Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson

The predictive power of science fiction

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1921) and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957) explore very different dystopias [Book 1 : Artwork/Design © Leslie Holland; Photo © Christie’s Images/Bridgeman, Book 3: Alamy]

The pandemic is not quite over, but we are getting used to its inconveniences. What disaster will be next? An antibiotic-resistant strain of the bubonic plague? Climate collapse? Coronal mass ejection? Will the next catastrophe be natural — perhaps a massive volcanic eruption, the likes of which we have not seen for more than two centuries, since Tambora in 1815? Or will it be a man-made calamity — nuclear war or a cyberattack? And might we inadvertently descend into a new form of AI-enabled totalitarianism in our efforts to ward off such calamities?

To all these potential disasters it is...

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Written by
Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist

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