who has it

13 Key Themes of 50s SF Telepathy and PSI power Atomic war –Mutants, radiation Cold war paranoia –Aliens among us One important shift –Heroes generally less powerful, more confused and at mercy of outside forces

14 SF In Book Form First “Genre SF” appears in book form Gnome Press, founded 1948 –First book publication for Asimov, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke Initial previous published in magazines

15 Asimov Foundation Trilogy –Published in Astounding, –Published in book form Epic of future history –direct mapping of Roman Empire –very concept driven –skeptical of religion, politics –never really finished

16 Asimov – Robot Stories The Three Laws of Robotics –Published as I Robot, 1950 –Stories appeared from 1941 onward –Two detective novels, 1954 & 1957 Laws are moral, rather than scientific –Rehabilitates idea of robot

17 Asimov – Robot Stories Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics” 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

18 Robert A. Heinlein Future History series –Stories of 1940s –Collected 1951 onward Many “juvenile” novels for teenagers –published 1947 – 1958 –Have Spacesuit, Will Travel – 1958 Starship Troopers, 1959 –rejected as children's book!


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