Re: "The Fourth Turning" - A Must Read

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 01:33:29 -0800 (PST)

>>I found this to be the most striking book about the future I've read
>>since Engines of Creation. The data presented in favor of their model
>>seems substantial, though it is not quantitiative. If correct, the
>>future of society is much more predictable than I ever thought possible.

"data" ... "not quantitative" is a contradiction. Data are numbers.
Measurements. Surveys. Experimental results. If you can't measure
it, there's no way to know whether your vague feeling of connectedness
is something real and testable, or if it's just the wanderings of a
random pattern-matching machine run amok, finding patterns caused by
pure chance and baselessly extrapolating them into the future.

Those who postulate explanations for any phenomenon--social, physical,
or any other--must have some means of stating precisely what their
explantion predicts, and then have some way of measuring the actual
result to test the prediction, or else their conjectures no more
falsifiable than theology, and don't qualify as knowledge. If they
are simply describing things for artistic reasons, or pointing out
suggestive parallels, that's great; but if they are making actual
predictions of real events in a system with 5 billion degrees of
freedom, they'd better have more than a subjective feeling.

Drexler's books for the masses may not have had much raw data (there
certainly were some, but a lot less than one might expect in a more
academic paper), but Drexler himself did the math, and did it right.
Drexler knows precisely the speed of chemical reactions; the size of
DNA molecules; the amount of data in a complex computer program; the
size of the spaces between cells. Without those real numbers, based
on real measurements of known phenomena, the idea of "incredibly small
machines that build things from atoms" would be nothing more than a
good science fiction hook. The numbers make it real.