By the early 1980s, the Soviet Union will have a fleet of space shuttles far superior to our own, plus a network of space stations and a second fleet of orbital vehicles to service them. Oh, and mega laser weapons. That was the prediction in a 1974 book Soviet Conquest From Space. How did Peter James get it so wrong?

Says Nader Elhefnawy:

[James] started with thinly-sketched claims about Soviet capabilities and programs for which the evidence was slim, and then extrapolated from them in a frictionless universe where unproven technologies never disappoint and bureaucratic irrationality never gets in the way.

In other words, by focusing on the absolute worst case, James helped make the Cold War that much more frenzied. It's an important lesson for the next time futurists make teeth-grinding predictions about Chinese space mastery or super-terrorists. But is anyone willing to learn it?


Space War and Future Hype [Plausible Futures]