Future Histories and Forecasting


Date: 25th January 2017
Start Time: 10 am (Registration from 9.30am)
End Time: 5.30 pm

Venue: 27/29 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1SZ

Following a successful session on the subject at the BIS Space Conference; the British Interplanetary Society is staging a one-day symposium on the subject of hypothetical future histories and technical forecasting in both science fiction and space programme planning.  The papers cover constructed projections of the future of space flight and their value in guiding technical development programmes, space infrastructure planning and their inspiration role in developing visions of the future.


To book your place (Members – £45, Non-Members – £55, Students – £25, Speakers – £25) please click here.


MORNING – Fiction

9:30 Registration

10.00 A History of Future Histories
Gerry Webb (Commercial Space Technologies)
As an introduction to the symposium as a whole, this presentation will review future histories as they appeared in science fiction in the last century. Some examples will be given and commented on. A few interesting examples of predictions made throughout history (pre formal forecasting) will also be discussed.

10.30 Engineering and Evolution: Dilemmas in Future Histories in Science Fiction
Stephen Baxter
Future histories have been developed by SF writers since the days of Stapledon and Heinlein. Spaceflight has generally been a strategic and visionary element in these projects. But there has always been a tension between those writers who portray humanity shaping the future, and those who sense that it is humanity that will be shaped: a tension between engineering and evolution.

11.00 Coffee

11.15 Future History as Novel Enrichment
Mark Hempsell (Hempsell Astronautics)
World building (the creation of a “world” in which a story can take place) inevitably leads to the creation of backstory.  The paper explores the implications of using future history as the backstory to a science fiction novel and how it can affect its ability to address themes and issues.

11.45 Science Fiction: What’s the Point?
Ian Whates
With advances coming thick and fast in every branch of science and technology, does science fiction still have a role to play? Should SF be regarded as an innovative form of art capable of providing a glimpse of humanity’s possible future, or has it now become nothing more than escapism?

12.15 Future History in Fiction Discussion

12:30 Lunch

AFTERNOON – Forecasting

13.45 Predicting Long term Human Behaviour
Alan Bond (Reaction Engines)
In his introduction to ‘The Next 10,000 years’ by Adrian Berry, Patrick Moore points out that human history has not yet run for 10,000 years so that projecting into the future is fraught with uncertainty. The paper will address this problem with Berry’s book and others by considering In attempting to estimate our long term future what factors, if any, are likely to remain recognisable, what will almost certainly vary and are we approaching any limits, such as to what we can know about the universe?

14.15 Space Challenges, Markets and Solutions Vs Future Time
Nick Colosimo and Julian Wright (BAe Systems)
The paper presents a series of what if scenarios based upon steady trends but also including disruptive events and how the market may develop in response to the above.  It considers how governments, industry, and military could respond to meet the above and where the dead ends could be and the routes to prosperity.

14.45 Exploratory Engineering and the Long Term Future
Anders Sandberg (Oxford University)
Exploratory engineering aims to analyse what technologies are compatible with known physics and could hence plausibly be reached in the (far) future. This allows mapping of options and bounds within the timeless landscape defined by physical realizability: it does not forecast when or if they will be achieved. This talk applies it to bounds on long term human ambitions.

15.15 Coffee

The Science of Predication
Richard Osborne
Predicting the future has an understandably poor reputation, in part this is due to a lack of rigour in the methods used.  However it is possible to considerably improve the accuracy of technical prediction through the applications of mathematical modelling enabling long term predictions to be more robust.

16.00 Space Elevators and Associated Technologies, 2017-2100

Peter Robinson and John Knapman
The paper presents a future history for the technology, development, construction of a space and then operation of a space elevator.

16.30 Warp Drives or Atomic Spaceships? Projecting Technology into the Future.
Steven Ashworth
The course of human progress is dependent upon what technologies are made available. Future histories are therefore shaped by whether the author expects exponential progress in science and technology to continue, or whether the presumption is that progress is already slackening off onto a plateau.

17:00 Forecasting Discussion

17:30 Close

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