Sunday, September 8, 2013

Science Fiction: Frederick Pohl. R.I.P.

Drivebycuriosity) - Last Monday Frederick Pohl died.  He is one of my favorite science fiction writers and part of the ring of old masters (Heinlein, Asimov, Clark) who developed the genre (wikipedia). Like his colleagues he speculated about the future by appreciating scientific possibilities (hard science fiction).

My favorite Pohl novel is "Age of the Pussyfoot", first published in 1965. The book is satirical, highly entertaining and full of visions. I am impressed how Pohl described at that time developments which are becoming apparent now.  But unfortunately the book is out of print (amazon). Shame on the publishers.

The plot: In the early 1960s a firefighter almost lost his life in a fire. Because there was no medical help then he got frozen and was reawakened in the 22nd century, when the medical advances where ripe enough to cure his injuries. The 20th century man is confronted with a very different and alien world, a kind of time travel.

I am impressed how this science fiction author acknowledged the economical implications of such a long journey in time. The firefighter´s insurance payment for the fire accident has grown exponentially over the centuries. Thanks to the interest compound effect (reinvesting interest payments which generates more and more interest income in the future) he has accumulated a fortune.

But the rising healthcare costs, caused by the highly advanced medical system, ate a large part of the wealth. This reminds me of the economic situation we now observe in the U.S. and other rich countries.

Centuries of economic growth and technological progress, included huge advances in genetic engineering, have shaped a hedonistic & libertarian society which lives in abundance. People, who are now highly spoiled by wealth and possibilities to live are just pursuing their interests, whatever they may be. A health system, that even can reawaken the dead, reduced the value of life. Therefore it is legal to attack, injure and to kill people just for fun and people hunting is a popular sport.

As I read this book the first time in the 1970s I admired a device called "Joker". This tool was used to communicate, watch movies, to do banking and to spread chemical substances, that cure diseases, influence the mood and stimulate sexual desire. It seems that Pohl has invented the iPhone and highlighted its possibilities in the 1960s.

R.I.P. great master!

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