If there’s one thing John Brunner is known for, it would be the culture shock he gives readers via his books. “Stand on Zanzibar” is one of those, with a staccato style of writing, Brunner throws everything at you; multiple points of view, news bulletins, media blitzes and a cacophony of characters, locations, immersing you in an anarchic, overcrowded corporate megalopolis.
But there is another dimension to Brunner’s work. His ability took to look at his 1969 world, anticipate the trends for the next forty years, and get a good percentage of his predictions right. Now, that’s a skill any science fiction author worth their salt should at least attempt to master.
Here are the Brunner stats, and all credit to any writer who can achieve such a Nostrodamian feat as this.
The world’s population would top seven billion.
Random acts of violence by crazy individuals are common. These people commit sabotage of public transportation, water mains, and other parts of the “infrastructure” as a hobby.
Organised bands of terrorist saboteurs are a major threat to U.S. interests and have even managed to attack buildings within the United States.
Prices have increased sixfold between 1960 and 2010 because of inflation.
*Seven-fold is the actual figure.
China surpasses Russia as a strategic military threat to the United States of America. Cheap computing power and intellectual property theft have enabled their industries to dominate world markets and for the expansion of the CCP’s armed forces.
Western European Union
Europeans have formed a union of nations to improve their economic prospects and influence on world affairs. In international issues, Britain tends to side with the U.S., but other countries in Europe are often critical of U.S. initiatives. Economic and political integration of Europe as a “super state” is ongoing. European military commands are still predominantly national with coordination by NATO and the WEU, while the fiscal policy for the continent is anything but unitary; national governments on the Mediterranean rim of Europe have systematically over-spent and caused drains on the financial system of the rest of the West European Community.
Africa and the Middle East
Africa still trails far behind the rest of the world in economic development, and Israel remains the epicentre of tensions in the Middle East. There is also majority rule in South Africa;
Some people still get married to “intentional families”, but many in the younger generation now prefer short-term polyamorous relationships without a long-term commitment. Gay same-sex marriages and bisexual lifestyles are mainstream, and so are pharmaceuticals to improve sexual performance which are widely used and are even advertised in the media.
Decades of ‘affirmative action’ have brought African-Americans into positions of power, but racial tensions still simmer throughout society.
Motor vehicles run on electric fuel cells. Honda and General Motors have developed hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell technology.
Fall of Detroit City
Detroit has not prospered and is almost a ghost town because of all the shuttered factories. A new kind of music — similar to the actual Detroit techno movement of the 1990s — has sprung up in the city.
Engrelay Satelserv & Reuters VideoAsia
TV news channels have now gone global via international satellite television networks for news and entertainment.
Computer Storage Devices
Static RAM “thumb drives” that are smaller than the human thumb
People are able to view TV programs according to their own schedules.
Commercial airliners cater for commuting to and from work and for very short tourist excursions. Passengers have access to in-flight entertainment, such as video programs and news accessible on individual screens at each seat.
Legalization of Psychedelic drugs
The legalization/decriminalization of marijuana and other psychedelic “designer” drugs.
Mr. and Mrs. Everywhere
People rely on avatars to represent themselves on video screens. These images can look like you or take on another appearance you select.
Computer documents are generated with laser printers.
Genetic engineering in consumer and industrial products, extensive mapping of the human genome, use of genetic engineering techniques to confer unnatural colours to mammals, and the screening of potential parents for genetically transmissible diseases or defects.
Reversion of Indonesia (Yatakang) away from communist dictatorship after a right-wing insurgency under Jogajong.
Multinational corporations with resources exceeding those of many small nations.
Supercomputers are so densely constructed as to require cooling by liquid helium.
The Information Super Highway
Reference information from home and libraries, ordering from restaurants and access to literature and pornography are available online via the telephone/computer network.
Adoption of military weapons and tactics by local police forces to deal with riots and other forms of violent public disorder.
Dissemination of formulas for explosives, poisons, incendiaries, fully-automatic weapons and other means of mass destruction by pamphlet, circular, magazine and online information services.
Side arms can fire very small missiles with explosive warheads.
Mining metals from the bottom of the sea.
Atomic clocks throughout the world broadcast time signals that are used to automatically set watches, clocks and computers to the correct time;
Predictions from Stand on Zanzibar NOT YET realized by 2010:
- Eugenics Legislation
- Criminalization of Tobacco
- Banning of the internal-combustion engine
- Self-aware computer
- Nuclear Fusion
- Moon Bases
- Orbital Weapons Platforms
- Vacuum Tube Train
- Pocket Nukes
- States of Puerto Rico and The Philippines
- US/China War
- Geodesic Dome over Manhattan.
Gattaca-style eugenics and city-sized geodesic domes might be centuries away if they happen at all, but the remaining unfulfilled predictions are still feasible for the near future. Tobacco could still face a health system or cultural backlash, petrol guzzlers could be banned if decent alternatives can replace them. Nuclear Fusion, Dirty Bombs, Artificial Intelligence and Moon Bases are just a technological/economic hurdle away. Orbital Battle Stations, well there’s the new U.S Space Force. The idea of the Hyperloop is being toyed around with. And while Puerto Rico is close to joining the USA, The Philippines may not ever join the union, unless a US/China War forces it.
All in all, an unbeatable effort by John Brunner.